Thursday 31 December 2015

3 Words to Ensure 2016 is a Great Year

This is the third time I am using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" exercise to help achieve my goals for next year.

Here is how it works: in late December, you select three words to direct your actions and behaviours that are aligned with you goals. They are reviewed regularly throughout the year, especially when making decisions that impact how you spend your time.

The words help you keep your goals top-of-mind and on track, increasing the odds of achieving them. As Chris says, "If you learn to use these words, learn to focus with them, learn to point yourself in the right direction with them, you'll see improvements. You'll see growth. You'll see a lot that makes you feel good."

My 2015 words were Choiceful; New; and Flexible.

Choiceful was about being selective on what I agreed to do. My past behaviour was to say yes to everything, which left me over-committed at the end of 2014. The impact of my decisions (or lack of them) was a 24-7 life just to honour the commitments I had made. Being choiceful helped me assess the pros and cons of opportunities and my available time before responding to requests. Now I have a disciplined decision-making process to help me be more choiceful.

New was intended to expose me to different opportunities and avoid falling into old patterns. In 2015, I took on new types of speaking engagements and consulting assignments, which led to personal growth. I even traveled to a couple of new countries for work, which broadened me further. My biggest new accomplishment was publishing my dad's memoirs on Amazon. Through the process, I developed a new skill set I will use in the future.

Flexible referred to my schedule. I was determined to leave room for unanticipated requirements and opportunities. I maintained a buffer of time over the second half of the year that I allocated depending on my priorities. I was more productive and less stressed by doing so.

My three words for 2016 are: ExciteCreate and Focus.

Excite has two meanings: find excitement in everything I do and excite the people I work with to accomplish new and challenging goals. They are related yet will help me in different ways. Finding excitement in everything I do will keep me motivated and balanced when faced with challenges. Exciting people I work with will help me spot opportunities to motivate or inspire them and ensure I take the time to do so.

Create is about building new mindsets, approaches and tools for managing change. I am keen to break new ground in 2016 and this prompt will keep my goal top-of-mind. It will also help me be creative in other parts of my life, perhaps by revisiting hobbies that fell off of my schedule many years ago. 

Focus will help me minimize distractions, whether they're time wasters or low-value activities. My ability to focus was good in 2015, in part due to following my three words for 2015. In 2016, I want to get better. Keeping my three words in front of me will go a long way to doing so. They will be posted on my monitor and in the front of my notebooks so they remain in view.

The "My Three Words" exercise is a excellent way of helping you achieve your annual goals. I am excited about my 2016 goals and the three words I have chosen to help me conquer them. I am ready to succeed!

What three words would help you achieve your 2016 goals?


Thursday 24 December 2015

The Best Gifts are the Ones that Are Unexpected

Last summer, I was looking through a box of old family pictures. It was like opening a treasure trunk full of artifacts of my past. 

The mystery was enhanced by many of the pictures being captured on two inch by two inch slides that needed to be converted to digital images to be fully appreciated. As they were being reformatted, moments in time literally appeared before my eyes. 

For the first seven years of my life, we lived in a small bungalow. My parents had bought a plot in a new subdivision called Rexdale, the first 'bedroom community' of Toronto. New home owners were flocking to this converted farm land because the price was affordable and new highways made commuting to city jobs manageable.

My dad had captured every phase of construction in photos and letters to his parents. Looking at these records, I realized that their new house became a symbol of their hopes and dreams of the future. Each brick laid represented one step closer to the next stage in their lives.

Since this house still exists, I thought the current owners might be interested in discovering the origins of their home. They might even be a young couple like my parents. I decided to create a visual narrative of the building of and early years of living in their home. It would be my unexpected holiday gift from a stranger.

On Tuesday, I created my PowerPoint presentation of the first thirteen years of their home. On Wednesday, I rang their doorbell with my gift in hand.

