Leadership Barometer 153 Two Views of Change

July 5, 2022

At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions to change for the future. Most of the resolutions have been set aside a couple of months later. How is change working in your professional and personal life?

When we were babies, change was always a welcome event that made us more comfortable.  As we grew older, change became more of a threat that often made us feel more uncomfortable, at least for a while.

We are all aware that change is all around us, and it takes many forms. In this article, I want to put two kinds of change under the microscope and discuss why both are important for our lives. 

Incremental Change

You have heard the saying, “In every day in every way I am getting better and better.”  That statement is describing incremental change because it bases our improvement on what we already know how to do.  Moving from our present state of knowledge and making creative tweaks to the formula propels us forward.

There is comfort with incremental change because the new technique is close to what we already know. There is risk in these steps, but the risk is small, and we can always revert to the prior method if we fail. That is why so many New Year’s Resolutions do not produce permanent change.

The power of incremental change relies on the relentless application to it. We should seek to improve our current process just a little bit every day. Before long we have made fantastic strides toward efficiency and productivity. 

One downside of incremental change is that we can always make modifications that turn out to be in the wrong direction.  Sometimes we cannot tell until weeks down the road. The change we make today may be a tiny bit worse than what we were doing yesterday.  It is often difficult to tell at the moment if the small changes we are making are in the right or the wrong direction. 

Revolutionary Change 

This kind of change happens when we keep the same objective but throw out the old process entirely and begin a whole new paradigm. The downside with revolutionary change is a high risk of failure, but the payoff is high if it succeeds.

A good example of revolutionary change occurred in 1965 in the sport of high jumping.  Throughout history, jumpers used a kind of “belly down” approach to getting maximum height over the bar. The technique was called “The Western Roll.” Jumpers would flatten out with stomach down and kick at just the right time to get over the bar.

Along came Dick Fosbury, who decided to go over the bar backward with his back to the ground. They named the technique “The Fosbury Flop.” Dick won the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City using his technique. To this day, The Fosbury Flop is the most popular method for high jumping. 

We often see examples of revolutionary change in common products.  In olden days, people used to fumble with buttons or zippers in winter to keep out the wind. That was before George De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955. It seems like a simple invention 65 years later, but then it was revolutionary.

The challenge with revolutionary change is that it is so radical we often reject it as being absurd. Even when a proposed revolutionary change fails, there are often parts of it that have merit. They can be useful when applied in a slightly different way.

Conclusion

It is this combination of revolutionary ideas in conjunction with incremental changes that have the most power for organizations. Seek to improve the products you make and the processes you use. To maximize forward progress, use both incremental and revolutionary change methods.  

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations

 


Leadership Barometer 152 Leaders Create Culture

June 29, 2022

In any organization, leaders create the culture. Apathetic people exist in every organization.  One can fault workers who trap themselves in a state of despair.  Managers typically describe these people as having “bad attitudes.” The culture created by leaders is often the root cause of the problem.

Place these individuals in a culture of trust, respect, and challenge. You will see many of them quickly rise up to become happy and productive workers. It is essential that each individual in the workforce find real meaning in the organizational culture. Culture is determined by numerous actions and concepts, but it starts with the values and vision of the leader.

The culture of an organization is not easy to define.  Most of the leadership textbooks I have read describe the culture in terms of physical attributes that characterize an organization. For example, here is a typical list of the things purported to make up a company culture.

  • Physical structure
  • Language and symbols
  • Rituals, ceremonies, gossip, and jokes
  • Stories, legends, and heroes
  • Beliefs
  • Values and norms
  • Assumptions

The above list is a montage of the lists in many textbooks. When you think about it, these items do go a long way toward defining the culture of an organization. Unfortunately, I believe these items fall short because they fail to include the emotions of the people. After all, organizations are made up of people, at all levels, interacting in a social structure for a purpose.  Let us extend the list of things that make up the culture of an organization.

  • Is there a high level of trust within the organization?
  • To what extent do people have the opportunity to grow in this organization?
  • Do people feel safe and secure, or are they basically fearful?
  • Is the company financially stable?
  • How do people treat each other on their own level and on higher or lower levels?
  • Is there mutual respect between management and workers?
  • Is the culture inclusive or exclusive?
  • Do people generally feel like winners or losers at work?
  • Is the culture one of reinforcement or punishment?
  • Are managers viewed as enablers or barriers?
  • Are people trying to get into the organization or trying to get out?
  • What is the level of satisfaction for people in this organization?
  • Can people “speak their truth” without fear of reprisal?
  • Do people follow the rules or find ways to avoid following them?
  • Do people receive a living wage?

