Friday, 12 September 2014

Can you change people with a free t-shirt?


Years ago, I facilitated a workshop on a new approach to creating commercial strategy. It had just been launched globally and the North America leadership team was reviewing it for the first time.


The leader, who had just joined the company, sarcastically said, "Ya, I have already got that t-shirt." Unsurprisingly, he didn't support the initiative and it wasn't fully adopted.

The leader's point was that he had seen similar initiatives in his career and had reservations about the implications of the new rules around strategy. It didn't make sense for his region.The free t-shirt comment referred to a typical promotional item given out during project launches. The posters and mugs didn't sway his views.

I wondered if other people felt that way. Did people value the promotional material that accompanies big change initiatives? Did the free stuff make them more open to new concepts and ways of working?

I thought of these questions last Sunday when I ran the Bang & Olfsen 5K Yorkville run. It is common for charity races to offer a race t-shirt and free samples as a perk for signing up and paying the admission fee. 

This year, The B&O 5K team offered the best kit I have ever seen including a pair of B&O PLAY Form 2 headphones, sport-fuelling starter kit from Vega, premium tea package from David's Tea, voucher to download free professional race photos and a New Balance technical t-shirt. Incredible!

I wondered whether the t-shirt +++ kit encouraged interest in the race, perhaps over other races. Did the kit make a difference? 

I think the kit piqued interest about the race, however, it wasn't the deciding factor to sign up. People signed up for what the race offered: a chance to see the fastest 5K runners in the country as part of the Canadian 5K Road Race championship, a course that is flat and fast, a very professionally organized race for five years running, fun after-race festivities and the ability to fund raise $200,000 for local charities. This is an excellent race.

The same holds true for promotional materials associated with organizational changes: they can create excitement and interest in the change, but won't sway people's views if it doesn't make sense for the business or its employees. 

So, should you offer promotional items to support change initiatives? Yes, it helps the initial engagement process. Is it more important to effectively communicate the change so people understand how it will benefit the organization and its employees? Absolutely. If not, then people will already have that t-shirt.

Phil

Friday, 5 September 2014

What to do When Leaders Don't Lead Change Well

There are many studies that cite change leadership as the most important factor contributing to successful transitions. Over the the last three years in consulting, I have had the opportunity to test this assertion by observing how different organizations view the roles of change leaders.

Progressive organizations define the change leader's role and ensure that all leaders are aware of the activities they must perform. The best ones define specific roles for senior leaders and managers that match their levels of seniority and spans of influence. Change capability is valued, invested in and rewarded.

Other organizations have a laissez faire approach to change leadership. The change leader's role is defined by individual leaders based on their mindset and abilities. There is an unspoken organizational belief that leaders will know how to manage change challenges because of their senior roles and assumed skill set. Change capability is assumed, not an area of focus and not rewarded.

Unsurprisingly, the "they will know what to do" approach doesn't work. Leaders act and behave based on their personal styles and skill sets, and therefore act inconsistently to challenges with varying levels of success. Mixed messages are communicated and confusion ensues, which leads to distraction, loss of focus and lower performance.

So, what do you do when leaders don't lead change well? There are three options:

  • Build your leader's desire and ability to take on the change role
  • Get another leader to take on the change role
  • Take on the change role yourself

Build your leader's desire and ability to take on the change role
The upside of this approach is that leaders perform the leadership change role themselves. As long as they buy into the rationale for the roles and  perform the activities, their abilities will improve and benefits will be gained.

The downside of this approach is that mindsets are difficult to change and the leader my not value your rationale enough to change their behaviour. If so, there still is value in negotiating with them to perform some activities such as communication and removal of obstacles.

Get another leader to take on the change role
The upside of this approach is that another, well-skilled and motivated leader will effectively perform the leadership activities and produce immediate results. Natural change leaders understand the importance of change leadership and take pride in taking on the leader activities.

The downside of this approach is that you need to position the request in a way that avoids personal politics among leaders. Also, it can be difficult to convince a leader to take on a significant commitment that maybe outside their mandate.

Take on the change role yourself
The upside of this approach is that you have the most control of how the role will be fulfilled; you will guide how communications are made, obstacles are escalated and active and visible support is provided.

The downside of this approach is that you are not the best person to take on the change role and its support activities. Benefits will be realized but you may not have sufficient influence to manage issues and get problems resolved. You will also need to position your activities in a way that avoids personal politics.

