Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #139: Pulse Check for Your High Performance Team
How do you know if your team is maintaining its high-performance ways? Today Perry and Chris discuss how to check your team pulse and performance. Are they really a high-producing team or not?
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Perry Holley: Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holly, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.
Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, vice-president of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining us once again. As we get started, please visit JohnMaxwellcompany.com/podcast. There you can download a learner’s guide that Perry’s put together for today’s lesson. Maybe if you want to learn a little bit more about even just bringing Perry or one of our executive facilitators and coaches to your organization, there’s a place that you can leave us your contact information, a comment. Maybe it’s just even a question or a topic you have for future consideration. We’d love for you to be able to do that.
Well, today’s title is a pulse check. I had to kind of slow down a pulse check for your high performing teams. What I love about this is if you missed our last episode, if you will go back and take it, listen to that. We talked about what does a high-performing team. Today we’re talking about doing a pulse check. What you guys didn’t see in the studio today is while I’m talking, Perry tried to distract me lean back and checked his pulse, which is good. He still has one and he’s here, but we’re going to do a little bit of a pulse check. So, what were you thinking about this one?
Perry Holley: Yeah, we talk a lot about developing a leadership culture with a lot of our clients. That’s a great interest to folks and I read on the subject and we’re thinking about this, that there are signs that you can look for to determine how your team is actually doing. And are they really the high-performing team you think they are? I was reading Daniel Coyle’s book, The Culture Code, and there’s some other things you and I have been bouncing around back and forth. So, I just want to go through some of these checkpoints, some of these pulse checks that you can think about when you’re looking at your own team, are they as high-performing as you think they are?
Chris Goede: Yeah. That’s good. Let’s do that. What I love about this is it’s kind of almost building right off of how we ended our last session talking about the culture of your team. And it needs to be noted that the culture, that of which you have set, maybe design, maybe by default inside your team, inside your organization will have a drastic effect on your team’s performance. And culture matters. You can’t have a dysfunctional culture. I shared on our last session.
There’s a little bit of disconnect in communication by me as a leader, which caused a little bit of friction, a little bit of tension, and the culture may have dropped a little bit that I now got to be aware of and reemphasize that with the team. So, how the team interacts with each other, with you as the leader, with your customers, ultimately. By the way, they’re going to interact with the customers the way you interact with them as a leader is heavily influenced by your culture inside your organization. And remember your culture is going to happen one way or another. So, it’s extremely important that you begin thinking about that from the get-go.
Perry Holley: Well, the first pulse check that I found interesting was I picked this up from David Marquet and his book Leadership Is Language, it was an interesting phrase that captured my attention. He just asked about what’s the share of voice in your meetings with your team? And as a leader, one of the pulse checks you can do is take note of the amount each person is contributing to the team communication. Is it very one-sided? Is it all driven by one person? Is that one person you? And what I would like to think about when I started noticing this looking at team meetings, is it heavily me? And it may be, but is it 90% me and 10% others? Or can I get that down to 60/40, 50/50? And how would I encourage a more broad share of voice in the room? And do I even want to? What do you think about that, do you want to? I think on high-performance teams everybody’s kind of contributing.
Chris Goede: Yeah, matter of fact, I think different personalities are going to communicate different ways and be involved in different ways. But I absolutely think that you definitely want to make sure you have the voices that are speaking into that. One of the things I was thinking about as our culture is that oftentimes our CEO, Mark Cole will come in to some of our leadership team meetings and say, “Hey, I’m a listening participant today.” He knows he has a tendency to maybe sometimes over-communicate, maybe take a little bit too much time talking. And so he comes in with a mindset of saying, “Yeah, no, I want to hear from you.” That share of voice is so important. And one of the things it does, it takes me back to a conversation that Mark and I have had for years about my leadership voice, which is, “Hey, man, you’re on this team for a reason. You bring value to the team. I need to hear your voice. The team needs to hear your voice in those settings.”
And he speaks that value in that belief into me so that there is that shared voice. And so I want to encourage leaders. When you think about that, remember, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about diversity in inclusive leadership, and this is part of that inclusion, part of it, where we got to make sure that everyone is contributing and feels included in that. Now, if they’re not contributing, this is where Mark kind of dug into me trying to figure out why is it you’re not contributing? Why is it that I don’t hear that voice, that leadership voice? Is it because they don’t feel safe or they don’t feel valued? Remember I just said, hey, he mentioned to me you’re here for a reason.
