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.
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.
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.
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
Section 2.7 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Coaching. Section B reads, “Skill in coaching supervisors and managers on methods and approaches for supporting employee development.”
I have always had a keen interest in coaching of supervisors and managers. I believe their role is pivotal, and their situation is often challenging. Throughout my career, I spent roughly 40% of my time actually working with supervisors in groups and individually to develop and sharpen their skills.
Successful Supervisor Series
From 2016 to 2018 I wrote a series of 100 blog articles specifically aimed at creating more successful supervisors. I am sharing an index of the entire program hereso you can view the topics covered. The index has a link to each article on my blog in case you may be interested in reading up on certain topics. Note: After you call up the document, you will need to click on “enable editing” at the top of the page in order to open the links below.
Use for Training
You may wish to select articles at random or as a function of your interest, or an alternative would be to view one article a day for 100 days. You could use the series as a training program for supervisors.
In that case, I recommend having periodic review sessions to have open discussion on the points that are made. There will likely be counter points to some of my ideas that apply to your situation.
Some examples relating to Employee Development
Most of this series deals with the development of the supervisors themselves, but many of the articles deal with supervisors supporting employee development. I will share links to 10 specific articles here as examples from the series:
I hope this information has been helpful to you. Best of luck on your journey toward outstanding Supervision and 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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.
A major area in talent development is titled “performance improvement.”
Leaders need to hone the skill of performance analysis to identify the goals, gaps, and opportunities that will allow the culture to advance.
I do a lot of leadership development work in organizations of all types and sizes. A typical scenario has me meet with a CEO who laments that things are not going very well.
The organization is lagging behind in performance, and the CEO wants me to come in and train the supervisors and managers on how to do a better job of leading.
I explain that no two of my development efforts are the same. Each one is a custom effort designed to fit this particular situation and group of people.
Many leadership development consultants have their vinyl notebooks already made up when they walk in the door. They offer cookie-cutter programs that sort of fit a general population. Unfortunately these are not very effective.
Instead, I sit with several of the leaders and managers as well as some of the front-line workers to get a first-hand view of what has been going on. I have them all fill out a questionnaire containing roughly 80 different areas where we might consider some development work.
A few examples of the areas are: • Reducing conflict • Effective change leadership • Building a culture of trust • Improving teamwork • Better listening skills
Each person has to rate each item on a scale of zero to three. 0 = no need, 1= routine need, 2= important now, and 3= urgent to improve now. The sum of all the opinions gives me a start to know which development areas would be most helpful.
Then I meet with the HR Manager and ask to see any extant data the organization has such as recent quality of worklife surveys, turnover rates, discipline patterns, leadership evaluations, etc.
In some cases where there appears to be trust issues, I have a separate trust survey that not only tells me the level of trust by area, but also what parts of the trust equation need the most work in each area.
For example, the issue of accountability often shows up as an issue that is impacting trust.
I then take all of that data and go back to my office where I have about 120 possible modules of training that could be done. Based on the data I just assembled, I run a “comb” through all of those modules.
Out pops a subset of gaps and opportunities for improvement efforts. It takes me only a couple hours to do this analysis, and I never charge the customer for this service. I go back with the CEO and show him or her the analysis I just completed.
Then I reveal a program that is targeted specifically for that organization and the people in it. By that time, I have a good idea how many sessions will be needed and how much calendar time will be required, so I can give a rough quote for how much it will cost. I share the custom outline of a program with the CEO.
Most times the CEO is flabbergasted with how perfect a fit the development effort is for that particular group. I recall one CEO listening intently as I reviewed a page with seven recommendations for training. He looked at the page and wrote BINGO next to my list.
By this time, the CEO is totally sold on the training, so I give a final quote and begin the specific design work. I customize all the material in the modules for the specific industry so the training is done in their “language.”
I design the various experiential activities such as role plays, body sculpture, games, stories, illusions etc. to fit with this specific group (for example, a training program for a hospital will be different from one for a financial service group).