A friendly woman opened the door. She was on a Skype call and motioned that she would be with me in a second. As I was waiting, I peered inside her home, noting the kitchen wall that had been removed and the other renovations that had taken place. Where was the fireplace?

We had a great conversation. My first home had been converted into two apartments. This woman was visiting her son from Bogota, Colombia and had signed a six-month lease. She told me about her family and I took her through my presentation. 

The main theme of our conversation was the importance of family. Family ties throughout our lives are paramount and help define who we are. Also, everyone has their own PowerPoint presentation about their beginnings and how they have shaped their lives. 

My new acquaintance said she would give my gift to the home owners. We exchanged Christmas wishes for our families and shared a warm handshake. 

As I descended the front steps (for the first time in four plus decades), I realized that she had given me the gift of appreciation. Unexpected gifts are the best, whether you give or receive them.

All the best for the holiday season!

Friday 18 December 2015

Legacies Are Meant to Be Shared by Those Who Have Been Influenced by Them

My dad had often spoken about publishing his memoirs. He had written twenty stories that traced his steps from boyhood to manhood from the early 1920s to the late 1940s. These tales painted a picture of a young dreamer, inventor, poet, optimist, dancer, romantic, friend, pilot, engineer and jokester.

When my dad's health began to fade in the fall of 2014, he gave me his master binder of stories including detailed notes on how he wanted them formatted. In August, I started working in earnest on organizing, editing (very lightly) and formatting his words. I also added photos from his youth to provide visual context for his adventures.

On December 3, My Best 80 Years: The Lifetime Recollections of Donald Charles Buckley was published in soft copy and electronic versions on Amazon using its CreateSpace platform. By year's end, the electronic version will also be available on Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and other book retail sites.

I learned a lot from the long, detailed and sentimental process of publishing my dad's memoirs. I have a greater understanding of his essence, including his values, personality, motivations and humour. I also learned a lot about how I have been influenced by my upbringing, especially how my dad, mom and brother have shaped my essence. Finally, I learned a lot about self-publishing, skills I will use as I write my next book. 

This week, I have been sending copies of my dad's memoirs to family members and friendsthose who knew Don as a brother, uncle, wartime sweetheart (can you believe it?) or friend. I have also contacted historical societies that may learn from my dad's reflections. The more people who can benefit from my dad's words the better. 

After fifteen reads, I still find my dad's stories fascinating. They are etched in my memory and are still influencing me. Maybe this is what leaving a legacy is about: to positively influence people who remember you for it. 

I attended a cousins' reunion last month. When I shared the news about my dad's memoirs, one of his nephews said, "Uncle Don," with a smile, "Everyone loved him." That sounds like a legacy to me, one that is important to share to all.


Saturday 12 December 2015

How to Research an Organization on LinkedIn When You Are Pressed for Time

I have been researching multiple organizations this week with little time to do so. I realized that LinkedIn was my best source of information. Here's how I did it:

Organization Research

1) Go to the Companies section (Interests - Company)

2) Type the organization's name in the search bar at the top of the screen  

3) Select the organization you are looking for from the list of similar organizations (the logo help spot the one you are looking for)

4) Click the blue 'Follow' button. This creates a feed of new information posted by the organization

5) Skim the posted articles and read as many as you have time for including linked information 

6) Note names of leaders who you want to research

7) Note the people listed in the 'How You Are Connected' section who are in your network. They are people you can ask clarifying questions to or request an introduction from

8) For the people who are in your network, place your cursor on their names and click the 'Send a Message' button to ask any questions you have; for second or third level contacts, place your cursor on the name and click the 'connect' connect button to invite them into your network. You can also click on the 'View Profile' button to see if you know some in their network who can introduce you

People Research

1) Search for the people you have noted on the organization page: 

- Who do you know that is also in this person's LinkedIn network? These people can introduce you. Also, you can ask them questions about this person by clicking on your contact's name on the left-hand side of the page

- What do you have in common with this person: employers, schools, associations, charities, interests? These commonalities are potential sources of information and relationship builders if you connect with him or her

- What skill endorsements have he or she received? These are the skills that people in his or her network have recognized (that may be different from the ones listed in the profile)

- Who has endorsed themare they mainly colleagues, industry peers, suppliers, etc.?

