Sean Glaze helps leaders create exceptional team cultures. In this interview, we discuss what culture is, how to change it, and how to remain coachable.
After the Interview:
- Read Sean’s new book, Staying Coachable
- Visit Sean’s website
- Email Sean [email protected]
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Follow on Twitter
- Visit on Facebook
- Watch on YouTube
- Access Sean’s free gift, a team leadership toolbox of team-building resources. Download over 50 useful handouts and activities to create a more positive and productive culture. Visit https://toolboxstuff.com.
About Sean Glaze
Sean helps leaders create exceptional team cultures. He’s the founder of Great Results Teambuilding, where he delivers engaging conference keynotes and interactive teambuilding event programs that equip and inspire managers to become more effective leaders.
Read the Transcript
Allison: Hey, deliberate leaders. I am your host, Allison Dunn, executive coach, and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am very excited to have our guest today. We have with us in the house Sean Glaze.
He is the author of four books – The Unexpected Leader, Rapid Teamwork, The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates, and his newest book, Staying Coachable. Each are entertaining parables with powerful takeaways for building and leading great teams. We are going to be diving into the topic of going from complacent to committed, how to thrive and change, and Staying Coachable. Sean, thank you so much for joining us here today.
Sean: Allison, I am so thrilled to be here and to share with your audience and really excited to hopefully share some valuable takeaways from the book Staying Coachable. Thanks so much for having me.
Allison: My absolute pleasure. I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation, and so my question for you is what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners?
Sean: Wow! Number one leadership tip I think is probably embedded in some of what we’re going to talk about in the book, because most of what I’ve been able to write about and speak about and work with leaders in order to help them improve is where I as a young leader made those mistakes. And so, the idea of one single tip is probably to move from command and control and really be curious and connect. And I think that that’s probably the one part looking back upon my experiences as a coach that I wish I had done better sooner with the players that I had.
Allison: Okay, fantastic. What background do you have where you are in command to control, because I think that certain industries bring that out in people, so I’m curious.
Sean: My background is I spent over two decades as a high school literature teacher and basketball coach, and it’s as a basketball coach that I obviously learned all the lessons and now have a lot of the takeaways and insights that I share with leaders in various industries, in conferences and trainings. A lot of the issues I had in building a more productive team culture because the teams I would take over Allison were almost always at the bottom of the region and they’re coming open because they’ve only won two or three games in the last couple of years. And so, you’re taking over a program or a culture that doesn’t have a whole lot of talent and hasn’t had a whole lot of success, and to be able to not just build up the talent and the skills and the people, but to create an environment where they can thrive. Those are the things that I really enjoy sharing with leaders today, but it certainly is a basketball coach that a lot of the takeaways and the lessons, the stories I share are focused on.
Allison: Okay, fantastic. Thanks for giving us that backstory. Staying Coachable is your newest book, correct?
Sean: It is.
Allison: Yeah. I mean, obviously the topic is very near and dear to my heart, and I am eager to kind of share maybe the key takeaways or tips that you would give for from that. Let’s talk about what issues do you feel we are dealing with in the work environment right now that would completely disappear if we could build teams and cultures that are inspired and build those coachable elements?
Sean: Yeah. If people were coachable, how much easier would leadership and being a teammate become? Well, you being an executive coach and working with team leaders, you know the same thing that I probably shared a number of times, and that is I get tickled because Bill Gates actually has a really famous TED talk where he talks about the fact that everyone one needs a coach. He actually has a coach for his bridge game and everybody needs a coach.
You certainly I’m sure serve a number of leaders as a coach, and I’ve worked with team leaders as a coach. I think it’s great for executives and individuals to have a coach, but I think even more important than having a coach is to be coachable. I think that you would see that a lot of the annoyance and a lot of the complaining and a lot of the difficulties that come along with change initiatives, which are going to be consistent regardless of circumstance, that a lot of that would probably disappear if the individuals on your team and the person that’s looking back at you in the mirror was a little bit more coachable.
Allison: Can we talk through how to create a coachable culture inside of businesses? Let’s just assume that I believe everyone is coachable, so just as a baseline, if in general I believe everyone is coachable. So how do you create a coachable culture?
Sean: Let’s back up, because I do believe that what you say that everyone is coachable means that everyone has the ability to at some point accept coaching and benefit from the actions and the behaviors that coaching might provide advice for, and I would agree with you there. Here’s the issue. When I use the term coachable, I think that coachable includes two elements. And when I speak to conference groups and work with leaders, I say being coachable involves two things.
