Managing a Change? Here's A Solid Solution

Is everyone getting what's needed when you make changes?

Earlier this month I was working with a manager who had gotten some feedback from his boss. He was told that he didn't jump in alongside his people to get new projects and improvements off the ground. As a result, things weren't getting done on schedule. So I asked him why he managed from a distance. His response:

"My people are long time employees. They're highly educated and have a lot of experience. If I start managing too closely, they'll lose their motivation."

I'm thinking,"What motivation? Apparently they aren't getting much done!

His approach to the situation isn't at all unusual, is it? We live in a time when managers are getting messages that say they should be consultative and participative. OK. But what happens when the work group doesn't know what to do or how to do it?

When there is a change, people want clear, strong direction. We all want to know what, where, when, why, and then, if the situation warrants it, how. Think about it: when we face the unknown, we start to get a little insecure. What do we look for? Direction. Strong leadership. Clarity. Help.

It has nothing to do with longevity or advanced degrees. It has to do with diagnosing the willingness and ability of the people and then adjusting management style accordingly.

In the case of my manager friend, he used misguided assumptions instead of proven research in his initial approach.

Overview_graphic

Meet People Where They Are

I'm a big proponent of Situational Leadership and have been since it was introduced. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard teamed up to introduce the practical application of the Ohio State Studies (Go Buckeyes)! As Manager of Management Development at Pfizer in 1981, I was involved in bringing Situational Leadership into the developmental track; it's still a critical part of development there today.

So what's it all about?

The principle is: Before you know how close to manage or how consultative to be with your people, you need to know where their willingness and ability is in relation to the task at hand. The less people know, the closer you manage. The more mature and effective they become, the less you have to direct and the more consultative you can be.

If you've ever taught a child to ride a bike, then think of that as the model. When they start, you have to demonstrate, help them on the bicycle, hold onto them, and not leave their side. As they get a little confidence and are able to go a short distance on their own, maybe you jog alongside if you have to catch them. When you see them smiling and riding a block or so on their own, you shout encouragement. And when they disappear from view; well, yell "I'm going to the house for a cup of coffee." That way they'll know where you are if they need you.

Managing people is a constant series of diagnoses and appropriate responses. It's never all of one thing. And it's never 100% direction or 100% behaving as a consultant to your team members. It's always based upon what people need from you in order to move forward along the performance curve.

And just to emphasize the point once more: Change=More Managerial Direction. Any manager who is introducing something new has to be prepared to communicate more,  provide more direction, and continually diagnose where individuals are throughout the journey.

What's your experience? Are you giving or getting the right thing at the right time? If not, a little diagnosis and and the appropriate leadership response will take you where you --and your folks--where you want to go.

Photo Source: www.situational.com

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How To Help People Make Changes

Defending the status quo.

  1. "That will never work."
  2. "The labor laws make it difficult for us to do a lot of the suggestions [you] put out. And we do live in a lawsuit oriented society.""
  3. "Can you show me some research that demonstrates that this will work?"

How many of these have you heard?

Tip: When you hear any one of these, ask this question:

"Tell me specifically what information you have that supports why that won't work  in this situation?"

a. Sometimes there is enough evidence to show that certain changes can't be productively initiated at a specific time and place. Hope is not a strategy.

b. If there is insufficient evidence, then ask the question, "If you were in charge--and had to do it--what would you do to make it happen anyway?"

Direct the individual(s) to begin focusing on solutions instead of problems.

Change Quote

 

 

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Earn Your "Change Chips" Early

If you want to change an organization, you start by changing the patterns in which people talk together, the things they talk about, the frequency of their contact and the makeup of those who overhear them." --Art Kleiner, Who Really Matters

I would add: Start doing those things before you need acceptance for a new initiative.

Change Chips Are Earned Up Front

Most change models start at the point where someone shares a new vision or plan, then asks for enthusiastic support. But we're all poker players (whether we know it or not). We spend time unconsciously earning or collecting chips based on the frequency and quality of our interactions. When it comes time to ask for something, that stack of chips can mean a make-it-or-break-it hand. It looks like this:

Change16_111207001_3

So What Does This Mean?

If we're in a position to initiate something new or different, the time we've invested  building solid relationships can determine our ability to gain support and moment.  The leader who spends time playing corporate video poker may revel in his individual genius--but lacks the relational chips needed to convert that genius into action.

What are you doing today to build the stack necessary for a successful change?

Are you "starting change before it starts?"

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Five Messages That It's Time For A Change

If you've ever wondered what executive coaches really do that's truly valuable, it's this: We create a relationship that enables people to clearly see reality.

Life isn't a part of business; business is a part of life. So, everything of consequence leads to confronting and resolving some kind of issue that leads to a choice about personal change. All of the choices aren't always huge, but they are necessary in order to develop more healthy and effective patterns of work and leadership.

What To Look For

I started thinking about the kinds of signs that flash to indicate the person across the table really does need to make a change. Maybe one or more apply to you as well. Here are five that stand out for me:

1. People whom you trust strongly believe you should make a change.

Let's be honest: sometimes other people see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Sure, it's important not to base your life on what others think. But if six people who have your best interests at heart all tell you the same thing, it's a good idea to pay attention.

Note: Last year an executive client who received almost unanimous feedback on certain behaviors chose to explain away every last one, attributing the information to the fact that "no one really understands me". Actually, they did. He is no longer working for that company.

ChangesBlog2. You're holding on to something and just can’t let go.

It's happened to all of us: we have an incident or a nagging situation, and are then unable to forget about it. That's a signal that you just might want to make a change. If you  can’t accept the fact that your manager won't acknowledge your contributions, maybe it’s time to update your resume and put it into circulation. There are times when letting go requires real action, not just a mental exercise.

3. You feel envious of what other people have achieved.

This involves action, too. Jealousy can devour us from the inside out if we let it. At the same time, it can be a signal that we have some meaningful goals on which we've taken zero action. If you find yourself resentful of a colleague who recently earned a professional certification, maybe you should ask yourself what kinds of professional accreditations you've been putting off. That could be the springboard to an advanced degree or a special class in your particular discipline.

4. You deny any problem--and are angry in the process.

I do a lot of confidential, "remedial" coaching for people who have been accused of acting in a harrassing or hostile manner.

Anger is a common symptom of denial. (Assuming that the evidence is valid; otherwise, there's darned good reason to be angry).

One way to get through the whole denial thing is to look for--or help someone else see--an abundance of objective evidence. That's why, in business, 360 feedback is usually pretty effective. The truth will, indeed, set you free. It does, however, seem scary in the moment.

5. If you do absolutely nothing, the problem will continue.

Interpersonal "stuff" is common in the land of cube-dwellers.

Let's say your next-door cubie listens to news radio all day, and you are really tired of hearing  Traffic on the Twos. Perhaps if you just let her know it was getting in the way of your work, she'd get a set of earbuds. Or, maybe not. But nothing will happen unless you broach the issue in a calm way. And you'll know that you took action, which will give you an internal sense of honesty and integrity. That almost always leads to a better sense of self.

_____________________________________

On a lighter note, we've made a little change here that's proven to be a good move. Every so often I'll toss in a favorite software recommendation or new gadget that I think will be useful to a number of readers. As a coffee hound, this one reeled me in. It's something you've no doubt seen but in a new format: The Keurig Vue Brewing System with (drumroll) RFID technology.

Keurig-vue-coffee-maker-courtesy-315*280It seems that research showed that some of Keurig's machines may have turned out to be somewhat complicated for the typical user. This one actually has a radio-frequency identification (RFID)that reads tags on its single serving containers of coffee grounds. It may seem a bit eerie, but it knows the kind of coffee you are trying to make and it guides you. (It really does).

I like the new options that enable me to easily tweak the size and strength (I want it bold) of my cup of coffee. I can even easily adjust the temperature.

I know it's not software or the latest twitter app, but let's face it--a quick, tailor-made cup of coffee is something that the solopreneur and the corporate mucky-mucky both long for. Oh--and there are no shortage of choices when it comes to flavors. I went online to order the packets  and there was everything from Hazelnut and the flavored variety to the bold and the beautiful: Sumatra, my fave.

Note: I don't receive any commissions on sales but I'll feel pretty good if someone else enjoys a quick, good cup of coffee. (I don't think you need an antenna for the RFID:-)


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Change: What Gets In The Way?

Defending the status quo.

  • "That will never work."
     
  • "... That said, the labor laws make it difficult for us to do a lot of the suggestions [you] put out. And we do live in a lawsuit oriented society.""
     
  • "Can you show me some research that demonstrates that this will work?"

Bigstock-Status-Quo-Crossword-14855162

These are just a few of the real-life quotes about defending the status quo from a Seth Godin post that I saved about six years ago. Given that our work here always includes organizational or individual change, we've heard most of them more than once. How about you?

Tip: When you hear any one of these, ask this question: "Tell me specifically what information you have that supports why that won't work in this situation?"

a. Sometimes there is enough evidence to show that certain changes can't be productively initiated at a specific time and place. Hope is not a strategy.

b. If there is insufficient evidence, then ask the question "If you were in charge--and had to do it--what would you do to make "it" happen anyway?"

Help the individual(s) begin to focus on solutions instead of problems.

 

Photo: www.bigstock.com

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Leadership & Influence: Raise The Standard

"Fitting in" is a big deal, and in many organizations it's seen as the way to career longevity.

That's a problem.

Raise-the-Bar-620x480People are influenced by those they see as being "ahead of them." If you simply match the rest of the workforce and blend in, your influence is diminished. Eventually, you become invisible.

If you want to lead, be willing to raise your personal standards to exceed the common expectations of your organization or work group. "Raising" equates with "elevating." Once you raise the bar for yourself, you begin to view things from a heightened position that expands your perspective. When that happens, you're able to see and describe a greater vision for those around you.

What can you start doing today to raise your standards and increase your ability to lead?

_________________________________

Bonus : Check out my online colleague and consulting pro, Denise Green, as she shares an important truth about Changing How You Are, Not Who You Are.  

 

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Change: A Spiritual Issue

We business types seem to enjoy--and gravitate towards--discussions about Change. And, it's almost always in the context of managing Change, leading it, overcoming resistance to it...as if Change is somehow different than life. 

It isn't. It is life.

Which means that how we approach our lives and what comes our way will influence how we approach things that are new and different at work. How we choose to respond to changes will determine our sense of success and  contentment, regardless of what comes our way.

The Spirit of Change

It is, in fact, a spiritual issue. The world view that you possess will determine how you lead or respond to changes, and whether you will lift people up or cut them down in order to achieve your goal.

I've been involved in leading or assisting  "change" efforts at numerous Fortune 500 firms for thirty years: some quite successful, many mediocre, a few downright ugly. So, it's something that I've thought about often and quite deeply. Here are some conclusions I've reached:

1. Once you announce that you are undertaking a large-scale "Change", you've set the conditions for adversarial relationships. The human condition doesn't want change; it wants control. Therefore,

2. You have set in motion a struggle for control. Self-control, control of the situation, control of other people...

3. If you want to do something new or different, tell people you want to do something new or different. Tell them exactly what it is, why it is (reality), and how it will improve the business/workplace situation (hope). Then be prepared to "be there"--even more than usual--to support the effort.

Change models, for the most part, have evolved from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' work "On Death and Dying." She did a magnificent job explaining the emotional cycle people experience when facing or dealing with death. In my experience, the model does, indeed, hold up in any situation involving changes. It is for that very reason that the issue is always a spiritual one. People who are dying need to reconcile not only what is happening to them now, but what has happened throughout their entire lives--as well as resolving any unanswered questions regarding eternity.

Emotional Cycle of Change (dragged)


Those of us facing changes at work do the same thing: we attempt to reconcile what is happening, what our career in the organization has been about, and what the unknown future will hold.

For that reason, I believe it's important for organization dwellers at all levels to have an understanding of the model. Everyone involved can then know how to respond in an uplifting or supportive manner when they recognize someone else experiencing a particular step along the way. (That also means painting reality for those who are stuck on Fantasy Island).

That said, my own experiences show this: Making "Change" the overarching theme in communication, training, and managing is a big mistake. It's not what you are about and it will drain the energy from the specific, meaningful improvements you want to make.

