Friday, 17 June 2016

Leading Yourself through Change: Building Your Confidence

Years ago, I remember walking with a leader to a steering committee meeting for a major technology change. He said, "Tell me what questions I should ask so I look like I know what I am doing." He said it jokingly but he wasn't joking. This was his first big change and he lacked the confidence to lead in his role.

Leaders aren't at their best when they lack confidence. Their fight or flight response overrules their skills and experience, making survival the number one goal. Unproductive behaviours  anger, poor listening, silence, reactive or avoidance of decision-making  emerge, which negatively affect those around them and the progress they are able to make.

Confidence is the most important trait leaders can draw upon when managing new realities. Confident they are positively moving forward by speaking to the right people, making the right decisions, and giving their teams the right support to change how they work.

Here are three ways to build your confidence to help you lead change:

Understand the change (better than most)
Knowledge directly increases your confidence level. If you have done something well in the past, you tend to be confident about doing it again; if it's your first time your confidence tends to be low. As Dan Rockwell says, confident people "know what to do next."

Knowledge builds a framework from which to figure out and manage through a change. Without this foundation, there is little to guide your thinking and actions, and therefore, little validation that the best decisions are being made. 

Leaders who have the best knowledge look beyond their industry. They seek out people and resources from other businesses that have managed similar situations. They also are not afraid to apply innovative approaches and lessons learned from diverse sources. To broaden your knowledge and increase your confidence, look beyond your own environment.

Know the questions to ask
Change leaders often don't know the questions to ask to ensure the organization is going in the right direction and has capacity to make significant changes. Knowing the key questions common to big change projects will keep you well informed and aware of emerging risks.

Here are examples of important questions in the Managing Change phase:

The Plan:                When is the organization ready to make the change?
Resources:             How do I get more resources if I need them?
Communications:  How do I know communications are working?
Getting Results:     How do I keep momentum given other projects in play?

Don't take it personally
After a tense and explosive meeting, I asked a leader how she was feeling. She said, "Fine, it's not personal." This was a consistent behaviour: she separated content from emotions. By doing so, she didn't respond emotionally to the power-up of other leaders and remained focused on the facts and decisions around them.

Putting yourself in other people's shoes can help objectify a tense moment or perceived affront. What pressures are they under, is this a common behaviour expressed to others, what has neutralized situations with them in the past? Emotions reveal characteristics of those who express them. Remembering this in the heat of the moment is a sign of confidence.

Confident leaders believe that their skills and experience will support them through change. Understanding the change, knowing the questions to ask and not taking things personally will help you build your confidence to be your best as you lead change.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Leading Yourself through Change: Assessing Your Strengths

I gave a keynote presentation to a group of leaders who are experiencing disruptive change. Their industry is facing new operating models, multiple technology advances, government regulation changes and new competitors. Nothing appears to be constant. My talk was on how to manage yourself and your team through constant change.

Many years ago, I realized that everyone goes through a personal transition when their company does  it's normal. Leaders must manage their own personal changes before they can effectively help their team members to manage theirs. If they fail to do so, leaders get lost in details around their personal transitions and forget to help their team members get through theirs. They fail to create an environment where people can take on new ways of working, and instead, create uncertainty and confusion that leads to poor performance. 

There are three main practices that leaders employ to manager their own change and prepare themselves to lead others: they assess their strengths; build their confidence and know how to manage the unknown. 

Knowing your strengths is a good starting point. Taking stock of what you do well enables you to lean on demonstrated abilities when things are uncertain. It enables you to focus on how best to contribute to a situation instead of randomly reacting to it.

Being clear on your strengths also helps you identify areas where you need support from others. Identifying these resources in advance allows you to make more fact-based decisions that consider broader perspectives on the business. 

Here are three ways to assess your strengths:

Identify roles you played in past changes
Past changes provide examples of how you support your organization and people as they transitioned to new ways of working. Did you lead a committee, break down silos between teams, recommend an approach or execute a plan flawlessly. These activities moved your organization closer to adopting the change and realizing its benefits.

Identifying a list of these abilities improves the likelihood you will repeat them during new changes. Capabilities that underlie these activities include priority setting, action orientation, focus, influence without power, communication, empathy and personal learning.