How can leaders build the right culture where people have a sense of purpose and meaning in their work?  Here are eight approaches that are used by successful leaders.

  1. Have high ethical and moral standards. Operate from a set of values, and make sure people know why those values are important.
  2. Operate with high Emotional Intelligence. The ability to work well with people is critical.
  3. Build trust. Trust is the glue that holds people together in a framework of positive purpose. Without trust, we are just playing games with each other, hoping to get through the day unscathed.
  4. Create a positive vision of the future. Vision is critical because without it people see no sense of direction for their work. Create a common goal that is exciting.
  5. Lead change well. Change processes are in play in every organization daily, yet most leaders struggle with change processes.
  6. Build High Performing Teams. Enhance a sense of purpose where there is a kind of peer cohesion brought on by good teamwork.
  7. Build morale the right way. Motivation is derived by treating people with respect and giving them a clear vision and autonomy. Avoid trying to motivate people by adding hygiene factors, like picnics, bonuses, or hat days.
  8. Reinforce good behaviors.

Most of the above concepts sound like common sense; unfortunately, they are not common practice in many groups. This void contributes to much of the apathy in organizations. To have people rise to their level of potential, you need a strong culture. To accomplish that, focus on the above concepts, and see a remarkable transformation in your organization. Become a student of these skills, and teach them to other leaders. Learn how to personify the concepts listed above to rise to the level of great leadership.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations

 


Leadership Barometer 151 Self Assessments

June 21, 2022

When I get involved with the topic of Emotional Intelligence it usually begins with a self-assessment. I have done this many times, and I always have a strange feeling while doing it for several reasons.

Reasons for feeling strange

  1. What I am really doing is reacting to a bunch of questions created by researchers. They ask me to respond to a set of standard scenarios with some kind of “typical reaction for me.”  The problem is that these scenarios are never set up the exact way I have been exposed to them.  I am simply guessing what I would do. I have no idea, and my reactions would be highly situation dependent.
  2. Daniel Goleman pointed out that people who have low Emotional Intelligence often have the most significant blind spots. The phenomenon we are attempting to assess has a significant component that varies with the level we are trying to measure. I may believe my Emotional Intelligence is generally high, but others may not see it. There is a kind of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle involved here. The simple act of trying to measure the situation actually impacts the phenomenon we are trying to measure.
  3. Emotional Intelligence has to do with how I react to stimuli. Do I have the skill of considering my response from the left side of my brain before I react? I am not a good judge of how efficient my neural responses really are. My responses are automatic and often I do not consciously control them.
  4. There is a fair amount of gaming involved in the assessment. I believe I know how a person should react under a certain set of conditions. I may be tempted to answer based on what I think the “right” answer is.

Problems with other assessments

I have the same problem with taking personality tests like the DiSC Assessment or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. What these evaluations measure is how I perceive my own preferences as opposed to objectively how I show up in the world. There may be a gap between these two sets of information. The gap may be wide, particularly if my own behaviors are inconsistent.  

Paired comparisons 

The personality indicators do have an advantage because they simply ask me to choose which I prefer given a paired comparison.  That is easier to do than to try to predict how I will react emotionally to a stimulus.

On the flip side, I know what is going on within myself better than other people do. They can only infer by my behaviors how I am reacting to various things. 

I shouldn’t try to pinpoint my EI skills without a full understanding of how I translate the external stimuli into behaviors. There are obvious clues, but there is a big missing piece: whether I believe my actions are justified

An example 

There was a critical moment near the end of a basketball game between Syracuse and Duke. The referee made a call that the Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, called “the worst call of the season.”  The score was 58-60 in favor of Duke with only 10 seconds left in the ballgame. A basket by Syracuse player C.J. Fair was waived-off for what the referee called a charging violation.

Boeheim obviously did not agree with the call. He totally lost his wits and charged the ref yelling over and over that the call was “Bullsh*#”. He stuck his finger right between the eyes of the ref.  video clip of the call and Boeheim’s reaction to it.

As a seasoned coach, Jim was well aware of the consequences of his actions before he did them. SU got a technical foul, and Boeheim was ejected from the game. Duke went on to win the game easily.

Even though Boeheim knew the consequences, he was unable to control his rage and reacted in a way that was not at all helpful to his objectives. That shows low EI, right? Not so fast.