What to Do

If you truly believe in what you need to do, then do it. But first check out the spirit with which you are about to make it happen. Is it based upon clarity and genuine belief? If you are leading the effort, are you also willing to walk alongside those who need your support during the journey?

Whether  you are leading or following, the spirit with which you evaluate and participate will impact the accuracy and wisdom of your choices.  And those choices will determine business effectiveness and personal contentment in the days and weeks ahead.

Your choices are the only thing over which you have control. Be careful of the spirit with which you exercise and execute them. It will be the foundation for the organizational spirit that surrounds the effort. 

 

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Help People Get Ready for Changes

Readiness and Resistance

Every systematic approach to making large-scale change usually talks about these two factors. 

Readiness refers to whether or not the people who will be involved are prepared for the changes that are coming.

Resistance refers to the assumption that many people will balk at doing the "new" thing because it is different.

I'm no longer sure that the word "change" has any real impact. Everyone knows that life is filled with changes. Many of the programmed approaches have been designed in a way that creates an "us and them" dynamic, not unlike "employee" engagement. In other words: "I want something different than I'm getting now so you have to change." 

Change

Making changes for the better, whether at work or in your personal life, each have some common elements. Here are some real-life, practical tips accompanied by some semi-deep thoughts:

If you, as a leader, have done a thorough job of explaining your organization's situation and why it is critical to do specific things differently, you will enable readiness and reduce resistance before it even starts.

Why? Because the human condition demands a reason for doing something differently. Until you answer the "Why?" question satisfactorily, forget about trying to get to the "What." (See, I just did it).

Readiness is all about understanding and acceptance. Yes, both of those. You can understand something intellectually but you need a certain amount of acceptance to want to act on your understanding. 

What to do:
 When a change is needed, start talking about the situation and what you think needs to happen differently. Make the topic an ongoing conversation over lunch, in meetings, emails, etc. Engage other people in the discussion at every opportunity. Ask them what they think could be done to make this "new" thing happen. Tell managers to make it a conversation in their meetings.

Why? (See, I am trying to model this thing). When the decision to make the change finally happens, it's not a surprise.

Save surprises for a significant birthday.

 

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Five Signs You Should Make A Change

If you've ever wondered what executive coaches really do that adds great value, it's this: We create a relationship that enables our client to clearly see reality

Life isn't a part of business; business is a part of life. So, everything of consequence leads to confronting and resolving some kind of issue that leads to a choice about personal change. All of the choices aren't always huge, but they are necessary in order to develop more healthy and effective patterns of work and leadership.

What To Look For

I started thinking about the kinds of signs that flash to indicate the person across the table really does need to make a change. Maybe one or more apply to you as well. Here are five that stand out for me:

1. People whom you trust strongly believe you should make a change.

 Let's be honest: sometimes other people see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Sure, it's important not to base your life on what others think. But if six people who have your best interests at heart all tell you the same thing, it's a good idea to pay attention.

Note: Last year an executive client who received almost unanimous feedback on certain behaviors chose to explain away every last one, attributing the information to the fact that "no one really understands me". Actually, they did. He is no longer working for that company.

Changes_sign

2. You're holding on to something and just can’t let go.

It's happened to all of us: we have an incident or a nagging situation, and are unable to forget about it. That's a signal that you just might want to make a change. If you  can’t accept the fact that your manager doesn't acknowledge your contributions, maybe it’s time to update your resume and put it into circulation. There are times when letting go requires real action, not just a mental exercise.

3. You feel envious of what other people have achieved.

This involves action, too. Jealousy devours us from the inside out. At the same time, it can be a signal that we have some meaningful goals on which we've taken zero action. If you find yourself resentful of a colleague who recently earned a professional certification, maybe you should ask yourself what kinds of professional accreditations you've been putting off. That could be the springboard to an advanced degree or special studies in your particular discipline.

4. You deny any problem--and are angry in the process.

I do a lot of confidential, "remedial" coaching for people who have been accused of acting in a harrassing or hostile manner. Anger is a common symptom of denial. (Assuming that the evidence is valid; otherwise, there's darned good reason to be angry).

One way to get through the whole denial thing is to look for--or help someone else see--an abundance of objective evidence. That's why, in business, 360 feedback is usually pretty effective. The truth will, indeed, set you free. It does, however, seem scary in the moment.

5. If you do absolutely nothing, the problem will continue.

Interpersonal "stuff" is common in the land of cube-dwellers.

Let's say your next-door cubie listens to news radio all day, and you are really tired of hearing  Traffic on the Twos. Perhaps if you just let her know it was getting in the way of your work, she'd get a set of earbuds. Or, maybe not. But nothing will happen unless you broach the issue in a calm, direct way. And you'll know that you took action, which will give you an internal sense of honesty and integrity. That almost always leads to a better sense of self.

What else have you found that might be good indicators for managers, coaches, and anyone looking for signs to change?

 

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New Boss, Transition, and You

Over the life of my consulting practice, I've been engaged often to assist with the entry of a new boss on the scene.  It's always energizing because of the variety of activities involved and the potential impact of a smooth transition.

What People Forget and What You Can Do

As you can imagine, with the entrance of a new boss comes the question, "What does (s)he want?" and "How does (s)he want it?"

How-can-i-help Reasonable questions from people who are concerned about good performance. But as I watch and participate, I realize that on Days 1 and 2 they are the wrong questions. The right questions are:

"What do you need?" and "How can I help you?"

Think about this: When you walk into a new situation where everyone knows each other, has long-time relationships, and understands the lay of the land, what do you look for?

A little help getting acclimated. 

A manager or any other executive in transition is looking for the same thing. Sure, they have a sense of who they are and what their role is. But the higher up you are in the organizational food chain, the more people tend to see you as a "role" instead of a person. Indeed, it can be lonely at the top.

The next time you're close to a managerial change ask, "How can I help you?"

The simple act of asking will be helpful. 

 

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Real Change: Add Behavior to Your Vision

We like to talk about the importance of "vision", leadership, and change. When it comes to communication, visionary changes can be captured with images and big picture ideals; but behavioral changes need to be grounded in the specific.

Take-away for today: Make your changes specific so that people know what to do and can tell whether or not they got it right.

  Change-is-Good


Things like Risk, Communications, and Strategic Decision-Making are great topics for philosophical conversation and painting the big picture. If you want people to change what they are doing, then you need to tell them what to do in a way that they can act on and know that they are doing it right. Here's what that looks like:

Item: Take more risks.

Example: "When you are deciding to open up a new sales territory, go ahead once you've determined that there is at least a 60% chance of success. Don't wait until 90%."

If I'm the individual, now I know what the rules are and how I can determine whether or not I did it properly.                        

Item: Communicate more, not less.

Example: "When you have new information regarding one of our customers in Sweden, send it out the same day to all of our business unit Sales Managers in Europe."

If I'm the individual, now I know what the rules are and how I can determine whether or not I did it properly.  

Change Management continues to captivate organizational leaders seeking to introduce "change" with as much acceptance and as little disruption as possible That's a good thing. There's always something new going on no matter where you work. Which makes it even more important to be able to do it and not just become captivated by the theories.

What's your experience with change initiatives?

One more time: Make your changes specific so that people know what to do and can tell whether or not they got it right.

If you found this helpful, I think you will enjoy Initiating a Change? Ponder This.


 

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Change: Can You Take The Heat?

If you w ant to lead a change, you better start with a quiver full of behavioral and goal-directed arrows designed to hit your target. Important note: Some of these will return like a boomerang and when they hit, they'll sting.

Changes are anxiety-producing and scary for a lot of us. We like our cozy comfort Hot_thermometer zones. When someone messes with it, we find ways to strike back or take our toys and go home. Successful leaders know this and move forward, knowing full well that the "noise" around them is natural. They can "take the heat."

What To Do When The Heat Is On

1. Learn to recognize your triggers. Understand that when someone challenges you, your brain will dump adrenaline. That means you'll start to feel a burst of energy that will cause an emotional responses. What's yours? Some people become angry, others find that their voices go up a few pitches, and some of us start to burn up energy by rocking back and forth or, if seated, shifting around. Know your response and pause (count to ten silently) until the adrenaline rush starts to wear off.

2. Expect difficulty and even trouble. My first huge "change" project was on Day 1 of the AT&T divestiture. We spent up to 50% of our time figuring out what we were learning and then fixing things. Organizational change is always a work in progress. 

3. Being a leader is risky business. Be prepared to explain over and over again, in different ways, what you are doing and why you are doing it. Then, when you think you've explained it enough, go back out and explain it again. There will be people who want to see you fail, people who "would do it differently and better," and a host of other detractors. If you believe that what you are doing is the right thing, then stay the course. Listen to what concerns people, acknowledge those concerns, and explain one more time why the "new thing" will be better. Always: attack positions, never people.

How will you lead your change today?

 

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I'll Change: Tell Me Exactly What You Want

I watched as my client, the new President of his company's largest business, orchestrated a full day of presentations with the top 100 managers in the business unit. It was textbook-perfect:

a. He laid out the evidence supporting the need for a change in the corporate culture

b. His direct reports took turns offering their support for each of the proposed elements of change and were clearly genuine in their efforts

c. He invited spontaneous discussion and got it all along the way.

d. And he closed with a clear visual summary of how the culture was supposed to change.

Change confusion Do Any Of These Sound  Familiar?

Here are the first few:

Risks: Take more.

Communicate more: When you have information, err on the side of sharing more with more people across all the businesses.

Decision Making: Think strategically.

These were the first three of eight items. Each was discussed in ways that highlighted how, for example, risk-taking had helped Company X or Strategic Decision Making had helped Company Y. The fact of the matter is, who can argue with the importance of what's listed above? 

Which is why at the end of the session the really important question was asked from the audience of man agers. This is an exact quote.

Manager: "I really think all of these things we discussed today are important. I just need to know one thing: "What, exactly, do you want me to do?"

President: " ____________"      (yes, that was the response).

As the President's consultant, I learned a lesson that I haven't forgotten: Visionary changes can be captured with images and big picture ideals; Behavioral changes need to be grounded in the specific.

Make your changes specific so that people know what to do and can tell whether or not they got it right.

Things like Risk, Communications, and Strategic Decision-Making are great topics for philosophical conversation and painting the big picture. If you want people to change what they are doing, then you need to tell them what to do in a way that they can act on and know that they are doing it right. 

Here's What That Looks Like 

Take more risks. 

Example: "When you are deciding to open up a new sales territory, go ahead once you've determined that there is at least a 60% chance of success. Don't wait until 90%."

If I'm the individual, now I know what the rules are and how I can determine whether or not I did it properly.                        

Communicate more.

Example: "When you have new information regarding one of our customers in Sweden, send it out the same day to all of our business unit Sales Managers in Europe."

If I'm the individual, now I know what the rules are and how I can determine whether or not I did it properly.  

Decision-Making.

Example: "When you and your team make decisions, measure the options against the two-year plan and choose the one that moves us closer within the budget allocated."

Change Management continues to captivate organizational leaders seeking to introduce "change" with as much acceptance and as little disruption as possible That's a good thing. There's always something new going on no matter where you work. Which makes it even more important to be able to do it and not just become captivated by the theories.

What's your experience with change initiatives?

One more time: Make your changes specific so that people know what to do and can tell whether or not they got it right.

 

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Six Steps To Getting Your New Idea Accepted

When you introduce a "new thing," you are at the end of your thought process (which may have begun months ago).

 Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get where you are without you sharing your full process including your own apprehensions.

Isn't that what you need in order to commit to someone else's idea?

IStock_000003551840XSmall
 
First, Do This

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.

2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.

3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.

4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.

5. Tell them you are committed to it.

6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then, give people a reasonable amount of time to:

  • Think about it
  • Question it
  • Be uncomfortable with the newness of it
  • Begin to accept it
  • Be involved with how it will be  implemented.

We simply need to give people enough time to catch up with where we've been.

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Meaning and Change: What To Do

Yesterday's Meaning, Wholeness, and Change set the stage for today's post. We began to look at how the personal meaning attached to a business change (or any change) will impact the process and the outcome. 

Companies cannot satisfy all elements of "meaning" that all of its employees bring to the table. In fact, none of us has the ability to satisfy all of the definitions of meaning that lie within our own spouses, children, and closest friends.

