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    Entries in change leadership (14)

    Thursday
    May042017

    Where's your project on the path of change

    Many change and transformation projects are spoken about as a 'path', 'journey', 'ladder' or 'roadmap'.

    In short, we're here and we want to get to .... there.

    Sometimes change and transformation can feel alot less safe than a simple path or road. It feels more like a gigantic cliff! And Jack Canfield's quote about 'making your parachute on the way down' or the entrepreneurial advice to 'grow wings as you're plummeting towards earth' (aka 'grow a pair!) ... who even wants to jump into a change when you're not sure how safe the whole path will be, let alone the landing!

    Whether it's a structural change, a process or system change or a shift in culture towards new ways of working, it's in that metaphorical language we speak (paths, journeys, ladders and roadmaps) that we hear the cues and clues about where we are and where we want to get to.

    We also hear about some of the roadblocks, barriers and obstacles (hey, more metaphors*) that are both hindering and helping progress through a transformation.

    *Hint: Listen out for these metaphors; you can build lovely rapport and help people shift when you hear these metaphorical barriers and then talk about them, rather than telling people to 'move on'.

    Change and transformation doesn't just involve the stuff or things that are changing; it involves the people, the humans doing the changing.

     

    How about a ladder?

    A path, journey or roadmap up say, a ladder of change can be tricky, treacherous... and for some impatient leaders, suitably time wasting. Knowing where you're at can help with leading that change.

     

    At the bottom of the ladder are organizations and teams in chaos; they’re losing ground and on the decline. They are resistant to change, fearful and frightened of change and don’t know where to begin. They’re moving in reverse. They think they're standing still but it's worse than that. These are the businesses that go ‘belly up’, that become insolvent and are wound up. Too soon and they’re gone.

    There are plenty of businesses close to chaos but they’re attempting change and transformation. They’re a little stuck. When teams and organizations resist change – which often happens in the early stages of a change or transformation - there is a sense of being in neutral; poor levels of productivity and a feeling of not getting anywhere. Going in circles, simple changes aren't being adopted and it’s all too easy to continue the old ways of working. Why change?

    Progressing up the ladder (or along a path of change) are organizations and teams that are intent on change and transformation but they’re… distracted. They’re too busy looking at competitors and not responding, or they’re focused on internal changes that deliver little impact (or are unnecessary in the first place), or their attention is taken off the positive process of change by other significant troubles. This includes industrial, legal, financial or media crisis stuff. They're in the media everyday. They’re busy all right, but productivity and transformation suffers because they’re focusing on distracting stuff.

    If you think of an organization as aiming to make forward progress through change and transformation, each of these stages of the change path or ladder see the business slipping, with wheels spinning, engine revving loudly, just not getting anywhere!

    As a remote Australian outback fan, I'm often w-a-y out there, holidaying in our 4WD, taking paths less travelled, seeing the ochre-red sands of central Australia or the remote bush tracks where few tourists go. Spinning wheels? Not good. Get traction and get outta there!

    And in change, that's where we get to a tipping point…get outta there.

    Up over this point in change and transformation is where productivity changes, focus is shifted and positive friction is achieved, traction is gained.

    At the shift stage, organizations and teams are making changes and transformation. The decision is made, they're onto it. They’re bringing new processes and ways of working to the business … but it’s still a hard slog. Change is not the norm; the dynamic of progressive change isn’t leveraged and change takes significant effort to get traction and to stick.

    Once the team gets to perform, productivity goes up, change initiatives begin to ‘stick’ in a positive way and the path to being transforming culture is smoother. Positive change initiatives build on previous changes made and the culture is a higher performing one. There is acceptance of change as the norm; ‘This is what we do. We change. We keep changing because that’s how we do things around here.’

    Ultimately, organizations and teams that reach transform, do so because they are agile and adaptive; they make change stick, and then reinvent, experiment and review to make change an ongoing part of how they work. 

    From some of my blog posts, enews and social media shares, I often hear back from people in industries and sectors that say they are too low down on this path towards change. That they want to get moving; they want to change quicker; they need to or they'll be disrupted, replaced and decimated as a business... and possibly an industry.

     

    Everything about your organisation speaks

    In an earlier career in communications, I remember learning (and then lecturing) that 'everything about an organisation speaks'. It speaks to you about the culture; everything from how you're greeted, to what you see, to how people are sitting in pods and rows, to how a meeting room is 'all table' and no space.

    How your organisation responds to change says so much about its culture. And if you want to change culture, you need to change how you see, lead and communicate about change.

    The way you lead change says everything about your culture. Change brings renewal; if you want to change culture, change how you lead change.

    This is why I think the reference to change as a death, a dying or a grief process is done. References to endings and beginnings are done. Change is ongoing. It needs to be part of "how we do things around here."