Hijack behavior

This is a prime example of “hijack behavior,” where the emotional reaction simply overpowers the ability to perform logic.  Does this mean Boeheim has low Emotional Intelligence?  I think not, and if you had him do a self-evaluation of his EI, he would probably score pretty high. In that instance, in front of thousands of witnesses, he displayed amazingly low EI. Reason: In his mind the reaction was justified. That was based on the importance of the game, the nature of the call, and all of the other emotions within him.

If his reaction was not justified to him, he would not have done it. If there was a better course of action, he would have done that. Instead, he threw away any chance to win and looked like a raving idiot to thousands of fans.

Problematic practice 

My point is that doing self-evaluations on psychological topics is problematic. It may be helpful for some kinds of insight, but the accuracy of the result may be suspect for the reasons given above.

If you would say “I am an ENFP,” you would be stretching the point.  Rather you should say, “according to my opinion of myself at the moment, my best MBTI match is ENFP.” That is a far more accurate statement than the first one.  

Conclusion

I say, “I measure high in Emotional Intelligence.” If that assessment was done by me, we should discount the statement.  A far more accurate phrase might be, “I did the survey and it showed me to be high in Emotional Intelligence. I need to beware that I am not blind to the reality of the situation.”

Do not misunderstand; I believe there is good value and insight in doing a self Emotional Intelligence Survey. I just caution that the accuracy of the information may be questionable. Take the test and learn what you can, then observe your own behaviors based on what you have learned.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.

 

 


Leadership Barometer 150 Scope Creep

June 15, 2022

One of the most insidious problems in any kind of project work is scope creep. Scope creep occurs when the deliverables of a project change while it is underway. The impact of scope creep is often a dissatisfied customer or a loss of profit for the vendor. Either way, the situation has caused the result to be less satisfying than expected.

How scope creep happens 

It is very easy to understand how scope creep happens. Nobody can anticipate every minute detail of a project before doing the work. There are always going to be surprises that come up along the way. Here are some examples of surprises:

  • unexpected delays,
  • schemes that did not work as expected,
  • resources being unavailable,
  • new features requested by the customer,
  • material shortages requiring workarounds.

These kinds of problems are common on most projects.

Recognize the changes 

There is no 100% guarantee that any project is going to completion without some change in scope. The trick to managing scope creep effectively is to recognize when a change occurs. It is very easy to accommodate small or subtle changes in the specification for the project. The sum of many small changes can mean a huge difference in the success of the project.

Make sure to discuss all changes to the specification openly. That transparency will protect you at least partially. It will notify the customer of a change from the original design. You can then renegotiate the price or the delivery time in order to accommodate the change in scope. 

How the customer reacts

If you are the customer, recognize that the vendor was not able to envision all of the things that might happen. In reality, changes in scope will be happening for both the vendor and the customer on every project.  Life happens, and both parties are going to have to roll with the vicissitudes they are facing daily.

12 tips that can help reduce the stress of scope creep: 

  1. Ensure there is enough communication with the customer when creating the specifications.
  2. Do not start a project with preconceived notions of what the customer really wants.
  3. Have detailed and specific specifications. Any vague deliverables are going to be areas of contention down the road.
  4. Factor in the potential for scope creep by building contingencies or safety factors into the bidding process.
  5. Keep a ledger of requested changes on both sides. It is not necessary to renegotiate the entire deal for each change. It is important to have all changes documented.
  6. Plan the job in phases with sign-off gates at specific milestones. A scope change can be confined to one phase of the project and not infect the entire effort.
  7. Look for win-win solutions to problems. Often a creative solution is available that will delight both the vendor and the customer.
  8. Avoid rigidity about the job. Make sure the entire project is constantly moving in the direction of a successful conclusion. If things get significantly off the track, call for a meeting to clarify the issues and brainstorm solutions together.
  9. Keep the customer well informed about the progress of the project.
  10. Express gratitude when the other party is willing to make a concession. Goodwill is important in every project because life is a series of projects. A poor reputation can severely hamper future income.
  11. Have a formal closing to the project where each party expresses gratitude for a job well done. If there were any specific lessons learned during this job, document them. Both parties can benefit from these lessons in the future.
  12. Plan an appropriate celebration at the end of a challenging project to let people feel good about what they have done and reduce the pressure.

Conclusion

The best defense for stress caused by scope creep is to bring all changes out in the open. Changes can occur on either side of the equation. Make the impact on the total delivery visible. The key objective is to avoid disappointing surprises that result from a lack of communication between various stakeholders throughout the process.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 

 

 


Leadership Barometer 149 Smart Pills

June 8, 2022

One of my leadership students shared an observation that led to the concept of “smart” pills for leaders. She said that some of the decisions the leaders in her organization make are not smart. These decisions reflect a misunderstanding of their impact. The leaders end up doing things that are at cross purposes to what they want to accomplish.

