Five Minutes That Can Change Everything

As you leader you need good judgment. You also cannot afford to be judgmental. That’s never more important than when considering the potential of the people on your team.

If you’re like most leaders you’re always watching your team to determine how effective they are in their roles. That’s good leadership. But good leadership is not good enough if your goal is to grow your organization. 

Growing an organization requires great leadership and great leadership requires more than simply watching your people. It requires consistent two-way communication. 

If you’re not “out there” interacting and talking with your people in an intentional manner then you’re probably missing out on the information that you need to advance from good to great leadership. 

When I say “intentional” I mean very very intentional. You must make it a point to invest time each day, every single day, to learn something about someone on your team. Here’s one way to do that:

Every day invest the time to conduct an innerview, no I didn’t mean interview, I really meant innerview. An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An innerview is what you do when you’re interested in keeping them, and building their success. You must see their motivations and lives from the inside to truly understand why they do what they do.

Invest five minutes a day, every single day to innerview at least one member of your team. Ask about them personally, about their goals, their challenges and most importantly, how you can help them get to where they want to be. 

Way too many leaders have told me that the “innerview” is a nice thought but that they just can’t afford the time. This is often right after they have told me that their people are their most important asset. 

If you want a great organization then you are going to have to be a great leader. Put your time where your mouth is and don’t just say your people are important, show it. Show it by using the innerview to make certain that when you’re making judgements about your people you know exactly who you are judging. 

When you use your point of view to judge your people you’re almost certain to be judgmental. When you use your people’s point of view you can leave the “ment” behind and more clearly judge.

It requires just five minutes a day but it’s five minutes that can change everything about how you evaluate and lead your people. 

Social Leadership

I’m a big fan of employee surveys. I like employee surveys because I like predictable things and few things in business are as predictable as the results of an employee survey. Anyone with a decent EQ can spend a week or so inside a company talking with employees and predict the results of your typical employee survey with reasonable accuracy. 

If you’re unfamiliar with EQ it is an individual’s ability to understand other people, what motivates them and the ability to work cooperatively with them. Psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10-25% and the rest depends on everything else, especially EQ.

Here is a very general statement but I think it is fairly accurate: most people in leadership positions have at least a decent level of EQ.

They just aren’t social enough to use it.

To be a Social Leader requires that the leader be “out there” with the people they lead. They need to constantly take the pulse of their people. Social Leadership provides the leader with insights that no survey will ever provide them. 

It gives them insight and awareness to how their people will react to organizational change by understanding what is important to them and what motivates them. Social Leadership gives the leader an opportunity to develop the empathy to understand their people’s attitudes towards organizational issues and provides a clear line of sight to the team member’s points of view. 

The trouble with surveys is that they are typically an annual “event” and because of that they measure nothing more than a moment in time. People’s responses are affected by their emotions of the moment and because of that the survey results are of limited value. There was certainly a time when annual surveys where considered “state of the art” for HR professionals but that time has passed. 

Direct downward social interaction is the new “best practice.” Social Leaders use technology to get themselves “out there” like never before. They use Facebook, Twitter and Blogs to inform their people of what’s happening and get instant feedback from their followers. I’m obviously a believer in those tools but nothing, nothing, will ever beat face-to-face human interaction. So along with those tools I urge Social Leaders to conduct daily “innerviews” with a member of their organization. To be clear, this is not an interview of the kind you would do when selecting a new employee. This is an INNERview, a conversation to determine the thoughts, mood and morale of an individual team member. It’s about a 5 minute process where with a few thoughtful questions the Social Leader gains a perspective about their organization that cannot be gained any other way. Social leaders pick one individual a day from their organization and have a learning conversation.

Now I’ve shared the innerview concept long enough with countless numbers leaders to know the most common reason leaders give for not using it. “I don’t have time” is the usual objection. It’s the same reason many leaders give for not taping into social media to connect with their people. 

Think about that, these are the same leaders who would proudly say that “their people are their greatest asset.” In the next breath they say they “don’t have” 5 minutes to invest with their greatest asset to determine how they are doing. 

It not hard to become a more Social Leader, it simply requires a commitment to invest a piece of yourself and a bit of your time in your people. It’s one of the few investments you will ever make that has a guaranteed return. It’s a return that makes leading not only easier but more fulfilling as well. 

Are you willing to make the investment to become a Social Leader? 

Leadership for the Ages – Conclusion

Not admitting to the differences between generations will not make the differences go away. 

If you’re going to do more than just occupy a leadership position, if you’re going to actually lead, then you’ll have to understand and use those differences.

One of the challenges in writing a series like this is that in the interest of time you almost have to use some generalities in your writing. When I finally get around to writing my book on leadership I promise I’ll add more specific detail.

If it is true that each generation is different, and it is true, then it is also true that there are differences within each generation as well. So many differences in fact that I couldn’t list them all, even in a book.

As a leader it is incumbent upon you to know those differences in your people. The fact that they come from a particular generation can give you some idea as how to lead them but it is a picture  painted in shades of gray. To truly lead you must have a picture of your people painted in vivid color.