I then get the materials assembled and go back to discuss how to schedule the training to be most user-friendly to that group. Then we proceed to do the development program I have designed.
My track record using this method is quite high, because I have listened to the client carefully and designed the specific interface that is laser-focused on their needs.
The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.
Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.
OD is short for Organization Development. This is not a new term. Behavioral scientists have been writing about Organization Development for over 40 years. The science has evolved into many different approaches all aimed at the same objective: to enable massive improvements in organizational performance through specific and planned interventions.
I have been involved with hundreds of OD efforts over the past decades. Some of these have resulted in the desired improvement. Some have not. In this article I will reveal some green lights, some caution (yellow lights), and some things to stop doing, or red lights.
Let’s review four major types of OD interventions (there are others, but they are usually variations or combinations of these four):
Although the objective of each of these techniques is the same, the viewpoint and methodology for each is different. I will give my personal views of the strengths and problems with each method from my experience. All of these methods can work. The trick is to match the leadership style and organization culture so that the one selected has the best chance of success in a particular case.
Most OD work is performed with the assistance of trained facilitators. They have the professional training to lead groups through the chaos of change to arrive at the objective. Managers who attempt a “do it yourself” approach to OD work often create more turmoil and make things worse. This is especially true if the leadership dynamic is part of the problem (which is usually the case).
OD work is tricky. It requires the skill of someone trained in this field. Headstrong managers who decide to undertake massive organization change without help are like critically ill patients trying to remove their own appendix. It is not a smart strategy. The flip side is that the effort needs to be owned by the manager rather than the consultant. Leaders who abdicate their responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the organization pay for it with lower trust.
Most organizations contemplating an OD initiative, do so because they are not satisfied with how things are going. If the current trajectory of business is meeting or exceeding goals, there is little impetus for change. The Action Search approach takes on a somewhat negative spin from the outset. The idea is to determine what is wrong and fix it quickly.
The first stage is to gather data. What areas of the business are falling short? How can these be changed to perform better? Unfortunately, many efforts using this technique become “witch hunts” where management looks for scapegoats. The process becomes one of uncovering ugly issues, followed by defensive tactics by those in charge.
Most of us have participated in this type of intervention. It takes place on a regular basis in some companies. Ask yourself how successful these programs have been in your experience. Do they produce positive change, or simply mask more underlying issues while creating interpersonal chaos? My experience indicates this technique should be used only under very tight constraints with ground rules supporting solid values. That does not happen very often. Hence, using Action Research has a real potential to backfire if not managed extremely well.
This approach is the mirror image of the “action research” technique. The process starts by asking what is working well. Groups focus on what is going right rather than what is going wrong. The idea is to find ways of doing more of the right stuff, thus providing less reinforcement for doing the wrong stuff.
This is a much more pleasant process. It feels good to focus on strengths. It also provides a benchmark for improvement. The danger is that groups who are failing miserably can deceive themselves into thinking all they need do is clone the few bright spots to succeed.
I witnessed an example of this, years ago, and it was ugly. One business unit was on the verge of extinction, so they did a three-day exercise in appreciative inquiry. By the end of the exercise, they were celebrating, dancing, and singing about their wonderful opportunities while they were actually going out of business. Six months after the crepe paper, helium balloons, high fives, and “jive dancing,” they were all looking for new jobs.
I believe appreciative inquiry can be much more powerful than action research, but it needs to be tempered by reality. A combination of both methods can avoid a kind of “Pollyanna” view of reality.
In this process, the focus is on the vision rather than the current state. The idea is to get groups engaged in defining a compelling view of the future. When compared to the present, this allows clarification of the gaps between current practices and organizational goals. Outstanding vision is the most powerful force for all individuals and organizations. Here are some comments on vision from my book (Whipple, 2003, p27).
Without a well-defined vision, the organization has no true direction. It is like a ship without a rudder, sailing around at the mercy of the wind, hoping to find a safe port with little chance of reaching one. Creating vision is absolutely essential for any group because it gives a common direction and provides a focus for energy.
