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.