What Can You Do? A Real-Life Example

My experience shows that discussions are what make the greatest, most positive difference, but are also the most neglected element. You can start the right conversation and not let it finish until it’s finished. Here’s what I mean:

We recently had a chance to manage (vs. advise) a corporate change. It was a long-time client whose leader didn’t feel as if there was the right expertise internally to do this particular change (it involved a team that had had no manager for a long time. That’s another story).

Change cloud  After calling the group of 9 people together and announcing the upcoming work changes, I made this statement:

“The changes themselves aren’t negotiable (I explained why). However, you can decide how best to organize and execute them. You are considered the experts when it comes to this function. Before we do anything, I want to have a discussion about your initial reaction. What do you see as immediately positive and why, what’s lousy and why, and how will this impact your life.”

Then, I just sat back until the first person started talking. It was fascinating. No one disagreed with the desirability of the change and the fact that it was good for the long-term health of the company. What did emerge, quite emotionally, were the personal issues that would be created:

“How do you expect me to take my daughter to school if I have to come in at 7 a.m. instead of 9?”

“I don’t know if I can learn the new technology. I don’t want to look like a fool or be considered ‘too old and set in my ways’ to try something new. That’s not it. I’m just scared. I work hard at what I do, but I’ve learned to do it well so that I don’t have to worry about people thinking I’m not a good worker.”

“This means I'll have direct contact with the CEO once a week. I’ve never ever been in a meeting with the CEO let alone have to meet with him and discuss issues. I don’t see myself as someone who works with a CEO.”

These are just a few concerns; there were many more.

What Was The Result?

Over the course of five months we've met every other week. The process of getting things done had to be interrupted regularly to allow people to vent, rant, celebrate, nudge each other…you name it.

At month five, it’s obvious that this is working well. But I still have to allow time for people to backtrack, backslide, vent about things from the first meeting, and then bring themselves back to the present moment.

What’s really happening here?

People assign a certain meaning to their work. Their work changed. They had to make sure that the core of their original meaning was intact. (I still don't know for sure what that means for each individual, but they do). And the way they did that was to offer up how they actually felt, try out some changes, go backwards, offer up how they felt, go forward, and ultimately discover that they are still whole. But their wholeness was allowed to be seen as a result of them being allowed to be themselves. Who they are was never questioned. Being allowed to decide how they would work acknowledged their uniqueness and talent and created new personal meaning.

But they had to be allowed to have real conversations, regardless of the feelings involved. The process isn't linear, clean, or filled with smiley faces because it involves telling, and listening to, the truth. 

Outcome: The company saw its intent and meaning for this project realized; the team members did the same. The overall result created a new meaning in the depth of relationship between the corporate entity and the people involved.

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Meaning, Wholeness, and Change

“Meaning is a peculiarly individual and subjective thing. I wonder, if every worker pursued their own notion of meaning, how would that affect the corporate world?"

That question was posed a couple of years ago by my online friend and EQ expert extraordinnaire, the late Galba Bright. 

It's a question that is related to the success–-or failure–-of every change initiative. Whether it’s about a new benefits package, introducing new technology, or figuring out where the entire family will go on vacation, meaning is the core issue.

Why?

Because when we retain what is meaningful, we have a sense of wholeness. When we have a sense of wholeness, we can–-by definition–-bring our whole self to the game. Conversely, if meaning is subverted in some way, so are we. Our enthusiasm and commitment diminish; only part of us is left, and it’s not the part that is ready to add value to the situation.

A Helpful Way to Think About Meaning, Worklife, and Change

Corporations are in business to earn a profit. Without that, there wouldn’t be jobs or money for employees. Heck, there wouldn’t be employees, products, or services. Without high-performing employees, there wouldn’t be highly profitable corporations.

Change_dont be afraid of  Which means that both are giving and getting something out of the relationship. And that’s where I believe the frustration begins. The same people who would spend days, weeks, and months wining and dining a new love–-gazing longingly into the other’s eyes–-too often spend about 5 minutes sending out an email announcing a change that will impact work schedules, careers, income, and the well-being of families.

I’ve been involved in corporate life for more than 30 years. Most executives I know do acknowledge the personal difficulties inherent with change. But here’s where it gets icky: somehow, along the way, a particular defense mechanism has been allowed to serve as an acceptable “reason” for all kinds of behavior. And that is the phrase, “This is a business.”

When that is uttered, somehow everyone within earshot is supposed to nod knowingly, acknowledging that the business gods–wherever they are–deserve whatever sacrificial offering is required to keep them looking favorably upon that company’s shareholder value.

“This is a business.” Knock it off, we all know that. In fact, that’s why we’re all here!

We’re all here for another reason

"Business" allows us to fulfill some deeper sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. For some, it’s the work itself. For others, it may offer the means to buy a first home and start a much longed-for family. For still others, the location of the workplace may have meaning if one needs to care for elderly or suffering family members. And, yes, there are many who are working simply to have enough money to retire. They’ve decided that they’ll delay certain kinds of satisfaction so that they don’t need to worry during their later years.

They are all personal and all valid. 

What gives meaning to your work?

Tomorrow, I'll share a real-life example of a corporate change, how it was done, what transpired, and the outcome to-date.


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Do You Have The Right Spirit for Change?

We business types seem to enjoy--and gravitate towards--discussions about Change. And it's almost always in the context of managing it, leading it, overcoming resistance to it...as if Change is somehow different than life.

It isn't. 

Change Is Life

Sunshine_sky_210Which means that how we approach our lives and what comes our way will influence how we approach things that are new and different at work. How we choose to respond to changes will determine our sense of success and  contentment, regardless of what comes our way.

It is, in fact, a spiritual issue. The worldview that you possess will determine how you lead or respond to changes, and whether you will lift people up or cut them down in a display of anger or negativity.

I've been involved in leading or assisting  corporate "change" efforts for nearly thirty years. Some quite successful, some mediocre, a few downright ugly. So, it's something that I've thought about often and quite deeply. 

Some Conclusions (From Experience) About Change

1. Once you announce that you are undertaking a large-scale "Change", you've set the conditions for adversarial relationships. The human condition doesn't necessarily want change; it wants control.

Therefore,

2. You have set in motion a struggle for control: Self-control, control of the situation, control of other people...

3. If you want to do something new or different, tell people you want to do something new or different. Tell them exactly what it is, why it is (reality), and how it will improve the business/workplace situation (hope). Then be prepared to "be there"--even more than usual--to support the effort.

Change models, for the most part, grew from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' work "On Death and Dying." She did a magnificent job explaining the emotional cycle that people experience who are facing or dealing with death. In my experience, the model does, indeed, hold up in any situation involving changes. And it is for that very reason that the issue is always a spiritual one. People who are dying need to reconcile not only what is happening to them now, but what has happened in their entire lives--as well as resolving any unanswered questions regarding eternity.

Those of us facing changes at work do the same thing: we attempt to reconcile what is happening, what our career in the organization has been about, and what the unknown future will hold.

For that reason, I believe it's important for organization dwellers at all levels to have an understanding of the model. Everyone involved can then know how to respond in an uplifting or supportive manner when they recognize someone else experiencing a particular step along the way. (That also means painting reality for those who are stuck on Fantasy Island).

That said, I also believe that making "Change" the overarching theme in communication, training, and managing is a big mistake. It will drain the energy from the specific, meaningful improvements you want to make.

What to Do

If you truly believe in what you need to do, then do it. But first check out the spirit with which you are about to deal with the people who have to make it happen. What is it? Really?

If you are on the receiving end, is your response any different than to any other change in your life?

Whether  you are leading or following, the spirit with which you evaluate and participate will impact the accuracy and wisdom of your choices.  And those choices will determine business effectiveness and personal contentment in the days and weeks ahead.

It is a choice. And your choices are the only thing over which you have control. Be careful of the spirit with which you exercise them.


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Making A Change? What People Want

1. An accurate picture of reality.

2. A sense of hope based in the proposed new reality.

3. The whole truth about 1 and 2.

Change is really about adults making effective decisions. Decisions to commit, decisions to opt out, decisions to wait a bit, decisions about what might be best for their careers and their families...

Truthwristband  They Want The Truth

None of those is possible without knowing the truth of the situation and why the impending changes make the future hopeful.

We all struggle at times when it comes to delivering difficult news. Organizational changes usually fit into that category.

So it's easy to start rationalizing the truth by rationalizing that people won't be able to deal with it. "If I just schmooze a bit here and leave off a nasty detail there, it will be easier on everyone."

No. What we really mean is, "It will be easier on me."

They Can Tell When Someone is Lying

Psychology Today's  Allison Kornet explains: (bold face indicates my emphasis)

While studying how language patterns are associated with improvements in physical health, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, also began to explore whether a person's choice of words was a sign of deception. Examining data gathered from a text analysis program, Pennebaker and SMU colleague Diane Berry, Ph.D., determined that there are certain language patterns that predict when someone is being less than honest. For example, liars tend to use fewer first person words like I or my in both speech and writing. They are also less apt to use emotional words, such as hurt or angry, cognitive words, like understand or realize, and so-called exclusive words, such as but or without, that distinguish between what is and isn't in a category.

And in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. and Deborah A. Kashy, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, report that frequent liars tend to be manipulative and Machiavellian, not to mention overly concerned with the impression they make on others.

In DePaulo's studies, participants (liars) described conversations in which they lied as less intimate and pleasant than truthful encounters, suggesting that people are not entirely at ease with their deceptions. That may explain why falsehoods are more likely to be told over the telephone, which provides more anonymity than a face-to-face conversation.

Lessons for Change Leaders

1. Even if you're telling the whole truth, your credibility may be diminished if you don't communicate in person. Why? Because the lack of face-to-face intimacy conveys an implicit undercurrent of deception. The listeners may not even realize it, but they know at some level that more truths get told in person than via another medium.

2. Tell people what you think and feel by using "I" and "my" vs. "Acme Widgetworks". People care how you see the reality--in detail--of the situation; and, specifically why you are hopeful about the future.

3. Changes prompt an entire range of emotions in everyone involved. That means you, too. An absence of honest emotional language sends the message that you actually don't care. People don't want a canned business speech. They want you. That means hearing the impact the changes are having and why, again, you are hopeful about the future in light of the current reality.

They Can Handle It

People can handle the truth. What they don't handle well is finding out later that they only heard part of the truth.

If you're tempted to put a little icing on the message, remember that Marie Antoinette thought it was a good idea to "let them eat cake." She didn't end up heads above her constituents.

Image source:  www.coolthings.com

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Changes: Diagnostic Leadership

Leading Change: When People Don't Know What They Don't Know

Western culture likes to wave the "total participation" flag when it comes to business decisions and implementation. I've spent time in this series discussing the importance of involvement and erring on the side of inclusion. The assumption, though, is that people have some degree of willingness and ability to do what needs to be done to make the desired change.

But what happens if people are unwilling, unable, or both?

General George S. Patton who, while never accused of being warm, fuzzy, and participative, was successful by anyone's standards when it came to quickly making changes in the worst of circumstances. And the attrition rate in Patton's armies was the lowest despite the greatest level of exposure.

The key was this: The average soldier may not have known what to do in an overwhelming situation and even if he did, the consequences might create a sense of hesitation due to uncertainty or fear. Patton did know what to do and how to do it. And he knew how to explain the benefits and consequences of action vs. inaction (if needed).

Quickly assessing willingness and ability--then leading a myriad of changes and changes-within-changes accordingly--can be seen in a study of his actions.

What happens when you do a quick assessment of your "change" and realize: "I'm not seeing a groundswell of support or the ability to get there even if there were support!"

What To Do

In the absence of either or both of those factors, effective leaders become directive: They tell people what to do, show them how to do it, bring them along the learning curve, and don't back off until the level of performance required can be achieved without close leadership. To do anything less would be to treat people badly. Think about it: If you have to do something but don't understand why or how, aren't you looking for someone to step in and offer the necessary context, structure, and teaching?

This also assumes that the necessary level of willingness and ability can be reached. If it can't, some people will have to opt out or be asked to leave based on one or both factors. Why?

1. Performance can't be achieved

2. People who are unwilling are toxic to the effort. If they are allowed to stay they will be the ones who set the standard. And the standard will be one of "status quo" or "lowest common denominator", not "let's accomplish all that we can."