Not all vision statements are helpful. Some are relegated to plaques on the wall and ignored. This is a tragedy because an uninspiring vision breeds apathy and is worse than no vision at all. If people point to the vision statement on the wall and say, “that is where we are supposed to be going but they don’t act that way,” you are in trouble.
Getting a great vision is not a 15-minute exercise. Some groups spend months working on developing a good vision statement. The process can get convoluted and burdensome if not handled correctly. If you are adept at facilitating group discussions, you may conduct this yourself.
If not, a professional facilitator would be worth the investment. As the leader, even if you feel qualified to lead the discussion, you still may want to hire an outside person so you can become one of the people developing this material. The danger if you lead the discussion is that you could influence it too heavily.
In general, if a leader brings in a consultant to facilitate a discussion or to assist with a particular instrument or skill set, there is usually a high value.
If the consultant is brought in to get into the trenches and do the dirty work of leadership, it is often a disaster because the consultant can undermine the leader. The leader calls in a consultant and says, “Things are a mess around here and I’m under a lot of pressure. Performance is horrible recently and morale is way down. I haven’t time to fix the problem because I am overloaded just trying to run the business and I have to attend all these management meetings. I need you to assess what is wrong and recommend a program to get back on track. If my team buys into your recommendations, we will let you handle the program.”
This leader probably has lost the ability to lead the organization effectively. As the consultant mucks around trying to understand problems, significant negative energy is unearthed but the consultant doesn’t have the authority to fix these issues. Meanwhile, the leader is “busy running the business,” and being micro-managed by superiors. Morale and performance go down even further until, finally, the leader is simply forced out.
This is why it is important for the leader to be the driving force in creating a vision for the organization. It cannot be delegated to a consultant or even a high-ranking lieutenant. The leader is responsible for making sure the vision statement is clear, compelling, memorable, actionable, and real.
Key ideas for developing a good vision statement:
• Most importantly, make sure your vision tells everyone where the organization is going. A nice sounding phrase that doesn’t have pull makes a poor vision. For a football team “We will be number one in the league within 3 years” is a better vision than “We will improve our position in the rankings every year until we become the top team in the league.”
• Avoid grandiose sweeping statements that are too broad. “We will become the best in the world at computer technology” would be too general and vast for a good vision statement. A better example might be “Our superior microchips will gain 90% market share with computer manufacturers in 5 years.”
• Make sure people can connect their everyday activities to the vision. “Every interface is a chance to bestow great customer service” would allow everyone to view daily activities with customer service getting top billing.
• Keep it short and powerful. Avoid long lists of items that sound good but don’t create a picture. For example, being “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent” may be a good motto for the Boy Scouts, but it would make a terrible vision statement.
• Select colorful words that inspire rather than describe. “Our greeting cards melt the heart and transform the soul” would be superior to “Our greeting cards are better because they make people feel great.”
• Keep it short. The fewer words the better. “Absolutely, positively overnight” is better than “Our packages are guaranteed to arrive by the next day or your money back.”
• Use special words to emphasize your most significant point. “We will never, ever, run out of stock” is better than “We promise to keep our customers needs met by always having stock on hand.”
• Don’t try to be abstract or cute in order to grab attention. “We have the softest software in the nation” might be a slogan helpful on Madison Avenue, but it makes a lousy vision. Instead try “Software delivered on time, every time!”
The initial thoughts often contain the seeds of the eventual finished product. Craft these thoughts into words and images. Sometimes a picture or logo can be enough to communicate a vision, like the Rock of Gibraltar for Prudential Insurance. Other times, it can be a slogan, such as Wegmans Market’s “Every day you get our best” or General Electric’s “We bring good things to life.” The expression needs to have “pull”; it must provide forward momentum.