We value you. We’ve got to hear that from you. Maybe they don’t even have a point of view or they say they don’t have a point of view. I think everybody probably has a point of view on most everything or anything to add. They just, they don’t want to necessarily share it, but there will be times that they don’t have a point of view and that’s fine. But most of the time they won’t, and maybe it’s even they’re unable or unwilling to share. I think the unable, maybe unwilling, I think as a leader, you can pull that out of them and you can easily just say, example, “Hey Perry, what do you think about that?” Like, “Well, I don’t know.” “No, no really what is your … ” And then make sure that you kind of repeat back what you heard and let them know that they added value to the meeting.
So, I think that what we want to make sure is that you get people that are participating and that other team members are not shutting down certain voices. And then some that are dominant voices, as leaders, you kind of dial them back a little bit. There’s a lesson several, several years ago where it was called the leadership dial where sometimes you’re going to turn some people up. Sometimes you got to turn to people down and it’s your job in order to do that as a leader, to be able to understand which ones you need to turn off, which ones you need to turn down.
Perry Holley: Well, I recall a specific leader I had and he required us to be a high performing team. We worked at that, but he would actually in the room, he’d say, he’d call out, “Chris, what do you think?” And he would not let you slide on that. And you reminded me when you mentioned the inclusive leadership piece, a situation I had with a very diverse team, but there was a guy from Asia on the team and I knew he could add a lot to what we were doing, but he would take a lot of notes, but he would never really speak up. He had like zero share of voice in the room. And I always wished that he would say something. And then on this journey of inclusiveness, trying to learn that, get a little more culturally intelligent. I became curious about it.
And I learned from him as I was just asking that he was sitting there hoping that I would ask him what he thought and what he would like to say. In his culture, speaking without being invited to was rude. And in my culture, you were expected to jump in and throw elbows if you needed to, to get your conversation on the table. So, I was always, the share of voice has been one to me now that I’m really paying attention to. A second pulse point that I think a leader can check … don’t laugh at my pulse .
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Chris Goede: I love it. I love it.
Perry Holley: Put your finger on your wrist. That eye contact, again, watching the team for eye contact. Why do you think eye contact would be a signal, that their lack of eye contact would be a signal, it might be a problem on your high-performance team?
Chris Goede: Yeah. Eye contact, as we sit here and look at each other, is a form of energy. When you think about meetings that you’ve been in one of the greatest lessons, John has taught me so many lessons over my 20 plus years with him in leadership. I remember early on he’s be like, “Hey, when you’re in a meeting and you want to understand who has the true influence, not who the leader is “on title on paper”, but who has the influence? Just watch the eyes in the room.” And man, that is so true, because when someone’s talking, they’re usually looking at the person that’s talking to them, they’re looking to the one that has the most influence in the room. And that’s always been so true in most meetings that I’ve had. But when it comes to this dynamic or this pulse point that you’re talking about in a high-performance team, it is so important, because you can tell if they’re disconnected, if they’re paying attention, are they engaged with what’s going on?
Maybe they don’t even care. And I think if you see a lack of eye contact and there’s disconnection, I think you need to figure out what’s going on. I think you need to figure out, is it the message? Is it maybe the environment of which we’re in? I’ll give you an example. We were in a leadership team meeting a couple weeks ago, maybe a month or so ago. And our CEO Mark Cole was beginning the meeting and was casting vision about a couple of things and addressing some things. And so we had some technical difficulties going on with those that were in virtual world. We also had some people coming in and out and all of a sudden the eyes in the room we’re like all over the place. And he could sense it. He could feel it.
And he knew that they were disconnected, disengaged. We were disengaged. And so he just said, “Hey guys, do we need to stop the meeting right here? BeCause I feel like … ” and he just called us out on it. And he was right to do that, because we were worried about all the things that were distracting us. And so I think that that is a huge thing that you just need to kind of be aware of when it comes to that. Now, it can also be a warning sign of us that someone is covering, as we’ve talked about in our lessons on inclusive leadership. Take just a minute as we kind of throw it back to you here, talk about that covering and what leaders need to be aware of in case they didn’t have a chance to listen to any of our inclusive sessions.
