Author Archive for Walt Blackstaffe

Thoroughly Uncommon Common Sense.

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commonsense

Everyday people are witnessed doing what appears to us as totally out of the realm of what you or I might call sensible.

Is There Such a Thing as Common Sense?

From one’s own view point a solution might look simple because the other person just needs to apply some “common” sense. Unfortunately common sense only consists of the knowledge we have managed to acquire to the point where we need it! For example, an experienced driver will slow for a corner and accelerate through the turn. The inexperienced driver will tend to enter the turn at speed and break in the turn. To the experienced driver the inexperienced driver has no common sense. Add a race driver and he will assess his speed, visualize the line he wants his vehicle to travel and through a combination of braking and accelerating will minimize deceleration and maximize acceleration. The race driver will view the other drivers as having no “common” sense based on the knowledge the race driver has acquired.

It Starts With Common Knowledge

In effect, there really is no true ” common” sense just gained experience and knowledge for each individual. So it would seem common knowledge would fit as a good base for a form of common sense.

How about an example of common knowledge:

The world is flat (common knowledge) – don’t sail out of sight of land or you will fall off the edge of the world (applied common sense).

Within each persons realm of being, there are multiple sources of “knowledge” that shape the base where decisions are formed. The first time a person forgets a cast iron frying pan on the stove and they realize something is burning (sometimes the flames are a clue) the first reaction is to grab the handle and remove it from the heat. Most will get burned because they acted without considering that the handle would be too hot for an unprotected hand. Good old common sense says if the pan is hot the handle will be hot too! Sense of survival says get the pan off the heat (put out the flames if there are any). If you happen to be a child or a teen you likely were told, “Don’t touch that, it’s HOT!” And we all know a child or two who simply needed the experience themselves to believe it – ouch.

 Can Experience Get In The Way?

Insurance companies know all about experience, common knowledge, and common sense, just ask anyone who runs a golf course. When dark and scary clouds roll in, golf courses are made to blow a loud horn to signal danger and bring people in off the course, the rule is there for a reason. You see, common knowledge is…if you play outside swinging sticks of metal in the air, then the risk of getting hit by lightening increases. Easy, common knowledge, right? Unfortunately, this is where ‘experience’ can get in the way. Our common sense is so tightly tied to our own experiential knowledge that the message “It’s never happened to me before” gets in the way and finishing play often trumps the horn. The number of golfers that fail to heed the horn is significant and scary, and the insurance rates align with that information. The fact is, you won’t see a player who has been hit by lightening wait for the horn, his experience tells him to get out of there when the clouds start coming in, and chances are he’s watching them closely.

Strategic Sense

Yes, we know it’s the name of our company, but we also get asked a lot why we chose it. Well, we wouldn’t want to depend on just plain old ‘common sense’, I mean, earlier we said it doesn’t exist! Great leaders, though, they understand the value of strategic sense in all depths and breadths of decisions. A few questions to ask prior to making a decision are:

  1. What do we know and believe about this?
  2. What don’t we know?
  3. Are our common understandings really true?
  4. What experiences have we had that may shape our decision?
  5. What experiences haven’t we had that may get in the way of a good decision?

Stop for a moment to consider a big decision you have to make in life or at work. Try running it through this set of questions. Odds are, you will discover you need more data before you make your final decision, at least a wise one.

The Contemplative Leader

Companies don’t always consider the ‘contemplative leader’ as driven enough and look for the quick-answer-dynamo when promoting. The fact is, contemplative leaders are less likely to blow a cannon off into a crowd the way some dynamos might. Perhaps contemplative leaders who make good calm decisions are actually naturals at running through a filter of strategic sense.

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Are You Leading for Change Management?

Success MagazineLeading for Change...a few years ago Patti, our Strategist, was interviewed for an article of the same title in Success Magazine. In that article she stressed the importance of involving the team in finding solutions, saying;

“When employees know the plan, the direction, the mission and the goals, it gives them something concrete and real to focus their actions toward. It helps them understand how they add value to the direction of the company and shows them their own worth toward building success for the organization.”

Recently, a new client approached us because they have been struggling with the internal management of some of their change initiatives. The topic of managing change is a relatively new area for them and they have made assignments regarding the change management role. When we identified for them that they have not developed a common understanding across the organization as to exactly what change management is, they began to better understand why some of their initiatives were failing.

What was happening?

  • Employees believed they WERE performing change management in their respective areas.
  • The words Change Management were being used but not necessarily performed in the manner the industry recognizes.
  • They were seeing ‘ownership’ of their piece of the project threatened by the new change management role, assuming their piece would be taken away.
  • They were unwittingly sabotaging the change efforts of the change manager.
  • They had a number of ‘change’ initiative going on, but did not support at the highest level.
  • They were treating the process as an administrative duty.

It didn’t take long to get them on the right track, what they needed was a company-wide definition of the Change Management Process for their organization. They needed to engage the people in the organization to clarify this common definition for the entire company. Then they needed to engage teams in learning just what that involved. Most had no idea that change management is actually a process, not a series of random steps performed in isolation of the other steps. “We added a little Change Management to this…” means they had no idea what change management actually involves.SuccessMagazine

In your best sponsorship, are you leading change by creating clarity and understanding from the top and including people from ALL levels of the organization so that they have both input and a common understanding of initiatives? Here are some ways to help you build the competency in your organization:

  • Bring in someone to help you define a change process for your organization.
  • Train the people you will be assigning as change practitioners
  • Enlighten the organization with clarity on exactly what change management involves.

Let me leave you with Patti’s other quote I like from the article:

“You don’t have all the answers, and science is showing that a group of committed collaborators trumps a single genius for finding amazing solutions.”

Clarity and engagement – two keys to success in Leading Change – Make it Grand!

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Culture, looking to shift…

 

Stories

It seems the holidays and approaching New Year puts many leaders into a state of reflection and renewal. January hearkens the desire to keep what works and change what doesn’t. The time is ripe and prime for a shift….but you have been through this before…it isn’t easy to address a culture shift.

“So, tell a better story…” Work cultures are built on the stories we tell and most companies are filled with stories that embody the image employees have of their company – sometimes these stories are accurate, and sometimes they are not. “If they don’t like it they can leave.” is the kind of story employees will share for years, or at least the ones who stayed, even if it was poorly translated and uttered by a single executive who did not intend it to come off quite as harshly as it did.

First step to take is to know and understand what the existing stories are, what compels your staff to either love or hate the company in which they work and what stories do they repeat most often to support those beliefs? If those stories are truly an inaccurate depiction of the whole truth, what are you doing to share the stories that are most relevant to meeting the truth?

Here is the second step…if you are looking for culture shift find the employees who act in the manner to which you wish your culture to shift… then tell their stories proudly and often. What have they done that is positive? How do they do those things? What do you do to support that kind of behaviour?

It isn’t enough to ‘like’ their actions – we need to support those actions, tell their stories, coach others to behave similarly.

What else can you do? Take action yourself – adopt activities that empower the kind of shift you want the company culture to take – and let your employees tell those stories.

Transition will be weird, even messy at times – the stories won’t match what they already believe, but that will shift over time. Not an executive? That’s okay, anyone who witnesses positive action, collaboration, great execution – they can tell stories too!

 

What’s Your Story??

 

 

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