Communicate the organization’s values and vision to everyone in it. Do this well and often, as it forms the basis of everything to come. Frequently demonstrate your alignment with the vision by naturally working it into conversations. You might say, “Well, let’s call the customer and tell them about this situation. After all, our vision is to put the customer first.”
Whole System Intervention
This is a kind of zero-based approach to OD. In this case, the activities of the organization are viewed through a “systems” approach. The emphasis is on getting a critical mass within the organization to redefine the business. Processes become the focal point for redesign efforts. This is less threatening than the action research technique because of focuses on the “what” and “how” rather than the “who.”
The challenge with a systems approach is that can get pretty complicated. In systems thinking, we try to understand the interrelations between things. This is opposed to the usual linear way of thinking – If we do one thing it results in an effect. In systems thinking we need to understand not only the direct effect of actions but also the side effects. If leaders are unhappy with performance, they need to look at their system because it is perfectly designed to give exactly the result they are getting. Trying to untangle what is hurting the system and streamline the process for a better result can get convoluted.
The four OD interventions described in this article are the cornerstones for organizational improvement. They need to be applied with care and judgment to be effective. When OD activities go awry, the “cure” is often worse than the “disease.” With the health, or even survival, of the organization at stake, it is important to do this work carefully with the assistance of an expert.
The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.
Robert Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind 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.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
In any organization, change is a given, so every supervisor has a choice: she can either choose to endure the changes or she can learn to manage the changes in order to thrive.
This article is about the tools needed to manage change in a proactive and pragmatic way.
For the supervisor the challenge is to not only learn to manage change in her own mind but also teach the people who report to her how to deal with change.
Simply stated, there is no option to avoid change, but there are effective ways to deal with it. The following tips are things that I find helpful when teaching leaders to manage change.
1. Help people understand the need for change
The best way to describe this tip is the old “boiled frog” analogy. If you place a frog into boiling water, it will feel the heat immediately and jump out. But, if you put a frog into a pan of cool water and slowly heat it up, the frog will sit there and boil to death.
It becomes used to the heat and cannot feel the danger until it’s too late. Good supervisors make sure that people feel the “heat” early enough.
2. Communicate a compelling vision of the future
It is incumbent on the supervisor to not only let people know they will be better off once they reach the vision but that it is worth the effort to get there.
In other words, if the supervisor extols the benefits of the view that awaits from the top of Mount Everest, but fails to generate enough enthusiasm to make the arduous climb worth it, the vision is worthless.
I wrote in one of my books that
“Leaders are the artists who paint the vision of the future on the canvass of today’s paradigm.”
This means that not only must the image itself be compelling but the supervisor must paint a pathway to the futureto make it real.
3. Build an environment of TRUST
Supervisors interact with many people and build trust-based relationships with each of them. Trust between people can be compared to a bank account, where actions consistent with shared values represent deposits and inconsistent actions represent withdrawals.
Every action, word, or decision between individuals either adds to or detracts from the balance. It is a very sensitive system that can be affected even by subconscious thoughts or small gestures.
Making small or medium deposits is easy, but large deposits are rare. I advocate a four-step plan to build trust with people that I call “reinforcing candor.”
a. Start by laying a firm foundation with your team. Identify the values of your group along with a clear vision, behavior expectations and strategic plan.
b. Encourage people to tell you any time they believe your actions are not congruent with your foundation.
c. Reinforce them every time they do it, no matter how challenging that is. Make them glad they told you about it.
d. Take appropriate corrective action or help people think through the apparent paradox.
4. Value diverse opinions
People closest to the work generally have the best solutions. Supervisors need to tap into the creative ideas of everyone in the organization to allow successful change initiatives.
This also allows people to “own” the change process rather than perceive it as a management “trick” to get more work for less money.
5. Ability to accept risk
No progress is made without some kind of risk. As a supervisor, you need to empower people so they feel free to try and not get squashed if they fail.
Tolerate setbacks along the road to success and don’t lose faith in the eventual outcome.
Try to manage the risk so the consequences are minor, if failure occurs. For example, have a back up plan in place for changes that involve risk.
