Archive for Leadership

Why People’s Experience Matters

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The point in the image to the left is clear about human experience:

What you design for people, and the experience they prefer are often two separate things. 

In change management, this is significant, because when change rolls out to the organization, utilization is driven by experiential use – and ‘people experience’ will always be chosen before an isolated design will.

Design thinking is sexy, it is pretty, and it is important, but it falls short when the experience for the stakeholders is dismissed or forgotten in the change plans.

Experiential Design requires a high level of engagement.

Unfortunately, ‘human experiential design’ is viewed as counter to the task at hand by most technical teams, they see the big job as rolling out technology and they focus on the push, and not a handshake.

Not great when you are standing on the cliffs of change.

If you want a change management plan to work, then you must understand the users’ current experience, how they will experience the change, and work with them to develop a new experience; one that will change behaviour, drive the business objectives for that technology, and one that people can get behind.

There is nothing worse for a company than to spend millions on the change only to have users adopt none of the features that drove the need for change in the first place. Worse yet, choose to side-step the change all together!

Have you built a Journey Map?

Are you shaping your projects as ‘hospitable’ for the people being asked to change?

Drop us a line and let us know what you think!

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Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.

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What you tolerate, you propagate!

Shocked Behavour

They did what??

Much has been said in magazines, articles, blogs, and on social media regarding Silicon Valley’s recent gender issues. With the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and the recent resignation of Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure from 500 Startups, we believe there are ways to stop your company from moving down the same path.

The two good-old-boys above resigned because of a media storm that occurred when they were ‘found out’ not because the behaviour was dealt with internally. Only after large public descriptions of their activities hit the media were their respective organizations compelled to take action. We are proud of the women who have taken a stand to highlight the issues, yet the internal workings of the companies continued to display long-held misogyny and hubris that went mostly unchecked regardless of the fact they knew it was happening.

We have some advice for organizations who are worried about ensuring more equanimity between the genders and who are trying to figure out how to salvage their own organization before they, too, become headline news. We’ll start with the title of this post, a saying we repeat in all of our transformation work.

What you tolerate, you propagate

This means that every time you let even one individual get away with illicit, illegal, immoral, harassing, bullying, or unethical behaviour, you are saying you “tolerate” that behaviour. If your organization tolerates it once, then it will tolerate it again, and in-action on these issues is what truly creates your culture. When it is tolerated by the senior leadership, well, you have just paved the road to a slow but sure demise.

If a company wishes to change its culture, it must first make a clear decision on what they are willing to tolerate, then be very transparent about the consequences for what they will NOT tolerate. Here are a few thoughts about transforming a culture and standing firm on gender issues, bullying, sexual harassment, poor conduct, or other ‘bad person’ issues that companies will face from time-to-time.

“We are….”

Decide who you are as an organization by creating your “we are…” statements, here are a few examples:

  1. We are an equal opportunity culture that champions equality and diversity.
  2. We are a culture of respect in the workplace and we believe in honest and transparent business conduct.
  3. We are a culture that champions merit and compensates hard work of all individuals.

“We Do Not Tolerate”

Identify the type of behaviour you wish to curb by being very transparent about what you will not tolerate, here are a few examples:

  1. Harassment in any form will not be tolerated. (Then give clear examples of what harassment looks like)
  2. We do not tolerate the undermining of individual merit based on race, color, ethnic, cultural, community or national origin, religion, sexual orientation/identity, family or marital status, gender, disability or age.
  3. We do not tolerate illicit, illegal, immoral, unethical business conduct. (Then give a few clear examples)

Consequences

It is important to have processes and guidelines in place for how your organization will apply consequences for the actions and behaviours you say you will NOT tolerate. The processes must be in line with your State or Provincial Labour Standards, and they must be followed fairly, no matter who the individual is who ‘crossed’ the line.

Once you are familiar and clearly understand the legal State or Provincial standards and how to meet them, then you must define the manner in which your organization will roll out those standards in addressing the actions you wish to change.