Gaps in change leadership are common and contribute to many change failures. You have options to address when leaders don't lead change well so that transitions are successful. The upside of all of them is they give you the opportunity to demonstrate your change leadership skills.

Phil

Friday, 29 August 2014

How to Help People Manage Their Emotions Just Before a Change


Most people behave differently just before they experience a significant change. Supporting people when they must bridge their current and future circumstances can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful transition. 

During this time, most people express emotions associated with anticipationexcitement, fear, anxiety, blind optimism, sadness, etc. The spontaneous nature of these emotions leads to their amplification. Not managing them leads to distraction and poses a risk to taking on new ways of thinking and acting.

Since people express different emotions at different times with different intensitiesminimizing the likelihood of experiencing them is a more productive approach than just addressing them after they are expressed.

So how do you help people through this short, but intense, phase of transition? Here are some actions you can take:

Encourage people to appreciate what they are leaving behind
Every individual aor group has traditions and practices that define them. Reliving these practices either through doing them or storytelling can provide closure to the way things were.

Remind people of the benefits of what they are taking on
Although this is something that is important through all stages of change, it is essential just before people take on new and often uncomfortable ways of behaving. Remembering the ‘why’ behind the change can help justify the anticipated pain of experiencing it.

Offer multiple types of support as people take on the change
Demonstrating how people will be supported through their transition can reassure them that they are not alone. Easily accessible assistance can help minimize the anxiety caused by thinking about the unknown. Offering multiple types of support demonstrates commitment and builds confidence that things will be okay.

This week, my family has been anticipating a significant change. Our eldest son, Sam, is going to university in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1,800 kilometres away from our home.


My emotions have been varied and intense--everything from pride and excitement, to sadness and nostalgic longing. It has been distracting, but I have been determined not to let it be a risk to our transition. Here are some actions we have taken:

Encourage people to appreciate what they are leaving behind
Sam has had many get-togethers and a party this week. Making them fun and festive was our family's priority. We have also spent a lot of time doing and reminiscing about our traditions.

Remind people of the benefits of what they are taking on
This is an easy one. Sam is entering an exciting time in his life where he will gain new experiences and meet new friends. Living in a new city will be an adventure too. He is going to grow in many ways and everyone is talking about his journey.

Offer multiple types of support as people take on the change
We have turned Sam's move into a family vacation. Barb and Sam are en route to Halifax, and Charlie and I will be flying today to join them. We will be with Sam for three days followed by numerous video and phone calls, correspondence. He may not have time to study. 

Helping people manage their emotions and behaviours before they experience a significant change directly impacts their ability to successfully make their transition. This is true of business and personal changes. A few actions can help ease transitions, as we are finding out now.

Phil

Friday, 22 August 2014

Twelve Traits of a Change Agile Organization

Change agility is rapidly becoming a key skill of successful organizations. It is the ability to quickly respond to new developments—consumer choices, competitive threats, economic conditions, government regulations, etc.—so that opportunities are realized and challenges are managed.

Many common practices slow down an organization's response rate. Annual strategic planning, siloed resource management and static personal objectives (and incentives) encourage leaders and their teams to complete their commitments as originally agreed, regardless of its current importance. 

Agile organizations align three drivers of speed: leadership, resourcing and culture. Here are traits of a nimble organization: 

Leaders:

  • View change initiatives as a portfolio of opportunities versus a list of projects managed separately
  • Know their roles in change including acting as an unbiased assessor of value delivery
  • Are prepared to alter assumptions about an initiative even if it means changing direction and abandoning unproductive work 
  • Own the success of the change after it is launched


Resources:


  • Are assigned to the highest priority changes according to need versus negotiated minimum requirements
  • Have right people selected for key change roles including experience, capability and motivation
  • Are easily transferable across initiatives and roles
  • Are dedicated to measurement of benefits and continuous improvement


People:
  • See change as an enabler of ongoing success versus something to get through now
  • Understand the organization's vision and how the change initiatives will help achieve it
  • Give honest feedback that is listened to and rewarded
  • Discuss, share and follow lessons learned

An organization's ability to quickly change how it operates to achieve its goals is a key ability to ongoing success. As the speed of change continues to increase, it may not be an option. Adopting these traits could be a good start.

