Successful Supervisor 44 – Managing Change for Results

September 17, 2017

John F. Kennedy once said,

“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 future to 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:

1) Denial,

2) Anger,

3) Bargaining,

4) Depression, and

5) Acceptance.

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.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

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, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Leaders: Wag More, Bark Less

February 28, 2015

dogI confess, this title was not made up by me. My wife saw a bumper sticker with this sentiment and shared it with me.

I think the basic wisdom in the phrase is great and wish there was a way to get some managers to understand the simple logic here. Why is it that some bosses feel compelled to bark when wagging is a much more expedient way to bring out the best in people?

The barking dog is simply doing its job. The dog only knows that to defend his territory, he needs to sound off at anything that might encroach.

The frequency of barking is an interesting aspect. Why does the dog bark at intervals less than about 10 seconds?

Is it because he has a short memory and can’t remember that he just barked? Is it because the potential invaders of his territory need to be reminded every few seconds that he is still around? Is it because he simply enjoys keeping the neighbors up all night?

Is he showing off his prowess or having some kind of dog-world conversation with the mutt down the street? I think all of these things could be factors in the frequency of barking, but I suspect the primary reason is a show of persistence.

The message we get from the barking dog is “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance.”

In the workplace, if a manager sends a signal, “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance,” the workforce is going to get the message and comply.

Unfortunately with just compliance, group performance and morale are going to be awful, but the decibel level will at least keep everyone awake.

When a dog wags its tail, that is a genuine sign of happiness and affection. You can observe the rate of wagging and determine the extent of the dog’s glee.

Sometimes the wag is slow, which indicates everything is okay, and life is good. When you come home at night and the dog is all excited to see you, most likely the wag is more of a blur, and it seems to come from way up in the spine area.

The wag indicates, “I love you, I am glad you are here, you are a good person to me, and will you take me for a walk?”

Dogs are incredibly loyal, even beyond human reason. For example, I am reminded of the picture of a Labrador Retriever lying next to the coffin of his master who was killed in Afghanistan. The dog refused to leave the area.

Even when a dog is not treated well, it does not become critical or judgmental. The wag is not withheld because the dog had a bad day. The dog looks for the good and appreciates it. The dog is ever hopeful, ever optimistic, ever grateful. The wag is still there unless the dog is seriously sick. It is amazing.

A manager who wags more and barks less gets more cooperation. Life is better for people working for this manager, and they simply perform better.

Showing appreciation through good reinforcement is the more enlightened way to manage, yet we still see many managers barking as their main communication with people. Look for the good in people, and appreciate it. Try to modify your bark to wag ratio and see if you get better results over time.


Smart Pill for Leaders

September 20, 2014

Smart Pill croppedOne of my leadership students laments that some of the decisions the leaders in his organization make relative to policies and size of workforce are not smart.

These decisions reflect a misunderstanding of their impact, so 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, which 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 and have taught leaders how to administer this magic potion for quite a while.

Leaders need a way to determine the impact of their decisions on the organization at the time of making those decisions. This knowledge will reduce the number of wrong-headed actions.

Picture a leader of 90 individuals. There are exactly 90 people who are capable of telling her the truth about the impact of poor decisions before she makes them. They would gladly do this if the leader had established an environment where it is safe to challenge an idea generated in her mind. How would a leader go about creating such an environment?

If a leader makes people glad when they tell her things she was really not eager to hear, 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 really dumb.

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

Sometimes, due to a leader’s perspective, what may seem dumb to underlings may, in fact, be the smart thing to do. In this case the leader needs to educate the doubting underling on why the decision really does make sense. Here is an eight-step formula that constitutes a “smart” pill.

1. As much as possible, 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 that were 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 the course of action.

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 normally be a problem.

The leader not only needs to encourage people to speak up but give coaching as to how and when to do it effectively. Often this means encouraging people to give their concern in private and with 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.

It is critical to have a response pattern that praises and reinforces people when they speak the truth, even if it flies in the face of what the leader wants to do. People then become open and more willing to confront the leader when her judgment seems wrong.

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, especially if they are accusatory or given in the wrong forum.

Most leaders are capable of making people who challenge them happy about it only a tiny fraction of the time, let’s say 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.

It is important to 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, consider the veracity of the input, and honestly take the concern into account in deciding what to do.

In many situations, the leader will elect to go ahead with the original action, but she will now understand the potential ramifications better.

By sincerely thanking the person who pointed out the possible pitfall, the leader makes that individual happy she brought it up. Other people will take the risk in the future. That changes everything, and the leader now has an effective “smart” pill.


7 Ways to Improve Your Integrity

August 12, 2012

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.


Changing Attitudes

July 4, 2011

We have all heard the sayings about attitude. From the pulpit to the boardroom, and even to the barroom, you can hear things like:

• What governs your happiness in life is not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you.
• You must approach people with an attitude of gratitude.
• The most important word that governs your success in life is attitude.
• To change your life for the better, change your attitude about life.
• A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
• Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.
• If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.

After a while these platitudes lose their meaning due to oversaturation. For this article, I wanted to dig beyond the catchy phrases and get back to what attitude really is and how we all can do a better job of controlling our own and coaching others to improve theirs.

When circumstances or other forces prevent us from experiencing life in a way that makes the most sense to us, we often turn sour and develop what is known as a bad attitude. This becomes manifest in numerous familiar ways from pouting, to doubting, to shouting, and even to clouting.

Is there a universal secret that can help people keep a more positive attitude most of the time? Let me share two extremes. I know a woman who wears a pin with ruby slippers on it. She is like a ray of sunshine who is on a constant crusade to spread as much cheer as she can with everyone. Does she ever have a bad day? I’ll bet she does, but I have never seen her really down. She lives in a very nice world, even when some people are not very nice to her.