Caution

Employees WANT to trust the company they work for. If for any reason one or two people in the organization are let to get away with behaviour not tolerated of others, you will have created a significant trust issue. Employees want to know they have somewhere they can go and still be protected from retribution if they report wrong-doing. Sadly, many organizations tend to sweep poor conduct and behaviour under the rug rather than deal with it head-on. This puts the whole company at risk, and that company can wind up in the same situation as Uber or 500 Startups.

The Good News

There are many companies who follow good practices with regard to respect in the workplace. Activities that have been transforming for some of the ones we have worked with are below:

  • They have mandatory training on their “Respect in the Workplace” program.
  • They follow the same process and subsequent consequences for investigating complaints regardless of the title or status of the individuals involved.
  • Managers are provided information to better understand what harassment, inequality, or disrespect look like.
  • They put an investigator in charge who is neutral to the individuals involved, some use an outside service.
  • They provide employees with an anonymous “whistle-blower” process or tool that protects complainants.
  • They are clear and transparent throughout the organization on what are and are not tolerated behaviours and actions.

Great companies can and do exist, with some of the tips above, we simply need to follow their lead and begin shaping the culture we really want, not the one that has simply evolved because we were too uncomfortable to deal with the issues.

Are you new to our blog? We'd love to have you stay, sign up for our newsletter HERE.

___________________________________________

Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.

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When employees care – office politics

Change Mangement is all about people strategy, from sponsor to front lines. Because of this, we get to meet many caring people who want nothing more than to do a great job and help the team find success.

One piece of advice for senior management teams and sponsors is to allow us to help you identify these people because regardless of scope, budget, or schedule, they are the ones who will make a difference for your projects.

There are many different reasons people walk into your company’s door and why they stay and do their job. Some of them are passionate about the work, some want to expand their career, some are motivated by salary or path, and for some, it doesn’t matter where they land so long as they are able to do what they do best, and with great quality.

The employee that truly cares about the people, the work, the outcome – these people will make a difference to leaders and their organizations. You, as a leader, need to know who they are and let them do it. Why? Because they will make you and your project shine!

Office politics exist in every company or organization where people are gathered to get a job done. Senior managers who focus on their own motivation or agenda and fail to see those who truly care are actually doing themselves a disservice. Their KPI’s (key performance indicators) are definitely important, but if meeting those KPIs are at the cost of the growth and quality of the work, success will come slower.

BUT, leaders still have a silver bullet – and it lives with the people who care. True leaders know that even though they have to meet specific criteria set forth by the people above them, that it’s the people reporting to them who make them successful. And this kind of success happens when the leader’s agenda doesn’t get in the way! Tricky work, but worth the effort in the long run.

Why don’t some leaders do this?

  • Some feel threatened by people who outshine them.
  • Some are so driven to meet their agenda, they barely notice the people.
  • Some just aren’t good at seeing anything other than their own needs/wants.
  • Many assume everyone else is motivated by the same things they are.

If you are in management, think about your agenda and find the people who care, then let them use their strengths.

If you are an employee and caring about your work is perceived as a threat, consider where your strengths can be applied. Begin your plan to find a leadership team that wants you to contribute to their success. Find a leader whose agenda doesn’t stop you from being a terrific employee contributor.

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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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So, What Say You?

AwkwardHave you ever shared something out loud and it came out in such a way that you offended someone, but were not aware of the horrible impact you had? I have, and it was not until I began noticing that I was being “put in my place” over and over again, or when word began filtering back to me that it had been discussed by others.

Sadly, what was said was never meant to come off as condescending or rude, but the judgement stuck. Before someone made an effort to get to know me, to learn about my heart, before anyone even tried to cull from me the actual meaning of what I was trying to convey, the words were judged, shared, and shared again.

In the end I was made to feel ostracized and ignored. No amount of good-effort on my part will likely change the opinion I had given them with two poorly worded sentences. They will never know how much I admire their talents, their contributions to their work or how much I wish to learn from them.

The personal brand had been set, the path drawn and the relationship skewed.

My fault for not choosing my words more consciously, for allowing some things going on in my personal life to cloud my ability to say what I really meant, and for uttering sentences that poorly described what I was trying to convey.

Yes. Lesson learned, think first, and speak later.