2) Note the people listed in the 'How You Are Connected' section who are in your network. They are people you can ask clarifying questions to or request an introduction from

3) Place your cursor on someone's name and a link will appear below it that will send a message to them with your questions about the person

4) Follow step 8 above

It's fascinating what you can learn about an organization and the people who work for it through LinkedIn. When you are pressed for time, this is the fastest and most detailed approach to finding the information you need. Making more time for research is a good idea too. 


Friday 4 December 2015

Images are better communicators than words. Take PowerPoint presentations, for example

PowerPoint has been the go-to business communication software program since its launch in 1987. Almost anyone can easily create a presentation to inform, educate or sell others. 

There is a lot of advice on how to effectively use PowerPoint – focus on one thought per slide, limit the number of bullet points to 3 or 6 ('power of three'), use the least amount of slides as possible, etc..

There are also many tips on how to avoid misusing this tool  don't use a small font size, don't include complex, hard to read information like spreadsheets, don't use full sentences, etc.

The latest brain-related research has triggered a step-change in how PowerPoint presentations can convey meaning and gain influence:
  • The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes for the brain to decode text (SAGE Handbook of Political Communication)
  • People retain almost 65% of visual information compared to 10-20% of written or spoken information (Dr. Lynell Burmark)
  • 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text (Zabisco)
  • Using bullet-pointed text requires people to switch between reading and listening, exhausting their cognitive capabilities and decreases the likelihood of retaining the information (Dr. Chris Atherton)
  • 90% of information entering the brain is non-verbal (Psychologist Albert Mehrabian)
  • Presenters that use visuals are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action (3M)
So if the case for visuals over words is so conclusive, why do we create presentations that focus on words instead of visuals? One reason may be habit  I have always done it this way. Another may be limited access to compelling visuals or skills to use them. The biggest reason may be the lack of confidence in the ability of image-based presentations to support us. After all, a picture of a tiger may not remind us of the six bullet points we could use to convey agility. 

A colleague and I are presenting a change management overview to a potential client next week. We decided to substitute most of our text with compelling visuals. We included just enough words to support a take-away deck. 

I don't think we have gone far enough. For future briefing and learning session, we will use more visual metaphors and short phrases to help our audiences navigate the content and inspire conversations about it.

PowerPoint was a tool created to help convey information leading to a desired outcome. Doing so with only words is like trying to to write a story with 35 percent of the available letters. Greater use of visuals will give you the benefit of the whole alphabet. 


Friday 27 November 2015

Your Customers Need You to Upgrade Even if Some Don't Know it Yet

I upgraded my smartphone this week. I didn't need a new phone for my current uses, but I upgraded because the nature of business communication is changing.

I primarily use my smartphone for calls, emails and texts, and as an alarm clock. More and more, smartphone use is eclipsing my basic needs. People are using them as their preferred business and education tool.

This trend was spotted two years ago by Soundview when they launched their on-line course division. I remember speaking with the CEO who predicted that most leadership development would soon be delivered via smartphone. To enable mobile use, my course, Building Your Change Capability, was filmed in bite-sized fifteen-minute segments that could be accessed anywhere at any time. Education is now mobile.

Statistics tell a compelling story of the expanded role they play in people's personal and professional lives:
  • Over 6.0 billion people use mobile phones  that's 87% of the world's population (Source: Global Web Index)
  • In 2015, the penetration rate of smartphones in Canada grew to 68%, representing a year-over-year growth of 24% (Source: Catalyst)
  • U.S. adults spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day using mobile devices (Source: eMarketer)
  • About 65% of information searches start on a smartphone (Source: Michaels & Associates)
  • 99% of mobile learners believe this format enhanced their learning, and 100% say they would complete more training in a mobile format. (Source: eLearning Industry)
  • By 2018, at least 70% of mobile professionals will conduct work on personal smart devices (Source: SailPoint)
This communication shift is important to my business and its customers. Part of what makes my change and capability solutions relevant is that they are delivered in formats that my clients use. They now must become more mobile friendly because this is where people's needs are going. To do this well, I must become more mobile savvy.