Read past performance reviews
Most people file performance reviews after they have been presented. They are a gold mine of data on what you do well and how you have lead change.

In aggregate, they reveal patterns of action and behaviour where you excelled in times of transition. Your Managers' comments provide multiple perspectives and examples of how you drove value.

Ask your network for feedback 
People you work or associate with see you in varied situations over time. They are unconscious cataloguers of how you operate. Ask people for two inputs: what you do well and what are your "watch-out" areas. Most people will give you balanced views. Ask for examples so you have context for their observations.

A leader I worked for asked her team for feedback after every major meeting and presentation. She listened intently, asked a couple of clarifying questions and adjusted her approach. She continually improved her excellent skills. 

These practices may look easy yet most leaders don't do them. When I am coaching leaders, I ask them about their strengths when leading change  most don't know. If they do reply with some capabilities, I ask them how they know  many don't. 

It's worth the effort to know your strengths. They will be your best support through constant change.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Less is More Even if More Looks Better

I once worked with someone who had joined the corporate world in mid-career. His early years were spent opening and managing a chain of pizza stores in Vancouver. As we traveled together, he shared stories from his retail years and what he learned about people in his restaurants. One insight taught me a lesson about how people add complexity to their lives.

Each employee was entitled to two free pizza slices per shift. They could have as many toppings as they wanted  they were the chefs of their dinners. New employees went wild: they would pile on everything available and double up on their favourites. It took two hands and many napkins to lift and eat their creations. 

After a month, the number of toppings and portions would decrease. A few months later, the pizza slices looked like the ones customers ordered. After a year, most employees chose no toppings except for tomato sauce and cheese. The combination of these two ingredients tasted the best.

I have observed a similar dynamic in the corporate world. People begin by adding as much content as is available. If they have access to five tools, they use all five; if a thirty-page PowerPoint presentation is acceptable, they create one, regardless of the objective. Quantity is a sign of quality.

This practice also applies to project lists, strategies, tactics, objectives, product varieties, leadership behaviours, personal development goals and metrics – piling them on in the belief that they will create the best results.

With experience, people focus on the practices that deliver the greatest value. Selective tools or targeted presentations guide dialogues, decisions and actions. They have learned less is more. 

In two weeks, I am leading a workshop on change planning for a group that is new to this discipline. I won't be touting a project methodology or an enabling software program. Neither will I be creating Gantt charts nor a percentage completion tracker; I will be demonstrating how to use a simple, one-page chart including:

  • Activities
  • Tasks
  • Outcomes
  • Owners
  • Support required
  • Completion date

The team will develop a "less is more" plan for a longstanding industry issue. It won't look as good as a long plan but experience has taught me that it will deliver the results they need. 


Saturday, 14 May 2016

People Know What is Best. Don't Forget to Ask Them.

Early in my career, I sold, designed and led business training programs at the Business Development Bank. Leadership development programs were in demand and every training and consulting firm offered a list of courses.

With only a small marketing budget, our team needed a compelling offer to differentiate ourselves from competitors. We decided to be the best designers of customized training in the market. To do so, the facilitator of each program would visit the client's business for two days to work on the job with the learners before designing the course. If it was a group of high school textbook salespeople, they went on sales calls and would pitch books to experience the challenges; if it was a group of gas station owners, they worked in a gas station to witness the manager's daily issues.

Our approach worked. Learner immersion created customized programs that addressed real challenges within the context of their working environment. An added benefit was increased facilitator credibility earned through hands-on experience.  

Often, change planning fails to incorporate deep understanding of the people who are changing. Interviews are held to identify the gaps between current and future requirements without experiencing the environments in which people work. Also, interviewers rarely ask about the types of support that those making the change would value and use. 

The cost of limited understanding is high. Assumptions fill in for knowledge and generic solutions substitute for tailored ones. The change plan is informed more by past practices than current circumstances. Also, without the deeper relationship built through on the job experience, people are less likely to share honest feedback throughout the change.  