But I have to wonder what makes us so afraid to say;

“Are you aware how what you just said made me feel? That I felt lessened by those words?”

Oh how different things might have been! How easily I could have been given an opportunity to right the sentences, to utter what I really meant. What a lovely opportunity I would have been given to build a relationship rather than be branded.

Our words matter – mine did and I must live with that. But actions matter too.

Dealing with ‘difficult people’ is never easy, but it is swiftly accomplished if you are first willing to approach the ‘difficult’ person directly.

Leadership lessons for me:

  1. What I say and how I say it matters, always.
  2. Try to address the person making uncomfortable statements first.

All of us are both easy to get along with or difficult to get along with, depending on the audience, what one is going through, or the environment in which they find themselves.

Have you ever wished you could take back words that were conveyed in a way you never meant to convey them?

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A New Manager’s Guide to Honesty

LeadingFirst, a short story.

Not long ago, a team we are familiar with described their experience with a difficult manager. The frustration level was such that the core team were ready to quit.

Their issue? A lying Manager.

The team was weary, distrustful, often cranky and angry at each other, and they were beginning to unravel thread-by-thread. It was easily traced to the manner in which the manager had been handling the team.

Sadly, the issues they had went on for a number of years:

  • They were all privately told different versions of what was going on in the team.
  • The manager made promises to all of them, separately, but did not always back it up or follow it through.
  • The manager continually deflected accountability for actions by pointing in any direction but his own, including pointing up the chain or at other team members.
  • Many of the stories pitted members of the team against one another.
  • The manager promised roles to team members when that role already belonged to other team members, without using professional due process.

In addition to lying, the key ingredients to frustration were the manager’s inability to take ownership or accountability for most actions, especially anything the employees disliked or when they challenged his lack of willingness to be open about future planning.

The thing about lying is, as mentioned in a previous post Liars get caught, period, the lies are almost always found out, eventually. When a manager lies to his team, he destroys trust. Avoiding difficult situations, or conflict altogether, are as good as lying and continues to diminish trust within a team.

Ways to be an honest Manager, especially through change

Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for moving the team forward. The manager who falls into the habit of blaming their bosses for decisions made loses the team and creates an ‘Us against Them’ environment. This can be avoided by one of the foundational principles of management, keeping the team unified and in alignment with the company strategy.

  • Take ownership of the decisions which are out of your control and made at a higher level.
  • Champion these decisions as your own and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Recognize when you are powerless to change the decision and move on professionally, even if you disagree (keep it to yourself) as you are the ambassador for the people who lead you.

Build the functional capability of the team as a team. Many a manager believes that once given the title they are empowered to make all the decisions and the team must simply follow it through. While that may be true in terms of power and authority, by disrespecting your team members’ valuable knowledge and ignoring group decision making, a manager may be putting the team, and ultimately the company, at risk.

  • Make meetings productive by listening, not by trying to be the smartest person in the room. Ask a lot of questions and get answers from your experts, leverage the team ‘on the ground’ and utilize and respect their knowledge.
  • Mine solutions from the whole group then ask all in the room to question the validity and be the ‘friendly critic’ who can identify associated risks.
  • Keep ‘water cooler’ conversations away from planning and decision-making unless you are focused only on that team member’s performance.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep, the entire team will slowly begin to distrust your leadership.
  • Focus on the strengths of the whole team united, the importance of a team that works together and is not in conflict.

These are a just a few ideas for helping your build honesty and trust within your team. An honest, transparent and trustworthy manager is far more effective than a top-down, distrustful one. Leadership is not about you, it is about the team and what is best for the company. Open, honest transparency will be a far better guide through change and will serve you as a new leader in all walks of life.

What ideas can you share with new managers?

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Open Letter to Criticizers of Restaurant Manager as new MLA in Alberta – no matter what party you support

restaurant_managementDear Criticizer,

RE: Graham Sucha voted in as MLA for Calgary Shaw

Both a daughter and a son in our family are restaurant managers, and I take great exception to the insinuation that restaurant managers are of a lower unqualified class of flunkies as portrayed by the comments I am seeing on several news posts. Let me make myself clear, restaurant management is one of the most complex, detailed, and difficult businesses in which to succeed and the companies that run them do not select flunkies to be in charge of their margins. 