6. Build a reinforcing culture
Many groups struggle in a kind of hell where people hate and try to undermine one another at every turn. They snipe at each other and “blow people in,” just to see them suffer or to get even for some perceived sin done to them. What an awful environment to live and work in, yet it is far too common.
Contrast this with a group that builds each other up and delights in each other’s successes. These groups have much more fun. They enjoy interfacing with their comrades at work. They are also about twice as productive!
You see them together outside work for social events and there are close family-type relationships in evidence. Hugging is spontaneous.
Let your reinforcement be joyous and spontaneous. Let people help you make it special. Reinforcement is the most powerful elixir available to a supervisor.
Don’t shy away from it because it’s difficult or you’ve made mistakes in the past; embrace it.
7. Integrate new methods into the culture
Document new procedures in a user friendly way; avoid long complex manuals that nobody has the time to read. Have a check list for new employees and make sure they understand the culture. Reinforce consistent behaviors.
8. Foster constancy of purpose
Effective change programs require constancy of purpose. Avoid the “flavor of the month.” Expect setbacks as part of the process and don’t jump ship to a new program when things get rough. Don’t call it a “program”. Instead refer to it as our culture.
9. Understand the psychology of change
If you think of change as a system, you can help people through the process more quickly. Recognize there will be times of confusion or anger, and use the energy to propel the process forward rather than slow it down.
I favor using the Kűbler-Ross Model of the five stages of grief to help teams move through the phases of dealing with change. The stages are:
4) Depression, and
I have found that using this model to explain why people are struggling at times with a change helps them move toward acceptance much faster.
Being a supervisor carries a mandate that you help manage the change process so improvements can be made without having the people become dysfunctional in the process.
It is your responsibility to accomplish change on a frequent basis. Using the nine tips above will make it possible for you to excel at this critical leadership skill.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. 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 http://www.Leadergrow.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763
When was the last time you really enjoyed going to work? The unfortunate truth is that only about a third of people are engaged in their work, according to Gallup measurements, and the statistic is remarkably stubborn.
The other two thirds go to work each day in a zombie-like state where they go through the motions all day and try to stay out of trouble with the boss, their peers, or their subordinates.
Work life is often a meaningless array of busywork foisted upon them by the clueless morons who run the place. They hate the environment and intensely dislike their co-workers. Their suffering is tolerated only because there is no viable option for them to survive. What a pity that anyone would spend even a single day on this earth in such a hopeless atmosphere.
We can fault the individuals who allow themselves to be trapped in this way, but I believe the environment created by leaders has a great deal to do with this malaise. Reason: if you put these same individuals in an environment of trust and challenge, nearly all of them would quickly rise up to become happy and productive workers.
It is essential that each individual in the workforce find real meaning in the work being done, and the responsibility is on leaders to make that happen.
Some good research into this conundrum was presented by Viktor Frankl more than a half century ago in his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl posits that it “is a peculiarity of man that he must have something significant yet to do in his life, for that is what gives meaning to life.” He discovered this universally human trait while surviving the most horrible of life conditions in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
One cannot imagine a more oppressive environment, but believe it or not, many people at work feel like they are in a kind of concentration camp. The antidote is for leaders to create something significant yet to do.
Dave and Wendy Ulrich, co-authors of The Why of Work put it this way. “In organizations, meaning and abundance are more about what we do with what we have than about what we have to begin with.” They point out that workers are in some ways like volunteers who can choose where they allocate their time and energy. For their own peace and health, it is imperative that workers feel connected to the meaning of their work.
What can leaders do to ensure the maximum number of people have a sense of purpose and meaning in their work? Here are a dozen ideas that can help.
1. Create a positive vision of the future. Vision is critical because without it people see no sense of direction for their work. If we have a common goal, then it is possible to actually get excited about the future.
2. Generate 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. The most significant way leaders help create trust is by rewarding candor, which is accomplished by not punishing people for speaking their truth.