Phil

Friday, 15 August 2014

How to Lead Yourself Through Change


Constant change has become a day-to-day reality for most organizations. They must adapt to the changing needs and requirements of their stakeholders, often reshaping their portfolio of change initiatives before they are implemented.

The ability to be your best while accommodating a moving change agenda is a must-have skill for leaders, managers and their team members. People must work through their own reactions to disruption before they can effectively manage it. Those who respond with their initial mindset, feelings and behaviours tend to show their worst and accomplish the least.

Here are some tips to help you manage through continual redefinition of change:

Take time to reflect on the change
Everyone goes through an emotional cycle when faced with change. Before reacting, invest time in thinking through the change including the reasons behind it, how it will impact your organization and you and how to best accommodate it.

Talk through your feelings about changes with someone you trust
Gaining perspective is essential to managing change well. Confidants act as sounding boards to test and broaden perspectives and provide more options to consider. Two or three heads are better than one.

Choose your attitude, actions and behaviours

Ask yourself, “What attitude will make the best of this change?” Next, identify the actions and behaviours that demonstrate your attitude. Often, we don’t consider the impact we have on our co-workers’ ability to navigate change. Planning how to be your best will provide a positive example for others to follow.

Focus on what you know
It is common for people to speculate about the implications of a change, especially when little information is available. These conversations can quickly turn negative. To stay productive, focus on fulfilling your role based on what you know; not on what other people think they know.

Ask questions if you are unclear
Lack of clarity is one of the most cited challenges of dealing with change. Seeking clarity avoids incorrect assumptions and wasted effort. Your questions are most likely shared by others and asking them early contributes to a common understanding of what will and won’t change.

Be patient with yourself and others
Change can be difficult and it is normal for people to feel anxious when their environment changes. Giving people (including yourself) permission to be human will reduce stress and minimize relationship tensions.

Be confident in your capabilities and accomplishments

Often, people react to a change without taking stock of what they can bring to it. Thinking of the capabilities that will help make you successful—past experiences, knowledge, skills and relationships—will focus your energy and build your confidence. 

People remember how you behave and act during change far more than the tasks you complete. How you react to ongoing change—attitude, actions and behaviours—will last longer than the details of the changes you face.


Phil

Friday, 8 August 2014

How a Second Pair of Hands is Helping Me Become Smarter with My Time

Delegation has never come easy to me. It's definitely not a strength. The first time I had access to an assistant, I didn't know how to help this person help me. 

My justifications for this poor time management cover the range of productivity misconceptions: it would take more time to explain what I want than to do it myself, I do this task really fast, I can do it the best, etc.

Starting a consulting business didn't make delegation any easier. Often, there was only me to delegate things to and completing tasks myself gave me the satisfaction of keeping expenses low. I had no problem calling in experts to do work that I couldn't do myself, but the small tasks remained areas of opportunity. My accountant offering to file my quarterly tax payments. I responded "No thanks, I like to do it." Another productivity mistake.

I became interested in a virtual assistant when Michael Hyatt shared the benefits of and tips on using this service.  He made a compelling and pragmatic case, but I didn't take action.

Last week, I was reading a blog post by Steve Scott about his Kindle book launch. He shared that Fancy Hands, a virtual assistant subscription service, had completed his research for a small fee. I clicked on the link and became intrigued by this service.


Fancy Hands offers most types of tasks including setting up appointments and conference calls on your calendar, booking services, admin tasks such as editing emails, making calls on your behalf, research, etc.

I decided to start with the basic 5 tasks per month for $25 package to test how much I would use the service. The set up process took minutes on their easy to navigate website. It was great to see a 50 percent discount for the first month adjustment to my invoice too. Every step of the process made me happier. 

This year, I haven't had a lot of time to market Change with Confidence or my consulting business. This seemed like a perfect area to get help with. I wanted to send copies of my book to professors to see if there was interest in including it on their course reading lists or to have me as a guest lecturer. I have had excellent experiences with a few profs, but have not had time to expand my connections. 


My first Fancy Hands request was to compile a list of profs who teach organization development or change management courses in the US and Canada. In time, I will create another task for the rest of the world.

Once I hit send, a banner appeared saying "relax while we take care of that for you." I thought, this is also a de-stressing service. 

