May 30, 2023

A Leader’s Guide to Having Effective Conversations with Their Teams

As a leader, it is important to ensure that your team is aligned with the company’s goals and values, while also giving them the space to grow and develop within their roles. This is where the 5-5-5 EOS tool comes in handy. This tool is a structured approach to conducting monthly or quarterly conversations with your direct reports to discuss their roles, core values alignment, and goals for the quarter.

The key to effective conversations is having a directional guide to provide structure and prompts. More informal water cooler chats and lunch and learns are just as crucial in connecting with your team (and taking a breather from the work day), but more formal monthly touch-bases provide an outlet for significant conversations.

The 5-5-5 concept is divided into three main sections to help guide the conversation and maintain productivity: Values, Roles, and Rocks. Each area is designed to prompt a comprehensive, 360-degree dialogue and provide space for honest feedback.

Let’s zoom in on each of the sections:


Values – Are They the “Right Person” for the Company & Team?

The purpose here is to determine your direct report’s alignment with the company’s (and the team’s) core values. Values are more attitude and behavior-based than hard skills.  Through EOS implementation we encourage a detailed description of each value with behavioral examples to remove some of the subjectivity of rating someone on Core Values.  They either are or are not behaving in alignment with each value based on the Value’s well-defined description.  We use a scale of  PLUS (+) meaning most of the time they are aligned (no one is perfect),  PLUS/MINUS (+/-)  meaning some of the time, or MINUS (-) rarely are they behaving in alignment with the value.   

Start this conversation by reminding your report about the core values. It is a good idea to have them rate themselves as well, so that discussion of each value can be a two-way dialogue. Consider each value and discuss your report’s rating. Let them lead the conversation and explain how they align with the company’s values. This step is important for allowing the employee to reconnect with the company’s culture and purpose.

Provide examples of behaviors in which they  are aligned or not aligned that you have witnessed.  It is not enough to simply say that you do not “think or feel” that they are aligned with a specific value, that is too subjective.  Discussing detailed examples of times when they did X, and when Y would have been a better choice is much more helpful in teaching them how to become more Value oriented.  It is equally important to acknowledge and encourage areas where they are excelling as it is to help them improve areas in which they may be falling short in Core Values.


Roles – Are They in the Right Seat?

This section allows for time to discuss your employee’s Roles on the Accountability Chart and determine if they Get, Want, and have the Capacity (GWC) to fulfill their position.

Start with “Get” and assess whether the employee has the innate talents to do this particular role.  The “Get” is that they are well-suited for doing this role because it fits their particular strengths.  If they are having trouble achieving success at their position, making sure they innately possess the talents that allow them to be successful at each Role can offer clarity in understanding where there might be gaps.  This allows options for revising Seats or Roles on the Accountability Chart.  Eventually, your entire team can be in Seats where their strengths can be capitalized on, making them love and feel more successful at their job.

Next, candidly discuss whether the employee “Wants” to fulfill each Role of their Seat.  Most roles have at least some responsibilities that are not as desirable as others, but if an employee truly does not want to do their job it is hurting everyone.  Here you can understand how best to delegate tasks and balance duties that your employee has a deep interest in with those that are less motivating.  Sometimes we find that people have been promoted into seats that they did not Want. Ultimately, we hope that everyone on the team gets up in the morning wanting to come to work, not dreading it or feeling dragged into it. Not to mention, life is too short, not to at least enjoy most of your work.   

The “Capacity” portion should be used to examine whether the team member has adequate training and skills to fulfill their role. This portion is more hard-skill-focused and can alert you to any blind spots in skills, training, experience, or onboarding. Capacity may also be a time issue, this is a good opportunity to discuss the working hours of the employee and if they have the time to do every Role in their Seat.  If there are any issues with not having enough time, training, skills, or experience to do each Role in their Seat, there are often simple solutions for getting them up to speed, through training, classes, mentoring, etc. or moving Roles around so that the whole team is confident in their ability to be accountable for their job. 


Rocks- Are They On Track To Hit Goals?

The Rocks section involves focusing on the priority goals for the quarter ahead. During this time, ask your report to identify three to five priorities for the next three months. This workshop-style portion of the conversation encourages your team members to be active participants in their own development, while reminding them of the most important priorities of their job this quarter.  You can guide them to decide for themselves what they would like to focus on based on a clear understanding of the Company’s priority Goals for the quarter and how each person fits into the overall achievement of the company’s success.  After setting Rocks at the beginning of the quarter, you can check in if they are on or off track with each month’s conversation.  


Bonus Tip: Ask the Right Questions

According to a recent article by Inc., asking the right questions is one of the best ways to improve your leadership skills and build a stronger, more engaged team.

The right questions should be thought-provoking, curious, compassionate, and open-ended. They should encourage team members to open up and be forthright about how they feel in their roles. Most importantly, the questions shouldn’t all be about work. Feel free to pepper in a few appropriate, non-intrusive prompts about life outside of work – this is how you build relationships and trust.

Here are a few examples questions to get you started:

  • What’s going well?
  • Where can I help?
  • What are your top priorities currently?
  • Is there anything new or upcoming you would like to put on my radar?
  • What new ideas have come to mind lately?
  • How has your work/life balance been feeling?
  • How are you feeling outside of work?
  • What are you most looking forward to these days?

The 5-5-5 EOS tool can be helpful as you begin routine touch-bases with your team members or even as you deliver more formal performance reviews. It will help steer the conversation and create a structure for a productive dialogue about core values, roles and responsibilities, development, and goals for the future.

For more ideas and help on how to conduct effective performance discussions, download my Quarterly Conversation Form, which you can use as a guide.

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