So, for you salaried employees who work a 40-60 hour work-week, who are not in charge of your department’s budget, marketing, training, staffing, or procurement – perhaps you have a bit to learn about just what kind of a job this is.

The Restaurant Business is a Business!

It is hard-won, always changing, consistently challenging and one of the most difficult roles to take on because you must give up your whole life to make it successful. The dedication of someone who chooses restaurant management is tough, they must be responsible for much more than most MBA’s will have to experience in a life-time. Their fiduciary responsibilities go beyond duty and care, they are the stewards of the entire operation and must do so with fewer resources to support them than the average business.

Data Analysts

Restaurant managers must make good business decisions, and they must do so in good economies and bad. Data gathering and forecasting for both supply and service is a detailed and constantly moving target. They must gather data, understand the meaning behind the data and use that data to ensure consistency of service at the same time costs are being tightly controlled.

Re-engineering Gurus

Policies, talent management, streamlining, constant quality improvement, minute-by-minute business and resource optimization and continual response to environmental shifts outside of their control are all necessary for a restaurant manager to be successful. They are hit by more outside influence than most businesses and they are required to react on an instant.

Ultimate Customer Experience Experts

Few people either understand or care to learn about all that goes into your customer experience within an organization that gets an hour or two of your time while you are enjoying yourself. But to give you your water, wine and put a meal out in 12 minutes that is the right temperature, high quality, delivered with exceptional service in an ambiance that meets with your high standards is nothing short of miraculous. Restaurants require a high level of collaboration of all its parts, both front and back of house, and is like a well-oiled machine. Only an exceptional manager can achieve this kind of coordination from all their employees.

Business Management

I reiterate, restaurants are a BUSINESS. They have margins and budgets, supply, demand, service, and staffing issues. Unlike most businesses which are affected by occasional outside influences over the period of a year, restaurants deal with outside factors on an hourly basis. A downtown-city restaurant can have one day where they pull in $1500.00 in receipts to another day where $20,000.00 of receipts are brought in – all within the same week. This fluctuation of supply and demand cannot change the quality or experience to the customer, thus making their job extremely difficult. Budgetary forecasting, review of multi-year actuals, detailed understanding of the complexity of their location, client base, city events, sporting events, special days like Mother’s day, Father’s day, Canada Day, and more – are all on the agenda for pre-planning long before a customer even considers them. And as for competition, they have 8 other stores down the street that are vying for the very same customers so they must be dedicated 24/7 to win the hearts and loyalty of their customers, and they don’t do it by being lazy flunkies.

Personal Commitment

I’m guessing that some of you may head into work on a day off on occasion, that’s because you are dedicated! But did you know that the average restaurant manager is there on their ‘scheduled’ day off almost always as a rule? They are dedicated to their craft, they miss out on all of your fun events because nights and weekends are their busy times, they miss a lot of family functions, they are lucky if they marry a thoughtful spouse who is willing to manage children, house and home while they are consistently raising the bar to compete with the other store down the street, and at a lessor salary than you. So why do they do it?

It is a vocation, it is a love of people, of service and is a dedicated craft that involves dealing with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. They are faced daily with incredible experiences and for a moment are brought into the lives of their patrons who are celebrating, enjoying and feeding their lives through experience.

Yes, even the arrogant, entitled people who look down their noses at restaurant management as a lower-class choice in work leave with a meal served in only minutes with a high quality of standard and their glass filled.

Compared to a few MLAs of the past, I am thinking perhaps a little business management, by a people oriented person, would be welcome in our legislature, regardless of what party you support. The fact that this one chooses to seek advice from someone who is familiar with public life, is right out of the books of some of these folks.

Kind Regards,

Patti

NOTE:

I happen to know the young man that has been voted in as NDP MLA in Calgary Shaw and have witnessed his dedication and commitment, I am certain he will apply it as steadfastly to this new role as he has in management, and learn just as quickly. 