Perry Holley: Yes. Everyone on your team has a way that they identify and how they see themselves. And a lot of it, we gave the example of an iceberg that there’s some of it you can see above the water line. You can see that I’m a male, I’m a white male. I’m from the US, you can probably hear that I’m from the Southern US. You may be able to hear that in my voice. You can see my age group, that I’m a baby boomer or very late, late, late baby boomer. But there’s other parts of me you can’t see that’s below the water line. It might be my religious affiliations or actually my ethnicities may be available, maybe they’re not.
So, lots of ways that we identify. But if someone doesn’t feel safe, welcome, or valued in your environment, then they will cover one or more of their identities so that they don’t expose themselves if they don’t feel safe. I don’t want you to know if I’m a conservative Christian. I don’t want you to know that, because I don’t know how you’re going to handle that. So, if anybody’s covering, then they’re holding something back and then you may notice this through eye contact, but if anybody’s covering, then they’re not giving their full effort to what’s going on.
Chris Goede: And if they’re covering, remember what we’re talking about here is driving our teams to high performance. That’s what we’re talking about here. We’re just giving you some thoughts around high performance teams. And if you have people that are on your team that are covering, it’s not the best for the team. It’s not best for you understand as a leader. And it’s definitely not best for them that you’ve given a seat on your team, because you’re not going to get that high performance out of that individual.
Perry Holley: Yeah, and you’re not leveraging the full value of the diversity you have. you want to do that. Another pulse point to be aware of is how communication happens on the team. Do members of the team engage freely with each other, or is most of the communication between members and the team leader? And I’ve just noticed that high performance team have a healthy amount of team member to team member communication. What are your thoughts on that one?
Chris Goede: Yeah, this one’s a little bit more difficult to see, especially outside of the meeting rooms, but you’ll be able to, if you have this in your awareness, you’ll be able to kind of notice this. You’ll see team members beginning to have communication that are not necessarily through the leader. I think one of the things you got to be very aware of is if all communication goes back to Perry’s the leader. Well, I’m going to run this through Perry and Perry will let you know. Or, hey, let Perry tell you, and then he’s going to tell me.
Perry Holley: That’s actually how this one came up. I was with the team. We did a lot of remote meetings. And so in the remote meeting, there’s a chat box and you can chat to the group or you can chat to an individual private. And I noticed while there’s a discussion going on and people are asking for points of view and trying to have a share of voice. People are chatting me and telling me what they think and you have to make a decision right away. Are you going to allow that to go on? Thank you for giving me your point of view or just call it out.
“Hey John, why don’t you tell the team what you were just telling me privately.” And you think was that the right thing to do? I don’t think you can be a high performance team if we have back channel secret communications going on, when it’s something that’s being discussed openly. Are you just afraid to share your point of view and you don’t feel safe. Now I have another problem going on. So, I interrupted you. Sorry.
Chris Goede: No, that’s good. But it made me think too about another example, a meeting I was in, and let’s say there was 10 of us around the table, and you’ve got two individuals that over here having a conversation while the team’s having a conversation. And it’s not uncommon, again, at times you got to have a pulse on your team. You got to be aware, you got to be like, “I’m sorry, Perry and Chris, is what you’re talking about relevant to the team conversation right now? If so, I’d like for you to share it, if not, maybe you guys can talk about that some other time.” Then Perry and I crawl under the table. But that happens. And as a leader, you need to be aware of that and make sure that you kind of that at that moment and allow that to happen.
Now, back to what I was originally talking about, we talk about five levels of leadership, kind of level one, people are leading kind of with the title. The example that I shared with, okay, now I’m going to tell Perry then Perry’s going to tell you, because Perry’s the leader. They’re going to tell Perry, Perry is going to tell me. It’s like, okay, wait a minute. Does Perry not have the influence with all of us in order to trust us, to empower us, to be able to kind of run here and have this conversation on the side, to be able to keep moving the ball forward. Why does everything have to go through Perry?
Could it be that Perry only has level one influence. May very well be that, which is basically he’s leading this team around his title and his position. The other thing I want to make you guys very aware of is you cannot be a high-performing team if every conversation and every decision has to go through Perry, the leader, because you want to talk about a bottleneck. It’ll just discourage, it’ll disengage, disconnect people from giving everything they have in order to become a high-performing team if that leader has to have that communication. The communication pathways go to and from the leader.Perry Holley: We make it sound like there are no side conversations. There are healthy side conversations going on, but you want to watch it for this specific occurrence. Final pulse point. That’s getting harder to say every time I say it.