My first steps were to upgrade my hardware and change my behaviour. As I compared my new and old devices, it was clear that all specifications had been improved  power, connectivity, storage, image quality, screen size, camera features  to enhance the communication experience. Why did I wait this long to upgrade?

It was fascinating to hear the sales representative, Jerry, explain how he uses his smartphone; it enables all parts of his personal and professional life. I am next, I thought.

My learning curve has been amusing. My bigger, heavier phone felt like a brick the first time I made a call. Also, it peaked out of my front pocket as I left the store. Jerry said, reassuringly with a smile, "Don't worry, you'll get used to it."

Yesterday was day one of behaviour change. I started an on-line course on my smartphone. I also read the news and downloaded a F. Scott Fitzgerald book to read on my Kindle app. My new phone is becoming my preferred business and education tool.

The biggest takeaway from my upgrade experience is that we need to evolve with our customers, and ideally faster than they do. This is as true for the advertising agencies promoting customers' products in an increasingly digital world as it is for universities educating students located remotely around the world; relevance is defined by the people we serve. We must upgrade our mindsets, skills and behaviours, even if some of our customers don't know it yet.


Friday 20 November 2015

Successful Change Requires Shared Ownership. Just Ask Gary Numan

Gary Numan is best known for his 1983 hit song, Cars. In the late 1970s, he pioneered an electronic 'New Wave' sound that dominated the airwaves a few years later. 

Since then he has released 18 new albums and continues to play concerts around the world.

This week a friend sent me a link to a crowdfunding site for Gary's new album. I was intrigued about why he chose this route since his last one, Splinter, had been critically and financially successful.

Gary explained that "with my new album I want you to be a witness to the entire process, from the very first note played, through every up and down as the days unfold...some days will be good, ideas will flow easily and I will be happy and excited. Other days will be awful, and I will be miserable...but this is the process."

I immediately signed up for the all-access package including a signed extended CD at the end of the experience. Supporting an artist I like and respect and getting an insider's view of how he creates music is an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

As I started receiving daily updates, I realized that this opportunity was much more than watching an artist create; it was an interactive endeavour where I was participating in the process. Today's post asked 'pledgers' to submit questions about the new album. I leapt into action hoping Gary would select my question to answer as part of a future Q&A post. I felt like I could be an input to his creative process. I thought hard about my question as if it mattered. 

So what does this have to do with change management? Let's say that Gary is a business leader who is responsible for a change. He says to the people who must implement the change that he wants them to be a witness to the entire process. From the very first step, through to the successful completion they will see all of it. Some days will be good where we make progress and some will will not where we will get stuck, but this is the process. 

Next, Gary provides daily updates on progress, sharing all the good and bad details. Then he asks them for their questions along with their names and where they are from. People do so eagerly, wanting to move their change forward. 

Gary, the business leader, has shared ownership of the change with his team and has engaged them in the process of changing, which has greatly increased the probability of its successful.

Sharing ownership of change is an essential success factor. To do so well you need to be:
  • Personally committed to the project  you still must be the most committed to the change of all contributors
  • Humble  you don't know all of the answers and you are keen to learn
  • Open to input  the best way forward is chosen regardless of who suggests it
  • Transparent about progress  especially when things aren't going well
  • Highly communicative  provide many updates and opportunities to share feedback
  • Generous with recognition  you couldn't have done it without people's excellent contributions
Close to 100 people had posted questions to Gary's pledge site within a few hours. I think the lesson for us all is how to create a following for the changes we are responsible for making in our personal and professional lives.

