One Day with the Big 5 Can Influence Thousands

Raising Self-Awareness and Team Effectiveness using the Big 5

Raising Self-Awareness and Team Effectiveness using the Big 5

It’s Back to School season! 

It’s been said, the greatest student is the teacher.

Well last Friday, I felt like I went to school. I facilitated a 1-day leadership training for a Colorado college’s team of deans and associates. What a privilege to teach the teachers who will influence 1000’s of students this year! These professors became the student for a day to gain greater levels of self-awareness and team unity. For this team, they had several new team members and it had been a while since they had invested in their administrative staff. With a new season approaching, it was the perfect time to engage and value their team.

There can be many reasons why it would be wise and prudent to allocate such a day. When teams are working hard and not getting the results they expect it’s time to consider a change or making an investment into stimulating their growth. The prolonged effects of low performance or decreasing effectiveness can result in 

  • Fatigue that steals energy and creativity

  • Lower quality results

  • Less innovative ideas

  • Missed deadlines

  • Lower morale

If this describes your team experience at work perhaps … 

You need to make a change or direct investment in your team! Maybe you’re doing the right things in the wrong ways. A few adjustments in the way you function as a team will create a more energetic flow raising the performance of your team. Friday, I got to experience a new level of enthusiasm, motivation, and excitement with some amazing leaders who want to give their best to their students. 

A Day of Appreciation for the College

The goal of the day was to show value and appreciation to a group of people who give out a lot and don’t always get a lot in return. Through a fun, creative day discussing the results found in their Big 5 assessments, this team gained a greater level of self-awareness and value for their team members.  Awareness leads to new levels of appreciation and insight into building team effectiveness. The training stimulates conversations and raises the energy level of the team members valuing each member individually and collectively.

The design of a Big 5 day focuses on 3 themes… 

Penrose House -

Penrose House -

  1. Awareness - Big 5 Personality Report Discussion & Debrief

  2. Alignment - Working with Energy, Less Stress, & More Collaboration

  3. Action - What needs to Change -  Making a Commitment

We find it beneficial to meet at a beautiful offsite venue to create the ideal environment for fresh, higher-level conversations. The Big 5 Workplace Assessment gives a language to identify hidden strengths, minimize stress points, and blindspots. In team discussion, we move beyond a private reading for an intellectual exercise. The shared insights from Big 5 shine a light on the sweet spots of leaders. 

Appreciation raises the performance levels of teams. 

Personality & team assessments provide critical insight for a fresh perspective of how we are wired at the genetic level. Personalities are linked to our unique genetics. It’s why some of us do better with a cup of coffee in the morning and some don’t. You're more energized either when you talk more or sit quietly in reflection. You write better with your left or your right hand. Take a moment to look at your index finger. You have a fingerprint. It’s unique to you! Now, consider all those dynamics at work in your team and organizations. Appreciation of the unique energizing activities of your team raises the level of productivity, performance, and personal satisfaction at work. We are often so busy working IN our teams that we don’t take time to work ON our team. It starts with awareness that leads to appreciation! It’s an investment that can be measured to the speed and satisfaction of work that lead to bottom-line results. 

Would you benefit from a one day experience with your team? 

These days are high energy and engaging experiences! Each team member receives a Workplace Big 5 Narrative report plus an insight journal for the day and will leave with an action plan for the next steps. By the end, team members will be thanking you for investment into their leadership. 

If you have a team or organization that would benefit from the one day experience described above, we are extending one free complimentary Big 5 Leadership Trait and Narrative Report. If interested in hosting a one day in your city for your team, department, or organization we can design the day that fits your needs.  The typical cost for the experience and resources start at $5000 including 15 Big 5 reports. Each additional participant completing the assessment will be $250 /. 

Schools back in session! It’s a new season! Schedule your Day of Appreciation. 

Create a leadership learning environment for your team. Start by taking advantage of our offer. It's only good till Friday, August 16th at 11:59 pm. To get your complimentary Big 5 report, complete the form below; then we will send you the link to take the Big 5 questionnaire. 

Monday Mentorship - Power of Timely Feedback! Plus 5 Leadership Investment ?s

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John’s* tears were real then later his smile sincere. I knew we were at the heart of a significant issue. He received difficult feedback from his 360 reports. John knew he had a challenge communicating with his team members. He had high marks for caring and valuing the staff. He had a problem. John didn’t know how to give feedback. When conflict came he would respond in frustration and disengagement. The 360 reports revealed the same pattern. It was an issue for most of his life personally and professionally. The tears gave us pause to sit in the significance of the moment. In the silence, we sensed we were on the edge of a real breakthrough.

John’s manager gave him high marks in most competencies. The few areas of critical feedback came in three areas: encouraging the team, developing his people, and focusing on others. His direct reports wrote, “I need more feedback”, “He’s a good role model, but I need to know I can improve”, “He's always talking about projects, I wish he’d take an interest in me personally”. We discussed his current projects, his responsibilities, and the relationships with his direct reports. His technical competencies were rated 9’s and 10’s on his report. His abilities to execute getting work done were also high marks. John’s work ethic was without question. The numbers began to slide on effective delegation and aligning the team. The recurring theme of communication challenges was coming clear. At, 40 something, John’s responsibilities were growing, more staff, budget, and demands. His “not afraid to get his hands dirty” style served him in training and tactics, but were limiting his leadership effectiveness.

