5 Questions You Must Ask Your Employees Each Day

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One of the questions our team often gets asked during interviews, particularly for other leadership positions, is, “How much time will I get to spend with Adam.” Our leadership team knows, it’s not much! But that’s okay. I spend my time pouring into the right leadership people. Let me explain.

My days are scheduled down to the minute, which doesn’t leave much time for the “drive-by conversation.” That’s not my style anyway. I like purposeful and productive interaction. The quicker and more decisive, the better. That doesn’t work for everyone and it is often an adjustment period for higher maintenance staff members who want or need constant interaction. I’m pretty (okay, very) blunt about the fact that I am more concerned with who my employees become, than being their friend. So again, very purposeful.

I actually spend quite a bit of time with my team. We have a weekly Wildy Important Goal meeting, as well as individual company meetings. I run a very autonomous organization and the people who are the right fit for our company and our culture are the ones who are able to take our decisions from the various meetings and execute throughout the week.

But there is one critical piece that makes all of this work, and that is the five daily questions  I have each of my leadership team members email me at the end of every day. They in-turn have their staff email these questions to them, and so on, throughout the organization.

Here are the 5 daily questions you must ask your employees each day:

  1. What successes did you or your team have today?
  2. What struggles did you have today?
  3. How did you overcome them?
  4. Where is your mindset on a scale of 1-10? (1 being terrible. Be honest here. I don’t care if it’s a 1, but if there is something preventing you from being at the top of your game, we need to know and fix it.)
  5. Who is your replacement? (Ultimately, there should be 5 people – inside or outside of the organization. If you don’t have anyone, use the next 30 days to start filling the gap.)
Why these questions?
Primarily because they are fast and effective for both you and your staff. As we’ve heard, it’s hard to have contact with the CEO, Director, or supervisor every day. These questions serve as a daily touch-point for the leader and employee. People often open up more on email, too, which begins to build trust. More often than not, the answers I receive to these questions have much less to do with the day to day operations of the business, and more to do with where the employee’s mindset is or what is going on in their personal life. Your employee’s personal life does bleed into their work life, even if they don’t talk about. Be aware and show that you genuinely care about what they learned, what they failed at, how they are feeling, and how they are coping with it (at home and at the office).
These questions help you keep a great pulse on the people who report to you, especially when you are traveling, in all-day trainings, or simply aren’t able to spend time walking around to feel the energy in the office. These daily questions are a system to ensure that you have a pulse on the energy of the office, even if you aren’t physically there. From there, you are able to direct the energy of your team.
The last question always gets the most questions! It’s designed to get your team to be thinking about future opportunities for their growth. If they are searching for their replacement (either inside or outside of the organization), then they are focused on their growth, the growth of the company, as well as who they are grooming and pouring into. It’s a model for internal growth.
More than anything, these questions are a tool for your team. Yes, it is a quick way to gauge your team member’s mindset, pain points, and progress, but it’s an even better tool for them to increase their self awareness. This daily reflection focuses your employees on what they learned and what they could do better tomorrow… every day. It’s a forced journaling model for them to follow and growth for them is simply inevitable! Which is exactly what I’m after as a leader.
A couple of things to note:
  • Start these questions on day one with new employees. Set the precedent that their growth is valuable to you and to the organization.
  • If you are implementing this with existing team members, please explain to them the reason behind why you are asking these questions and make sure you are replying. Take this seriously. Your employees are taking the time to answer these questions daily and you’re going to hear some very personal (and professional) business struggles. This is exactly what you want! It’s impossible for the two not to go hand-in-hand. Be prepared to respond with care and candor and allow your employee the space to be honest and vulnerable.
  • Be very specific about explaining question #5. We implement these questions immediately with new staff, so it’s no surprise. However, if you are implementing these questions after an employee has been with you for three years, they may think their job is in jeopardy. Let them know it is a growth-based question and that as they continue to grow, they will need to find others to take over pieces of their position (or their entire role!) in order for them to move into a different opportunity.
  • You are not looking for any specific answers here, but rather for patterns of behavior and problems that you need to help resolve. For example, if one of your staff members mindset is always at an 8 (they’ll never be a ten), then when you see them drop to a 5, you know something is up. Conversely, you’ll have team members who are always at a 10, so dropping to an 8 or even a 9 could be a red flag. Other questions you might ask yourself as you are reviewing their responses, are: Where they able to solve their own challenges or did they blame others? Are they taking responsiblity for missed deadlines? Are they learning and progressing each week? All of these questions (and the patterns that emerge) are simply a model to help you be a better leader.