Perhaps it's a blend of our visible passion, commitment and ability to create something new with the opportunity to be an active contributor who is also responsible for the successful outcome. 

One thing is for sure: I believe I am a part of Gary's album experience. And as a part owner, I am all in.  


Friday 13 November 2015

What You Read Shapes How You Lead

Years ago I remember a peer saying, "If you want to lead, read". I think this is true; reading builds people's knowledge, hones their communication skills and helps them create a compelling story of a better future, all important traits of good leaders.

An extension to this adage is that since readers are leaders, what they read shapes how they lead. Reading different resources broadens their critical thinking and leadership capabilities. Knowledge, perspectives and decision-making approaches are broadened through the understanding of multiple, and often contradictory, viewpoints. Conversely, reading from one resource narrows exposure to different ideas and limits their leadership capabilities. If they only read material from hammer manufacturers, then every opportunity and challenge looks like a nail.

The Change with Confidence Newsletter has been running for almost 2 1/2 years. Each month, MelTim and I each select two current articles or videos we find intriguing. Our goal is to expand thinking about change and how it impacts our lives. We provide brief descriptions and links so that people can view the ones that interest them. 

The November issue will be our 28th. I thought it would be interesting to map the sources of our selections to see if any patterns emerged. I wanted to test if our breadth of sources was aligned with our goal to expand our thinking.

It was encouraging to learn that we drew upon 101 sources for our 162 selections. The sites ran a broad spectrum from traditional to esoteric, from Business Insider India to the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog

Our top 10 repeat sources were: Forbes (12), Harvard Business review (7), The Globe and Mail (7), C3Conversations (5), Fast Company (4), Huffington Post (4), The Atlantic (4), Big Think (4), BBC News (3) and The Washington Post (3).

It's good to know we are tapping into diverse sources of knowledge to expand our (and our readers') thinking on personal and business change. The assessment has reminded me that we need to push ourselves toward new knowledge sources to expand our leadership abilities. I will be sure to review where we have gone in the past so I forge new ground in the future.


p.s. Click here if you would like to receive our newsletter. The November issue will be out in a few days.

Friday 6 November 2015

How to Gain Honest and Useful Feedback When Interviewing People About a Change

I am starting a type of  assignment that I really enjoy: interviewing people to uncover what is working and not working after a change has been launched.

The process required to uncover the 'truth' is both systematic and flexible: data gathering through conversation, pattern identification, hypothesis development and testing, and recommendation making. It's like building a puzzle where you need to create the pieces.

Conversations last between 30 and 60 minutes. In this time you need to stimulate interest in providing feedback, build rapport, ask questions, probe answers and take coherent notes. Time flies.

The best interviews are the ones that feel like conversations versus question and answer exchanges. They progress based on the interviewee's interests yet end with all questions being asked. 

As I was writing my interview guide, I wrote down these tips for gaining great observations, insights and actions that will make the change you are assessing more effective, embedded and valuable.

  • Create an interview guide including an opening welcome and closing thank you -- it ensures that you ask the same questions and don't forget to build rapport and show appreciation
  • Commit to anonymity of comments  opening the call by stating this pledge can increase the honesty and specificity of comments. Besides, sharing who said what is not relevant to your mandate and can be a distraction to stakeholders
  • Phrase each question in two ways, e.g. "What challenges are you facing/what can you no longer do that you could do before?"  one will better mirror the language patterns of the person you are interviewing
  • Ask interviewees if they have any questions -- it sets people at ease and builds rapport through the two-way exchange of information
  • The best final question is "What last thoughts do you have/what is one last piece of advice you have?"  often, the best information and insights are gained from this answer
  • Capture verbatim comments  they add credibility and reveal any emotions behind comments
  • Identify insights supported by verbatim comments  including the data behind your insights sets up a dialogue with the stakeholders about the validity of your conclusions 
  • Review questions with all stakeholders before the first interview  it ensures that you and all stakeholders are aligned
  • Invest 15 minutes after each call to organize your notes  this allows you to decipher your notes, compare the feedback with others and identify any emerging patterns
  • Make the interview enjoyable  they last longer and people will share with others that it was a good experience

Gaining feedback from people about a new way of working is an important element of the 'Making it Stick' phase of change. Discovering what is working, not working and how to make it better leads to improved implementation and outcomes. Effectively doing so can also build employee engagement and learning for future changes. Even better, it can become part of your culture of 'how we do things around here'.