This is a picture not painted with a brush but with information. It requires information to truly know your people. To acquire the type of information needed for this picture you’ll have to talk WITH your people, not TO them. It will help immeasurably if you’ll listen too.

I frequently recommend to leaders that they periodically conduct innerviews with their people. No, I didn’t misspell that… I mean innerview, not interview. An interview  is something you do when hiring someone. An innerview is something you do when you really want to know them.   

It is maybe a five minute conversation about the person you’re innerviewing; it gives you the opportunity to discover what’s important to them, what motivates them, what their goals and objectives are. You’ll better understand their specific values and background. You’ll know how they want to be led and they will know that they and their ideas matter to you and their organization.

If you can invest 5 or 10 minutes a day to talk with the people of your organization, everyday, with all generations, you’ll lead more effectively than you ever thought possible.

The number one concern I hear from leaders when I share the “Innerview” concept is the time required to do it. 5 or 10 minutes a day, everyday. I’m amazed by the number of “leaders” who tell me they can’t afford the time. 

Really?

If you don’t have the time to invest in your people then you simply don’t have the time to lead. You may need to move out of the way and let a “Kid” take over. I’d rather have an experienced leader who truly leads than an experienced person who merely occupies a leadership position.

So, feel like leading today? Then go do an innerview.

How to do an Innerview

InnerView_LOGOFirst let me point out that I did not misspell “interview’, I indeed meant to say innerview. There is a rather large difference between the two and the difference in the outcomes of each is even bigger.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was still selling Dale Carnegie Training, I made a sales call on the owner of what I believed to be a smallish company in a southern Minnesota city.

Now keep in mind I was there to sell training programs but the entire call quickly became one big learning opportunity for me.

Upon arriving at the company I was shown into the owner’s office and introduced to the owner and his General Manager. The company was an office supply firm with about 300 employees that also operated a few retail office and stationary supply stores in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area.

The owner almost immediately told me that before we could do business together I would need to know something about how they did business and with that he set about giving me a tour of his operation. At every stop, the front office, the warehouse, the loading dock, everywhere we went, he would stop and talk for a moments to a few of his employees. After one or two stops it became apparent to me that he knew every one of his employees by name. Not only did he know them by name, he knew something about them too, he would ask about their kids or hobby or just how they were doing.

I didn’t realize at the time what I was watching but I came to understand that it was an impressive display of leadership, perhaps the most impressive I have seen to this day.

When we returned to his office I couldn’t help but comment on what I had seen and heard. I told him how remarkable I thought it was that he knew everyone’s name and something about them. What he said next would change how I thought about leadership forever.

He said that “his people” were the key to his success. He said that without them he had no company. He said that “his people” were his greatest asset and that he “invested” the greatest amount of his time with them.

In the ensuing years almost evey organization I would work with would “say” that their people are their greatest asset but I have yet to see another leader back that up with their actions the way this leader had.

So I asked him the obvious question: How do you get to know so many people so well? What he said this time would change how I taught leadership forever.

He said that you can’t lead people without caring for them and he said that you can’t, or won’t’ truly care about people that you don’t know about. He said that his most important “job” as head of this company was to truly know his people. With that in mind, everyday, absolutely everyday, he would take 5 or 10 minutes to conduct an “innerview” with one or two of the people in his organization.

He explained the difference as he saw it between an “interview” conducted while recruiting new employees and the “innerview” conducted with those with whom he had already entrusted with a part of his company. The “innerview” allowed him to ask much more meaningful, sometimes personal questions about a person’s well-being. About what they wanted from life and how he might help them achieve it.

He would ask them about how the company was doing “for them” and how they might work together to make it work better.

From this 5 or 10 minute investment of time he forged real relationships with the people who controlled the success of his company. He knew, with great specificity, why they came to work each day and how he could help them have a better life. He invested in them and they invested back.

I haven’t talked to that leader in several years and I’m reluctant to use his name without his permission but let me share just a little more about this remarkable person. Remember when I described his company as “smallish”? Well, I might not have done all the preparation for that sales call that a professional salesperson should have. You see, while it’s true that the particular company I was calling on had 300 or so employees, that was just one small part of what I can only call his empire. It turned out that he owned some other “stuff” like Major League Sports Franchises, other worldwide manufacturing and investment firms. In fact, as it turned out, I received this unforgettable life lesson from one of the 10 richest men in the world.

Now think about that for a minute. It’s something of an understatement to say that this guy had a lot going on, he was one busy man. Yet he made the time, everyday, every single day, to invest in his people. Everyday!!!

As I’ve shared this story through the years I am amazed by the number of “leaders” who say that their people are their greatest asset while in their next breath tell me they don’t have time to conduct an innerview.

Really?

Let me be perfectly blunt here as I share what I’ve come to believe about leadership the last decade or so: If you don’t have time to care, then you don’t have time to lead.

Invest your time in your people, it will provide you with the greatest return of any investment you will ever make. And hey, it just might make you some money too!