I can't wait to review the results of my request. My guess is that once I get used to the service I will think of many other tasks that are better completed by Fancy Hands.  Delegation is easier than I thought. Phil

Friday, 1 August 2014

3 Types of Change Leader: Engaged; Staged; and Disengaged

It's no surprise that leaders play an important role in the success of change initiatives. In fact, they play the most important role. Most research cite lack of visible and active executive sponsorship as the primary source of change failure. 

I have observed that leaders approach their change sponsor roles in three ways: engaged; staged; and disengaged.

Engaged leader are active participants in defining their roles. They:
- View change initiatives as business projects critical to current and future success
-  Are engaged in planning and briefing meetings
- Ask questions to gain clarity on their role and test the quality of thinking and rigour behind transition plans
- Get excited by the roles they will play
- Edit their communication
- Say things like "we have to get this right" and "what do you need from me"?

Staged leaders are attentive participants in defining their roles. They:
- View change initiatives as necessary, but not always a priority
- Are good listeners in briefing meetings
- Ask questions to gain clarity on tasks
- Accepts the roles they are given
- Review their communication and make minor adjustments
- Say things like, "just tell me what to do and I will do it" 

Disengaged leaders are passive participants in defining their roles. They: 
- View change initiatives as necessary, but not priorities
- Are efficient in briefing meetings
- Ask questions to understand commitments and may negotiate lesser roles than the one proposed
- Are resigned of the roles they will play
- Say things like, "other commitments may change my availability" and "we also have a business to run"

When I first meet executives, I watch for clues on what type of change leader they want to be. It is an early indication of how successful the change will be. Engaged leaders usually do well because their skills are fully leveraged and high level of commitment is known by all. They are invested and will do what it takes to ensure success.

Staged leaders are often successful too. As long as they stick to the script and their behaviours reinforce key messages, they usually do well.  If not, trust in them evaporates and employees retaliate by not supporting the change.

Disengaged leaders rarely lead change well. Their focus is on other things and people know it. Since people's actions follow those of their leader, they also focus on other things. Project teams have difficulty gaining momentum and execution suffers. Eventually the project fails to deliver benefits or it is shelved.

A change manager's role is to build the skill, behaviour and confidence of leaders so they are at their best during times of change. One way to do so is by shaping how they perceive their sponsor role. Increasing their level of engagement is a good start.

Phil

Friday, 25 July 2014

It's Good to Revisit the Past, Just Don't Stay Too Long

I am helping a business prepare for a structural change. Although the material changes to employees are minimal, the psychological ones may be big; people who have worked for separate companies for many years will be joining their parent company and taking on its name.

A leader predicted that the announcement would cause people to reminisce about their pasts. He asked if it was okay for people to revisit what they hold dear from their current company.  

Absolutely, I said. It is healthy to honour where you come from and the things from years ago that have personal meaning. Those experiences have helped form who they are today. Honouring the past does not mean not letting it go.

Ben Watt --Toronto, July  17 '14
I went through a similar experience last Thursday. In the morning, I read that Ben Watt, a musician who greatly influenced me in my mid-twenties, was playing that night. I had closely followed his career as a solo artist and as part of Everything But the GirlMy friends were busy, so I bought a single ticket. 


Throughout the day, I thought about something from my past that I held dear. In 1988, I decided to leave my job to go back packing in Europe. I felt I wasn't  achieving my goals and needed to make some changes.

I had planned on spending three months traveling by Europass.  Other than flying into and out of Amsterdam, I was free to discover my own path.


The Quest
The only must-do commitment I made was to visit a small resort town in northern England called Scarborough. That was where Ben Watt had taken photos for the cover of his North Marine Drive album. 

My quest started as a whim, but grew in importance as I made my way through Europe. It became a symbol of my decision to actively define and achieve my goals. I could do anything in life and it was up to me to decide what that would be. 

When I got to Scarborough it was deserted. It had been a rainy summer and vacationers had opted for other, perhaps warmer, destinations. For me, it was perfect.

I walked North Marine Drive and took photos near where Ben had taken his. I had achieved my goal. When I got home I sent a photo of me by the sea to him, with a letter about the insights I realized on the road.    


The Postcard
A couple of months later, I received a thoughtful and kind postcard from Ben, talking about the time he had spent at university in the area.


Twenty-five years later, I was five feet away from Ben on the stage, listening to his songs from my personal soundtrack. He also played his excellent new album, Hendra.