Friday 30 October 2015

A Murphy's Law Corollary: You Will Need a Plan B When You Don't Have One

Yesterday I gave a webinar hosted by the Change Management Institute. Everything was set for a great session until the power went out at my office three hours before the 12 noon start. Suddenly, everything was not as set.

I still had three hours, I assured myself. Even so, I assessed the situation. I couldn't get access to my presentation because it was trapped on my hard drive. Not good. I had sent a copy to the organizing team a week ago, but it didn't include my final changes.

My laptop was fully charged, but without internet access it was not of help. Not good. I needed a back up location to give my talk. 

Options included Starbucks, a local library and a friend's home. My friend's home was the only one that would be quiet and without distractions. Luckily she was home and open to hosting a webinar leader.

The power was still out at 11:00 am so I enacted Plan B and drove to my friend's home.I downloaded my older presentation from my Gmail account and was able to make the changes before participants signed into the webinar. The session began on time and went without a hitch.

After my adrenaline levels dropped to normal, I did a post analysis. With no Plan B I had added risk to my life and those of my partners. What surprised me was that I usually create a backup plan that includes contingencies for the 'what ifs' that can hamper a session. Why didn't I do so this time? 

Here are the steps I usually take:

  • Write the presentation at least two weeks beforehand (in case I get sick or need to manage unplanned commitments)
  • Schedule a dry run session the week before to test technology and content flow 
  • Ask "What could go wrong?" and identify a fallback solution for each answer
  • Have a backup source of connectivity (e.g. laptop) turned on and ready to be used
  • Email my presentation to me and my partners the night before
  • Load my presentation onto a USB memory stick as an additional backup

Next week I am presenting another webinar. I now have scheduled time to create my Plan B. Also, all future speaking engagements have similar preparation sessions booked in my calendar. I have vowed not to forget Murphy's Law again. 


Friday 23 October 2015

What does 'real change' mean to you?

A Canadian federal election was held this week resulting in the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, securing a majority government win. 

I was curious throughout the election about the Liberal's campaign slogan: 'Real Change'. What does it mean? When I went to the Liberal's website (, I saw my question at the top of the page followed by their three platform priorities: invest now in our future; help the middle-class; and open, honest government. 

What followed were 105 policy topic panes that formed a matrix. Clicking on each one revealed the party's position on that area and a costing plan to fund investment. Citizens were invited to rate the topic's importance, from 1 to 5 stars. An average of all other ratings was provided for comparison, similar to book reviews on Finally, people had the option of adding the topic to 'myPlatform', a personal record of important topics or issues.

I was intrigued that voters were encouraged to engage with the policy areas. Rating them gave people a voice with a political party seeking to win their vote. It also gave the Liberals a read on people's interests. A co-dependent community was being formed.

Even more impressive was the sharing of responsibility for action by helping citizens create heir own political agendas. In his victory speech, Justin Trudeau referenced the important role people play in his politics:"I know that I am on this stage for one reason and one reason only: because you put me here...You gave me clear marching orders."

Based on the Liberal's actions, real change means:
  • A personally committed leader
  • A vision of the future that is different, better and compelling
  • Shared ownership with all
  • Co-creation (through participation and engagement)
  • Prioritization (3-5 not 10 priorities)
  • Investment (and a plan to fund it)
  • Room for adjustment (through two-way dialogue and review)
When discussing the definition of'real change' with a colleague, I wondered how it differed from 'unreal change'. She said, "Oh, there is a lot of that around." It seems that real change, as defined by the Liberals, means successful change. It would be good to get a lot more of that around.