These are powerful and valuable questions whether you travel three weeks out of the month or are in an office with just one other employee. Add these into your cadence of accountability with your team and watch your relationships grow and your team members flourish, no water cooler conversation necessary.

What questions would you add to this daily check-in?

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Are You a Wartime or a Peacetime Leader?

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Okay, for the past month or so it’s be quiet at the office, too quiet. People were on vacation (as they should be!) and business generally slowed down. The shift was palpable. From a constant go go go to slow slow slow. No major problems to solve, no employee crises, no deals to negotiate, no lives to transform. Alright, this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. Problems and challenges are my life blood!

I was listening to #askgaryvee a couple of weeks ago and Gary Vaynerchuk mentioned the same thing. He’s a wartime general. So am I.

Now, there are two different times in business – peacetime and wartime. Companies will ebb and flow and experience both over the course of their lifecycle. Peacetime is generally when a business has a competitive advantage and it’s market is growing. Wartime is when the business is facing an immediate threat from a competitor, the economic climate, or a major market shift. Peacetime sounds amazing, right? Why wouldn’t we all want to operate business in the peacetime zone? Because where is the fun in easy!? If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you. The market may be growing during peacetime, but is your business, is your staff, are you? You really find out what you and your team are made of during chaos and war. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Businesses are the same and I would much rather operate during wartime then peacetime. In fact, I simply operate as a wartime leader, even during peacetime. That’s just how I roll.

Here’s a really great explanation of the Peacetime CEO vs Wartime CEO from Ben Horowitz:

  • Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.
  • Peacetime CEO focuses on the big picture and empowers her people to make detailed decisions. Wartime CEO cares about a speck of dust on a gnat’s ass if it interferes with the prime directive.
  • Peacetime CEO builds scalable, high volume recruiting machines. Wartime CEO does that, but also builds HR organizations that can execute layoffs.
  • Peacetime CEO spends time defining the culture. Wartime CEO lets the war define the culture.
  • Peacetime CEO always has a contingency plan. Wartime CEO knows that sometimes you gotta roll a hard six.
  • Peacetime CEO knows what to do with a big advantage. Wartime CEO is paranoid.
  • Peacetime CEO strives not to use profanity. Wartime CEO sometimes uses profanity purposefully.
  • Peacetime CEO thinks of the competition as other ships in a big ocean that may never engage. Wartime CEO thinks the competition is sneaking into her house and trying to kidnap her children.
  • Peacetime CEO aims to expand the market. Wartime CEO aims to win the market.
  • Peacetime CEO strives to tolerate deviations from the plan when coupled with effort and creativity.  Wartime CEO is completely intolerant.
  • Peacetime CEO does not raise her voice. Wartime CEO rarely speaks in a normal tone.
  • Peacetime CEO works to minimize conflict. Wartime CEO heightens the contradictions.
  • Peacetime CEO strives for broad based buy in. Wartime CEO neither indulges consensus-building nor tolerates disagreements.
  • Peacetime CEO sets big, hairy audacious goals. Wartime CEO is too busy fighting the enemy to read management books written by consultants who have never managed a fruit stand.
  • Peacetime CEO trains her employees to ensure satisfaction and career development. Wartime CEO trains her employees so they don’t get their ass shot off in the battle.
  • Peacetime CEO has rules like “we’re going to exit all businesses where we’re not number 1 or 2.”  Wartime CEO often has no businesses that are number 1 or 2 and therefore does not have the luxury of following that rule.

Which one are you? Are you a wartime or a peacetime leader? Many of us may have qualities of both and deploy either peacetime or wartime tactics as needed, but I bet you lean to one side or the other. Neither one is better than the other; it simply comes down to self awareness. Own who you are and know that you are going to create a culture around your war or peace mentality and will likely attract people who either thrive during peace or thrive during war. Just know that when your business flips to the other side, you will need to adjust (which may mean adjusting your staff).