I told the student to buy some “smart” pills for the leaders to take. The pills will let them know when they do things that take them in the wrong direction.  Then I realized that I already had discovered the “smart” pill several years ago.  I have taught leaders how to administer this magic potion for quite a while. 

Determine the impact ahead of time 

Allow leaders to determine the impact of their decisions on the organization at the time they make those decisions. This knowledge will reduce the number of wrong-headed actions.

Picture a leader of 90 individuals. There are 90 people who can tell her the truth about the impact of poor decisions while they are under discussion. They would gladly do this if the leader had created the right environment. People need to know it is safe to challenge an idea generated in the leader’s mind. How would a leader go about creating such an environment?

Create a safe environment

A smart leader makes people glad when they tell her things she was really not eager to hear. Then those people will eventually learn it is safe to do it. They have the freedom to level with the leader when she is contemplating something they feel is really dumb.

It does not mean that all dumb things the leader wants to do need to get squashed. It simply means that if the leader establishes a safe culture, she will be told. She will know in advance that a specific decision might not be smart. 

It depends on perspective

Sometimes, due to a leader’s perspective, what may seem dumb to underlings may be the smart thing to do. In this case, the leader needs to educate the doubting underling on why the decision does make sense.

Here is an eight-step formula that constitutes a “smart” pill.

  1. Let people know in advance the decisions you are contemplating, and state your likely action.
  2. Invite dialog, either public or private. People should feel free to express their opinions about the outcomes.
  3. Treat people like adults, and listen to them carefully when they express concerns.
  4. Factor their thoughts into your final decision process. This does not mean you always reverse your decision but do consciously consider the input.
  5. Make your final decision about the issue and announce it.
  6. State that there were several opinions considered when making your decision.
  7. Thank people for sharing their thoughts in a mature way.
  8. Ask for everyone’s help to implement your decision whether or not they fully agree with it.

Of course, it is important for people to share their concerns with the leader in a proper way at the proper time.  Calling her a jerk in a staff meeting would not qualify as helpful information and would be a problem. 

Encourage people to speak up, but coach them on how and when to do it effectively. Often this means encouraging people to give their concerns in private. Have a helpful intent for the organization rather than an effort to embarrass the boss.

The leader will still make some dumb decisions, but they will be fewer, and be made recognizing the risks. Also, realize that history may reveal some decisions thought to be dumb at the time to be actually brilliant.

Understanding the risks allows some mitigating actions to remove much of the sting of making risky decisions.  The action here is incumbent on the leader.  Praise people when they speak truth, even if it flies in the face of what the leader wants to do. People become open and more willing to confront the leader when her judgment seems wrong.

Look for consistency but not perfection

A leader needs to be consistent with this philosophy, although no one can be 100%. That would be impossible. Once in a while, any leader will push back on some unwanted “reality” statements.

Most leaders are capable of making people who challenge them happy about it only a tiny fraction of the time. Figure about 5%. If we increase the odds to something like 80%, people will be more comfortable pointing out a potential blooper.  That is enough momentum to change the culture.

Recognize that making people glad they brought up a concern does not always mean a leader must acquiesce. All that is required is for the leader to treat the individual as someone with important information. Listen to the person carefully, and consider the veracity of the input. Honestly take the concern into account in deciding what to do.

Sometimes the leader will go ahead with the original action, but she will now understand the potential ramifications better. By sincerely thanking the person, the leader makes that individual happy she brought it up.  Other people will take the risk in the future. That action changes everything, and the leader now has an effective “smart” pill.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.  

Robert Whipple MBA CPTD is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.

 


Leadership Barometer 148 New Leader

May 31, 2022

When you are transferred or assume command of a new unit it is a special time. What happens in the first few hours, or first few minutes will determine your success in your first year.

Reason: People form an opinion of you very quickly (first impression). That vision stays with them until supplanted by ideas from events that play out over time.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrated how human beings have an uncanny ability to size up another person instantly. The level of trust that will prevail during the entire first year is usually set before the first week of an assignment.

It is crucial to get off on the right foot with people. Unfortunately, many leaders come into a new assignment with the wrong attitude, and the impressions they make mean a rocky start.

Here are seven things that can help you get off on the right foot in any new position.

  1. Assume things are more right than wrong

It is a mistake to come into a new job with the attitude that everything is messed up. It is wise to remain calm initially. Seek to understand the strengths and good performance that already exists. 

The best advice is to keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut in terms of pronouncements. Seek to learn, appreciate, and reinforce.