Thursday 15 October 2015

The Do's and Don'ts of LinkedIn Introductions

LinkedIn is an excellent social networking platform. As its 'join now' internet page states, you can "connect, find, be found; power your career; and learn and share". I can't think of anyone I know through business who hasn't joined and created his or her own LinkedIn profile.

One way to connect is through the introduction feature that allows you to introduce two people in your network who could benefit from knowing each other. It can be an excellent way to support your connections. 

This week, I caught up with someone through LinkedIn who I had met while organizing a speaking engagement. She said, "I take pride in my LinkedIn network and want to ensure that people like you don't get solicited as a result of the connections I have." My considerate acquaintance raised an important watch-out: introductions can be unwanted and become burdensome commitments.

To be effective and appropriate, LinkedIn introductions need to have a specific purpose, such as connecting someone who is looking for information with a person who has it. Recently, I introduced someone who was considering making a career change with a person who had made the same move. The specific purpose of the introduction was to share experience, perspective and insights. It was a great match. 

General introductions typically aren't effective and can be viewed as impositions. Since there is no purpose other than to meet, they lack a catalyst for conversation and relationship building. Also, they can be seen as inappropriate by the party who isn't interested in making a new connection. Many people are overloaded and don't have time in their busy days (and nights) to chat when there is no concrete reason to do so. 

Here are my do's and don'ts of making LinkedIn introductions: 
  • Do make introductions between people who needs specific information with those who have it 
  • Do realize that you are asking a favour of the knowledge provider
  • Do ask yourself if you would welcome a similar request from one of your connections before making it
  • Do send a note to the information provider asking permission to make the introduction  this is the only way to be sure that the connection is welcome
  • Do state the purpose of the connection in your introductory note
  • Do provide an overview of each person's background to help kick-start the initial conversation
  • Do end your note by saying you hope the connection will be of mutual benefit
  • Do follow up to see how the exchange went  this will help you assess future connections
  • Do keep a record of your introductions so you have templates for future ones – it will also help you build your skill in introduction writing
  • Don't assume people have time to meet new people
  • Don't make general connections just because someone wants to meet a person in your network – most will come across as prospecting requests that will damage trust and harm your relationships
  • Don't make connections where the person requesting it only wants a favour from someone in your network (a job, an introduction into his or her network, etc.) 
  • Don't make multiple connections with the same person in your network without confirming he or she has the time and interest for them – if not, it is an imposition 
  • Don't make introductions to people in your network that you don't know – your introduction will not be seen as authentic if you can't recall how you know them
Your LinkedIn network is a professional community that you build, support and benefit from over time. Making connections between people who you know is one of the best features LinkedIn offers. Treating your community with respect by how you do so will make it and your relationships grow even stronger.  


Saturday 10 October 2015

If at First You Don't Succeed, Focus on Your Thinking

A priority this week has been helping our son Charlie practice driving. This was his second attempt, just like his dad and mom had done when he was his age (it's genetic).

As we were returning home from a practice session, I asked Charlie a question I ask all leaders who are repeating an unsuccessful change initiative: what will be different this time? Charlie's answer was one I have never heard before. He said, "I am going to approach the test differently. Last time, my mind was focused on getting through the test instead of completing the activities that would have resulted in a pass. I was reactive, waiting for the instructor to direct me versus observing the road conditions and driving the car. 

Charlie's different attitude changed how he practiced, from repeating specific tasks around the test area to driving in different locations under new conditions. He was increasing his breadth of experience and skill.

Most leaders focus on activities or tasks when leading changes that haven't been successful in the past. They try to 'fix' past mistakes (actions and tactics) instead of rethinking the change (mindset). This results in minor tweaks when different approaches are needed to gain the outcomes. 