3. People who are unable--even with training and education--need to find a new place where they can excel. It's not a matter of what they have contributed in the past. It's what they will be able to achieve for themselves and an employer in the future. There is every reason to help people in this category with the transition as well as sincerely celebrating their contributions.

The Diagnostic Leader

Really effective leaders are also really effective diagnosticians. They understand what they specifically want to improve and then diagnose the willingness and abilities of those who are critical to success. As a result, they operate with the right mix of direction and participation and know when to shift back and forth.

I've said this before but it's worth repeating: Prognosis without diagnosis is malpractice.

Don't tell a perfectly conscious patient where it hurts.

And don't ask an unconscious patient to participate as an active partner in the treatment.

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Initiating A Change? Ponder This

Emails and company blogs and intranets are popular information channels. But if you're initiating some meaningful change, using those channels isn't communicating--it's sending information.  People want to know how you feel about new initiatives, how you feel about the future, and what you think the best path forward will be--and why. They want to hear your voice, look into your eyes, and ask whatever questions pop into mind.

There are sound psychological reasons for this:

Psychology Today's  Allison Kornet explains: (bold face indicates my emphasis)

While studying how language patterns are associated with improvements in physical health, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, also began to explore whether a person's choice of words was a sign of deception. Examining data gathered from a text analysis program, Pennebaker and SMU colleague Diane Berry, Ph.D., determined that there are certain language patterns that predict when someone is being less than honest. For example, liars tend to use fewer first person words like I or my in both speech and writing. They are also less apt to use emotional words, such as hurt or angry, cognitive words, like understand or realize, and so-called exclusive words, such as but or without, that distinguish between what is and isn't in a category.

Talking face to face And in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. and Deborah A. Kashy, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, report that frequent liars tend to be manipulative and Machiavellian, not to mention overly concerned with the impression they make on others.

In DePaulo's studies, participants (liars) described conversations in which they lied as less intimate and pleasant than truthful encounters, suggesting that people are not entirely at ease with their deceptions. That may explain why falsehoods are more likely to be told over the telephone, which provides more anonymity than a face-to-face conversation.

Lessons for Change Leaders

1. Even if you're telling the whole truth, your credibility may be diminished if you don't communicate in person. Why? Because the lack of face-to-face intimacy conveys an implicit undercurrent of deception. The listeners may not even realize it, but they know at some level that more truths get told in person than via another medium.

2. Tell people what you think and feel by using "I" and "my" vs. "Acme Widgetworks". People care how you see the reality--in detail--of the situation; and, specifically why you are hopeful about the future.

3. Changes prompt an entire range of emotions in everyone involved. That means you, too. An absence of honest emotional language sends the message that you actually don't care. People don't want a canned business speech. They want you. That means hearing the impact the changes are having and why, again, you are hopeful about the future in light of the current reality.

People can handle the truth. What they don't handle well is finding out later that they only heard part of the truth.

If you're tempted to put a little icing on the message, remember that Marie Antoinette thought it was a good idea to "let them eat cake." She didn't end up heads above her constituents.

photo source: flickr.com/photos/78436618@N00/2687568244

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Making Changes: What People Want

Change happens when something "new" starts or something "old" stops.

It's life. Period.

What's really important, personally and in organizations, is the ability for individuals and groups to re-orient themselves in order to find meaning in their changing situation. Most of the energy surrounding a life change or organizational initiative is focused on "the new thing." Yet transitions start with endings: people letting go of attitudes and actions that will no longer serve them well.

Think of the best disc jockey you've ever heard. You'll discover that the talent is in the segues--the transitions--from one song to the next. (S)he takes you on a musical journey that makes sense because of the connectedness "in between." Disc jockeys know that if people don't go through an inner process of transition, they won't end up at the right place with the right attitude for the next song.

Transitiontv How To Help People Make Changes

When it comes to business life, managers can become so preoccupied with the content and technical aspects of the change that they forget the psychological effects on their people. (We often do the same thing to ourselves with personal changes). The result: disorientation and a mistaken diagnosis that people are "resistant" or "uncommitted." If the changes are well-founded, that's probably not true.

As I write this I'm involved in a major corporate change effort. Here are four things that people want in order to let go of the "old" and start the "new":

  • A sense of control. Do your people (and you) feel you have some degree of control over what's happening?
  • Information and understanding. Do you and your people really understand, in sensible terms, what's happening and why? (If you don't accurately answer the why question, the "what" is meaningless).
  • Organizational & managerial support. What kind of practical (training, education, software, equipment) and emotional (time, listening, talking through situations) will be provided?
  • Deep Purpose. What is it about the changes that give personal meaning to the new way of life/doing business?

Life contains a series of new situations and events which prompt us to want to achieve equilibrium. Think about the four items above. When you have them, you experience a sense of equilibrium that allows you some emotional rest and re-charging before the next "event" (there will be one).

Pay attention to these four factors. They'll help provide the kind of realignment and renewal that everyone needs to move through business and personal changes effectively.

______________________

Two items about "new" and "change":

1. If you have a chance to join in, I'll be talking about Retention and Talent Management at 11 a.m today at HR.COM, sponsored by Halogen Software. We'll also be looking at real-life implementation by Kim Ellis, Senior Director of HR at SNC-Lavalin.

2. Earlier this year my dad dodged a bullet with a cancer test that was negative. Not so fortunate this month. While I normally post 4-5 days/week, I'll be posting "as often as possible" while the ongoing testing takes place, accurate data are gathered, and decisions are made. I will be checking comments and emails regularly but not as frequently as usual. All prayer graciously accepted.

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Making Change: Earn Your Chips Early

If you want to change an organization, you start by changing the patterns in which people talk together, the things they talk about, the frequency of their contact and the makeup of those who overhear them." --Art Kleiner, Who Really Matters

I would add: Start doing those things before you need acceptance for a new initiative.

Change Chips Are Earned Up Front

Most change models start at the point where someone shares a new vision or plan, then asks for enthusiastic support. But we're all poker players (whether we know it or not). We spend time unconsciously earning or collecting chips based on the frequency and quality of our interactions. When it comes time to ask for something, that stack of chips can mean a make-it-or-break-it hand. It looks like this:

Change16_111207001_3

So What Does This Mean?

If we're in a position to initiate something new or different, the time we've invested  building solid relationships can determine our ability to gain support and moment.  The leader who spends time playing corporate video poker may revel in his individual genius--but lacks the relational chips needed to convert that genius into action.

What are you doing today to build the stack necessary for a successful change?

Are you "starting change before it starts?"

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HR & Social Media: What Would Jesus Do?

Are you an HR person wrestling with how best to use social media?

You've got plenty of company.

At this week's IQPC Corporate University sessions there was an entire two-day track dedicated to Social Media. Speakers included Sharlyn Lauby and Jessica Lee, HR pros who know their way around the online community and the tools available to best do that. 

The questions from the audience surprised me since I've been online for some time:

 1. Do we need legal regulations before we start using social media? (This was the starting point for a lot of people; their management wanted to nail down any liability before seriously discussing social media).

2. How do we control "it"? The concept of losing control to gain relationship--as well as instant feedback from customers and employees--is still terrifying to many.

3. How do we explain and best use tools like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and LinkedIn?

Socialmedia-icons These are all reasonable questions.

They are also indications that, while a portion of the population takes social media for granted, businesses do not. That means HR pros who believe there is a place for social media will have to introduce them in the same way as any other change: Awareness, Education, but most importantly, specific examples of Application.

Then, organizations need to do what they do with everything else: answer the question, "What is our strategy and how can we use some or all of these to further it?" 

Note: If you are charged with this, a good example would be Scott Monty at Ford Motor Company

Fluoride, @Jesus,
& Social Media

You may not know this but there was a time when, like social media,  people were scared to death of Fluoride. Yep, the stuff that's in your toothpaste to help prevent cavities. When I was a child there was a movement to put Fluoride into drinking water. The population rose up indignantly claiming, amongst other things, that it was a Communist plot to poison us all. I recall my parents and our neighbors in hugely emotional discussions about Fluoride. (If you Google "fluoride" you'll see that it is still unpopular in many circles). 

Fluoride was Twitter. All of the implications weren't understood, it was a new "solution" and, as such, it became a rallying cry for many "slippery slope" arguments.

Which is why executives aren't totally crazy when they hear the mention of a new solution named 'Twitter' as a business tool. I give you, cut and pasted directly from Twitter (drumroll): @JESUSLordThyGod, Thank you for being my 3000th follower.

This first grabbed my attention because, as a follower of Jesus, I thought that the "following" part was the other way around. I had absolutely no idea that Jesus was using Twitter Himself.

Then I put myself in the position of a COO sitting next to the kids at home watching this particular tweet go by. If I'm the COO I'm not going to be comfortable with this as a  "solution" until someone shows me specifically, with a 'sticky' business example, how my company can use Twitter to further some part of the mission. And, in ways that minimize misunderstandings and liability.

There was a time, not long ago, when web portals and email raised eyebrows. It took time to figure out what was useful, what was 'safe', and what simply didn't matter. Most of all, it took hands-on experience to discover the answers.

What to do? Stop talking about social media and start showing examples of internal chats and how they cut communication time and increase project understanding. Show how many high potential employees have been hired through LinkedIn and Facebook. Design a learning program using all of the tools, pilot it, and do an honest evaluation about what works and what doesn't.

Don't dump social Fluoride into the organizational drinking water. Introduce it purposefully--think "business toothpaste" for a better chance at a brighter smile.

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The Paradox of Choices

The rallying cry of product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

Choices More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

_________________________________________

If this is something important to you, you'll also want to read:

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 1

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 2

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Five Signals You Should Make A Change

If you've ever wondered what executive coaches really do that's truly valuable, it's this: We create a relationship that enables people to clearly see reality.

Life isn't a part of business; business is a part of life. So, everything of consequence leads to confronting and resolving some kind of issue that leads to a choice about personal change. All of the choices aren't always huge, but they are necessary in order to develop more healthy and effective patterns of work and leadership.

What To Look For

I started thinking about the kinds of signs that flash to indicate the person across the table really does need to make a change. Maybe one or more apply to you as well. Here are five that stand out for me:

1. People whom you trust strongly believe you should make a change.

Let's be honest: sometimes other people see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Sure, it's important not to base your life on what others think. But if six people who have your best interests at heart all tell you the same thing, it's a good idea to pay attention.

Note: Last year an executive client who received almost unanimous feedback on certain behaviors chose to explain away every last one, attributing the information to the fact that "no one really understands me". Actually, they did. He is no longer working for that company.

Changes_sign 2. You're holding on to something and just can’t let go.

It's happened to all of us: we have an incident or a nagging situation, and are then unable to forget about it. That's a signal that you just might want to make a change. If you  can’t accept the fact that your manager won't acknowledge your contributions, maybe it’s time to update your resume and put it into circulation. There are times when letting go requires real action, not just a mental exercise.

3. You feel envious of what other people have achieved.

This involves action, too. Jealousy can devour us from the inside out if we let it. At the same time, it can be a signal that we have some meaningful goals on which we've taken zero action. If you find yourself resentful of a colleague who recently earned a professional certification, maybe you should ask yourself what kinds of professional accreditations you've been putting off. That could be the springboard to an advanced degree or a special class in your particular discipline.

4. You deny any problem--and are angry in the process.

I do a lot of confidential, "remedial" coaching for people who have been accused of acting in a harrassing or hostile manner.

Anger is a common symptom of denial. (Assuming that the evidence is valid; otherwise, there's darned good reason to be angry).

One way to get through the whole denial thing is to look for--or help someone else see--an abundance of objective evidence. That's why, in business, 360 feedback is usually pretty effective. The truth will, indeed, set you free. It does, however, seem scary in the moment.

5. If you do absolutely nothing, the problem will continue.

Interpersonal "stuff" is common in the land of cube-dwellers.

Let's say your next-door cubie listens to news radio all day, and you are really tired of hearing  Traffic on the Twos. Perhaps if you just let her know it was getting in the way of your work, she'd get a set of earbuds. Or, maybe not. But nothing will happen unless you broach the issue in a calm way. And you'll know that you took action, which will give you an internal sense of honesty and integrity. That almost always leads to a better sense of self.

What else have you found that might be good indicators for managers, coaches, and anyone looking for signs to change?