3. Build morale the right way. This means not trying to motivate people by adding hygiene factors like picnics, bonuses, or hat days. Create motivation by treating people with respect and giving them autonomy. Leaders do not motivate people, rather they create the environment where people decide whether to become motivated. This sounds like doubletalk, but it is a powerful message most leaders do not understand.
4. Recognize and celebrate excellence. Reinforcement is the most powerful tool leaders have for changing behavior. Leaders need to learn how to reinforce well and avoid the mine-field of reinforcement mistakes that are easy to make.
5. Treat people right. In most cases focusing on the Golden Rule works well. In some extreme cases the Golden Rule will not be wise because not all individuals want to be treated the same way. Use of the Platinum Rule (Treat others the way they would like to be treated) can be helpful as long as it is not taken to a literal extreme.
6. Communicate more and better. People have an unquenchable thirst for information. Lack of communication is the most often mentioned grievance in any organization. Get some good training on how to communicate in all modes and practice all the time.
7. Unleash maximum discretionary effort in people. People give effort to the organization out of choice, not out of duty. Understand what drives individuals to make a contribution and be sure to provide that element daily. Do not try to apply the same techniques to all individuals or all situations.
8. Have high ethical and moral standards. Operate from a set of values and make sure people know why those values are important. Leaders need to always live their values.
9. Lead change well. Change processes are in play in every organization daily, yet most leaders are poor at managing change. Study the techniques of successful change so people do not become confused and disoriented.
10. Challenge people and set high expectations. People will rise to a challenge if it is properly presented and managed. Challenged individuals are people who have found meaning in their work.
11. Operate with high Emotional Intelligence. The ability to work well with people, upward, sideways, and downward allows things to work smoothly. Without Emotional Intelligence, leaders do not have the ability to transform intentions into meaning within people.
12. Build High Performing Teams. A sense of purpose is enhanced if there is a kind of peer pressure brought on by good teamwork. Foster great togetherness of teams so people will relate to their tasks instinctively.
This is a substantial list of items, but most of them are common sense. Unfortunately they are not common practice in many organizations. If you want to have people rise to their level of potential, they must all have a sense of meaning. To accomplish that, focus on the above items, and see a remarkable transformation in your organization.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at email@example.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.
At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions of how they would like to change for the future. A couple months later, most of the resolutions have been set aside. 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.
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. If we seek to improve our current process just a little bit every day, then 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. Often we cannot tell until weeks down the road that the change we make today is really 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.
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 obvious downside with revolutionary change is that the risk of failure is high, but so is the payoff 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. It was called “The Western Roll.” Jumpers would flatten out with stomach to the ground and kick out 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. The technique was called the “Fosbury Flop,” and 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. For example, in olden days, people had to tie thin straps around their clothes or 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 60 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 can be used in a slightly different way.
It is this combination of revolutionary ideas in conjunction with incremental changes that has the most power for organizations.
Whether it be in the products they make or the processes they use, there should be both a constant drive for incremental change as well as the investment and alertness for revolutionary change to maximize forward progress.
Is it possible to make major organizational transitions without catastrophic loss of trust? I think there is, but the odds are against you unless you change the conventional thinking process. What is required is a new approach toward navigating organizational change.
My new book, Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, will be launched on August 18, 2014 by ASTD Press and is currently available for preorder.
The book is about how organizations must do a better job of preserving and enhancing trust when they go through changes such as reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, or other restructurings.
Your purchase of the book includes access to a set of videos that enhance several of the key points.
There are numerous books on managing change, and many books and articles on M&As. My book is unique in that it focuses on the actions and behaviors needed to maintain the vital trust between people and organizational layers during the process of change.
A link between trust and organizational performance has been demonstrated in numerous studies. The correlation is strong, and the leverage offered by high trust is impressive. Most studies show a two to five times productivity benefit in high trust groups over low trust groups.
Can you name any other single factor that can offer a 200% improvement in productivity?