Successful change requires leaders to align mindsets, actions and behaviours to achieve challenging goals. The hardest to influence is mindsets because beliefs and viewpoints are deep-rooted in people's minds and organizational cultures. Pronouncements such as 'This is my leadership style' or 'this is how we do things around here' are typical and signs of inflexible thinking that lead to marginal change and repeat misses.  

Here are a few questions to consider when attempting a change for the second time:

- What didn't work the first time?
- What has to be true this time to be successful?
- How can I look at the change differently (to avoid what didn't work and do what is required to be successful)?
- What actions and behaviours will deliver my new approach?

Charlie passed his driving test with flying colours. The instructor even asked him to honk the horn at onlookers who were standing in his designated parking spot. He was now a certified motorist!

During our family celebration, Charlie reflected that his new approach worked well. He focused on his immediate environment -- would he have an advanced green light, would the traffic be too heavy to turn at the first parking lot entrance, etc. -- and completed each task as requested. He didn't feel rushed and was less nervous than he had been during his first test. 

Based on Charlie's lead, I am now going to ask a different question of leaders: How are you thinking differently about the change this time around? The answers will be a good predictor of success.


Thursday 1 October 2015

15 Ways to Get Your Peers to Support Your Projects

A friend told me about someone who just got a big promotion. Two areas were being combined and he was asked to lead both of them. Priority one was to create his mandate for change, one that he believes will transform the whole company. 

Ambitious leaders like this one usually pour all of their passion, thinking and resources into building their agenda and a plan to deliver it. It's good work that is quickly completed by their team. The output is positively reviewed by their boss and the team that created it, which communicates that change is coming and creates a sense of progress and feeling of momentum. 

From a change perspective, what's wrong with this picture? This approach, although positive, lacks an important element required for success: the support and buy-in of peers. Agendas are made up of projects that impact departments or groups outside of the leader's domain, especially the ones that will transform the whole company. If peers in other areas aren't supportive of the projects, the initiative is likely to be ignored, paid lip service to or blocked. All of the passion, thinking and resources invested in the projects fail to produce the promised results.

A better approach is to gain peer support when starting to plan the agenda. This provides the opportunity to gain input, secure buy-in and avoid people feeling like the projects (and change) is being done to versus with them.

An important truism of change is that people support the work they create. They gladly advocate for and implement their own good work. The goal then is to invite peers to shape your agenda so that it becomes a co-owned initiative. Not doing so can trigger another change truism: people resist things they didn't create, often referred to as the 'not invented here' syndrome.

Here are fifteen ways to gain support from your peers:
  • Explain why the project or agenda is needed – for the department and the entire organization
  • Meet with each peer to discuss how the project could further his or her agenda – record the answers, measure and provide updates on them (both rational and emotional benefits)
  • Establish goals that all peers will benefit from
  • Include peers in launch articles or videos articulating why the project is important to them and the organization
  • Align project timing so that it doesn't conflict with other major project launches – if there is a conflict colleagues' focus will be diffused and support will be less than needed
  • Ask peers for advice on how to build the plan and how to measure success – people ignore metrics they do not value
  • Be clear on how they can help the project be successful – e.g. endorse the initiative to their teams, participate on a steering committee, take part in a panel discussion, share resources, etc.
  • Thank peers for their support before it is given – they will be more likely to honour them
  • Invite peers to assign a representatives to the project to ensure their needs are met
  • Secure time on regular cross-area meetings to provide updates on progress
  • Personally brief peers face-to-face on changes to the plan that will affect them before they are announced – this is time consuming, but essential; people can handle the truth, but they can't handle surprise
  • Communicate successes gained by peer teams as much, if not more, than your own – success breeds engagement
  • Attribute successes, in part, to the support provided by peers – it wouldn't have been possible without them, which is true
  • Send notes of appreciation to the peer representatives thanking them for their contributions (cced to their managers and area leader)
  • Include peers in lessons learned reviews at the end of the project – this will set up support for future projects

Most agendas and projects require cross-functional peer support to be successful. Sharing the design, ownership and success of them with peers will ensure that everyone wins.