Friday 27 December 2013

The Importance of Holiday Traditions, Old and New

I had a flashback of my childhood when I was exchanging Christmas gifts with my friend. As he unwrapped his gift he said, "Save the bow." 

My mom said "save the bows" every year on Christmas morning.  Every time she said it we laughed and replied "save the bows, save the bows" as if our lives depended on it. A related tradition was feigning surprise when we opened a gift that didn't have a reused bow on it attached with scotch tape. 

A few days later, my brother, Steve, laughed when I instructed him to save the bow on his gift. It recalled memories of our family tradition and good times.  

I realized how important these traditions are to people's behaviour when I co-facilitated an innovation workshop on candy canes in 2003. It was a fascinating project where Mel and I explored Christmas traditions with a cross-functional North American team to develop new products ideas. 

As participants shared their family traditions, someone said that his uncle always carved the turkey before their Christmas dinner. Mel asked who would carve the turkey if his uncle couldn't. He immediately turned red, tensed his body and shouted out, "My uncle will always be there and he will always carve the turkey! That's just the way it is."

There are strong parallels between how holiday traditions and organizational cultures work. People act and behave according to pre-established, accepted patterns. They are likely to respond similarly to things in the future based on how they acted in the past, unless something changes that motivates them to change their behaviour. 

An effective way to positively change people's behaviour is to offer new behaviours that give something better than what the old one provided. As long as the new behaviour make sense, the benefits are clear, and it is easy to do, most people will try it. If not, they won't. 

It explains why that guy's uncle most likely is still carving the turkey‒nobody does it better. It also explains why my family has stopped saving bows‒the scotch tape on used bows wasn't strong enough to keep them attached and a package of twenty-five new bows only costs two dollars.

Our 'save the bow' tradition is now a memory of how things used to be and that's for the better.


Friday 20 December 2013

12 Ways You Know that a Team is Ready to Take On Change

A must-answer question before people take on a change is "Are they ready to do so?" It may seem like simple logic but I have witnessed many teams who haven't asked the question,who aren't ready and whose initial outcomes are poor.

In any change project, there is pressure to be 'on track' according to the implementation plan. Not being on plan triggers greater scrutiny and reporting. If they can't get back on track, then their abilities come into question too. People learn quickly that life is better when they are on plan and may say they are on track when they aren't.

This dynamic intensifies just before taking on new ways of working because that's when risks are the greatest - will the systems work, will people know what to do, will performance drop, will the business run? Scrutiny, reporting and concern about abilities are the greatest when there is little time solve problems.

At this time, is important to conduct an independent assessment of readiness to minimize personal biases. In change management lingo, a 'readiness assessment' needs to be conducted to validate that things will work properly and people are able to operate effectively in the new environment. 

One way to assess readiness is to hold department or team-based question and answer sessions for leaders to address outstanding questions people have before taking on new ways of working. This helps determine how prepared they are and reduces confusion about their roles and how they interact with others. 

There are many indicators of readiness at these sessions:
  • Tone: Is there a positive or negative orientation to the questions?
  • Number of unknowns: Is there a long list of questions?
  • Level of awareness: Should people already know the answers?
  • Breadth of knowledge: Are there answers for all of the questions (or do people know where they can be found)?
  • Confidence: Are the leaders confident in their answers?
  • Attendance: Is there good attendance at the sessions - do people show up?
  • Participation: Are the sessions one-way monologues or two-way conversations?
  • Creation mindset: Do people support and expand on the answers that leaders give?
  • Visual cues: Is body language open and positive?
  • Humour: Are people smiling and/or are jokes being shared?
  • Realistic expectations: Do leaders set fair expectations for post-change performance - is there permission to learn by doing or is 'perfect' mandated?
  • Acknowledgement: Do leaders thank people for their efforts - is anything being celebrated?

I facilitated a readiness Q&A session this week. It was one of the best I have seen. It was a good conversation about how the team will work together and all indicators confirmed their ability to do so. They are ready to go.

Perhaps the most telling indicator is if people ask you why you are asking if they are ready to take on change - why wouldn't they be ready?


Friday 13 December 2013

The First Time is for Learning, the Second is for Success

"There's nothing better than being embraced by your peers. People who know what it takes to do that, who said, 'We think that you deserve to be nominated.' I mean, it doesn't get better than that'." That's what Oprah Winfrey said this week when she learned of her Screen Actors Guild supporting-actress nomination for The Butler.

I didn't think such noble thoughts when I found out that my blog was nominated for a Canadian Weblog Award. I thought, 'Wow, I got nominated!"

The Canadian Weblog Awards are judged by a volunteer jury that rates blogs according to: 

  • Usability and accessibility 
  • Functionality
  • Interactivity
  • Aesthetics
  • Originality
  • Intelligibility and clarity
  • Currency (is the content timely)
  • Transparency and authenticity
  • Attention to detail
  • Engagingness

Making Change was nominated in the Business & Career category  that had twenty-one  nominations. The competition was steep.

I didn't make the top five shortlist. This didn't discourage me; it ignited a challenge for next year. Throughout my Change with Confidence journey, I have learned that trying something for the first time is about learning how it works. Taking action on these learnings is how you succeed. 

Here is what I will do to prepare for next year's competition:
  • Review the winning blogs - what can I learn from their layout, content and style?
  • Learn about the jurors - this a dedicated group of volunteers - are they bloggers?
  • Speak with the creator of the Weblog Awards, Elan Morgan - he is a fountain of knowledge on the awards and past winners
  • Investigate other blog awards - what does good look like?
  • Study statistics on my blog - what posts are most popular, who reads them, etc.?
  • Survey my readers - what do people like and what could be improved?
Until then, congratulations to the shortlisted and top-three winners of each Weblog category. I am look forward to reading their blogs.


Friday 6 December 2013

Are you still searching for your dream job?

This week, our son Sam and I had one of those philosophical discussions that you never forget. We talked about how to lead a fulfilling and happy life.

Sam saw life as a quest to find activities of higher and higher value. Happiness was achieved by substituting activities of higher value for lesser ones. 

If each activity has a personal value rating between 1 to 10, then he would, for example, substitute a 5 rated activity for a 7 rated activity. We agreed that it gets tricky when you perceive an activity as an 8 that turns out to be a 2 once you do it. That's life. 

This quest applies to all aspects of life including friends, partners and careers. From a career perspective, people would substitute a higher rated job for a lower rated one until they found their dream job. I wondered how people knew when they had found their dream job, the one that gives them maximum happiness. 

Later this week, I spoke with someone who said that the last Change with Confidence newsletter really helped him  with an issue he was facing. He said he reread it many times and thought about how he could best use it to lead change.

The three concentric circles of a dream job popped into my head: using your personal strengths on something you are passionate about that people value. Getting feedback like this gave me maximum fulfillment and happiness. At that moment I realized I had found my dream job.

Sam would say that the quest never ends; you never know when you will find a higher valued activity. That's life.