When organizations contemplate changes, the manner in which the effort is planned, organized, announced, managed, and led has everything to do with the impact on trust.
Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the changes end up having a profound negative impact on the culture just when trust is needed the most. This condition ends up undermining the change effort and leads to a documented dismal track record of almost 80% of transitions not living up to expectations.
Thankfully, failure can be avoided by taking steps right from the start of a change process to act differently and prevent problems from occurring. The old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true for this situation.
If some changes in mindset can be accomplished from the earliest plans for a change, the ability to retain or even grow trust during change is possible.
My book is about how to break the cycle of change failure by focusing as much effort on the cultural integration as on the mechanical parts of the change process.
Unfortunately many leaders have had professional training in the MBA schools that emphasizes the mechanical aspects of the change process such as negotiation, due diligence, financial valuation, or legal implications.
These subjects are critical in transitions, but they should not squeeze out the considerations of how to get people to work well together during and after the transition.
The focus on the financial and legal implications of a change are forced on center stage, and what ends up back in the wings is the fragile culture of trust between people in the organization. That is a problem, because the end result is a change effort that works well on paper but often fails to meet expectations in the real world.
The book contains dozens of areas where leaders unwittingly make errors in judgment which undermine the changes all along the way. By following a parallel path that works just as hard on the culture as the deal, leaders can greatly improve the odds of success.
I will provide a series of articles on this blog over the next few months that look at different aspects of the change process to suggest pragmatic antidotes to common problems.
Investing more leadership attention to the culture early in the change process will have a profound positive impact on the success rate.
I hope you find the tips I offer in the book and in future articles to be helpful at preserving trust in your organization. Nothing could be more vital for your ultimate success.
Trust and integrity are inextricably linked. I believe before you can trust other people, you must trust yourself. That means you must not be fighting with yourself in any way, which is a pretty tall order. Integrity is about what you do or think when nobody else in the world would know. It is an interesting topic because it is very difficult to determine your own personal level of integrity.
We all justify ourselves internally for most of the things we do. We have it figured out that to take a pencil home from work is no big deal because we frequently do work from home. We drive 5 mph over the speed limit because not doing so would cause a traffic hazard while everyone else is going 10 mph over the limit. We taste a grape at the grocery store as a way to influence our buying decision. When we are short changed, we complain, but when the error is in the other direction, we pocket the cash. We lie about our age. We sneak cookies. If you have never done any of these things, let me know, and I will nominate you for sainthood.
There are some times in life when we do something known by us to be illegal, immoral, or dumb. We do these things because they are available to us and we explain the sin with an excuse like “nobody’s perfect.” I guess that is true that all people (except newborns) have done something of which to be ashamed. So what is the big deal? Since we all sin, why not relax and enjoy the ride?
The conundrum is where to draw a moral line in the sand. Can we do something that is wrong and learn from that error so we do not repeat it in the future? I think we can. I believe we have not only the ability but the mandate to continually upgrade our personal integrity. Here are seven ideas that can help the process:
1. Reward yourself – When you are honest with yourself about something you did that was wrong, that is personal growth, and you should feel great about that.
2. Intend to change – Once you have become conscious of how you rationalized yourself into doing something unethical, vow to change your behavior in that area.
3. Reinforce others – Sometimes other people will let you know something you did, or are about to do, is not right. Thank these people sincerely, for they are giving you the potential for personal growth.
4. Check In with yourself – Do a scan of your own behaviors and actions regularly to see how you are doing. Many people just go along day by day and do not take the time or effort to examine themselves.
5. Recognize Rationalization – We all rationalize every day. By simply turning up the volume on your conscience, you can be more alert to the temptations before you. That thought pattern will allow more conscious choices in the future.
6. Break habits – Many incorrect things come as a result of bad habits. Expose your own habits and ask if they are truly healthy for you.
7. Help others – Without being sanctimonious, help other people see when they have an opportunity to grow in integrity. Do this without blame or condemnation; instead do it with love and helpfulness.