The first is you want to be better. And so, if I’m in a conference and I ask who here wants to be better, every hand in the audience goes up and then you ask the second part of that, who here is willing to change because being coachable is about not just wanting to be better, but also being willing to change. It’s the willing to change part that sometimes is the challenge cause when you ask that question, who’s willing to change, you sometimes get fewer hands in the audience that go up.
I think our job as leaders is we create a coachable culture when first we are coachable and we give people an example to emulate. I think that to create a coachable culture, that starts with being somebody that gives the example of being coachable, which means you’re willing to change, which means that you are hungry, that you are honest, that you are humble and that you demonstrate habits that give you a chance to be better because you change.
Allison: The title of your book is Staying Coachable. Talk me through what you mean when you are talking about that.
Sean: Oh, well again, we talk about what coachable is. You want to be better; you are willing to change. And I think that you’ve reached the level of your success, whether it’s you that I’m talking to now, Allison or somebody that’s listening to our conversation, you’ve reached the level of success you’ve reached because you’ve been coachable, because you’ve been willing to identify a mountain you wanted to summit, because you’ve identified where you were and you wanted to fill that gap, because you’ve been humble enough to seek the assistance and take the advice and apply it from others, and because you’ve maintain habits that have allowed you to reach that level of success.
Here’s the issue. At some point, I think it’s human nature for us to become complacent, and rather than seeking that next mountain to climb, we sometimes get comfortable and we become campers instead of climbers. I think that one of the best things we can do, not just for ourselves, but for our teams is to stay hungry and to stay honest and to stay humble and to continue to adopt habits that are going to let us climb new mountains.
Allison: I love the analogy of we become campers versus climbers. That’s super clever, any mountain analogy. Going back to your concept of everyone usually would raise their hand and say that they are interested in growing, and then also the follow up question of whether they’re willing to change, what are some of the techniques and things that you would help people work through in helping them identify what changes to make and how to make them and the change challenge, the resistance part of it?
Sean: Well, this is probably an area that I failed miserably at as a young coach, because as a young coach, as I mentioned, I was the command, the control, the disciplinarian guy and I pushed and I pushed and we would practice and there was still the gap and we kept getting better and we’re going to celebrate it end of the season when we get to the banquet. And so, I was probably early on a very, very difficult guy to play for because I was so driven and I was so much of a guy, here’s what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to do it. You need to make sure that you’re on the boat and rowing the same direction. And I didn’t do the job of being curious and creating connections that allowed me to ask questions and let other people come to make those decisions to buy in internally first.
And so, I got a great deal of resistance sometimes from players who would maybe have the same goal, but they wanted to do things their way instead of our way. I think that sometimes that’s the resistance you get as a command-and-control leader or teammate is if it has to be the way that I’m saying it’s going to be, then that neglects the opportunity for me to stay curious and for me to connect with you and make sure that through empathy and understanding and curiosity and questioning, that you’re able to enroll yourself in that initiative. I think that that’s one of the things that great coaches do is you’re not there to tell somebody.
You’re there to use questions to draw out and let them come to the answers and the ideas sometimes. And so, I think the shift from me being the command-and-control guy to me being a little bit more curious and focusing a little bit more on connection and beginning to ask questions that allowed people to want to enroll themselves in change and to begin to see the need to change themselves and the need to seek and accept and apply advice from wiser, more experienced people. It is where not just I improved as a coach, but where I think individuals and leaders across every industry have the opportunity to improve as well.
Allison: Is there any industry that needs to have a command-and-control culture?
Sean: Well, I think that ultimately regardless of industry, at some point, a decision needs to be made. And I think that sometimes when you talk about organizations wanting to move from hierarchical into a flatter organizational structure, I think it’s important to enroll and to elicit the responses and ideas and suggestions and perspectives of a lot of the people who are stakeholders in that decision that are going to be contributing to the activities that follow the decision.
I think that somehow though, that has sometimes confused leaders into wanting to get consensus instead of sometimes making a difficult decision, and so they end up playing the popularity game instead of playing the progress game. I think that people want to be heard. They want their perspective and ideas to be considered, but ultimately if you go in a different direction than what I suggested, as long as I feel heard, as long as I feel valued, then I’m going to buy in because that’s going to maybe be what’s best for the team.
I think that sometimes there are probably industries that have suffered because leaders have tried to be a little bit more aware of others, but that sometimes translated in to not making difficult decisions after that information has been collected.
Allison: Yeah, I think that’s insightful. I’m curious – as you did a transition from command and control to more curiosity and connection, what type of results did your team accomplish or was this after the fact?
Sean: Well, I think towards the end of my coaching career, you certainly saw a lot more success earlier. But even more than the success we had in terms of wins and losses at the end of the season, I think what made it far more effective – and this is where you talk about having a coachable culture – I define culture as nothing more than the behaviors that are allowed to be repeated in your organization and culture is behavior.