    Rather than allowing change to be a burden, a challenge or a drudge, change can be the catalyst to shifting culture. The move is on from spinning wheels and being stuck in old ways, to a shift, up up up to higher levels of traction and performance.

    To change culture, change how you lead - see and speak - of change.

    Thursday
    May042017

    The 'death model' of change is done

    If you don't like change, you are going to like irrelevant even less.’ - Eric Shinseki

    Change and transformation are constant in organisations, and the reality is that leaders need to lead that change. And get used to leading it.

    It's through change that organizational culture is created, demonstrated and lived.

    Your capability as a leader is often measured by how well you lead change and transformation, and how well you’ve helped a team or organization shift from ‘here’…. to ‘there.’.

    Over time, it can be challenging to keep on leading change and transformation projects - particularly if the team is feeling a little change weary!

     

    Oh no, not "pushback"

    Some team members resist and pushback on the change initiatives you’re leading. This type of resistance and response can build and next thing you know, you have a groundswell of support against a change, not for it.

    Leading change is a daily part of being a contemporary leader. And leaders need to feel comfortable with the discomfort that can come from their efforts of leading change. Even when the going is tough.

    We’re living in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and to lead change in this environment takes a mix of know-how, mindset and action that positions leaders as the true transformers of organizational culture.  

     

    More "urgency" won't help

    How do you help people understand why this change is just as, or more important than the last one you led? There’s only so much ‘urgency’ you can create as a reason to change, or to push or engage people to change.

    I was facilitating a kick-off leadership workshop with a project team recently and that cliched phrase of "create the urgency" was trotted out endlessly. *groan* They were too focused on pushing people... a kind of "hurry up and change" message.

    Yes sometimes it’s a challenge to get strong buy-in from across the whole team and beyond. There might be pockets of support, pockets of dissent and a bunch of people simply sitting in the middle, waiting to see which side of the change fence they might end up sitting on.

     

    So. Many. Questions.

    Sustaining high levels of engagement throughout a change program is a challenge. Questions can come from all quarters. You might want to answer every question that people have but sometimes that’s not possible. It may feel like you have little time or you may feel there’s a sense that the questions would never end, and that you would get the same questions over and over and over….

    How do you handle the resistance, the comments, questions and frustrations of team members… without letting it get on top of you, disrupting the rest of the team, or putting a stop to the transformation that’s underway? I think this is an ideal facilitation capability. There are ways to open up discussion, handle the tricky subjects and then wind things up without shutting people down.

     

    First, let's STOP with the 'death model'

    Where have you learned about how to lead change?

    Much is learned from the leaders who lead us and the changes we've been through with them. And much of that can be flawed, dated, tired, slow and stodgy.

    Come on, there’s only so much that a PowerPoint slide with the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model of grief can do to help inspire and engage you lead change! As highly regarded as the model is, it’s about death and dying.

    Enough with linking change to death. How uninspiring!

    Ever been in this workshop?...

    "Welcome to our workshop today about change. Firstly, here's what dealing with grief and death is like. Here's what's going to happen to you throughout our transformation program... there's no way out"

    We’ve got to move on from the ‘death’ model of change to a more contemporary approach, of change being constant, living, dynamic and a necessity. This is what business agility is; it's what's agile, adaptive, responsive and needed.

     

    Risky career business

    Change and transformation needs to be led … every day. And leaders need to do that in an inspiring way.

    Yes, there is a real risk or fear that the change program you’re leading could fail. Some of them do. And if you’re judged on your performance or capability to lead a team through a rapidly changing environment, this can impact your credibility, marketability, success and career path.

    But don't let that hold you back from trying new things and applying more contemporary approaches to change.

    As a leader of change, you'll be charged with the responsibility to design, engage and execute change - and it needs to be done in a human way. Coupled with leading your own cohort, you still need to maintain a strong sphere of leadership influence among peers and beyond.

    It’s a fine balance between:

    • leading the team,
    • leading the change and
    • leading your own career.

    And that's not griefworthy or deathly.

    Carry on. Keep going. Look for a lighter style and approach to change and stop with the comparison to death.

    Friday
    Nov202015

    Hellllooooo procrastinators : how to make things happen, stat!

    The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ - Walt Disney

    There’s a message here from the Director of Your Life; don’t wait for the script to arrive.

    Get on with it. Everyday life is the biggest improvisation of all. No script. No rehearsal. Get straight out on to the stage of life and start performing!

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving!

    Spur of the moment is often good enough

    For many planners, strategists and forward thinking folks, planning is a part of their everyday life. They plan their morning; they plan their lunch; they plan their afternoon; and they plan family holidays, expeditions and adventures. But to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous life which is how the world is now operating, to plan can sometimes be too slow.