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One Man One Kit

own-itI have a friend who was in the military and one evening over dinner he and his wife were discussing their training for an upcoming lengthy backpacking trip where the wife was slowly increasing weight by adding 10lb bags of sugar each week in order to build up to the experience. It was the first time I’d heard the expression, “One man. One kit”.

Those four little words convey so much meaning.

A military ‘kit’ is comprised of 90+ lbs of military supplies used while deployed on mission or training. The expression is clear in its understanding – it is your job to take care of your own equipment. You pack it, you haul it, and you bring it back. (I am not military – so please, if you are, feel free to correct me if my understanding is incorrect.) What impressed me the most about the saying ‘one man, one kit’ is its use is very applicable for our roles in companies.

You have a job to do, it is your job and you are responsible for the outcome.

On a military mission, there will be roadblocks, challenges and one might even encounter the enemy, no matter what happens, you are responsible for your part of the mission and your own kit. This doesn’t mean your squadron or troop won’t step-up when you are down, it means you are responsible for your part in the mission.

Used in accordance within a company, if everyone owns and takes care of their own ‘stuff’ it becomes much easier to work together, have each other’s backs, and work as one so no person is dragged down by having to bear the weight or ‘kit’ of another unless that person truly needs a hand. Unnecessarily over-burdening another when you are fully capable of doing the job builds resentment and frustration in a team. There are always exceptions to a rule or times when one needs to get a little help, but the point here is to be responsible and accountable for what you were hired to do.

Owning your own ‘stuff’ contributes to a healthy organization. One man. One kit.

There are many leadership lessons that translate from the military to corporate, do you have any to share?

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A Little Bit of Anarchy

People will meet performance evaluation before they exceed expectation.

People will meet performance evaluation before they exceed expectation.

Many businesses going through a transformation do so for two reasons:

1. Their business is struggling and they need to stop the bleeding.
2. Their leadership is intent on maintaining a continual path to improvement and growth as they remain competitive.

The latter speaks for a leadership who understands that a little bit of anarchy or disruption can feed innovative solutions, and perhaps create innovation itself. But these leaders don’t make change for the sake of change.

Fear of change is a well-documented and well-understood reaction to ‘doing things differently’, but it is not necessarily true that people don’t like change itself. Ask anyone who is on the hunt for a new car, a bigger house, a better job, or who has solved a significant problem – change is exciting and worth the anticipation. The kind of change people dislike is the kind that is thrust upon them, without consideration of the impact it has on lives, jobs, teams, or culture.

Companies that ‘change right’ are open to positive anarchy and growth disruption. Their leadership does not need to pretend they know it all, they make great efforts to be involved with the process and are open to learning from their front-line experts.

Leaders who fight change? Sometimes it comes down to ego and those egos might just need a shake while they learn to measure for what they are seeking from their teams.

· Measure performance like you want your teams to innovate, and they will live up to it.
· Measure performance solely based on cost cutting and your teams will live up to it.

On average, people will meet performance evaluation before they exceed expectation.

Straight across cost cutting does not grow a company. Innovative companies that grow are not afraid to investigate ways to grow, many stick to the 70-20-10 rule. 70% of time on core business, 20% of time in supporting efforts for the core business and 10% of time reaching outside the core to innovate and grow the business, and they measure their teams’ performance accordingly, creating an environment for innovation.

Funny, companies with a top-down structure have a fear of disruption, and are often unwilling to change, yet they are the companies who eventually land themselves as the first example; they will struggle and be forced to change to stop the bleeding – somewhere down the road.

Which company do you work for?

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Rocks Nests and Curiosities of Change

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smRockFormation

It always surprises me a little when someone says; “I leave my personal life at the door when I come to work.” While that may be what some companies want to hear, the reality is quite different. People’s lives are not compartmentalized, every thought, feeling and emotion they feel permeates every other thing in their day. The person who ‘checks it at the door’ is more than likely in better control when it comes to showing it.

All transition provides lessons and we know transition is that difficult, awkward, uncomfortable time preparing us for the new. Change comes into our work life for all kinds of reasons, sometimes it is a welcome change driven by us, other times it is a change handed to us. Either way, the change is there and we need to face it. But first, we need to move through transition.