  1. Establish rapport one on one

Meet with each employee in the new unit privately to chat about his or her role. Get to know the individual as a person. Be sure to put the person at ease with your demeanor. Indicate you have no hidden agenda other than just getting to know the individual. This discussion will begin to form some rapport between you and the person.

Asking questions about the employee’s family and hobbies demonstrates that you care enough to get to know that person. Sharing some of your own stories also tends to form a basis for trust.

Many new supervisors like to ask what the employee would like to see them do and not do.  This simple question often brings out issues that have been lurking in the culture before the new leader arrived. You also demonstrate an attitude of being willing to listen to new ideas.

  1. Build trust as early as possible

When meeting a new person, the basis for trust to start forming lies in the answer to five basic questions. I call these things “the five C’s for building trust.” As a leader:

  1. Are you Competent?
  2. Do you have good Character?
  3. Are you Consistent?
  4. Are you Cordial?
  5. Do you Care about the other person?

When you chat with new employees, keep these five things in mind. Work to answer all of them as positively and quickly as you can.

  1. Avoid pushing ideas from your former job

It is a good idea to refrain from bringing up the excellent policies in your prior position. Many new leaders make the mistake of saying, “In my last job we used to do this or that.”  It undermines the will of the people in the new unit. Individuals do not want to hear what went on in the boss’ prior position a dozen times a day. It wears thin very quickly.

There is an antidote to this common problem. When I would promote or move a manager, I would ask him or her to refer to the prior job only one time in public. Once they played that chit, I suggested the new leader refrain from other references for at least 2 months.

This constraint gave the new leader the opportunity to appreciate the good things that were happening.  The people never knew the difference; they just seemed to like the new manager quite a lot. 

  1. Observe the informal organization and cliques

The chemistry between people governs the culture of the organization. Be alert to the “informal power structure” because that is operating in tandem with the formal organization.

It is imperative to know who the informal leaders are, and begin a process to gain their trust. Often the sub-culture is extremely powerful, and it is often negative.  Work slowly and carefully before taking any action with a clique of individuals. You can make great strides working with the informal leaders, but only after you have developed some credibility and trust.

Get to know how the various members of the group like to interface and get things done. Bond with people by seeking their advice where possible.

  1. Practice management by wandering around extensively until you are a known quantity

Many new leaders make the mistake of sequestering themselves in strategic meetings early on. This labels them as suspect and less transparent.  Be open and out there for people to interface with daily.  Extra time devoted to this activity pays huge dividends, even if it means extra working hours for a while.

  1. Check your body language

Let people know you are truly happy to be there. Smile! Make sure all of your body language reflects that of an appreciative and interested leader. Be sincere about getting to know the ropes before making important decisions.

Do these seven things during your first weeks of a new assignment, and you will be on your way to a great tenure as a leader of the group. If you remember one thing from this article, remember this; it is the first blink of an impression that makes the most difference to your future.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.  

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.


Leadership Barometer 147 Building Culture in a Merger

May 25, 2022

When organizations merge or there is an acquisition, the ability to create one new culture is paramount. This aspect is most often the stumbling block that prevents the merged unit from being successful. 

Managers often assume this will happen naturally over time, They give this aspect little attention when planning the merger. WRONG!

Achieving a stable culture where people are supportive is the most significant challenge for most change efforts. Do not assume things will work out; instead, take a highly proactive approach to defining a new culture.

Merger of equals?

In most cases, one group will feel they have been “taken over” by the other.  Curiously, in many instances, both groups feel like they have been taken over. Employees in each former group need to modify their procedures to accomplish the union.  Usually, one of the parties is assumed to be in the driver’s seat. It is the other party that needs to endure the bulk of changing systems.

Why the Resistance?

Lack of trust and genuine animosity lead to resistance when it comes to blending the two groups into one. It is common to have the conflict occur as passive-resistive behavior. People will have the appearance of agreeing, but subversively undermine the other group however possible.  This kind of “we-they” thinking can go on for years if allowed.

What actions can management take to mitigate the schism and promote unity? Here are a dozen ideas that can help:

  1. Start early – Do not let the inevitable seeds of doubt and suspicion grow in the dark. Work quickly after announcing the merger to have teambuilding activities. Openly promote good team spirit and put some money into developing a mutually supportive culture. Good teamwork is not rocket science, but it does not occur naturally. There must be investments to accomplish unity.

2. Have zero tolerance for silo thinking – This philosophy is hard to accomplish because human beings polarize if given the opportunity.  Set the expectation that people will at least try to get along at all times. Monitor the wording in notes and conversations carefully and call people out when they put down the other group. This monitoring needs to include body language. Often rolling eyes or other expressions give away underlying mistrust.