I ran into another woman in a hair salon this past week. I went into a strange place because I had some time to kill. The woman spoke in a constant stream of babble. She literally could not stop talking at all. Every phrase she uttered was negative. For her, the world is the pits, and she is forced to endure a steady stream of evil. I marvel over these two extremes. Ask yourself seriously, where on the scale between these two extremes do you reside most of the time.

I need to make a distinction here between the majority of people who have some control over their thoughts and the few people who have deep psychological problems based on disease or prior traumas. There are people who feel they must lash back at the world because of what they have been forced to endure. Perhaps it was some kind of physical or mental abuse when they were a child. Perhaps there was a total betrayal by a trusted loved one. For these people, trying to alter their mental state by thinking positive thoughts might further repress some gremlins that need to come out with professional help. For the majority of folks, even though we have some issues to resolve, learning to have a more positive attitude could be a major step forward in terms of leading a happier life.

The greatest power God gave us is the power to choose. I learned that from Lou Holtz 25 years ago in a video entitled “Do Right.” What Lou meant is that the choice is ours where we exist on the scale of attitude. So, how come many people choose to dwell on the negative side of life? Is it because they enjoy being miserable? I think not. I believe if a person realizes there is a more enjoyable place to dwell, he or she will do the inner work necessary to gravitate toward it. The reason many people live in misery is because they simply do not know or fail to remember that they have the power to change their condition. It is there all the time, if they will only recognize and use the power. In the song “Already Gone” by The Eagles, is a profound lyric, “So often times it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”

What trick of the mind can we use to remember the power we have over our thoughts? It is simple. We need to deal with root issues and then train our brain to think in a different pattern. It has been proven that habitual thought patterns can be changed simply by replacing bad thoughts with good ones consistently for about a month. That is long enough to reprogram our brain to overcome a lifetime of negative attitudes and thoughts. There is a simple process that is guaranteed to work if we will only use it consistently.

Step 1 – Catch yourself having a negative thought.

This is the part where most people fail. They simply do not recognize they are having negative thoughts, so no correction is possible. Through the power of this article, you now have the gift (if you chose to use it) of catching the negative thought next time you have one. Use that power!

Step 2 – Replace the negative thought with a positive one.

Mechanically reject the negative thought and figure out a way to turn it to an advantage. Napoleon Hill had a great technique for doing this. He posited that every bad situation contained the seed of an equivalent benefit. When something negative happened, rather than lamenting, he would fix his energy on finding the seed of the equivalent benefit. With practice, it is possible to do this nearly all of the time.

Step 3 – You must praise yourself for rejecting the bad thought and replacing it with a good one.

Why? Because the road to changing a lifetime of negativity is long and hard. You need encouragement along the way to recognize that you are literally reinventing your entire self through the power of your mind. One might think this is impossible objectively, but you are accomplishing it. I read a joke that it is great to be a youth because you do not have the experience to know that it is physically impossible to do what you are doing. Every time you praise yourself for taking the initiative to change your attitude, you make the next life-changing attitude adjustment easier to make. Thus, you can begin to form a habit of changing the way you think. Presto, a month later the world will see a new and much more positive you.

The good news is that this three-step process takes no time out of your busy day. It costs absolutely nothing to do it, yet it can literally transform the only thing in life that really counts – the quality of your life.

The amazing thing about this technique is that it can be taught to others rather easily. The idea is so simple it can be understood in a five minute discussion, yet the benefits are so powerful it can make a huge difference in the life of the other person. I recommend you try this method of self-improvement for a month and experience the benefits. Once you do, then help some people who are miserable to improve their lot in life by applying this process.


The First Law of Building Trust

May 3, 2010

What advice do you give others and yourself on how to build higher levels of trust? We all know trust is a key ingredient for any organization to be successful. In these in draconian times, many leaders find the ability to build and maintain trust is next to impossible.

There are countless books and articles on leadership. Many of them focus on the area of building trust. Often these writings focus on what a leader needs to have in order to build trust. For example, one author suggests that a leader must have both credibility and character to garner higher trust. I agree with those two elements, but my focus is on helping leaders change what they do. If you change what you do, then you change who you are, and you get better results.

Of all the trust building skills leaders possess, the ability to reinforce candor is the most powerful and elusive. This is the behavior of making people feel glad when they bring up something a leader has done that they feel is not right. Most leaders find it impossible to reinforce people when they offer a candid critique. Reason: Leaders act from their own paradigm of what is right, so when an employee suggests an action is wrong, they get defensive and push back. This has the effect of punishing the employee for being candid.

If we can teach leaders to reinforce people when they speak their truth, those leaders will have a giant head start at building trust. It is not rocket science: it is much more important than rocket science.

In my business, I coach leaders every day on how to be more effective. There are a thousand things to think about when trying to lead an organization effectively. These skills range from being consistent to preventing the formation of exclusive cliques or even just how to write an effective e-mail message.

The first skill I work to instill in any leader is the ability to reinforce candor. Why? If leaders gain the ability and humility to accomplish this feat, they will find all the other leadership skills and traits come easily. If they cannot reinforce candor, then the other skills or activities of leadership will be blunted and ineffective.

If you are interested in further information on the power of reinforcing candor and how to accomplish it, you can reference the attached white paper. This is a brief (2 ¼ page) excerpt from my latest book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind.
http://www.leadergrow.com/Reinforce-Candor-It-Builds-Trust-and-Transparency.pdf