He shared “I’m fine with joking around with my team. Then when it’s time to work that stops and I’m all business until we get our work done. Giving feedback I don’t really know what to say. I’m afraid of getting too personal. Work is hard and I get intense in the tasks at hand. When it doesn’t go well I get mad and pull away. It’s an issue that has to change.”

Given the few comments from his manager, I asked about their relationship. “My manager is the reason I’m here getting training and coaching. He sees something in me that I don’t see in myself. He’s taking the time to help me. He’s given me a shot at my last few projects.”

What are the qualities of your manager that you admire?... That’s when I saw John smile. “He believes in me. He invests in me as a leader. He gives me challenging projects. He’s quick to share honest feedback when I’m out of line. I know he’s got my back. He’s more of a mentor than a manager.”

How can you learn from his modeling to manage your team?... John thought for a moment. I could start by taking each of them to lunch.

When’s the last time you took your team members individually to lunch?... It’s been a long time.

What would you like to discuss?... “First, I want to listen to what’s going on for them personally, families, hobbies, interest, even their goals.” Then I want to share what I’m learning through my assessments and 360 reports. I want to be a better communicator and connect with my team. I want to thank them for their comments and patience with me as I’m growing. Then I want to ask... How can we communicate better in the future?... then listen to understand what feedback they need from me.”

John, when are you going to schedule your lunches? “All in the next month. I’m going to get them on the calendar today.”

What would like to say to your manager after these lunches? His smile got even bigger. “I want to thank him for his modeling, the difference he’s made, and how I’m paying it forward with my team.”

John, I can’t wait to hear how it goes. Way to go!

As the coaching conversation continued, we discussed the modeling from his manager. The ways John felt valued and invested in. Learning from his manager we brainstormed a few leadership questions for his next lunches with his team. As they took shape he saw them as a single focus for each lunch for the next 5-­6 months. He had a plan and strategy to invest in his people.

5 Leadership Investment Questions

  1. Believe ­ How can I support you to succeed? Challenges your facing?

  2. Advancement ­ Where would like to see your career in the next 3 years?

  3. Leadership Development ­ How do want to grow in your abilities at work?

  4. Feedback ­ What feedback do you need from me? Encouraging or Instructive? How


  5. Work Life Vitality ­ What ways are you staying healthy outside of work?

For more questions to help you get ready for your next one­2­one or team meeting visit Leadership Conversation

*John is not his real name. The story represents a sample coaching session.

Designing Your Leadership Team Retreat - 3 Planning Questions


I'm just returning from a time in the mountains. 

Breathing in the Colorado mountain air this week, I sat with an executive at a four-day leadership retreat. He exhaled after a full week he shared, "I know this will make me a stronger leader. " Then in an emotional moment he reflected, " I believe this will change my life as a human. It's making a difference from the inside out and who I want to become a better husband, father, and at work."

Coaching alongside this man I learned that ultimately he felt guilty about taking time away. I asked him a question I believe was at the heart of the issue. Where do you find joy in life? Once again with tears in his eyes, he told me about his three and seven-year-old sons. He's missing some of the memorable moments in their life. His love for hunting and fishing was evident as he talked about stories of getting outdoors. "When's the last time you did some of those things?" I asked. It has been over a year for fishing and three years for hunting. I want to get my boys out with me. Every year in January the HR director asked me about my vacation plans and I laugh because I feel guilty for taking time away from the duties of work. 

It turns out that he's not alone 54% of millions of Americans have unused vacation time because they feel that by leaving that reduce their value to the company and could be replaced even though their bosses encourage them to go. This executive specifically had some issues with the long-term impacts of chronic stress and how it was affecting his attitude expressed in anger among his team members. After my meeting with him, I could he see he was a good-natured and kind-hearted man. However, his 360 reviews showed some of the internal challenges that were beginning to wear him thin. I asked him how can you possibly deal with conflict and manage your stress if you're not getting time away to enjoy life. Then I discovered he has trouble sleeping and deals explicitly with issues of sleep apnea. The issues were catching up to him. 

17 years on the job he indeed has shown his commitment to the company and the work before him now the effects of not having healthy rest and recreation room crippling his effectiveness. Even though team members are encouraged to take a break and do the things they love for one reason or another it just doesn't happen. Sometimes a team leadership retreat gives the space in the conversations to focus on what truly matters most. Often, personal vacations are working weeks away from that we feel like we need a vacation from our vacation by the time we're back at work.

As a facilitator of team retreats, I've consistently observed that when you create space to talk about the issues of business as well as your health as an individual, it begins to form a mindset for change.

When you're team needs a breakthrough maybe what they need is a break.

It's these breakthrough moments that often come by getting out of the office on the mountainside or lakeside that is a joy to witness.

Whether it's summertime or your fall season, this is a great time to begin designing a time that meets the needs of your team.