If you are faced with changes, you might enjoy:

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Behavioral Change: Fun Theory Part 3

When it comes to going viral, Volkswagen and their ad agency DDB Stockholm appear to have hit the jackpot. Their new campaign, "The Fun Theory", is a series of experiments captured on video, to find out if making certain activities more fun can improve people’s behavior toward the environment. By the way: it's an actual contest as well. You can enter your own fun theory video and win some decent money.

Among the experiments: does turning a set of subway stairs into a real-life piano encourage people to use them? The answer is "yes": 66% more. Another experiment asks whether making a trash can sound like a 50ft-deep well will make people pick up their trash.

The brand placement couldn't be much more subtle: a simple VW logo at the end. Yet thousands of people pass the video around the internet and create positive associations with the VW brand.

Here's the latest entry:

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Behavioral Change: Fun Theory Part 2

People love to have fun.

The comments, emails, and tweets about The Piano Stairs confirmed that folks would be much more inclined to change their behavior if there was some fun involved.

So, to reinforce the notion, here's Part 2. It involves a common dilemma: How do you get people to want to throw away their trash in public places and keep things nice and clean?

I give you: The World's Deepest Rubbish Bin


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Team Leaders: Do You Do This?

Where Have You Experienced This?

When one person leaves or enters a group, the dynamics--and group effectiveness--change.

Why?

Groups--no matter how large or small--are about equilibrium. That equilibrium comes from a balance of power. Over time, we all learn where we "fit" in a group given the topic, our role, and how things operate. When someone comes or goes, our sense of influence changes. That's because new relationships and alliances begin form in order to establish a new balance of power.

 Note: When someone new joins a group, most of us at least recognize the importance of acknowledging the person and talking about the new role. However, a single person leaving a group will create the same disequilibrium and requires the same kind of acknowledgment and discussion. (That phenomenon is the rule rather than the exception right now). So. . .

Equilibrium What To Do?

1. Stop action.

2. Read the paragraph above to the group.

3. Re-visit why the group exists, make any necessary modifications, and ask for agreement from each person on

4. Clarify each person's role in light of the new situation. Whether someone leaves or someone new arrives, there has to be a change in responsibilities and how things will get done. If you talk about it now, you won't have to resolve the conflict about it later.

Groups and organizations are systems. Systems work the same way as our bodies (systems). If you pinch one place, you'll get a referent "ouch" someplace else.

The next time something is about to change in your group, go through the four steps above. You'll minimize the ouches and get back to equilibrium and productivity because you've taken good care of your system.

What About You?

You no doubt have made plenty of changes in your own life. 

What stories or insights do you have about organizational/personal change that could help another reader?

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A Physician Looks at Change

Who sees people in the throes of changes more often--and deeply-- than a medical doctor?

Stephen R. Yarnall, MD, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, says, "When things don't go our way, we typically go through 10 stages which are a normal part of the coping and healing process."

You'll recognize some of the sequence from models you've seen and used in business, and that we've published here at All Things Workplace. I think Dr. Yarnall offers an even more complete look at the process with:

Unpleasant Changes: What To Do

1. Denial--"It can't be," It can't happen to me," "It's not true".... The first stage of reaction to any sudden, unexpected event tends to be denial. Denial is normal if it lasts a short time, but persistent denial is unhealthy because it blocks further growth and healing.

2. Anger/Blame--"Whose fault is it?," "This makes me mad," "This isn't fair," "Why me?" The second stage of reaction looks backward in hopes of finding the cause and someone or something to blame it on. Although nothing can be done at this point to change the past, it's nevertheless a normal response. Like the stage of denial before it, the anger/blame stage is unhealthy if it persists for an unreasonable amount of time.

Changes 3. Despair--This stage tends to be characterized by tears, negative and hopeless/helpless thoughts, and a feeling of total emptiness and loss. Sleep and eating disturbances are common as the "reality" of the situation sets in. Relationships with other people can become more difficult at this time, but understanding and compassion must be given and accepted if one is to move beyond this stage.

4. Perspective--In this stage, the individual begins accepting the change and is no longer caught up in denial, anger, blame, or despair. The problem is seen in its proper perspective. Although the sense of loss may be significant, the individual does not feel that "all is lost."

5. Relationships--Coming out of the withdrawal and isolation that is inherent in the previous stages, the individual is able to talk and relate to other people and participate in normal activities.

6. Spiritual Changes--The individual's relationship with the spiritual side of life is strengthened as a result of having lived through (and survived) the experience.

7. Acceptance--This stage involves the restoration of self-esteem, and the acceptance of the consequences and boundaries of the new reality.

8. Humor--Smiles, laughter, and a sense of humor return to the individual and help in the healing process. There's a renewed sense of joy in life.

9. Activity and Action--Where once the individual had been restricted or immobilized by the change, he or she now returns to activity, action, and improved productivity. Travel and group activities become more interesting.

10. New Goals--In this final stage, the individual is able to focus on the positive aspects of whatever change occurred, and on new goals and activities. He or she takes comfort in Ashley Brilliant's line, "I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent!"

When faced with an unexpected, unpleasant change, you may not go through all 10 of these stages in this order, but it helps to keep them in mind. While it can seem as if life changes nearly drown us at times, by and by we see that it's only through meeting the challenges of change that we can grow.

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I'll Change If You Tell Me What You Really Want

I watched as my client, the new President of his company's largest business, orchestrated a full day of presentations with the top 100 managers in the business unit. It was textbook-perfect:

a. He laid out the evidence supporting the need for a change in the corporate culture

b. His direct reports took turns offering their support for each of the proposed elements of change and were clearly genuine in their efforts

c. He invited spontaneous discussion and got it all along the way.

d. And he closed with a clear visual summary of how the culture was supposed to change.

 Do Any Of These Sound Familiar?

Here are the first few:


Risks: Take more.

Communicate more: When you have information, err on the side of sharing more with more people across all the businesses.

Decision Making: Think strategically.

ChangeThese were the first three of eight items. Each was discussed in ways that highlighted how, for example, risk-taking had helped Company X or Strategic Decision Making had helped Company Y. The fact of the matter is, who can argue with the importance of what's listed above?

Which is why at the end of the session the really important question was asked from the audience of man
agers. This is an exact quote.

Manager: "I really think all of these things we discussed today are important. I just need to know one thing: "What, exactly, do you want me to do?"

President: "             "      
(yes, that was the response).

As the President's consultant, I learned a lesson that I haven't forgotten: Visionary changes can be captured with images and big picture ideals; Behavioral changes need to be grounded in the specific.

Make your changes specific so that people know what to do and can tell whether or not they got it right.


Things like Risk, Communications, and Strategic Decision-Making are great topics for philosophical conversation and painting the big picture. If you want people to change what they are doing, then you need to tell them what to do in a way that they can act on and know that they are doing it right.

Here's What That Looks Like

Take more risks. 

Example: "When you are deciding to open up a new sales territory, go ahead once you've determined that there is at least a 60% chance of success. Don't wait until 90%."

If I'm the individual, now I know what the rules are and how I can determine whether or not I did it properly.                        


Communicate more.

Example: "When you have new information regarding one of our customers in Sweden, send it out the same day to all of our business unit Sales Managers in Europe."

If I'm the individual, now I know what the rules are and how I can determine whether or not I did it properly.  

Decision-Making.

Example: "When you and your team make decisions, measure the options against the two-year plan and choose the one that moves us closer within the budget allocated."

Change Management continues to captivate organizational leaders seeking to introduce "change" with as much acceptance and as little disruption as possible That's a good thing. There's always something new going on no matter where you work. Which makes it even more important to be able to do it and not just become captivated by the theories.

What's your experience with change initiatives?

One more time: Make your changes specific so that people know what to do and can tell whether or not they got it right.

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Changes and Changing Talents

It's a win for everyone when you find the kind of organization in which your talents can flourish.

But we live in a working-world filled with changes:

1. A CEO may decide it's more profitable to become a manufacturing-focused company than a sales & marketing-driven organization.

2. Mergers and acquisitions create new cultures. New cultures lead to new values and priorities.

3. Customers change their technology, causing your company to change it's tech service response.

4. Downsizing. Fewer people, more responsibilities for those remaining.

Scratching_head What Happened to the Talent?

I've watched each of the above grow into a crisis of confidence for employees and employers:

  • Mysteriously, you don't feel as talented and capable as before.
  • At the same time, the organization is wondering where it's talented people went.

Fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn't seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired on a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I've had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the "We've changed, their role isn't needed, I guess they have to go even though they've been really effective" list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn't been tapped before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn't such a good fit.The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Bonus tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you've been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.

A Final Thought

Our educational and career counseling entities need to become very deliberate in painting an accurate picture  of "careers."

My take is that the approach is still, "What will you do when you grow up?", the assumption being that one will "become something" and "do it at a company" for a lifetime. The reality is that a person needs to find out their range of talents and prepare for a series of long-term projects in multiple places vs. lifetime employment.

Building awareness of talents, project orientation, and transitions would go a long way in offering genuine help in accurately preparing young people for the future.

What do you think?

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Kill Change With Too Many Priorities

I read a research study by Pivotal Resources that concluded the reason why many U.S. businesses are so unsuccessful at effecting change.

The reason stated?

Managers have so many priority projects at once that they can't tell what's important and what isn't.

 Although change projects are given top priority at most companies, almost half of the more than 500 managers surveyed said that a significant number of such projects failed to meet the stated goals.

Squished The #1 reason given for failed change initiatives was having too many "top" priority projects and an inability to coordinate and integrate these across their organization.

Here's a fascinating factoid: When asked about the success of these projects, C-level executives were twice as likely to judge change projects as "almost always" successful as non-C-level managers.

Why would the senior execs be so much more positive?

a. Maybe they are better informed about the big picture, are more satisfied, but not getting the message out to the people who are "making it happen".

b. Maybe they aren't in touch with what's really happening.

c. Perhaps "success" is measured differently at different levels in an organization.

Two other key findings:

More than a third believed there are too many independent or disconnected initiatives in different areas of their organization.

And fewer than 20% thought change "always succeeded" in their organization.

This really isn't all that surprising to me. First, there's no guarantee that making a change in the way you set out to do it will yield success. However, the 20% figure would indicate that, if universal, managers and employees--over time--could become very wary of the "change" mantra.

The part that rings most true is the plethora of priorities. Sitting in a conference room not long ago, I watched an executive trying to get guidance from his CEO: "I've got no less than than twelve initiatives going simultaneously. Which should I really focus on?"

The CEO answered, "Yes", and sat silently. He thought it was a clever response. We'll see what the results yield.

_________________________

( "All Things Workplace" has been selected as one of the 10 finalists for the 2009 Best of Leadership Blogs competition hosted by the Kevin Eikenberry Group. It's an honor to be selected. If you are interested in voting for your favorite, please vote at Best Leadership Blog 2009 by July 31st.)

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Pay Attention to the Spirit of Change

We business types seem to enjoy--and gravitate towards--discussions about Change. And it's almost always in the context of managing it, leading it, overcoming resistance to it...as if Change is somehow different than life.

It isn't. It is life.

Sunshine_sky_210 Which means that how we approach our lives and what comes our way will influence how we approach things that are new and different at work. How we choose to respond to changes will determine our sense of success and  contentment, regardless of what comes our way.

It is, in fact, a spiritual issue. The world view that you possess will determine how you lead or respond to changes, and whether you will lift people up or cut them down in a display of anger or negativity.

I've been involved in leading or assisting  "change" efforts at numerous Fortune 500 firms. Some quite successful, most actually mediocre, a few downright ugly. So it's something that I've thought about often and quite deeply. Here are some conclusions I've reached:

1. Once you announce that you are undertaking a large-scale "Change", you've set the conditions for adversarial relationships. The human condition doesn't necessarily want change; it wants control.

 Therefore,

2. You have set in motion a struggle for control. Self-control, control of the situation, control of other people...

3. If you want to do something new or different, tell people you want to do something new or different. Tell them exactly what it is, why it is (reality), and how it will improve the business/workplace situation (hope). Then be prepared to "be there"--even more than usual--to support the effort.

Change models, for the most part, evolved from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' work "On Death and Dying." She did a magnificent job explaining the emotional cycle that people experience who are facing or dealing with death. In my experience, the model does, indeed, hold up in any situation involving changes. And it is for that very reason that the issue is always a spiritual one. People who are dying need to reconcile not only what is happening to them now, but what has happened in their entire lives--as well as resolving any unanswered questions regarding eternity.