The Rock

Transition periods are tough for people. In that period it’s like the person is a rock formation in high tide, being slapped furiously and repeatedly while remaining stalwart at the job, trying to survive. One can imagine how easy it would be to resent being that rock. But there are gifts in change. Check out just what happens to a large rock formation as it gets cleansed, reshaped and even sheds off debris and all that clings to it for security begins to wash away. The old begins to disappear and the new forged beauty begins to show. Surviving transition and being willing to take the hits often leads to better things so try not to run.

Mark Mueller-Eberstein in his TED talk discusses the transition curve of denial, anxiety, shock, fear, anger, frustration, confusion and stress. These are the many emotions of a team member at the end of one way of doing things, and prior to reorientation of a new approach. Morale begins to drop just after fear. Have you as a leader addressed it?

The Nest

It’s easy to see why mitigating resistance during a change is hard. Transition‘s ugly, and the nest of ‘what has been’ is comfortable. Ever awaken on a very cold morning and not want to get out of bed because you know once you do, you’ll be shivering? Loved ones, friends, plans, and yes, even breakfast are right there outside of that bed, but you can’t make yourself move. The comforter isn’t more important or more loved; it’s the transition you are avoiding. The thought of going through the goose-bumps, the shivering, and the cold on your way to the things you love will keep you there so long you even hold off going to the bathroom as early as you should. We like our comfort; we truly hate leaving it especially to move through transition. It’s even worse, when companies fail to prepare their people or help their employees understand what the vision is and what that transition might look like.

The Curiosity

Regardless of the catalyst for change, people want to know what’s going on. They want to know what to expect, what they will be losing and what they aim to gain. They want leaders with enough emotional intelligence to recognize the stages of transition and to carefully guide them past the stress toward creativity, acceptance, hope and enthusiasm. Basically, they need the right information to do their job and believe they will still have success after the change. They need a reason to shed what’s comfortable and move toward the new vision. Honestly, which would get you out of bed faster – if you thought is was cereal for breakfast or you were told it was a 3 cheese omelet with bacon?

Leading Change

Sharing the vision is the most important thing you can do, over and over and over again!

Planning the path is second, and that path is going to be slightly different for every group, person, and department – because ‘what’s in it for them’ will be slightly different. You can use any methodology you like, any system you like, but if you don’t coach and enable a leadership and subsequent management staff to focus on owning and dealing with the people through that change, then adoption will take much longer, I can guarantee it.

Lead change, give vision and time for the rocks, manage the transition, give people a reason to leave their nest and be willing to own it.

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Positive Patterns in Life and Work

Positive Change

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I had coffee with a buddy from high school a few years ago where he described a bit of his research in neurosciences to me. While much of what he talked about was a little above my head regarding his Alzheimer research, when we moved onto the topic of change, I was completely fascinated and engaged. He told me much of what we perceive regarding our own habits and patterns is a fallacy when it comes to describing those habits as; “It’s just genetics.”- “It’s who I am.” -“I can’t help it. – “I am just not _____________.” (fill in the blank with any perceived short-coming)

Working in the area of leadership development, through the coaching process, and any change-management initiative, we’ve learned many people resist change at the expense of their futures to maintain their current comfort. Some even resist it to maintain their current discomfort. Why? Because changing takes work. There is no magic wand transitioning us instantly to a goal or desired state. We must fight the path of least resistance and begin that hard cognitive work of changing ourselves and, inevitably, it will shake up every part of our lives when we do.

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

Here are three steps one can take to do the hard work to create positive change:

Own It

Realize if you are an adult and have been for a number of years, you are responsible for your life. You made the decisions to get there, you built or eliminated the relationships, you are the one who reacted to your environment or events and that reaction has put you in the place you now stand. Taking responsibility for your existing patterns and habits is the first step in the change process. Deflecting responsibility or accountability for your life on others will keep you exactly where you are, no matter how much you “wish” things were different. So long as you can pass it off as someone else’s fault, you will not change a thing. (Keep in mind that we are talking about personal choices, not external influences outside of our control.)