3. Blend the populations as much as possible – Transplant key individuals from Group A with counterparts from Group B.  If done with care, it will not take long for the individual cultures to be homogeneous. Sometimes the transplanting process is unpopular, but it is an important part of the integration.

4. Use the Strategic Process – It is important to have a common set of goals and a common vision.  If the former groups have goals that are not perfectly aligned, then behaviors are going to support parochial thinking. When conflicts arise, check to see if the goals are really common or if there is just lip service on this point.

5. Reward good teamwork – Seek out examples of selfless behavior from one group toward the other and promote these as bellwether activities. Verbal and written reinforcement from the top will help a lot. You might consider some kind of award for outstanding integration behavior.

6. Model integrated behavior at the top – Often we see animosity and lack of trust at the highest levels. It is only natural for the lower echelon to be bickering. People have the ability to pick up on tiny clues in wording and body language. The leaders need to walk the talk on mutual respect.

7. Co-locate groups where possible – Remote geography always tends to build polarization in any organization. If merged groups can be at least partially located under one roof, it will help to reduce suspicion. If cohabitation is cost prohibitive, it is helpful to have joint meetings. This is especially important at the start of the integration process.

8. Benchmark other organizations – Select one or two companies that have successfully blended cultures. Send a fact-finding team made up of representatives from each group to identify best practices. This team can be the nucleus of cooperation attitudes that can allow unity to spread through the entire population.

9. Make celebrations include both groups – Having both groups celebrate progress together is helpful.  Make sure the celebrations are for progress toward the ultimate culture instead of sub-unit performance.

10. Align measures with joint behavior – Make sure the performance measures are not contributing to silo thinking.  If the goals are aligned for joint performance, have the measures reinforce behaviors toward those goals. Often, well-intentioned measures actually drive activity that is directly opposite to the intended result. One way to test for this potential is to ask a question. “What if someone pushes this measure to the extreme? Will that action still produce the result we want?”

11. Weed out people who cannot adjust – A certain percentage of the population in either group is going to find it difficult to stop grieving.  Identify these individuals and help them find roles in some other organization. It will help both the merger process and the individual. On the flip side, identify the champions of integration early and reward them with more exposure or span of control.

12. Create incentives for the desired behavior – Encourage people to act and think in an integrated way. Have the incentive plans payout only if both units perform seamlessly.

If something awful happens with the business during the integration, don’t panic. Often by working through a crisis or an emergency, a strong joint identity emerges. Use problems as a way to draw people together rather than a reason to focus blame.

The road to a fully-functioning integrated culture can be long and frustrating. By following the ideas given above, an organization can integrate cultures quickly. Hasten the day when people feel a sense of belonging to a single new order.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  .

 


Leadership Barometer 146 The Power of RAS

May 18, 2022

The human brain is a remarkable organ. It has many fascinating properties that can give us insights into how to live a better and more effective life. One of these phenomena occurs at the base of the brain: the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

How RAS Works

RAS is an incredible filtering system. It allows human beings to pay attention to things that are important to us.  Because of RAS, we can disregard the bombardment of other things that are not critical. It is the mechanism that allows us to focus attention on the vital few and ignore the trivial many.

I will leave how the RAS works to the brain experts, but the impact of it is a wonder to behold. In this article, I want to explore RAS along with some implications it can have in our professional and personal lives. The best way to appreciate the power of RAS is through examples.

Theater Example

Imagine you are in a theater during intermission. The crowded lobby is abuzz with the cacophony of voices. It is impossible to hear any conversation except the one closest to you.  In the crowd, within earshot, someone mentions your name. All of a sudden you are able to laser focus on that conversation. You ignore all the rest, and actually hear what that person is saying about you. If the person had not uttered your name, there would be no way you would have heard what she was saying. That is RAS in action. 

Truck Dealer Example

Let’s look at another typical example. You just came out of a truck dealership after having ordered a red Ford truck. On the way home, you start to notice red Ford trucks everywhere. Driving into the dealership, you paid no attention and did not notice any trucks at all.

How RAS Can Help You at Work

Once it is activated, RAS allows all kinds of miraculous things to happen. Let’s explore how RAS can help you be more successful at work.

Marcus Buckingham wrote a famous book entitled Now, Discover Your Strengths. He believes we can make much faster progress at self-improvement if we focus energy on our areas of strength.  Most of us try to improve our weaknesses.  If you doubt that conclusion, pick up a copy of his book. It gives a mountain of data to support his conclusion. The book also contains a link to an online survey you can take to determine your own strength areas.