I would encourage you today to examine...

1. What does your team need to thrive? 
2. What are barriers holding them back? 
3. What would be the impact of a healthy, unified, trusted team?

For most leaders and executive teams, this is new territory. When they take time to work on their business it's offsite including an agenda it leaves little room for discovery and development.

After years and hundreds of team engagements, I've observed the principle that Investing in your WHO (team) will make an exponential impact on the effectiveness of WHAT they do. 

Your first step might be a fun activity to celebrate some of the wins of your business. It could be a lunch to say thank you after working through a difficult season. It may be a half-day planning session somewhere outside of the office. Still, you may sense there is untapped potential, and you're not sure how to unlock your team members. It may be a four-day leadership retreat that will be the catalyst for new growth and connection for your organization. 

Wherever you find yourself today entering this summer a few minutes of creativity, planning, and scheduling a date will be well worth the investment building your team.

If you need help designing or executing your leadership team retreat we're here to serve you. 

Optimizing Team Performance - A Fresh Approach to Employee Reviews

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Startup software companies are often known for their meteoric growth. As the products mature and new markets open, new clients bring new demands. Social media channels have revolutionized brand exposure. Angel investors press for revenue growth which, in turn, creates support staffing demands. These stress and growth points are most severe in companies from 20-200 employees. New organizations frequently feel pressured to press inexperienced people into management roles for which they are ill-suited or at best poorly trained. Building strong managers, and teams of employees is often neglected due to the demands that come with the growth curve.

Regardless of the industry, and regardless of the organizational size the effectiveness of performance reviews is dependent on key staff hiring and effective leadership development. Larger organizations formalize the process with a program that can seem forced and impersonal. Small organizations have so much happening daily that the formality of reviews gets buried under the endless demands of the day. Wherever you find yourself I would invite you to consider a simple exercise that may bring a fresh approach to your performance reviews.

The exercise is designed to help you gain clarity, engagement, and partnership with your team members.

As a leadership coach, I'm constantly encouraging my clients to adopt a discipline of regular communication. Clarity requires work!  The more complex the task, the more challenging it is to gain a clear objective. The discipline of communicating is critical to creating clear expectations for both the manager and the team member.  It is essential that you and your team are working towards the same outcomes.

One discipline I am personally developing is keeping clear notes documenting coaching meetings. These notes capture pressing issues, questions, insights, and action steps. When I share these notes  only a month later, I often hear, "Wow, that was only last month." Our work initiatives move and change constantly and with great speed to meet the demands of the week, month, or quarter. Stand up meetings are helpful to bridge the communication gap and keep the team informed of various activities. Still, even these meetings tend to be tactical lacking a strategic focus.

Whether you are in an executive role, a middle manager, or are in your first management role, I'd encourage you to consider the following discipline into your next performance reviews.  Schedule the time at least a week in advance with the expectation that they come prepared to answers three questions.

  1. What are your role(s) and responsibilities?

  2. What are the top 5 initiatives or projects you're working on? Rank by importance.

  3. How would you rate your performance? A+, A, B, C or F.

As they prepare, so you will you. Answer the same questions in writing. It's an engagement exercise for both the team member and the manager. When you do, you may identify risks in areas where you are not aligned with your employee. It's also an ownership exercise. You will see what responsibility your team member is taking for their work or not. Then, a discussion will give an indication of any gaps. It may show you some things going on with your team that had escaped your attention. It will also point out areas needing the team member’s attention or what additional assistance may be required.

  • A+ is exceeding expectations like getting extra credit in school.

  • A is excellent work and well-done!

  • B is room for focused improvement.

  • C is Change! It's average performance which is likely borrowing resources from the team and organization.

  • F is the failure to understand what's required or nonperformance.

*This review process is an adaption from Ken Blanchard’s book One Minute Manager.

From here the partnership builds by creating a baseline to strengthen your communication. It's the process of defining then refining roles and responsibilities. You might have 4 out of 5 aligned, but it would not be unusual for one or two areas that will need some clarification. Finally, the grading. How are you doing? It's a time of affirmation and feedback for their performance. Most people tend to be hard on themselves giving conservative scores. Here is an opportunity for you to build them up! Then, there may include one or two areas that are challenges or a gap in expectations to clarify for mutual understanding.

Your organization may have formal performance reviews connecting with HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems) for raises and bonuses, and LMS (Learning Management Systems) for development, and career planning. You may be a start-up hiring your first employee or you may be a first line manager assigned your first direct reports. Wherever you are today, it's your team! Your team member will make you or break your growth. I’d encourage you to integrate this exercise into your next performance review. You will optimize your team's clarity, engagement, and partnership.

As a bonus, here are three questions for optimizing your one-on-one and/or teams meetings.  You can ask casually, at the start of your weekly meetings, or your performance review...

  1. What's going well in your work? - Giving Appreciation
  2. What additional support/resources do you need to be even more successful in your work? - Providing Support
  3. What's one improvement we could implement that could make a difference in our organization? - Encouraging Innovation

Once you put this motion, I would love to hear how the exercise has worked for you and your team!