Those of us facing changes at work do the same thing: we attempt to reconcile what is happening, what our career in the organization has been about, and what the unknown future will hold.

For that reason, I believe it's important for organization dwellers at all levels to have an understanding of the model. Everyone involved can then know how to respond in an uplifting or supportive manner when they recognize someone else experiencing a particular step along the way. (That also means painting reality for those who are stuck on Fantasy Island).

That said, my own experiences show this: Making "Change" the overarching theme in communication, training, and managing is a big mistake. It's not what you are about and it will drain the energy from the specific, meaningful improvements you have to make.

What to Do

If you truly believe in what you need to do, then do it. But first check out the spirit with which you are about to deal with the people who have to make it happen. What is it? Really?

If you are on the receiving end, is your response any different than to any other change in your life?

Whether  you are leading or following, the spirit with which you evaluate and participate will impact the accuracy and wisdom of your choices.  And those choices will determine business effectiveness and personal contentment in the days and weeks ahead.

It is a choice. And your choices are the only thing over which you have control. Be careful of the spirit with which you exercise them.

_____________________________

For a thoughtful read that may change your views about leadership, check Jim Stroup's series .

Want to change how people are talking about you? Really. One of my favorites from Duct Tape Marketing & Seth Godin.

And when it comes to changing Employee Engagement, there's no better resource than my friend David Zinger at Employee Engagement Zingers.

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Change, Transitions, and You

"Things do not change; we change." Henry David Thoreau

You've read the self-help books and sites that talk about the "comfort zone" and how you need to step out of it. Like much advice, it's a bit too simplistic. It's a one-liner that doesn't account for personal style and disposition.

My real issue is with the sweeping statement that "change" requires a lot of effort and mental energy.

It All Depends: What's Your Preference?

When you boil it down psychologically, there are two types of people:  those who score high on Openness and those who score low on Openness in the Big Five Personality Measures. Those who score low generally seek and love routine. They go to bed at 10:00, wake up at 6:30,  do grocery shopping on Fridays and balance the checkbook on Sunday.

Just as some could never imagine moving from  their hometown or giving up a steady job, others can't function that way. They are naturally curious, seek out new experiences, prefer complexity, and  "step out of their comfort zone" frequently. They don't need tips on how to expand their comfort zone. It's fun. What they often need is focus.

Istock_000005651286xsmall Regardless of which group you fall into, expanding your comfort zone just for the sake of expanding your comfort zone is a waste of time. If you catch yourself in the "I must change" zone, ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?

  • How will I know if I've succeeded?

Do Something

Think about what you really want and what you need to do to get it. The start doing things that are related to it. If you are a "list" person, make a list. If not, just start doing. Some things will be easier to accomplish than others, but that's the point. It takes all of us some period of time to get over the mental barrier of expanding boundaries. If they are emotional, it may be a little longer.

It all gets easier eventually. The difference is that some people cross that bridge in 30 seconds and others hit a brick wall that seems eternal.

When I wrote my first blog post I waited three hours to press the "publish" button. Now it's what I do almost every day and I miss it when I don't.

Whatever you want to do, it will involve--by definition--change. Regardless of which category you fall into, do something.

It's called "living."

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Speaker Tip: Take A Pause for The Cause

"Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings."--Stanislavski

Comedian-larry-weaver-770853 Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what's coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological pauses build tension and heighten curiosity.

Logical pauses between words and sentences give an audience the time needed to piece together the key elements of the joke or series of rapid one-liners. When it all comes together, you've got a room filled with laughter.

Make "The Pause" an intentional part of your presentation, meeting, or change initiative.

Psychological: When you pause to create a "curious" state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what's happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good "Stand-Up" leader and speaker?

photo source: Wikipedia

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5 Tips For Making Changes and Transitions

Metamorphosis_of_a_butterfly_merria

Decisions get made. It's time to start.

The Goal is clear. There is a picture of what the end should look like.

Now we just have to "do it."

Some don't make it...

.. .individually or organizationally.

Given that there are entire industries built around "doing it"--continuous improvement, change management, life coaching-- there must be some trick to that whole in between area. If you are involved in any kind of a change, here are 5 tips that you can take to the bank. (Ignoring them may put you in the collection agency).

1. Language matters.

"We're going to make a transition from___to____" impacts the brain a lot better than "We're going to change."

(Honestly, I don't want to change--do you? But I don't have any problem making a transition).

2. Friendships matter.

Be willing to talk and be willing to listen. When things change at home or in your family, you have coffee and conversation with friends. Why? It's cathartic. And you don't feel alone. Changes at work are no different.

3. Grace matters.

Transitions and change imply, by definition, that people are trying something for the first time. When your little child tried out her first steps and fell after the third one, you didn't offer a performance appraisal. You hugged her, made a big fuss, took a video, and called the grandparents.

Offer the same to adults who are trying something for the first time. Truth be told, they are feeling like kids at that moment.

Note: I'd avoid the hug and the video; it's your call on whether to phone the grandparents.

4. Accountability matters.

This isn't opposed to numbers 2 or 3. Accountability is an act of deep friendship. Friends don't let friends drive drunk. They also don't let friends do things--or avoid doing things--that are hurting their careers.

5. Small wins matter.

Make an example of anyone or any result that approximates the longer term ideal. Do it often.

If you wait until everyone gets it perfect, there won't be a celebration. There may not be a reason for it.

That's why continuous improvement is called continuous improvement.

What Are Your Best Tips?

I know the readers here are involved in changes of all types. Help someone else today with your favorite transitional tips and suggestions and we'll add them to the mix! (With attribution, of course. See #5).

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Did You Know? I'll Bet Not.

If you ever had the sense that information technology is progressing faster than we are, this terrific video is a must-watch:


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When People Want "It" Now!

When "Change the Right Thing" Meets "Please, Just Do Something!"

Have you ever been involved with any of these in your organization?

  • Merger/Acquisition
  • Severely declining financial performance
  • Arrival of new CEO

Armchair experts love to talk about employee resistance to change.

But what about the case where employees know something different has to happen in their organization and are getting anxious and weary from waiting? They've reached a point where the anticipation is a little too much to take and begin to wonder what the CEO is actually doing.

Is their CEO oblivious to the organizational dynamics?

In my consulting life I haven't met a CEO yet who didn't understand what people were probably thinking and feeling. So let's explore some of the valid reasons why the above scenario can happen.

Before laying out how this situation comes to pass, here is a graphic to help keep us focused:

Change6_102207001

There Are No Victims or Villains

There are simply people trying to get what they need.

The CEO

What do you and I do with a new situation?

The same as the CEO.

We gather information, ask advice, evaluate the information, check our resources, look at the options, and evaluate the risks and benefits of each. We also evaluate how each option will impact each of our constituencies.

In the case of the CEO, those constituencies may include stockholders, directors, customers, employees,  vendors, local and national governments, regulators...a mind-boggling array of interest groups that have to be satisfied financially, legally, and personally.

In the case of mergers, acquisitions, and turnarounds, there may be negotiations taking place that cannot be discussed due to confidentiality agreements and, in the U.S., related SEC regulations.

The result: You may have a CEO who knows everything there is to know about what, how, and when to communicate--but is not allowed to do so under penalty of law. Most people don't realize that CEO's often carry the burden of silence when they would like nothing more than to sit down with their people and explain what is unfolding.

The Employees

The world abhors a vacuum. Employees want to fill that vacuum by getting direction and information.  When they don't, the first thing most wonder about is the "leadership:"

Why aren't they doing something?

Why aren't they saying something?

Should I even stick around or is it time to shop my resume?

What to do?

This is one of those situations where history and corporate culture can help carry the day or lose it. CEO's and organizations with a strong track record of trust and integrity will find that they've earned a longer time line for ambiguity than those who haven't paid attention to issues of corporate and personal character.

If you find yourself in this situation as an employee, here are some suggestions:

1. Don't start off by assuming that silence means the worst. If you are used to a high degree of communication, it probably does mean that something is taking place behind the scenes. But it doesn't mean that it's bad. If you start thinking negatively it will drive you crazy...and won't do a thing to help the situation.

2. Do ask questions, such as "Is there a legitimate reason why communications and information have decreased?" CEO's that I know will answer that question in a way that sends the correct message but does not violate any agreements or laws. However, don't expect to get any information. And don't keep probing.

3. At a time when the inclination may be to slack off on performance, do just the opposite:  be a star. If there is a merger or acquisition and headcount is an issue, make sure your head is seen as firmly attached to the rest of you. It could increase your chances of remaining that way.

You may not have control over what's happening in your organization but you do have control over how you choose to respond. If your company has a solid history of dealing honestly with people, chances are that isn't going to change now.

And often, effective leadership means thoughtfully, quietly, and methodically affirming the right thing to do on behalf of hundreds or thousands of people. That may just require a little more time than usual.

What's your experience?

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Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 2

When you think about the common factor in every roadblock in your life, here's what you discover: you were there when it took place.

My experience has been that people do realize this and are then faced with a choice:

a. to stay mired in self-defeating "See, I'm not really any good" thinking; or,

b. to commit the same act of forgiveness for themselves that they give to others. 

"Forgiveness" isn't a term you hear very often in business articles. But business is conducted by people--people like you and me who are very human and who are subject to the immutable laws of nature regardless of title or position.

Decisions Closure Is Really An Opening

When you consciously forgive yourself it leads to a sense of completion. This lets you move ahead and not feel compelled to repeat self-defeating acts over and over again.

But you need to understand why you held onto these for so long. There are (often insidious) payoffs for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and failing to change.

Here are some some foundational questions that can help you understand what you are really holding on to:

• What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?

• Who do I think I'm punishing by doing this?

• What emotion am I not willing to release? (For many it's anger).

• What guarantee am I holding out for?

• By doing/not doing this, what do I get to avoid?

• How does this make me seem better or less than ____________(name of person)?

•Am I using self-pity to manipulate someone or some situation?

The big question: What do I hope to get out of pretending to be powerless to change?

Once you do the work you already know you need to do: pinpoint your fears and understand why you he hold onto them--you can commit the act of forgiving yourself and move ahead.

Bonus: A big part of your situation is that you are trying to "go it alone." Sit down with a trusted friend or associate and tell them what's going on. The like-minded experiences they share will not only amaze you; you'll discover that you are a member of a very large club.

Membership has its rewards.

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Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 1

Apparently fear of failure takes a back seat to fear of success in the search engines. After two years, I'm still getting regular traffic to an article I wrote in July, 2007 titled Fear of Success vs. Fear of Failure. When I say 'regular' traffic I mean every day. Really.

Getting what you really want in  your career and your life requires lasting change and a sustained vision of the future. This picture serves not just as an ongoing source of motivation to get there, it helps you identify and move through the obstacles that have held you back up to this point.

Fail We Get The Failure Thing...But Fear of Success?

However, that vision quickly conjures up obstacles that include fear of failure and doubts about your own worthiness for success. If you're like most people, that also involves fear of actually achieving the very things you want.

Fear of success is a very unique issue that arises when you are genuinely creating change and moving forward in your life. The reason 'fear of success' is real is because the future is real and what we imagine for our future has an enormous influence on us.

The Problem?

We're pretty clueless how to deal with fear of success because it's in the future and, heck, how do we concretely live and deal in the future? If you think about your business you can see just how steeped western culture is in fixing the past. (How much time does your team spend fixing things instead of creating opportunity?) It's almost as if we drive through life focused on the rear-view mirror.

Creating and sustaining success involves some very personal "work." Fact is, the more you leave the task undone, the more your fears will control you. And the longer you put off taking small actions now, the bigger the dilemma becomes.

What Gets In The Way?

One of the real fears about making a personal change is that success will lead to loneliness. We know what our lives are like now and we have a sense that how we live has brought us friendships and love. In their most honest moments, many people have admitted that they fear success because they are afraid that being bold enough to create the life they want will make them different and, therefore,  unlovable.

Some fears are very real. When you change, the relationships around you will be forced to change. Some friends will encourage and applaud you while others are so grounded in jealousy they'll find ways to belittle you for moving forward. (You'll find out who your friends really are).