Practice Discipline

Changing patterns or habits is a lot like practicing piano. You start with a few easy things and increase the difficulty as you go, however, unless you practice, practice, and practice, you will not create a habit. A habit is just that, doing one thing over and over again until you don’t even have to think about it. This takes discipline over a long period of time, especially if you are attempting to eliminate a different habit. Changing your lifestyle, your money patterns, and your work routines does not happen overnight. It can take as many as 25-27 months in our experience coaching leaders as they use discipline to develop new habits, reactions and work patterns to improve or grow as strong leaders of people.

Reset Thought Patterns

This is the tough one. Just as a truck creates a path in a wheat field, that path grows firmer and more solid every time it is driven upon. Unfortunately, so do the neurotransmitters in your brain. A farmer who needs to enter the field will take the easiest path, the one created first so as to make it easy to enter without disturbing the crop. Your brain works the same way, each time a similar situation arises, our brains take the path of least resistance, the one created the first time a situation arises, and it does so at lightning speed. Add 25-40 years of traveling that same route and you can see how easy it is to think “it’s just how I am”. But you can drive through a different field. First, you need to identify the patterns needing a reset, and it’s never easy. Get some help in learning how to reset your thought patterns by contacting a counselor for personal and relationship issues or a coach/strategist for leadership and business. There is great value in someone offering you a vantage point from the outside, as well as provide solutions and strategies you had not previously thought about.

Most often, the necessity for change enters our personal lives as a push, a difficult period or a life awakening – our business lives force change for many reasons related to the business or the market/environment. Sometimes our eyes become opened to a better way, or we are simply so uncomfortable stagnating that without change we feel we may not survive. Sound dramatic? Well, life can be that way. How we react to our lives, remain open to new things, accept positive criticism, stretch outside our comfort zones and work hard to reach our greatest potential is when we feel the greatest reward. Notice I said work, great things rarely come easy, but they are usually worth the hard effort it takes to get there.

This post was originally published for the Life Change Network in November 2012.

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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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Own It to Change It

Own_It_Change_It How does organizational change occur?

Change occurs because people, just like you and me, made the decision to change. How that decision came about may be different for each individual involved; the motivator, influence or even traumatic event that may occur and spur someone toward change is usually personal and unique to each.

In the end, change occurred because the individual decided to take responsibility for their contribution to the current state of affairs & take action toward the future.

Every stakeholder involved plays an instrument in the orchestra of change.

Successful, sustained change occurs when someone owns and takes responsibility for their individual piece of the musical score, especially if it achieved a not-so-appealing outcome based on past performance.

Change is hard. It involves leaving our comfort zones, habits or belief systems and developing new ones. The transition is messy while we figure out how to accomplish new behaviours. There will even be a few mistakes along the way and people will need to readjust, (forgive), move forward and shift action. It can be awkward or frustrating. Keeping the whole orchestra (organization) and the final performance (goals) in focus will help.

  • Each person needs to know what instrument they play and how that instrument contributes to the whole.
  • Each person will need their own sheet music and it will be slightly different than someone playing a different instrument.
  • Each person will need to own their personal performance AND how they perform along with others. (You’ve all heard music when one instrument is off or out of tune.)

Making change is not about laying blame, it’s about being responsible for and owning ‘what doesn’t work’ or is no longer sustainable action – owning it personally in your corner of the stage – and it will take practice. Equally important to successful change is collaborating with others, following the beat or lead of another, being supportive of and aligning with other members of the orchestra, not to mention caring deeply about those people who will bear witness to the performance.

Own it to change it…

With luck, your orchestra has a supportive and active conductor guiding you along the way.

P.S. If you have an absentee or a non supportive conductor, you are still part of an orchestra and need to own your part in the overall performance in spite of a lack of leadership. Working together WITH the other musicians toward the greater performance is the best way to win with change.

P.P.S. Pointing fingers at others and blaming a lack of leadership as an excuse for poor performance or a bad attitude is a cop-out that shifts responsibility to others – this is a lose-lose activity. Win-Win activities involve owning it to change it.

 

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