As I left the show, I thought about my time in Europe. I also thought of the people I was going to work with who would be thinking of their pasts.  It is important to respect and encourage remembrances of what people hold dear. It's healthy, grounding and inspirational.

Looking backward can lead to moving forward as long as you don't stay too long in the past. Hendra is at the top of my playlist.

Phil. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

If You Have Something to Say, Make Sure You Can Be Heard

One of the best parts of participating in a charity run is the cheering on of others just before the finish line. 

For runners, it's a 'so close yet so far' experience. They can see the finish line, but it is still far away. Exhausted they draw upon every ounce of strength they can muster to achieve their goal. Thirty seconds is a long time when each one feels like an eternity.

This is when runners need the most support. Motivational phases like "you can do it" or "you are almost there" can help someone push through their pain to do their best.

Reactions from runners are varied. Some run past, oblivious to the well-wishes, others look at you but say nothing and others smile and say thanks. My favourite response is when someone speeds up, giving it their all. 

Last Sunday, I saw an athletic man who was running with a backpack on. I said, "Your finish is going to be great." He looked at me, smiled and blasted off to the finish line like an Olympian. Great stuff!

Midway through my cheers, I noticed a teenager behind me and to my side. He had joined in on the cheering.  His encouragements were more specific and better than mine. He said thinks like "start kicking your feet now" and "200 hundred metres to go." Encouragement is like a compliment: the more specific the better.

Unfortunately, his calls were barely audible. I could hear him but the runners, many wearing headphones, couldn't. Also, he was standing about six feet away from the path, out of the line of site of runners. He wasn't noticed and his great encouragements didn't have the impact he intended.

I asked him if he wanted to come closer to the runners, but he said no. 

This happens so often in business, especially in organizations going through a lot of change. People are doing great work to support the change but it is not noticed. Sometimes the reason is cultural, where standing out, even if you have the right answer, is discouraged. Other times, people avoid being the focus of attention.  Either way, their work doesn't have the impact that was intended.

Part of good change management is to catch people doing good things that are aligned with the direction the the organization has chosen. It is the change leader's role to identify, recognize and reward these efforts so they positively impact the organization and advance the change.

You can be sure that I will be saying "start kicking your feet now" and "200 hundred metres to go" at my next race. Phil

Friday, 11 July 2014

Approach a Computer Set Up Like a Change Project

My New Computer
This week, I set up my new computer. I had been using my son's old computer after he had upgraded to a "gaming" model four years ago. 

My rationale for an upgrade was productivity. Internet pages weren't loading quickly and documents were, saving slowly; it was time to invest in speed.

I am not tech savvy, but usually I can get things to work. I took a "just get it done" approach to setting up my new toy.


Set Up Wasn't This Easy
First, I transferred files from my old computer. No problem. Then I started loading software programs. Some weren't compatible with my Windows upgrade. Also, setting up one of my printers was a hassle. The driver wasn't even listed in the set up menu. 

My challenges continued. When I thought I was up and running, I was slowed down by what seemed like endless adjustments to factory default settings. Nothing looked the same as before. For example, while writing this post, I found that I was missing my cropping function for pictures. Where did it go and how do I get it back? 

As my productivity continued to dip I found myself longing for the good ole days when I was using my old computer. That's when I realized I was struggling with change, just like the people I help lead and manage change at work. 

What would I say to myself to get out of the 'valley of despair' of change? I would:
  • Remind myself of why the change needed to happen and the cost of using my old computer
  • Keep the main benefit of the change front and centre: increased productivity
  • Set realistic expectations for the transition period  - I am not a technician, so it will take me longer to diagnose and fix problems, and some will not be solved
  • Create a sequenced plan and realistic timeline to complete the project
  • Enlist people with the skills I don't have - computer technical skills would have been good
  • Celebrate small wins: I eventually transferred my Outlook data across versions of Office - high five!
I have a few more programs to load and settings to change before completing my transition to stress-free computing. I will have successfully transitioned to a faster computer. I will also have learned many tips for my next upgrade. My last piece of self-advice is to take a few minutes to write them down.

Phil

Friday, 4 July 2014

How Infographics Can Help You Communicate Change

By Customer Magnetism
Often, organizational changes fail because leaders don't explain why the change is needed and how it will benefit the organization and its people. 