Here's what more than one of my psychologist friends has shared: "The deepest fear is that when we step up and succeed, we have to face the fact that we've always had the power to change and we could have changed a year or five years ago." Change comes from choices and we have always had that ability to choose.

But that's not all...

Whether you are reading this at work or on the beach, there are changes you want to make. So we won't leave you hanging with the problem. Stop back tomorrow for Part II when we look at the specific questions you can ask yourself to get the kind of forward motion you want in your career and your life.

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Language Matters: 5 Tips To Make Things Happen

Decisions get made. It's time to start.

The Goal is clear. There is a picture of what the end should look like.

Now we just have to "do it."

Take_action__tour_0 Some don't make it...

.. .individually or organizationally.

Given that there are entire industries built around "doing it"--continuous improvement, change management, life coaching-- there must be some trick to that whole in between area. If you are involved in any kind of a change, here are 5 tips that you can take to the bank. (Ignoring them may put you in the collection agency).

1. Language matters.

"We're going to make a transition from___to____" impacts the brain a lot better than "We're going to change."

(Honestly, I don't want to change--do you? But I don't have any problem making a transition).

2. Friendships matter.

Be willing to talk and be willing to listen. When things change at home or in your family, you have coffee and conversation with friends. Why? It's cathartic. And you don't feel alone. Changes at work are no different.

3. Grace matters.

Transitions and change imply, by definition, that people are trying something for the first time. When your little child tried out her first steps and fell after the third one, you didn't offer a performance appraisal. You hugged her, made a big fuss, took a video, and called the grandparents.

Offer the same to adults who are trying something for the first time. Truth be told, they are feeling like kids at that moment.

Note: I'd avoid the hug and the video; it's your call on whether to phone the grandparents.

4. Accountability matters.

This isn't opposed to numbers 2 or 3. Accountability is an act of deep friendship. Friends don't let friends drive drunk. They also don't let friends do things--or avoid doing things--that are hurting their careers.

5. Small wins matter.

Make an example of anyone or any result that approximates the longer term ideal. Do it often.

If you wait until everyone gets it perfect, there won't be a celebration. There may not be a reason for it.

That's why continuous improvement is called continuous improvement.

What Are Your Best Tips?

I know the readers here are involved in decisions and actions of all types. Weigh in with your favorite transitional tips and suggestions and we'll add them to the mix! (With attribution, of course. See #5).

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Change: People Can Handle The Truth

"Virtue cannot separate itself from reality without becoming a principle of evil."
Albert Camus

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all struggle at times when it comes to delivering difficult news. Organizational changes usually fit into that category.

So it's easy to start rationalizing the truth by rationalizing that people won't be able to deal with it. "If I just schmooze a bit here and leave off a nasty detail there, it will be easier on everyone."

No. What we really mean is, "It will be easier on me."

Truth What People Want When Change Starts

1. An accurate picture of reality.

2. A sense of hope based in the proposed new reality.

3. The whole truth about 1 and 2.

Change is really about adults making effective decisions. Decisions to commit, decisions to opt out, decisions to wait a bit, decisions about what might be best for their careers and their families...

None of those is possible without knowing the truth of the situation and why the impending changes make the future hopeful.

Making a Change? Ponder This

It's not just what you say but how you say it.

Psychology Today's  Allison Kornet explains: (bold face indicates my emphasis)

While studying how language patterns are associated with improvements in physical health, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, also began to explore whether a person's choice of words was a sign of deception. Examining data gathered from a text analysis program, Pennebaker and SMU colleague Diane Berry, Ph.D., determined that there are certain language patterns that predict when someone is being less than honest. For example, liars tend to use fewer first person words like I or my in both speech and writing. They are also less apt to use emotional words, such as hurt or angry, cognitive words, like understand or realize, and so-called exclusive words, such as but or without, that distinguish between what is and isn't in a category.

And in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. and Deborah A. Kashy, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, report that frequent liars tend to be manipulative and Machiavellian, not to mention overly concerned with the impression they make on others.

In DePaulo's studies, participants (liars) described conversations in which they lied as less intimate and pleasant than truthful encounters, suggesting that people are not entirely at ease with their deceptions. That may explain why falsehoods are more likely to be told over the telephone, which provides more anonymity than a face-to-face conversation.

Lessons for Change Leaders

1. Even if you're telling the whole truth, your credibility may be diminished if you don't communicate in person. Why? Because the lack of face-to-face intimacy conveys an implicit undercurrent of deception. The listeners may not even realize it, but they know at some level that more truths get told in person than via another medium.

2. Tell people what you think and feel by using "I" and "my" vs. "Acme Widgetworks". People care how you see the reality--in detail--of the situation; and, specifically why you are hopeful about the future.

3. Changes prompt an entire range of emotions in everyone involved. That means you, too. An absence of honest emotional language sends the message that you actually don't care. People don't want a canned business speech. They want you. That means hearing the impact the changes are having and why, again, you are hopeful about the future in light of the current reality.

People can handle the truth. What they don't handle well is finding out later that they only heard part of the truth.

If you're tempted to put a little icing on the message, remember that Marie Antoinette thought it was a good idea to "let them eat cake." She didn't end up heads above her constituents.

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Can You Pass The Cicero Persuasion Test?

"If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words."
– Roman Statesman (and attorney) Cicero

A little more than 2,000 years ago, Cicero latched onto the importance of connecting at both the mental and emotional level with an audience. Rather than simply speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000, he figured out that he had to actually connect with them.

Cicero Thinking Their Thoughts

Are you able to see the world from the perspective of your customer/audience vs. that of a salesperson or manager?  When it comes to being persuasive, think about this:

Communicating with people in a way that embraces their own point of view is the key to winning their hearts and minds. A focus designed solely to change their point of view results in discomfort, suspicion, and even antagonism. We're all fairly willing to make changes; but we prefer to do it as a result of making decisions that are as consistent as possible with who we are--not who the speaker is.

Feeling Their Feelings

What are the deep-seated feelings that drive your listeners? Is it a fear of loss or a hope for gain? Are they driven to play it safe or are they looking to stretch and live on the edge a bit ? Whether you're a speaker, a manager, or a classroom instructor, the answer to those is the pathway to connecting.

Speaking Their Words

This hits at the heart of the issue from a relational standpoint.

Are you talking down or speaking over their heads? Regardless of skill level, are you speaking with clarity or tossing in professional jargon  designed to  make you appear more knowledgeable and sophisticated than you really are?

People need to understand what you have to say in order to care about it--and you. And, they need to care before they'll decide to allocate the energy to act on your ideas.

Do You Really Wanna?

I don't want to dwell on the obvious. I know that you know that you have to relate to people in ways that will make them want to follow your lead, whether it's a management suggestion or a speaking point.

The million dollar question to ask yourself is:  Are you really willing to connect with these people?

If the answer is yes, go for  it.

If the answer is no, move on. Maybe what you think you have to say is better offered in an informational memo or email--or not at all.  You can’t stand before a group and fake your commitment to a decision or a cause.  And even if you can (you weasel), you’ll be "found out" during the implementation when your actions bely your words. 

It just occurred to me that herein lies a good  "go/no go" test for each of us before we attempt to persuade people to accept something new, whether it's a product, a service, or a management idea.

Ask Yourself: Am I willing to spend the time and energy to...

  • Think Their Thoughts?
  • Feel What They Feel?
  • Speak the Way They Speak?
  • Connect With Them Because I am Committed To Them?


Hmm. I like this. What do you think?

_________________________________

I decided that Guy Kawasaki and the gang at Alltop are primo examples of the Cicero Factor. As I began signing up for my own Alltop page of favorites, I realized that Guy had built this by involving himself in all four of the key points above. If you haven't yet checked out and used Alltop, visit the site and follow Guy's tweets at http://twitter.com/guykawasaki; you'll see what I mean. Now, if I could just do an @Cicero I know he'd feel good about all of this.

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Hopeful Realism: The Vision People Want Now

Right now, organizations everywhere are doing the "turtle" thing: pulling their heads and wallets into their shells. Downsizing, limited spending, extended vendor payments, and lean operations are the modus operandi today.

Turtle_in_shell Most employees really do understand this. But they want to know something else:

What are your intentions for the future?

The human condition can accept survival mode, but it needs to know that some kind of growth will follow. Think of it this way:

Survivability: We've got to get through today so there is a tomorrow.

Sustainability: What will we be doing when tomorrow comes?

This is where the notion of leadership emerges. If you are doing business by managing the checkbook, you are managing. If you are able to do that and describe possibilities for the future, you are providing leadership as well.

Fuzzy is Just Fine

Organizations are concerned that people will become discouraged and leave because of a total focus on survival. I'm not seeing  that. Instead, I'm hearing people say, "I get it and am willing to do my part; but if I don't hear anyone start talking about the future I will start looking around."

Given the dynamics in the world economy, you may not have a clear picture of the future. Trust me on this one: that's OK. Your people want to know that you are, in fact, thinking about the future; that you believe there is a future;  and, that you are willing to discuss the various scenarios you think are possible.

No matter how nebulous, start talking about the future now. Your folks need it and you need them.

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Optimism: A Much Different Take

How Important Is Optimism?  generated an entirely different thought from a reader who contributed the following via email:

Reality-check "Optimism can certainly be useful and definitely has its place, but, in the sense that it's being presented here, I feel 'optimism' is really a euphemism for 'coping mechanism,' and thus 'survival.'  People all have their way of coping and dealing with life. Some are perceived as pessimists (I personally feel that many realists are mislabeled as pessimists), who might be 'worst case scenario' thinkers, only to be pleasantly surprised when things turn out better. Then there are those who adhere to the "I think, therefore I am" school of thought - think positively, and it will happen. Neither mindset is better or worse than the other. But both are ways of coping and, essentially ways of 'getting by' in life.
 
And I definitely beg to differ with the statistic that 75% of Americans consider themselves to be optimists. I think that right there represents a good portion of the population who is just poor at accurate self-assessment.  There is a difference between wanting something to get better -- which a pessimist is equally capable of doing, vs. thinking or believing that it actually will. This is the distinction people are failing to recognize, and were they able to make this separation, I think that 75% would be much lower."


It's true that if one's self-assessment were inaccurate the figure would probably be different. However, that doesn't change the fact that 75% consider themselves to be optimists (no matter how misinformed they might be!).

What I like most about this thoughtful reply is the writer's differentiation when it comes to "wanting" vs. "believing."

Who would have thought that optimism would lead to a spirited, analytical conversation?

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How Age Impacts Your View of Life

We're living in a literal and figurative season where people are often waxing nostalgic over the "good old days." Holiday gatherings yield family stories that make one wish that somehow we could be back at Grandma's house again because it was, apparently, so wonderful. World financial markets prompt the same kinds of recollections of the past as well as--for some--grandly optimistic outlooks for a "new" kind future.

You may be either nodding or shaking your head in agreement or disagreement. Exactly.

"Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses" is a saying that we hear often. Many people look at things optimistically, regardless of the circumstances. However,  according to a psychological study our views on past and future happiness change according to where we are in our lives.

Dr. Margie Lachman and colleagues found that younger and middle-aged people tend to underestimate their past happiness and to overestimate their future happiness - probably because to do so helps motivate them to strive for a better life. This data came from a survey of over 3000 American adults conducted twice and spaced nine years apart.

Age Changes Outlook

Older people (aged over 65) were more accurate in recalling their past and future life satisfaction.  This probably reflected the need to accept their life as it had been lived, combined with their greater understanding of the human capacity to adjust emotionally to whatever life throws our way. Indeed, in line with the predictions of the older participants, most people's life satisfaction, in this study and others, actually changes very little through the years (in Western democracies, at least).

Old-and-young-spock Lachman's study team also looked at how adaptive it was for people to have either rose-tinted or darkly clouded views of their past and future. The results showed that at whatever age, it is beneficial to have a more realistic view of the past and future. Those participants who more accurately perceived their past and future happiness tended to suffer less depression and enjoy better health.

"The young have an illusion of continued improvement, seeing the past as worse than it really was and the future as better than it turns out to be," the researchers said. "This illusion is consistent with their motivational orientation toward continued growth and gains."

Workplace Application

While the future belongs to the young, the absence of older workers could be a recipe for unrealistic decision-making. Adding reality and experience to idealism and energy doesn't equal "resistance to change;"it adds a much-needed dimension to decisions and execution that may provide a real pathway to move ideas and products forward.