Here are ways to gain deeper understanding of the people who are taking on change: 

  • Explain why the change is important to the business and to them before asking questions about how they work  you will get more considered responses if the change matters to them
  • Ask people what types of support they have benefited from in the past  they most likely will use and benefit from similar tools during a new change
  • Meet people where they work  you will learn a lot about how they spend their time
  • Request time to shadow people on the job  I observed somone who only had access to her computer at the beginning and end of the day  online resources would not meet her needs
  • Test your plan with the people you interviewed  they are the best people to assess if it addresses their needs
  • Acknowledge people for taking the time to share how they work  their input is essential to successful change planning and recognizing their contributions will encourage them and others to do so in the future

Understanding the environment in which people work and the support preferences they have are important inputs into effective change management planning. They are the ones who have the knowledge about how they work and what they will need to do things in new ways. Providing them with the help they need when they need it are hallmarks of an effective change plan.


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Would you sacrifice change management quality for results?

This week, I was reminded of a lesson I learned many years ago about change management planning. A project leader was resisting making modifications to implementation tactics across teams and geographies. Consistency was important, she felt, since the plan had already incorporated feedback from each group taking on the change. She was fighting for her plan.

What I have learned is that the best implementation plan is the one people will implement, which usually isn't the 'best' technical plan. Most activities are in the hands of those who are closest to the people who are changing. They must agree with the tactics before they will execute them well. 

My education was gained on a similar project. I was rolling out an operating model that defined how global, regional and country teams would work together. I spent many weeks developing the roll-out plan with input from the different stakeholder groups – it was a textbook excellent plan. 

When I reviewed the plan with regional change leads, I discovered that Latin America had already started its launch activities. They had combined the operating model initiative with a regional culture program scheduled to begin before ours. The Regional President kicked-off the combined initiative with a motivational video and all-colleague meeting. The launch was so good and so 'off plan.’

This experience taught me that different tactics can achieve the same results; the delivery method can be variable. As long as the key information is communicated well, executor preference is the determining factor for achieving results.

I resolved to focus my influence (and fight) on consistent change principles and encourage variability in implementation tactics. I also vowed to never again fall in love with my consistent plan and always celebrate changes that reflect local cultural preferences.  

Here are some tips on how to create a plan that will deliver results for different teams:
  • View your plan as dynamic – it needs to change with people's needs or preferences
  • Define and gain agreement on the core change principles that will guide implementation activities – e.g. transparent and consistent communication to all groups, co-creation with those who are taking on the change, etc. – they need to be consistent and are non-negotiable throughout the project
  • Be clear on the results you need to achieve – the plan is only a means to realize the results and needs to be measured against them
  • Provide a menu of tactics for groups to choose from – a representative planning team can also choose to align on one set of tactics that meet all of their needs
  • Encourage team representatives to share learnings about the tactics that work well – peer testimonials inspire adoption
  • Celebrate the successes of implementation teams – rewarding those executing the plan encourages continued tactical experimentation and support of the initiative 
The quality of change management support is determined by the results achieved. These results are highly dependent on how well the implementation tactics are executed. Since people invest more in activities they believe in, the best implementation plan is the one they create. This may require sacrificing tactical control or consistency, but never quality.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Business Case for Change: Moving from 'What' to 'How'

I have noticed a shift in how the benefits of a change initiative are being discussed. The conversation is moving from 'what' they are to 'how' they will be achieved.

A business case demonstrates how the anticipated benefits of a change justify the investment required to implement it. Benefits can be either gains (increased sales) or the avoidance of losses (retention of talent). These are compared to investment costs include time, money and people resources (capabilities).

Since funding approval is based on the business case, there is a bias to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs. The pressure to do so is highest when multiple projects are competing for limited resources; the better the business case, the more likely a project will get approved. 

I remember supporting a sales function reorganization that was competing for investment. One of the benefits cited was a six percent increase in sales created by transferring regional key account teams to the head office. Looking back, it doesn't make sense that an internally-focused change would realize a large, market-driven benefit. 

It's not surprising that research firms have documented poor benefit realization. The Project Management Institute (PMI) reported that 20 percent of surveyed organizations had a high level of benefit realization maturity. Also, McKinsey noted that 56 percent of large IT projects delivered less value than predicted. 

It is exciting to see change investment discussions focusing more on how benefits will be measured and reported. It extends the project timeline well beyond the change and raises the bar on delivery. It also requires internal and external service providers to demonstrate how benefits will be realized. 