Personal Example

After doing the assessment, I found two dominant strengths I had that were not evident to me before. First, I am a “Maximizer” (one who tries to achieve excellence). I am also particularly strong in “WOO,” (which stands for Winning Others Over).

Being a Maximizer allows me to accomplish more than some other people. WOO allows me to have significant influence when it is important.  Let’s explore how this knowledge, coupled with RAS, made the ideas useful to me.

I am a visual communicator and tend to think in terms of images. I have the image of walking around all day with imaginary “arrows of opportunity.”  They fly in the air, just over my head. The arrows represent a constant stream of opportunities to interface with people. They also help me be more effective.

I just need to pick the correct arrows and reach up and grab the right ones as they fly by. The difficult part used to be that there were too many arrows. How was I to select the ones that could help me the most?  Enter RAS.

Knowing my two greatest strengths, when I view the arrows in my mind, a few of them are in color. These are the ones that represent a chance to use my skills at Maximizing and WOO.  The rest of the arrows are black.  Using this filtering technique, I am able to “see” the most important opportunities coming at me. I grab them to use the strengths within me much more frequently. Voila! My performance improves simply based on the application of my strongest traits.

Exercise for You

RAS is a very powerful tool. We need to be continuously aware of that power if we are to harness it for use in our lives.  Try this little exercise. Try to identify 5-10 times in each day where you use RAS to improve how you manage your life.  For example, you might be sitting in a cafeteria with hundreds of people. In the distance, you spot an old friend you had been thinking about recently. You realize you have not spoken to him in over a year. You resolve to call him that afternoon. Immediately you recognize that RAS helped you find that person and renew the acquaintance. That counts as one of the 10 opportunities to use RAS.

That evening, while scanning the newspaper, out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of an ad for a boat. You immediately remember that you had intended to buy a new fishing reel this week. RAS Made the association possible. That would be number two example. Try to find 5-10 examples a day.

Focus your energy on understanding how you can use RAS to filter your thinking. You will actually be doing a kind of “meta RAS.” The technique is helping you identify opportunities to use its power for you daily.  It sounds complex, but it is really pretty basic.

Do not overlook the power of RAS to improve your life. The more you practice identifying the phenomenon within you the more it will help you guide your life.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

 

 

 


Leadership Barometer 145 Clear Vision

May 10, 2022

It is a universal vision; every leader would like to obtain higher trust within his or her organization. It stands to reason because trust links directly to the profitability and market value of an organization. 

When trust is high, people work together with high productivity toward the vision of the organization. Low trust groups waste time and resources in unproductive bickering and dysfunctional blind alleys.

I see a conundrum in many organizations. Leaders are often unable to see the connection between their own behaviors and the level of trust within their organization.  They feel somehow trapped by a system that demands herculean quarterly financial results while having to navigate through oppressive regulations. They try to motivate disinterested employees and keep up with a daily avalanche of information.

It seems impossible to achieve the expected results every quarter when dealing with the realities of leading an organization. Driving productivity is more of a challenge when many employees are working remotely.

The thought of trying to build a culture of high trust while constantly feeling like a gladiator in the lion’s den strains credibility. Top leaders try to survive, and that often means taking some actions that appear to compromise the trust.  This article shares a way out of the dilemma. I will share that the key to solving the puzzle is already in the hands of the senior leader. 

Leaders often cannot see how their actions prevent the very thing that will create a more successful existence for everyone.  They are effectively blind to what is causing their problems. If they would change their own behaviors relative to the culture in their organization, things would improve.

Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”    So how can a leader begin to see more clearly? Here are eight ideas that can improve your vision.