When I feel the pressure of battle, when I know my back is against the wall (even if it’s self-inflicted), I step-up and operate at peak performance. Believe me, just ask my team, if there isn’t enough chaos or I feel like things have slowed down, stagnated, and we’re just resting on our successes, I get in there and shake shit up! If there aren’t enough problems to solve, I disrupt our business and create problems, just so my team and I can solve them. I would rather disrupt our business, then have our competition see our weaknesses, see us getting “fat” and lazy, and attacking. So I just do it before they can. Sure, not everyone likes it, but it’s how we’re all going to grow. I refuse to stay in mediocrity. To me, that means I’m always at war.

Progress is everything. I may not win every battle (hello, failure!), but I sure as shit am going to win the war. Because I am laser focused on my goals and the life, business, and legacy that I will create. I demand of myself and I demand of my team to accept challenges, set goals, and exceed them.  I am relentless in the pursuit of progress. I am at war. It will take time. And I will win. Will you? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Lessons I Learned in 2017

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I don’t know about you all but I am fired up to be back at work. Why you ask? Because we are habitual creatures. We thrive on our habits to get us through the day. When those habits are interrupted we lose focus and can feel lost. Who else felt that way over the holiday break? I know I did and got myself into trouble (like buying shit I shouldn’t have, eating more than I should have and then getting sick). Awesome, right?

Okay, before we dive into 2018 goals, I always like to take a look back and reflect on the year. Here are the top 3 lessons I learned in 2017:

  1. Most of us have big, scary, amazing goals (great!), but goals (i.e. talk) is cheap unless you are willing to choose your struggle and commit to the daily habits necessary to meet your goals. This was really clear to me during my Ironman training. I had aggressive goals, but stayed focused on the daily activities that led to it. I had clear objectives and goals and clarity around exactly what I wanted to accomplish at my Ironman events, so I pushed hard each day. We must continue to create that structure for ourselves and our companies. Provide clarity for yourself and your team. I mean, get crystal clear on the goal[s] and then create a cadence of accountability in your company around the goals where you talk it, walk it, measure it, and celebrate it. DAILY. Vison? I could talk about that all day. But I hadn’t been as focused as I thought I was on the daily activities, the daily habits in my organizations. Just one of the things that I identified that I could take to another level.
  2. Your words and actions matter. It’s the honor that Ned Stark (Game of Thrones, anyone?) had and realizing that our words (which dictate our actions), our honor, and our integrity are all that we really carry with us when we die. We will be remembered by what we said, what we did, and how we made people feel. What legacy do you want to leave? Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older, but really understanding that we are all going to die and that it is not a morbid thought, but one that should inspire us to live each day full-out. Life is precious. There are no guarantees. Knowing this, what changes would you make in your life? Make those changes now! Live it now!
  3. Snowball your money and investments. Warren Buffet shared this simple business advice. We all get one snowball in life and the earlier you start rolling the snowball, the larger it gets. The better the snow, the larger the snowball gets. If you invest $100,000 and earn 20%, you snowball your money so that next year you make 20% on $120,000 (or $24,000). Year three, you invest $144,000 and you earn $28,800 and so on. But this also works in business. Invest all you can back into your people and operations and look for growth, then more growth. Keep your foot on the gas and before you know it (usually 5-7 years)… BOOM! You’ve hit your geometric curve. The snowball is built. But don’t stop snowballing! Keep doing the same process driven habits that created your success in the first place. Focus on the process that got your snowball going. And remember, the hardest part is getting dressed to go outside! Just do it.

Did you see a pattern here? Daily actions. Daily habits. This past year really opened my eyes to just how much each day matters. Now it’s time to execute. Every choice you make (no matter how small it seems at the time) is either getting you closer or further away from your goal. You are alive! Do not take anything for granted. Spend time on the most important activities (the process driven habits) and you will create a life and business without limits.

Now, how about those 2018 goals? What habit[s] are you willing to put into your life to change the outcome of 2018? Change your daily habits and you will change your trajectory, and ultimately your life.