Some progressive external service providers are bundling post-change support into their offer. Capital finance advisory firms are adding post-merger acquisition (PMI) support to their private equity mergers and acquisitions services and technology firms are doing the same with their installations. Delivery support is now a competitive differentiator.

Here are some tips to ensure that your changes deliver on their business cases:

  • Identify all benefits and the metrics that will measure them before the project starts
  • Include all stakeholders in benefit identification and estimation – if someone doesn't support a source or an estimate, they won't support the measurement of them
  • Include external and internal data sources
  • Select metrics that are already being reviewed by the leadership team – they are known and hold validity
  • Assign a senior owner to each benefit
  • Agree on timelines for when benefits will be realized
  • Establish benefit realization governance with the leadership team including reporting and review timing
  • Develop a risk assessment and follow-on contingency plan for each benefit
  • Pressure-test the change management plan to ensure people will have the mindsets, actions and behaviours required to achieve all benefits
  • Gain leadership agreement that the benefits case will be reviewed if the change scope is adjusted
The business case is an important element of change success. Balancing the 'what' and the 'how' increases the role it plays in strategy and implementation; it better defines the path that an organization must take to fully reap the benefits it needs to be successful. It also increases confidence they will be realized.


Saturday, 23 April 2016

How to Jump-start Performance by Resetting Team Behaviours

Teams, like families, adopt patterns of behaviour based on preference, familiarity and habit. Some are positive and lead to effective and efficient interactions. Others are counterproductive and impede optimal results. In aggregate, they define the ground rules for how a group of people get things done.

Examples of open and closed team ground rules are: only ideas are challenged, not the people who have them; everyone’s opinion must be heard before making a decision; the leader’s view is never to be challenged; and information is shared on a ‘needs to know’ basis.  

Group behaviours are most evident in meetings. It's fascinating to observe a team for the first time. You can identify its unwritten ground rules by what you see, hear and feel. How time is spent, what is said or not said and the emotions telegraphed through body language are all clues that point to established protocols.

Roles that people play are also a form of permissible behaviour. These are accepted character types that people take on. Common roles are the advocate (what do I like?), contrarian (what don’t I like), mediator (where are we aligned?) and navigator (where are we heading?).

The longer a team is together, the more established are its ground rules and the less likely they will change. In addition to not improving over time, they may become less productive if circumstances change; challenged by new situations, issues can intensify and opportunities can be lost.

Resetting team ground rules is a way of jump-starting new mindsets, actions and behaviours to achieve better results. Usually, the refreshed ways of working foster better communication, more effectively use time and yield superior decisions. 

Here are the steps to resetting your team's ground rules:

1.   Get agreement from all members that the resetting exercise is worth investing in
2.   Identify current behaviours that support and hinder the team being effective and efficient
3.   Discuss and agree on new behaviours that will contribute to better results
4.   Review the ‘start, stop and continue’ behaviours on one list to check for alignment and make any final revisions
5.   Agree that everyone has permission to uphold the new ways of working
6.   Read the new ground rules at the beginning of team meetings – it is easier to follow them when they are fresh in people's minds
7.   Measure the team's demonstration of each behaviour at the end of each (or periodic) meetings, from 1 to 5, where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent

There are two easy approaches to selecting new behaviours: develop a list from scratch or review a master list of productive behaviours and ask people to select the ones they value. Agreeing on a few priority new behaviours is more beneficial than a long list of desirable ones.

Here are examples of productive team behaviours: 
  • Agree on objectives or outcomes up front
  • Voice any disagreements or concerns during the meeting
  • Listen to people’s opinions without interrupting them
  • Discuss the pros and cons of every option
  • Provide and accept honest feedback
  • Withhold judgement or comments when 'brainstorming' ideas until all ideas have been heard

A team's ground rules affect the outcomes it achieves. Resetting how people interact will identify what they do well, don't do well and new behaviours to help them do better. The exercise will build people's skills and boost performance. It may even feel like a fresh start.


Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Number 1 Change Success Factor: Expectations

I asked two leaders for their views on past change initiatives  which ones were successful/not successful and why. Both were at the same level, had similar tenures and identical access to change support.  