So, I build a culture based upon the behaviors that I allow to be repeated by myself and by my team. And if you allow something to occur, that silence is consent, and I think sometimes that’s difficult for teammates to be willing to step up and maintain the standard of the culture. But ultimately as a leader, our job is to define not just the values, but what are those behaviors that represent those values.
So all that said, I think that if we’re going to really make a change in culture and shift, the reason we want to shift culture is because our behaviors don’t just eventually determine results. Our behaviors and the culture that we allow, that we build, that we establish as a standard, that creates the experience that people have every single day in our organization. Toxic organizations may sometimes get positive results, but their people are miserable along the way.
In the looking back, as a younger coach, we got pretty good results, even on teams that didn’t sometimes have a lot of talent, but I was probably not very fun to play for and our people probably were looking forward to the end of the season. Rather than towards the end of my coaching career as you get a little bit of experience and a little bit of wisdom, you made enough mistakes to give yourself the scars of past bad decisions so you can make better decisions. I think that we enjoyed those practices. We enjoyed each other. We had a better time in the midst of the journey, and I think that that’s sometimes where leaders may sometimes lose sight of the power of culture. Culture doesn’t just determine how well your strategy is executed. Culture determines how well your people enjoy the journey to the results you’re getting.
Allison: I am positive that there are listeners who are listening to this episode that recognize that there are behaviors inside of their culture that as the leader and/or as the following of the leader they have allowed. I appreciate your definition because I think that’s really important to kind of hone in exactly what do we mean by culture. So, let’s say that a listener can recognize that they have something in their culture that needs to be changed. How would you encourage them to go about making that change?
Sean: I think that first it’s important to acknowledge in working with teams and having led teams and now talking with leaders of teams, it really is difficult to lead up. I think that it’s doable, but it’s a really difficult slog to be deliberately different and to allow your example in those conversations and interactions that you need to have to ultimately affect those around you, and then the leadership that’s going to determine some of what that environment is. I think that culture is always so much more effectively changed if it’s a top-down initiative, but it’s certainly not impossible for an individual have an impact on their team environment.
You know this and I’m sure most of your leaders do as well, the single greatest tool you have to change your environment is first your own example. What are you doing and what are you saying in those conversations, and what are you allowing to happen without saying something? I think sometimes it’s easy to allow something to happen because you don’t want to be involved and you don’t want to be that person, and it may be uncomfortable to have that conversation. But I think that if you, as a leader can help to equip your people, to have some of those conversations and to really focus on, hey, it’s not the person that I’m attacking, but here’s how we do things and this is what we agreed to.
If you can take the time early on, I think that one of the best things I did in terms of establishing culture in the teams that I had and in the organizations that I worked with at times, is not just to identifying mission and vision and values, but what do those values look like? How can we define behaviors and establish standards for our teams so that here are the non-negotiables? This is how we’re going to interact. This is what we’re going to do with how we’re going to communicate on remote teams.
These are the things that we’re going to aspire to be, and these are the things that we’re not going to allow. And once you take the time to enroll people and they actually have the chance to contribute to identifying what those behaviors and standards and commitments are, then it’s a whole lot easier to identify that commitment or standard because we’ve all committed to it. We’ve all made an agreement. In that way, you’re saying, hey, this is how we do things. And I think that that’s, again, not always an easy conversation to have but great teams are willing to have difficult conversations.
Allison: I very much appreciate that. I think in looking at how people want to have a really good culture and it emulates by the behaviors that we allow in it, but it’s a conversation that we don’t really talk about the behaviors that we actually value or that we’re agreeing to do as a collective group. And actually, people together and have it start at the top and have that as an open conversation of those behaviors is so critical.
Sean: Well, your entire podcast is based upon the ideology. Everybody’s got a culture. Your home has a culture. You have behaviors that are allowed and repeated in your home. You have behaviors that are allowed and repeated in your workplace, but a quality leader is going to be deliberate about defining those. And if you’ve not defined those, you still have a culture, but it’s one that’s by default instead of by definition.
Allison: In your book, you talk about in the parable of how to shift teammates from being annoyed by advice to being appreciative of that. Can you talk us through that?
Sean: Yeah. Well, the book, and again, I’m really excited because just recently got the hard back version that came available, so been showing that off and my wife laughed at me a couple of days ago when it first arrived, but yeah, I think that that shift occurs for one major reason, and the book is really a parable. And again, my books are all kind of stories that then carry with them some of the nuggets of content that are hopefully usable for leaders and teams. The stories in Staying Coachable really includes some letters back and forth and conversations back and forth where this wise guide basically provides a set of four questions.