  1. Become a Level 5 Leader as described by Jim Collins in Good to Great (2001). Get some coaching on humility and begin using the “window/mirror” analogy. The leader looks out the window when things are going well, but in the mirror when there are problems. Less trust-building leaders do exactly the reverse. They congratulate themselves when things go well but blame employees or other managers when things go poorly.
  2. Reinforce Candor – Create a culture where people feel rewarded when they bring up doubts about the wisdom of an action or decision. That culture gives the CEO a new set of eyes to see clearly how his actions may be compromising trust.
  3. Become a mentor – Seek out several informal leaders in the organization and begin to mentor them. This practice allows the flow of critical information about whether the leader is sending mixed or incorrect signals.
  4. Do more “management by walking around” – Being more visible may seem awkward at first because the CEO may prefer the isolation of the ivory tower. That is one hallmark of the problem. Too many meetings and private lunches give rise to insulation that renders the top executive insensitive to organizational heat.
  5. Conduct a 360 Degree Leadership Evaluation – A periodic measure of high-level leadership skills is one way to prevent a top leader from kidding herself. There are numerous instruments to accomplish this. Doing an assessment is important, but taking the data seriously and creating a plan from the information is crucial.
  6. Get a good coach – Every leader needs a coach to help prevent myopic thinking. Seek out a trusted advisor for a long-term relationship that is candid and challenging. Coaching sessions can be efficient by doing them after hours on the phone or by using online technology.
  7. Develop a leadership study group – A leader can grow personally in parallel with others. Invest some time studying the inspirational writings of top leadership authors. Benchmark leaders from other organizations. There are literally thousands of resources available that can both inspire and challenge any group. These investments are very low cost.

Many leaders prefer the “lunch and learn” sessions. Some leaders work with a skilled facilitator to keep things on track. Other leaders prefer to proceed on their own without outside assistance. If face time is impractical due to travel, that does not prevent an online discussion on leadership concepts from literature.

  1. Subscribe to some Leadership LinkedIn Groups – There are dozens of excellent leadership groups on LinkedIn. These groups have tens of thousands of leaders who can benchmark each other and help resolve typical problems. There are also numerous local and national organizations on leadership development that can provide provocative ideas for growth.

These are just a few ideas that can broaden the view of a top executive. Having a clear vision has the wonderful effect of helping a leader become more effective over time. I believe it is incumbent on all leaders to have a personal development plan. Give it a high priority in terms of effort and budget.  Seeking to constantly grow as a leader is truly important. Growing other leaders should be the highest calling for any leader.

Once a leader knows how his behaviors are impacting trust within the entire organization, then conditions start to improve rapidly. People are not playing games with each other, and productivity goes up dramatically. Everyone feels better about the work and the culture, so people feel empowered to go the extra mile. Performance goals are met and exceeded as the whole organization becomes aligned with a new vision.  Trust starts with the behaviors of the leader.

Ken Blanchard was asked what gives rise to incredible levels of improved organizational performance. He quipped, “It’s always the leader, it’s always the leader, it’s always the leader”  Ken Blanchard “It’s Always The Leader”

 

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  .

 


Leadership Barometer 144 Measures

May 4, 2022

Having the wrong measures is a common and hurtful practice in many organizations.  The old adage is that “what gets measured gets done” is true. It is also very harmful to performance if the measures are not well constructed.  Reason: if you measure the wrong thing, it will drive people to do things different from your objectives.  If you are skeptical, consider the following real examples. 

Driving the Wrong Behaviors

In an effort to increase revenue, a computer company decided to measure the number of calls made by the sales force.  History showed that the level of sales was correlated to the number of calls.  When they instituted the measure, sales people realized they could make more money by making more calls. The quality of the calls became less important than the quantity. The result was a reduction in revenue. Make sure all your measures are driving the right behaviors.

Trading One Problem for Another

An organization was concerned that the “employee satisfaction” numbers were slipping in the Quality of Work-Life Survey. The HR manager read that satisfaction in many organizations is highly correlated to the amount of development conducted.  To improve satisfaction, they mandated at least 50 hours of training for every employee.  The measure caused them to do a knee-jerk reaction to the real problem.

The problem was that the managers implementing the training did not deploy it well. They forced people to go to meaningless training in order to make the 50-hour mandate. They did not backfill for employees when they were out for training. When the employees returned to work, they found a huge mess.  “Employee satisfaction” actually got worse, even though the measure (number of training hours) showed they met the goal. Make sure your program to improve one measure does not force a more important measure to get worse.

Focusing on the Wrong Things

A plumbing supply house was interested in improving customer satisfaction. They increased the lighting in the showroom and arranged for better snow plowing of the parking lot. Those measures had no significant positive impact on customer satisfaction.

It turns out the real customers were more interested in getting all of their parts delivered to the job site exactly on time.  If some parts were late or were the wrong parts, it had a huge impact on contractors doing the work. The store was measuring the wrong things.

Five Ways to Make Measures Work

It is so easy to fall into these traps when inventing measures. The antidote is to always verify that every measure is doing the following things:

  1. Actually measuring what is important
  2. Driving the right behaviors
  3. Not easy to manipulate or “game”
  4. Easy for people to understand
  5. Producing the desired results

Conclusion

The verification step is extremely important to do before, during, and after implementation of a new measure.  If you forget to do this, a well-intended measure may be working at cross purposes to your objectives.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  .