The first leader declared that most changes were moderate successes. Times had been tough, competition was fierce and people had to work double-time to deliver results and adopt changes to how they operated. The other pronounced them to be mostly failures. The initiatives fell short of the goals regardless of the substantial resources that were dedicated to them. How could two leaders have such opposing views of the same events?

Varying views of change success is common when leaders aren't aligned on the objectives, outcomes and circumstances around an initiative. Without dialogue and guidance, their expectations are based on personal assumptions instead of facts. Past experiences, including those at other companies, frame their expected outcomes. Different knowledge and past experiences lead to different perceptions.

A challenge of differing expectations is that every leader believes their view is right and all other ones are wrong. Although the most accurate view is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of opinions, inconsistency of perceptions tends to round down the overall assessment of outcomes; the more varied they are the lower the overall view of success.

To avoid the fallout of varying perspectives on change success, it is essential to set expectations of leaders and their teams at the beginning and throughout a change initiative. 

Here are some ways to align expectations with reality:

  • Make sure the scope matches the resources available to achieve it  if not, the odds are you will fall below some leaders' expectations regardless of the good work you do
  • Schedule leader reviews of your change plan at key milestone points to ensure the assumptions underlying it are still correct  the plan (and expectations of leaders) must be updated to reflect current realities
  • Meet regularly with each leader to update them on progress made and gain their feedback  they may hold outdated perceptions that might not be caught in leadership team reviews 
  • Ask leaders for help if you fall behind  participation leads to greater understanding and valuation of outcomes
  • Conduct a formal project review before closing the project  it reminds leaders of the agreed-upon outcomes and provides evidence that they were achieved
  • Hold final interviews with each leader to record their views on the level of success achieved  this will solidify them in leaders' minds and record them as reference points for the future 

Managing expectations of a change initiative aligns people on objectives, process and outcomes and minimizes personal biases. The more aligned people are on past successes or failures, the more aligned they will be on what needs to be done to secure a successful future.


Saturday, 9 April 2016

How to Provide "the Right Amount" of Change Support

One of the challenges of providing change management support is that it requires people's time. Preparation activities  briefings, training, coaching  take people away from their roles and current responsibilities. The more change support they get, the less time they have to complete their tasks and achieve their goals. 

It's a fine balance between too much and too little assistance. If you provide too much then people get stressed and may choose to self-select out of activities; if you provide too little then people won't have the required mindsets, actions and behaviours to successfully adopt new ways of working.

I worked with an organization that was overloaded by its agenda. A long list of priorities spawned a large number of projects, many of which had insufficient resources. People were struggling to keep up with their work. Most went from meeting to meeting, apologizing for being five minutes late because of travel time. It was part of the company's culture.

I learned quickly that change activities needed to be integrated into people's realities. They must be targeted to individual needs and be easy to digest. If not, attendance will be inconsistent and transitions be flawed. The change plan that people will follow is always better than the 'perfect' one that they won't. 

Here are ways to minimize the time you take to prepare people for change:

  • Be clear on leader time commitments, gain agreement on them and schedule the activities in their calendars
  • Up front, be clear what each person needs to do differently for the changes to work
  • Provide only the support each person needs  nice-to-have activities or attendance is a luxury most businesses can't afford
  • Co-create the support plan with a few people who will go through it  their feedback on activities will avoid scope creep and ensure relevance
  • Schedule training as close as possible to when the change will be made  recency of learning affects application of new thinking, actions and behaviours. Also, refresher training requires additional time and money 
  • Incorporate activities in existing meetings  minimize the number of new meetings that people need to attend
  • Consolidate training into as few meetings as possible  An 180-minute session is more effective and efficient than two 90-minute ones held on different days
  • Adjust time requirements based on pilot sessions  shorten sessions if less time is needed; lengthen them only if outcomes can't be achieved

The main goal of change management it to prepare people to successfully take on changes with the least amount of disruption. Minimizing the disruption of people's schedules leads to greater participation, better preparation and less risk to operating results. Providing people with only the change support they need when they need it is a good start.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Why Every Leader Needs the Charisma Factor

In the late 90s, I read The Charisma Factor by Robert Richardson and Katherine Thayer. It decoded how famous charismatic leaders motivate people to follow them and devote themselves to achieving their goals.