The first question that’s really important, and this is a question you’re going to ask a lot of your coaching clients right off the bat is what is it we want to accomplish? What is the mountain that you want to summit? What is the thing that you specifically want, because you’ve got to identify that hunger first?
The second question deals with honesty. Where are you now? Because if the top of the mountain is over there and I’m right here, well, there’s a pretty significant gap between where we are and where we want to be. I think that sometimes people get caught living in fog and they don’t clarify exactly where we’re at and exactly where we would like to be, and so they allow themselves to be in this uncomfortable fog because it’s more comfortable to stand in fog than it is to get the clarity of looking in a clear mirror at what are my numbers and what am I producing. What are our results today and where they need to be?
But once you have that clarity, once you have those difficult conversations internally or with your team to get some clear definition of what we’re looking to accomplish and where we want to be and where we are presently and what our numbers are now, once you establish that gap, it’s that gap that gives people the motivation and desire to fill it because they understand that there’s a gap that needs to be filled that makes them uncomfortable. It’s that discomfort that I think shifts people from wanting to be annoyed by and not taking but resisting advice to then seeking out advice. Because again, a lot of people want to be better, but they want to be better their way, but their ways are only going to take them so far, and they’re going to be their own ceiling on their own improvement.
And so, once you take the time to recognize that gap, that’s going to be what inspires you to seek out a mentor, to seek out quality advice, to seek out the wisdom and information of people who have climbed the mountain that you’re seeking to summit and begin to not just appreciate that advice, but hopefully to apply it as well.
Allison: Good. I think those are great questions to ask. You also have kind of an outline of questions that you ask to help someone to inspire people to be more coachable. Could you walk us through those?
Sean: Yeah. The four questions again start with hunger, because you have to have that purpose. What exactly specifically do you want? The second question is where are you now? What are your present numbers? What is that situation that you find yourself in when you look in a clear mirror instead of wanting to explain away stuff? And once you create that gap, that’s humility. So, you go from hunger to honesty to the humility of acknowledging maybe I don’t have all the answers.
As a young coach – and I’ve told this story a lot of times, Allison – as a young coach, I had some success as a JV coach, won a lot of games, but I had a whole lot of talent on the team in the school that I was at. So, when I got my very first head coaching job, I go in with all kinds of enthusiasm and excitement and expectations. We’re going to change the world, cause my Xs and Os are great. I’m going to do a great job of skill development and we won five games the very first year. I’m heartbroken that very first year because I thought my Xs and Os and my skill. All that’s going to change and obviously you realize that the culture is going to separate and obviously support strategy.
Well, what I didn’t realize early on is all that confidence that I went into that very first job with wasn’t really confidence. I think confidence is knowing you can help. I think arrogance is thinking you don’t need help. And early on what I felt like was confidence was probably more honestly my own arrogance, because I wasn’t willing to listen or look elsewhere because I had all the answers.
And so, I think that that third question that leads to humility is really important. It’s what is the weakness? What are the weaknesses that I need to admit and acknowledge? And once you admit that there’s a need, then you’re going to seek out someone that can fill that need. I’m going to find a coach; I’m going to find a mentor. I’m going to find someone who’s walked that path that I’m wanting to walk who’s going to help me do it successfully.
Allison: Yeah. I have the opportunity to witness a lot of very successful leaders and business owners kind of self-disclose the arrogant versus the humility, that recognition, that space, that a-ha, and so I love the fact that we all need to move at some point. At some point we are on the arrogant side and need to be more on the humble side because we all do need help. We don’t always know the right way to get there. So that’s fantastic. Sean, where can people get your newest book? Where would you like people to procure your newest book?
Sean: Well, thank you so much for asking. I really do hope they will take the time to find a copy because I really do believe – and I may be a little bit biased – but I really do believe that it is something that cannot just spur and inspire their own individual development and improvement, but absolutely be a template they can use to help their teams to improve by leading in a different way, in a more effective way, and using questions and connection and curiosity in that process of four questions to help their people in one-on-one conversations and even just throughout regular interactions to help other people on their team to improve and to grow and to accept that change initiative that we all know is coming.
Allison, if they’ll go to toolboxstuff.com, I’ve actually got at toolboxstuff.com so many different handouts and resources for leaders to be able to get access to and use with their teams. I would love for them to take advantage of getting access to those resources, and if I could ever be of any assistance, know that I would be thrilled to be able to share whatever insights I can offer.
Allison: Okay, fantastic. I will make sure that our show notes have those few links that you’ve just shared. Sean, it has been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you so much for joining us here.
Sean: Really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you so much, Allison. You have a great rest of the day.
Allison: Thank you.