Without rationale that makes sense and an emotional connection to the benefits, people keep doing what they have always done and the initiative fails or only achieves marginal benefits. 

Not all attempts at explaining the "why" behind a change are effective. Long emails, articles and presentations are difficult to absorb and often ignored, leaving people uninspired to change how they work. 

Infographics provide an effective way to motivate and engage people around the need for changeAn infographic is a visual representations of information that is quickly consumed, easily understood and engaging.  All important criteria for effective change communication.

I was introduced to infographics by a friend who was creating them to support a large technology upgrade. They were clear, easy to understand and memorable. 

Here are some statistics that support the power of these graphic tools:
  • 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • 65 percent of the population are visual learners
  • 40 percent of people respond better to visual information than text
  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text
  • Infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles
  • People are 3 times more likely to share an infographic than a document

There are many examples of infographics on the internet to give you ideas on how to design your own. Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Start with your purpose - what is the message?
  • Consider the point of view of your audience - what images are meaningful to them?
  • Select an attention grabbing title
  • Focus on one theme
  • Use 'real' data - Relatable, Exciting, Attracting and Legit
  • Reveal the data at several levels of detail, from broad overview to the fine structure
  • Encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
  • Use colour to instill different moods and emotional connections
  • Provide references to the data presented

Click here for 5 free infographic templates from Hub Spot
Creating infographics is becoming easier thanks to predesigned templates. Hub Spot has created five templates that can be downloaded for free.

Communication is an essential part of any change initiative. Sharing why the change is needed is an important step to creating committed and engaged individuals who have the power to make it successful. Infographics is an excellent way to do so.

Phil

Sources: 
http://piktochart.com/not-just-another-infographic-8-steps/
http://www.customermagnetism.com/infographics/what-is-an-infographic/
http://unbounce.com/content-marketing/why-do-infographics-make-great-marketing-tools/
http://www.business2community.com/infographics/5-top-tips-creating-infographics-0828627#!7mUZc

Friday, 27 June 2014

5 Tips on Voluntary Mergers from the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA)

During undergrad, I took a few film theory and criticism courses to balance out my business curriculum. In my Introduction to Film Course, the professor said that once you study film you will never look at one the same way because you know how it was made. This is true of any profession; you see things differently because of your knowledge and experience. 

This insight comes into play when I am reading business articles. I can't help underline the actions that enable or hinder change. For example, I read an article in The Globe and Mail this week about the merger of the three major accounting bodies - Chartered Accountants (CAs), Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) and Certified General Accountants (CGAs) - into a unified Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPAs) association.

The merger makes sense. Traditional differences among these designations and the work that is done by its members are less pronounced than in the past and the benefits of a single accounting body - a larger organization and stronger voice on accounting practices, better career opportunities and cost savings, etc. - are many.

Conversely, there have been concerns from some members including the loss of current designations, terms of membership and having a minority say on how the new organization will be run (CAs represent 46 percent of the combined 185,000 membership). 

In 2012, after a year of negotiations, the national CGA organization withdrew from talks, but rejoined them last year after provincial GCA organizations started their separate negotiations to join the other groups. This week, final approvals were completed.

Here are the actions I underlined that helped enable the merger:
  • Creating a future identity that is different, better and more compelling - An ad campaign was created and launched to build awareness of the new CPA designation and create a "strong and positive impression of the organization.
video
  • Differentiating a past failed merger - In 2004, the CA and CMA organizations attempted to merge. Differences between the past and current merger have been clearly stated to avoid the "we tried this before and failed" objection.
  • Retaining what members value from their current organizations - Existing members will use the new CPA designation followed by their current designation (e.g., CPA, CA). In 10 years, members will have the option to drop their current designation.
  • Securing and communicating a quick win - A new educational process has been created incorporating the best features of the three current systems, demonstrating benefit from the merger and demonstrating contributions from the separate bodies.
  • Acknowledging that there is still a lot of work to be done - Expectations are being managed that there will be a long transition process and not everything is defined. This avoids the "You said we were one organization, but what about this difference" objection.

"The professionals are turning pro" is the new CPA organization's tag line. How they manage change is one way they are living it.

Phil

Friday, 20 June 2014

The art of seeing things for the first time

 When I was seven, my family moved to a house on a ravine. The valley presented endless opportunities to explore the forests and fields that surrounded the slow and winding Humber River; Nature was our backyard.