Chris Goede: I’m surprised you just didn’t have one through five, like one pulse point, two and five.
Perry Holley: I was trying to throw you a curve? Just throwing you a curve today. Final pulse point you can observe is whether your team, I love this one too, does the team look outside the immediate team to find answers and new ideas? Or do they think that everything has got to be discovered among us here? Or do they have the confidence to look outside and does it happen on his own or does the leader need to encourage this, I call it out of the box or out of the team thinking?
Chris Goede: Yeah, if it doesn’t happen on its own, I’m going to encourage you to start encouraging that it does start happening, because some of the greatest ideas, some of the greatest solution, some of the greatest results are achieved by high-performing teams when this happens organically. Allow and encourage your team to begin to surround themselves with people that think further, that think faster, that think bigger than those that do in the room. That’s the power of the team. If there was 10 of us on a team and we brought all 10 of our ideas to the table, that’s great. Best idea wins. We probably have a great idea. But can you imagine if the 10 of us went out and found two other thinkers that are bigger than us, ideas bigger than what we could bring to the table. And then you brought those to the … Now all of a sudden everybody’s bringing two.
Now you’ve got 20 different ideas that come from an outside source, and that are probably going to end up being bigger and better than something that your team … I’m not saying your team can’t come up with those ideas. I just want to make sure that we’re talking about encouraging them to begin and share where they got it from. Give credit where credit is due. And when you begin to hear that, it’s contagious, people will be like, “Oh man, I need to go figure out how that organization was doing that, because we’re faced with that challenge. And I know maybe they’ve overcome.” And you need to begin having those conversations then bringing to the table. Make sure that as a leader, you’re communicating to your team that they’re not risking their job by going and looking at X, Y, and Z organization, we may be A, B and C in the same industry, by going outside and looking for some other creative solution to the challenge, because that’s not going to be the case. And just let them know that that is something you want them to engage in doing outside.
Perry Holley: Well, I think also it’s why we encourage personal development so much and encouraging your team to have plan is that I expect the people on my team to be reading and to be thinking, and to be studying and in their areas of expertise or we do leadership. So, what else might be production and all kinds of things. But I get so many ideas, in our team, we have a lot of great ideas, but I get a lot of ideas. I mean, a lot of this –
Chris Goede: I was getting ready to say, I was just thinking about that. It’s a great example of what you bring to the table for our podcast. We go outside of our thought leader and bring other thought leaders into this conversation in order to add value to those that are listening here. And I think that’s a great example.
Perry Holley: Makes us better. Go ahead and wrap it up for us.
Chris Goede: Yeah. So, don’t limit your team. Don’t limit the results, the impact that you can have by kind of staying inside your own organization. If we’re going to be high performing, we need to make sure that we reach out there. So, as we wrap up, here’s something I just want you to think about as you begin to put a pulse or check the pulse, not put a pulse, that doesn’t make sense. Check the pulse of your team and high performance.
Here’s the one thing that I think you’ll see as a pattern, if it’s a high performing team, as you’re checking the pulse of that, based off of some of the things that we’ve talked about today. I think I would encourage you to be aware of, and or engage your team in any time that you have a challenge or an opportunity as a team, a leadership team, or a regular team, whatever it is, your team people, have those individuals bring two solutions to the table about that, or how do we accomplish that and how do we do that? Engage interaction. Perry, what do you think about that? Hey, Tammy, what do you think about that? And everybody speak into it.
And then also provide multiple options on how to achieve those solutions as a team. The reason I mentioned those three things, I think that really encapsulates what we just talked about in the dynamics of what you’re looking for from getting outside advice, from having peer to peer conversation and being free to talk about that. And I think if you begin to do that with a team that you’ll be able to kind of check the pulse of it. Am I seeing this? Are they bringing it to the table? Are they bringing solutions maybe from outside organizations? Are they bringing us different ways to be able to accomplish that solution? And that’ll be an indicator of really how high performing your team is performing.
Perry Holley: Say pulse point three times .
Chris Goede: Yes, that’s right.
Perry Holley: Thanks, Chris. Great stuff. As a reminder, if you want see that learner guide for today’s episode, or see more about the five levels of leadership, leave us a comment or a question. We always love hearing from you. You can do all that at JohnMaxwellcompany.com/podcast. We’re very grateful that you spend this time with us. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast.
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