The authors define charisma as the "ability to touch the hearts and minds of those around you to move them into action." Charismatic leaders "create the enthusiasm, excitement, and motivation others need to jump into the game and begin playing at their best." 

At the time, charismatic leaders dominated business headlines. Jack Welsh was declared "Manager of the Century" by Fortune Magazine and Steve Jobs, after rejoining Apple, passionately described market dominance as "ours to lose." Legions of aspiring leaders consumed self-help books to helped them emulate their heroes. 

Since then, charismatic leadership has been challenged. Daniel Goleman has written about the dark side of charisma where a leader's 'charismatic authority' inspires people to passively do the wrong things. Chris Bones' book, "Cult of a Leader," has drawn parallels to broader cultural themes of celebrity infatuation and consumerism "that imbue leaders with powers over and above those of ordinary mortals." Also, Tracey White's blog about followership has questioned the individual leader's ability to solve many of today's complex challenges. Lone wolf charismatic leaders have lost their shine.

Charisma still plays an important role in leading change. This is especially true for empowering cultures where everyone is viewed as a leader, regardless of rank or role. The charisma factor helps communicate the importance of people's work. It also motivates others to devote themselves to efforts beyond their job responsibilities. These contributions help break down organizational silos and build greater awareness of how business areas are dependent on each other. Also, with greater collaboration comes greater recognition of people's work, creating a virtuous cycle of contribution and reward. 

Here are highlights from Richardson's and Thayer's research on how to be charismatic:

  • As a charismatic leader your primary purpose is to inspire the best in others
  • To have a magnetic leadership presence you must first maintain an optimistic view of yourself, your leadership, and your goal 
  • Logic doesn't work well in getting others to take action because logic isn't universal. Each of us has his or her own personal 'system' of logic.
  • As with all human beings, what they think about affects their attitudes
  • If you can direct the thoughts of others, you can direct their emotional state  guide their emotions and you guide their actions
  • Charismatic leaders infuse strong and productive emotions in others by first displaying them themselves
  • As a charismatic leader, your passion displays the importance of your objectives to others causing them to want to go where you are leading  passion is the catalyst for generating interest or enthusiasm
  • Passion is precious because it is lacking in most people's lives
  • People must be in the appropriate state of mind before they want to do something  feelings always proceed actions
  • A charismatic leader's role is to simply assist others in feeling better, more resourceful, inspired, and motivated so they are able to do their best
  • Once you know the desired outcome, you decide on the state(s) your listeners need to be in so they will want to take that action
  • Begin every interaction with the emotions you want them to instantly feel  create for them a "habitat" of feeling confident, powerful, inspired, or excited

Most organizations are overloaded by the number of changes it must make to stay relevant and successful. A leader's ability to motivate and focus people is an important skill to provide direction and inspire action. Leveraging the power of charisma is one way to incite people to "jump into this game and play at their best."


Friday, 25 March 2016

Change is a Leader-Employee Relationship Business

Last weekend, I facilitated a leadership team as it updated its governance model. When reviewing supplier contacts, the team validated that the executive who oversaw each supplier was the person who had the best relationship with them. "It's a relationship business," said one leader. This is true for all businesses; good relationships drive the best outcomes.

Change management is also highly influenced by relationships. Midway through my career at Cadbury, my responsibilities expanded from the US and Canada to "the Americas." Just before meeting the Mexican Leadership Team, a colleague said, "You won't add any value until after they hug you." He meant that team members needed to get to know and build trust in me before they would openly discuss their business. Before then, I was visiting on a "Royal Tour" with no tangible impact on the leaders or their business. I was hugged on my second visit.

The leader-employee relationship is essential for change to occur. How leaders are perceived by their employees is a predictor of change success. The more they are respected, trusted and liked, the greater the likelihood that people will buy into their vision of the future. If leaders are poorly viewed, their vision will be rejected, planned changes won't be adequately supported and outcomes won't be achieved.

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer study states that only 65 percent of employees trust their leaders to do "what is right." This statistic has disastrous implications for change. It implies that negative past experiences with leaders are influencing how employees perceive them and the future visions they will be asked to build.

One of the first questions I ask a leader is, "Could you tell me about past changes you led?". Mention of poor implementation and results suggests that the leader's relationship with employees is tarnished. Repairing the relationship will be a priority. 