We need to build our own internal trust so we can trust other people more. To do that, it is important to follow the seven ideas listed above. These ideas will allow you to move consciously in a direction of higher personal integrity.
Apathetic people exist in every organization. One can fault workers who allow themselves to be trapped in a state of despair. Managers typically describe these people as having “bad attitudes,” but the culture created by leaders is often the root cause of the problem. If these same individuals are put in a culture of trust, respect, and challenge, many of them will 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
• Values and norms
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?
• 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?
What can leaders do to ensure that the right culture is built and people have a sense of purpose and meaning in their work? Here are eight approaches that have been 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. The essence of values needs to be implanted in the hearts and minds of everyone, and behaviors need to be consistent with them. A plaque on the wall does not make for good values. People living up to their highest standards makes for good values and an environment where people can trust each other and their leaders. It has to start with the leaders.
2. Operate with high Emotional Intelligence. The ability to work well with people is critical. Without Emotional Intelligence, leaders do not have the skill to transform intentions into meaning within people. Leaders with low Emotional Intelligence also have the most significant blind spots in how they are perceived by other people, as documented by Daniel Goleman.
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. The most significant way leaders help create trust is by rewarding candor, which is accomplished by not punishing people for speaking their truth. Most leaders find it difficult to reward candor, but it is the heart of great leadership, as documented by Warren Bennis. Trust is also enabled by a shared set of goals or vision.
4. Create a positive vision of the future. Vision is critical, because without it people see no sense of direction for their work. If people have a common goal, and it is communicated well, then it is possible for them to support each other and actually get excited about the future. People have an unquenchable thirst for information. Monthly newsletters and occasional Town Hall Meetings do not constitute adequate communication. People must feel informed and “in the loop” every day. Having a positive vision of the future, and being able to communicate it well, enables the inevitable change process to be more effective.
5. Lead change well. Change processes are in play in every organization daily, yet most leaders struggle with change processes. Using a change model can help people deal with the challenges of constantly changing conditions. An example is to use the grief counseling process where leaders help people cope with the four phases of change: 1) Anticipation, 2) Ending, 3) Transition, and 4) Beginning. People will rise to a challenge if it is properly presented and managed. Challenge is different from constant demands to perform at levels beyond reason, which leads to resentment and burnout. Properly designed, challenges help people find meaning in their work, which keeps them from becoming apathetic and helps enable strong teamwork.
6. Build High Performing Teams. A sense of purpose is enhanced if there is a kind of peer cohesion brought on by good teamwork. Great teams derive an adrenalin rush from achieving results against high goals. Foster togetherness in teams so people will relate to their tasks instinctively. High performing teams need a common goal, trust in team members, and good leadership. Strong teams help build enthusiasm and morale.
7. Build morale the right way. Motivation is derived by treating people with respect and giving them clear vision and autonomy. Avoid trying to motivate people by adding hygiene factors, like picnics, bonuses, or hat days. The acid test is whether a manager frequently uses the word “motivate” as a verb. If a manager constantly says things like “we have to find a way to motivate them,” it indicates a poor understanding of the nature of true motivation. A better approach is to use the word “motivation” as a noun. Motivation is the outcome of a great culture rather than something one does unto other people. Building motivation also means treating people the right way, which includes good reinforcement.
8. Recognize and celebrate excellence. Reinforcement is the most powerful tool leaders have for changing behavior. In a learning environment, errors in reinforcement provide clues to how an improved system of reward and recognition can enhance the meaning of work. Leaders need to learn how to reinforce well and avoid the minefield of reinforcement mistakes that are easy to make. For example:
• Do not try to apply the same reinforcement techniques to all individuals or all situations.
• Avoid too much use of trivial trinkets like t-shirts or hats.
• Make sure the recognition is truly reinforcing to each individual.
• Ensure fairness when reinforcing individuals or groups.
Most of the above concepts sound like common sense; unfortunately, they are not common practice in many groups, which 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.