During the past few years we've seen the headlines for Talent Wars, Saving Institutional Knowledge and Learning, and Diversity. My experience so far with recent layoffs has been that workers nearing retirement are being offered packages to accelerate their decisions. I understand the legal and financial benefits of such a strategy to the corporations involved. However, when the corporate sun starts shining brightly again, I wonder if the decision-making maturity and collective knowledge of these newly "retired" workers will be irreplaceable and actually prompt a lengthening of the recovery process. 

Then, who ya gonna call: Ghostbusters?

______________________________________________

For more on the research cited here:

Margie E. Lachman, Christina Röcke, Christopher Rosnick, Carol D. Ryff (2008). Realism and Illusion in Americans' Temporal Views of Their Life Satisfaction: Age Differences in Reconstructing the Past and Anticipating the Future Psychological Science, 19 (9), 889-897 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02173.x

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Introducing Something New At Work? Think About This.

It's your idea.

You've thought about it--most likely for a long time. You've weighed the risks and benefits. You've visualized what things would look like if your new idea/project/improvement is implemented. You've even thought about at least some of the details. But most of all. . .

Newimproved_001 You are convinced of it's worth and you feel good about it. "Hey, I'm pumped up! Why aren't other people feeling the love?"

Look, when you introduce your new thing, you are at the end of your process. Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get to where you are without you laying out your full process--including your own apprehensions.

Isn't that what you need in order to commit to someone else's idea?

Six Steps That Will Help With Acceptance:

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.
2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.
3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.
4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.
5. Tell them you are committed to it.
6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then give people a reasonable amount of time to think about it, question it, be uncomfortable with the newness of it, begin to accept it, and then be involved with how it will be  implemented.

How long will it take?

Depending upon the magnitude of the idea or project, the time line for building critical mass of acceptance and action will vary. Your relational behavior--physical presence, clarity, direction, ability to listen, and encouragement--will help determine  your success.

Remember: It's your idea.

Do what it takes to help make it theirs. Well, that sounds manipulative. I hate manipulative.  Let's look at it this way: It's your idea. But ownership by others comes through being allowed to use one's own ideas for the implementation. After all, the people involved know best how their operations work.  So let other people develop and mold the "how to." Then provide a reasonable amount of time along with your support.

The outcome: you stand a great chance of other people making your idea even better in the process. Everybody gets a chance at creating something new.

Big win for all concerned.

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Working With Groups: When Someone Enters or Leaves

When only one person leaves or enters a group, the dynamics--and group effectiveness--change.

Why?

Balance_2 Groups--no matter how large or small--are about equilibrium. That equilibrium comes from a balance of power. Over time, we all learn where we "fit" in a group given the topic, our role, and how things operate. When someone comes or goes, our sense of influence changes. That's because new relationships and alliances begin to form in order to establish a new balance of power.

Did You Say Power?

That's exactly what I said. If you think groups aren't about power, try taking power away from someone.

Regardless of what you would like to think, everyone in every group has a need when it comes to power and influence. Some people want a lot, some a little, and some want to just blend in with the wallpaper and disappear. That's why every time a new person enters a group or a regular member leaves, the balance of power needs to be re-established.

The important point: Armed with this knowledge you can do it intentionally. This accomplishes two things:

  • The unspoken (but known to each) is brought into the open and legitimized.

What's the best way to neutralize a potentially tense issue? Call it for what it is, make it perfectly acceptable, and have a process to move through it.

  • Everyone will breath a sigh of relief--even if it's a silent one. Once the unspoken tension is reduced, people are more relaxed and able to help create the new group.

Here's How To Do It

1. Stop action.

2. Read the paragraphs above to the group.

3. Re-visit why the group exists, make any necessary modifications, and ask for agreement from each person.

4. Clarify each person's role. Whether someone leaves or someone new arrives, there has to be a change in responsibilities and how things will get done. If you talk about it now, you won't have to resolve the inevitable conflict about it later.

Groups and organizations are systems. Systems work the same way as our bodies (human systems). If you pinch one place, you'll get a referent "ouch" someplace else.

The next time membership is about to change in your group, go through the four steps above. You'll minimize the ouches and get back to equilibrium and productivity because you've taken good care of the system.

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Introducing Something New: Part II

Yesterday I noted that Resistance refers to the assumption that many people will balk at doing the "new" thing because it is different.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

I've been involved in initiating and running "change" projects for nearly 30 years. Some have been really successful and others have failed miserably. So it's been important to dissect each one in order to learn what each type had in common.

There were a number of factors. But the key difference I've observed in each has to to do with the attitude of the leader and the leader's team toward the employee population as a whole. When the leadership saw the organization as a willing partner they behaved accordingly. When they viewed them as a bloc of resistance that would have to be overcome, they also behaved accordingly. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy and the results were pretty much determined at the outset. If you are going to start a successful change initiative:

New_and_improved1 1. Use the "vision thing" for context but keep it brief.

2. Lay out the specifics so that people know what success looks like.

3. Avoid the resistance model espoused by so many well-meaning firms. While the psychological underpinnings may be real, the accompanying navel-gazing and chin-stroking can lead to an "us" and "them" approach that will only lead to divisiveness when your goal is unity.

What to think about instead of "Resistance"

Here are some factoids that I hope will set the stage for "what to do":

1. You are enthusiastic because you like change. That may be true--as long as it's the change that you want the way that you want it. Everyone else feels the same way when it comes to their lives. Waxing poetic about the joys of change using textbook biz-speak isn't going to score a lot of points.

2. All people carry around an implicit mental employment contract. When you first join any organization you learn how things operate. In fact, you joined because things operated in a way that matched enough of your values and needs to make 'signing up' an attractive proposition. When it seems as if certain fundamentals are about to change--and you don't know why--the unspoken contract kicks in. "I didn't join for this." "How is this going to affect my ability to do my job well?" "Will I even be able to do the new thing?" "If I can't, what will happen?"

3. In times of uncertainty people look for clear, firm direction that spells out "what" and "when." This shows that the new thing has been thought through and is more than a dream.

4. In the midst of any kind of change we all want some sense of control. That's why it's critical to engage people, across the board, in the "how."

Think about that for a moment: There are a lot of people who do what you do. But "how" you do it is unique. It's also what gives you a sense of satisfaction and control. Million dollar advice: When you start hearing "How will we do that?" you're on your way to success. Once people start discussing "how" they will do something, it's a signal that the "what" has been accepted.

5. It takes everyone a different amount of time to reach understanding and acceptance of new ways of doing things. You can't wait until the last person shouts, "I've got it!" to move ahead. You also can't move ahead until you have a critical mass of "I've got it!"s.

Note: If you are ready to start something new, you have been thinking about it for quite a while. You've wrestled with the pros and cons. You've visualized success and failure. You've gone through the entire range of intellectual and emotional activity.

  • You have arrived and are ready to begin.
  • Everyone else is where you were when you were on the airplane thinking "Wow, what if we...?"

6. Be seen and be seen often. Talk about the new thing, talk about it often, and talk about it in person. Your physical presence shows leadership, support, and personal involvement; your absence turns the initiative into "one more program."

Readiness, Resistance, What They Did and What You Should Do

In yesterday's post I talked about the Utility that conducted the Readiness survey that sparked unnecessary speculation and angst. I promised that today I'd tell how it was handled and how you can get it right the first time.

The Rest of the Utility Story

  • As soon as the executives realized the impact of the survey, they organized small group meetings of everyone in the company.
  • At the meetings they explained what they hoped to do, why they were doing it, and what the proposed "changes" would be.
  • We then turned the meetings into the equivalent of marketing focus groups and problem-solving sessions (many of the people were engineers, long-time employees, and well-versed in the company's operations). After laying out the information and the intended goals (changes), we then asked a series of open-ended questions that turned the sessions into "How can we make this happen?" discussions.
  • The CEO or one of his direct reports was at every meeting and sat at the table as a participant.

What we learned from that (which now seems obvious) is today's tip:

How to Start Your Change Initiative

Readiness

1. Be very clear about what you want to have happen. Be clear about when you want it to happen. Deadlines  produce action.

2. Explain why it's important to the organization and the people in it.
    a. What will be better?
    b. What could be worse if things don't change?
    c. How do you know a and b are true?

3. Jack Nicholson's "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth" was a great movie line.

    Your organization needs the truth in order to provide truthful solutions. People deserve nothing less.

3. Schedule small group meetings to discuss the what, when, and how.

4. Be seen, be involved.

5. Set a deadline for the themes of the small group meetings to be synthesized, presented, and discussed.

6. Listen.

7. If you listen and watch, you'll know what--and how much-- to do next.

8. Keep your data-gathering face-to-face. Surveys produce numbers that are easy to graph. In the absence of context and direction they also produce anxiety and rumors. Even if you have the best survey in the world you still won't know what is behind the numbers unless you talk with the people anyway. Save yourself time and go for the real deal.

I am not opposed to surveys and questionnaires; they can be very effective and I use them in some form at the outset of almost every kind of consulting engagement as a starting point for discussion. I am opposed to using them as the sole data source to kick-off a major change. That viewpoint is based on numerous real-life engagements.

9. Openly acknowledge the validity of people's fears as well as any of your own. The first step in neutralizing a negative is to bring it out into the open. When something is seen clearly it becomes easier to deal with. The unseen takes on a subversive life of its own and everyone knows its there, even if it isn't verbalized.

10. Always--always--communicate more rather than less.

What have been your experiences introducing something new?



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Introducing Something New: Part I

Readiness and Resistance

Every systematic approach to making large-scale change usually talks about these two factors.

Readiness refers to whether or not the people who will be involved are prepared for the changes that are coming.

Resistance refers to the assumption that many people will balk at doing the "new" thing because it is different.

Tugofwar I'm no longer sure that the word "change" has any real impact. Everyone knows that life is filled with changes. Many of the programmed approaches have been designed in a way that creates an "us and them" dynamic, not unlike "employee" engagement. In other words: "I want something different than I'm getting now so you have to change." (That approach is content for a future article).

Making changes for the better, whether at work or in your personal life, both have some common elements. Here are some real-life, practical tips accompanied by some semi-deep thoughts:

If you, as a leader, have done a thorough job of explaining your organization's situation and why it is critical to do specific things differently, you will enable readiness and reduce resistance before it even starts.

Why? Because the human condition demands a reason for doing something differently. Until you answer the "Why?" question satisfactorily, forget about trying to get to the "What." (See, I just did it).

Readiness is all about understanding and acceptance. Yes, both of those. You can understand something intellectually but you need a certain amount of acceptance to want to act on your understanding.

What to do:
When a change is needed, start talking about the situation and what you think needs to happen differently. Engage other people in the discussion. Tell them what you think ought to happen. Ask them what they think could be done. Tell managers to talk with their people about the situation.

Why? (See, I am trying to model this thing). When the decision to make the change finally happens, it's not a surprise. Save surprises for a significant birthday.

How not to "survey for readiness"

One of my Utility clients hired a firm that specialized in Change Management to come in and honcho the process. The system made sense on paper. It made no sense when it was applied. The first step in the process was a company-wide, pencil and paper assessment of individuals' "readiness for change." Yeah, think about this. A gazillion people answered questions--with obvious organizational and psychological underpinnings--about how they "felt" about changes. But they didn't know of any impending changes. Well, not until they were asked to do the questionnaire and asked themselves the "why?" question.

Then the results were tabulated  and "fed back" to the top levels of management. (The entire employee population knew their managers were at a meeting looking at whatever it was that they had generated in the survey. So,they began developing a "resistant" attitude before anything ever happened.)

I watched as a profile of readiness and resistance was displayed on the PowerPoint slides. Then came the somewhat unbelievable: the presenter noted that everyone not sitting in the room would be referred to as a Target for change. It was suddenly an "us" and "them" situation. "We" will be known as the change agents--"they" will be our targets.

Resistance is all about not having enough information to decide that making a change would be in one's best interest.

As you've already guessed, the "Readiness" exercise created "Resistance" that wasn't there to begin with.

BTW: If you are trying to do something differently at a personal level--but struggling--try your own, candid, readiness/resistance diagnostic.

Stop back for the inside scoop on how this was dealt with and how it can be done more effectively the first time around.

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
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