Now, we live five minutes away from similar surroundings. The creek and trees look the same. Even the smells are the same.

Sam and Charlie



When our boys were small, we would go on hikes along the riverbed, seeing how far we could go before we were stopped by the terrain. This would be where we would have a snack break and discuss the interesting things we had seen and challenges we had overcome. Everything was important.

Charlie
Charlie, now almost 16, recently has taken a renewed interest in exploring the river. This week, he asked if I wanted to join him on his trek to see how far he could go. 

I jumped at the chance to spend time with him and retrace the steps we had laid many years ago. 

What surprised me was Charlie's fascination with everything - fossils, rock paths across the water, plastic bottles, even a steep rock face that he felt needed to be climbed. Everything was still important.

I noticed Charlie was approaching the hike differently than me. He was experiencing things as if he was seeing them for the first time, present in the moment, taking things in and adapting his course based on what he saw. I was focused on finding the easiest path.

Before long, I found myself taking on Charlie's behaviours. I too broadened my line of sight. I was present, active and engrossed in the moment. It felt great to be alive.

If Charlie hadn't been with me, I wouldn't have walked across the riverbed, swung on tree branches, got entangled in thorn bushes or climbed steep cliffs. I would have had an easy walk along the shortest route to my destination. 

How many times in our lives do we process a task instead of experiencing it? Completion is the goal and taking the easiest approach is the best way to achieve it. What do we miss along the way and how does that affect our outcomes?

I am meeting a new client on Monday. My line of sight will be broadened by everything they see and where they are going. Everything will be important.

Phil

Friday, 13 June 2014

GM's Assessment of Its Mishandled Ignition Switch Recalls: What About the Leaders?

Last week, GM announced the findings of an independent, company-sponsored probe into its failure to address defective parts that resulted in 13 deaths over 11 years. The technical problem was an ignition switch that could move to accessory positions while driving, causing the power to be cut and power steering, power brakes and airbags to stop working. The managerial problem was that no one fixed it.

The writers of the report principally blamed GM's culture for enabling this tragedy. 
  • Lack of accountability ‒ one cited example was the "GM salute": a crossing of arms and pointing at others. The employees responsible for making the fixes, including engineering, legal and cross-functional committees, operated in silos and failed to set timetables or demand action 
  • Lack of urgency ‒ this behaviour is known internally as the "GM nod": everyone agrees to a proposed plan of action, then leaves the room and does nothing"
  • Poor judgement ‒ the original switch failed to meet GM specifications, but was approved for production. Decisions were not assigned owners, therefore they weren't made and no consequences were levied
  • Avoidance of raising Issues to leaders ‒ consumer complaints or internal reviews were not raised to the highest levels of leader. There are many references to employees failing to disclose critical pieces of information about the defect
  • Conflicting leadership priorities ‒ teams had differing views on competing mandates ‒ "cost is everything" and "cost is irrelevant when safety is an issue" 
Mary Barra Addressing the Recall Probe
Mary Barra, Chief Executive, communicated the investigation findings to all employees via video conference. She announced that 15 people had been fired for incompetence and negligence and 5 more had been disciplined because of their inaction. A new safety head had been hired into a more senior role than his predecessor and a new "Speak Up for Safety" program was being launched to encourage early reporting of safety issues.

Most of Mary's comments focus on GM's culture that enabled the shortfalls: "Fixing this is going to take more than getting rid of some people and moving boxes around on the org chart. This is going to require culture change and an ongoing vigilance." Fair enough, but what does this mean? How will the leaders that have prospered in the current culture create a dramatically different one?

Here are my recommendations for GM leaders:
  1. Don't "put this behind you"; make it part of your new culture. Weave this tragic story into company lore and build ways of working to avoid it happening again.  For example, ensure that new employee orientations include your lessons learned. Share how this has profoundly changed your thinking and behaviour. This failure is part of your culture and will be a source of strength when you can articulate what you have become because of it. Follow Mary's lead:  "I want to keep this painful experience permanently in our collective memories. I don't want to forget what happened because I ‒ and know you ‒ never want this to happen again. This will take conscious actions."
  2. Modify your rewards system to encourage new behaviours and leave behind old ones, especially for senior leaders ‒ they must demonstrate that they support the new culture and are prepared to benefit or lose because of it
  3. Work on accountability first. Nothing will change without people at all levels feeling responsible for outcomes
  4. Document examples of the new empowered culture and share them across the organization
  5. Invite external experts and the press to evaluate your progress. Highlight and address setback. There will be setbacks
The most important recommendation is for leaders to acknowledge that they own GM's culture and they created the old one through their actions and behaviours.