Here are ways that leaders can build their relationships with employees through the changes they lead:

  • Speak from the average employee's perspective  address employees from their frame of reference by honestly communicating how they will be affected by change, both positively and negatively
  • Deliver on your commitments  do what you say when you say you will do it. This is a blind spot for many leaders because other priorities overshadow internal commitments. Employees always track leaders' behaviour and not following through on promises compromises credibility
  • Ask for and act on input and feedback – co-creation and ongoing feedback are fundamental change enablers. Relationships are enhanced only when decisions are made based on this information 
  • Share credit with those who did the work – An old management adage is give credit to your team and blame to yourself. Crediting those who achieved the results leads to trust, reciprocation and continued efforts to build the future
  • Take time to socialize with employees – relationships are personal and speaking with employees, including answering their questions, builds familiarity, approachability and loyalty
  • Create a link between past successes and future challenges – just as past failures can tarnish leader relationships, successes can galvanize them; success breeds success

Like all businesses, change is about relationships. The quality of relationships that leaders have with their employees directly impacts the outcomes they achieve. Like all relationships, they are built over time, earned by the actions people do and behaviours they express. Making them a priority will provide leaders with the buy-in and support they need to build a better future.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

What I Learned from the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Like most endings, day 30 of my MindWell 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge program snuck up on me. On day 28, I realized that my daily learning videos and buddy support messages were about to end.

As mentioned at the beginning and middle of my challenge, I had looked forward to the few minutes I spent each morning learning about mindfulness, renewing my commitment to be more present, and sharing my experiences with my challenge buddy, Matt. They were positive additions to my morning routine.

I had set three goals for this online learning program: 
  • Maximize performance by being more present-focused and "in the zone"
  • Document the benefits I gain when I am more present
  • Identify applications for leaders and their teams when going through change

Maximizing Performance 
Learning how to focus on the present exposed the amount of time I had wasted thinking about the past and future. Most of my thoughts weren't positively contributing to my personal or professional life. Being informed by the past to plan the future is still important. Being grounded in the present as I do so keeps me on task and avoids mental distractions.

The first step to staying in the present is to realize when you are not there. The ability to assess where my mind was became a new skill. If I was not in a productive frame of mind, I would trigger the Take 5 breathing exercise to snap back into focus. I was back in productivity mode in less than two minutes. The more I used this tool the faster I refocused on my work. Now, I employ Take 5 before starting a task to avoid slow starts or drifting to other activities  multi-tasking is a time waster.

Documenting Benefits
The research that underpins the program states that mindfulness makes you present, focused, calm, less stressed, insightful, resilient, engaged and energized. I experienced all of these throughout the challenge.

Recording which benefits I perceived after each day was an eye-opener. I experienced greater presence and focus more often than engagement and energy. These traits are usually high for me, which might explain not feeling more so than usual.

Two of the biggest benefits were greater awareness of how I spend my time and an improved ability to redirect my thoughts. I am now mindful of the time traps that reduce my productivity.

Applications for Change
Change management is a structured approach to helping leaders and their teams be their best as they transition to new ways of working. Helping them stay focused through the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that comes with change is a key requirement.

In times of change, many people cling to the past (the good old days) or worry about the future (the brave new world). This causes them to freeze or lose focus on what they can do to navigate new requirements for success. Unproductive thinking leads to inaction and greater worry.

The skill of identifying distractions is one that I will use and develop in my clients. 'Calling it' when leaders or teams get waylaid by past practices or future speculation will focus them on the tasks at hand to more quickly deliver outcomes. Improving the team's effectiveness will represent a quick win that may suggest that the change will lead to better results.

As the final program video states, the mindfulness challenge is never done. We must continue to be mindful about where we are at the moment  past, present or future  and get back into the present when we are distracted. Like most capabilities, the ability to be mindful will decrease without practice.

I completed a survey to end my 30th day module. One of the questions was, "Would you recommend the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge to a friend? After replying "yes," I thought a slightly different questions would better measure the personal benefits gained from the program: "Would you give the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge as a gift to a friend? Who wouldn't want our friends to be more present, focused, calm, less stressed, insightful, resilient, engaged and energized? My answer would be "yes."