The report could have said that leaders take full accountability for the failure to recall dangerous cars. It would have been an excellent example of the new culture they are charged with creating.

Phil

Friday, 6 June 2014

What My Dentist Taught Me About Conviction

I have been spending a lot of time with dentists lately. I started getting sharp pains in an upper-right molar. Every time I drank something hot or cold a sharp lightening bolt would shoot up into my brain - not good. 


Dr. Janet Tamo
called my dentist, Dr. Janet Tamo, to make an appointment. I was in her chair within twenty-four hours. Before I left, I had endodontic (tooth nerves) and periodontic (gum) consultations within the week.

Janet became my dentist in the early 80s when she opened her practice. It has been great seeing her career soar, including teaching dentistry at University of Toronto, being an industry spokesperson,championing new dentistry technologies and procedures, and being awarded "Best Dentist" in 2010 and 2011. I recommended her to all Cadbury expats. "She is the best," I proudly proclaimed.   

On Monday, after four root canals, I revisited Janet to begin the crown-making process. This is my fourth crown so I knew the drill. 

This time was different. After reviewing my x-rays, Janet said, "We need to look at another tooth." After a quick call to my new endodontist, she said, "Phil, we also need to put a crown on the tooth in front of the one we are replacing". 

My initial thoughts were short-term. I can't afford to spend any more time on my teeth. I said, "Do we have to?" My dentist explained that the suspect tooth was almost all filling (I had a sweet tooth as a kid) and was not strong. She also reasoned that it was badly discoloured and my new tooth would have to be matched to this one or it would look fake. A crown was the only good option. 


What struck me was Janet's conviction that this option was unequivocally in my best interest. Based on her experience, the facts and a good understanding of my needs, there was one best path forward. 

Dentistry and management consulting are similar in this regard; the goal is to help your clients achieve their goals. Conviction is required to avoid clients missing opportunities or make mistakes that have happened before. Clients aren't always receptive to advice, especially if it is contrary to their beliefs. It takes conviction to influence them based on knowledge or skill that the client may not have.

My next root canal is on Thursday. I know it's my best option, which is a sign of excellent dentistry, and consultancy.

Phil

Friday, 30 May 2014

9 Tips to Look Your Best When Your Presentation is Filmed

This week, I was on the road facilitating train-the-trainer sessions. The evening before my first workshop, I scanned an email outlining the logistics for the meeting. The last point read, "The film crew will arrive at 8 am."
Filming the sessions was news to me and my first reaction was, "Oh." Being filmed can be intimidating because your environment changes; people are pointing equipment at you and there are limits to where you can walk and how quickly you can move. It feels like presenting to two audiences at the same time. 

I had been filmed the week before at another client's event so this unforeseen detail didn't distract me for long. I knew what to do.

Here are some tips on how to present yourself on camera:

  • Watch recorded presentations on the internet to see what techniques you like and dislike
  • Check yourself in the mirror just before you are filmed ‒ video is forever and something like an upturned collar will distract your audience ("Look, his collar is out of place, I bet he doesn't know)
  • Don't look at the camera ‒ it makes you appear as distracted as you are, sometimes even more so
  • Be conscious of the placement of equipment ‒ they are obstacles that will distract your audience if you bump into them
  • Present in one spot ‒ roving presenters are hard to capture and cause the crew to move around, distracting your audience
  • Keep your wardrobe consistent ‒ if you begin with a jacket on, wear it throughout the session ‒ a wardrobe change can distract the video audience (Didn't he just have a jacket on?) and may suggest that the video was shot over multiple sessions
  • Focus on your audience and what you are helping them to do ‒ it is the best way to look like you are not being filmed
  • Post the session, if you are asked to be interviewed on camera, always ask for multiple takes ‒ you will never know if your first take is the best unless you take at least one more
The workshops and the filming went well. The participants and I forgot that the camera crew was there. Perhaps that's the best tip of all. 

Phil