    I love the idea of starting before you're ready and making things up as we go along.

    I joke with friends and family that there are some cities and towns in the world that if I had the opportunity to visit them again, you could take me to the airport right now. With nothing more than a credit card in my hand and my passport in my back pocket, I would work it all out as I went.

    That idea can freak some people out. But I'd really would be willing to do that. Wanna travel with me?

    The performance of starting

    Starting before you're ready is a response based on a theory around improvisation. Step into any community or public theatre on any night of the week in almost any city around the world and you will be able to discover the talents and prowess of improvisers. They step onto stages, performing for paying public and they are able to create and deliver an incredible performance almost every time.

    At the end of an improvised show, many theatergoers ask, ‘can we come back tomorrow night and see this performance again?’ Some audiences don’t realise that the show they just saw was fully improvised. Perhaps, a suggestion was given from someone in the audience to start a scene for the performance. Perhaps, one of the performers has added their own ideas. In fact, this is what improvisation is. It’s cutting loose your censor and setting free the inhibitions in your mind to deliver creativity.

    When I first learned the skills of improvisation with Impro Melbourne and was encouraged to step onto stage as a performer, I always felt that I needed to rehearse a bit more or prepare in my mind what I was going to do. Just as improvisers step onto a stage without a script so must we in workplaces today.

     Having a go

    The idea that we can start before we are ready, gives us permission to just have a go, to not have a plan, to not have a script, to not have a structure and to not have any clue where this might go! This of course can be terrifying for those who like to plan, for those who like certainty, for those who like unambiguous situation and for those who like steady and calm environments. 

     Start before you're ready says don't worry about planning fully. If you are 80% ready to go, then go. If you are 40% ready to go, then go with something. If you are 20% ready to go, then go with that.

    Start before you're ready. 

    If you continue to plan out every single step of your idea, of your business opportunity, of your entrepreneurial thoughts or of your team's actions, your capacity to respond to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are minimized. To be able to start at anytime - particularly before you're ready - gives you the opportunity to respond, to adapt, to be agile and to be flexible.

    Procrastinators.... helloooooo?

    Over the longer term starting before you're ready helps reduce your inhibitions, your structures, your limitations and your beliefs about what can be possible, what you can create and what you can do. And for the procrastinators among us (yes, me too), starting before you're ready is a very cool way to get some momentum, to get something 'out there' and get over your need for it to be finished, perfect or better before you put it out there.

    Have a crack. That's Aussie slang for 'have a go'. It's an Australian saying I'm often saying to myself, and groups and clients to encourage starting.

    Try it out. Start before you're ready and then document what happens. You could be on to something truly life changing for you and those you impact with your thinking, creativity and work.

    Tuesday
    Nov102015

    How inspiring are you as a leader?

    Straight up then: how inspiring are you as a leader?

    Do you even know?

    Television’s Dr Phil McGraw often asks guests getting some pop-psych on his Oprah offshoot program ‘Dr Phil’, 'How much fun are you to live with?'

    It's a brilliant question that will put you in the shoes of your partner. But the same can apply to workplaces, organizations, teams, leaders and groups.

    So how much fun are you to work for? Work with? Collaborate with? Communicate with? Do you even know? Do you need to have a chat to someone?

    Think of it like a bellows that fuels a fire with air. At the historic re-enactment tourism village in regional Victoria, Australia, about 90 minutes from Melbourne, there’s a place called Sovereign Hill.

    Here you can buy boiled sweets, watch people wear clothes of the pioneer days or get your name printed on a bushranger ‘WANTED’ poster. On a school-day visit in years gone by, I remember seeing the impact of the bellows at the town blacksmith. The Smithy would be operating the bellows using a foot-pump to stoke, feed and ‘air’ the fire and then he’d be tapping, belting and chinking out horseshoes and other historic items of metal blacksmithing in between whooshes of air.

    When you look at bellows, you see they have two actions:

    • first they draw air IN ...
    • before they can blow it OUT.

     

    Do you give or take?

    Are you the sucking-air-in kind of person… squeezing the life out of; the one who brightens a room just by leaving it? Do you leave people deflated and flat, beaten and feeling hopeless? Do you even know? Oh how depressing! No no!

    Rather… be the one who gives with (good) air and energy and possibility and hope. Make the environment, space, team, project and business feel fired up with air and energy because of you. Whooosh – blow fresh air and energy into the environment. Be inspiring! 

    Be filled with possibility

    When you’re leading change in a team or organisation, you have to fill the air and the environment with possibility and hope and ‘yes we can do this.’ This is not ‘yee-ha’ but rather a great feeling of capability, high likelihood and a sense of ‘we’re gonna do this because….’ and ‘we can do this because…’

    If I followed you around for a week (not in a creepy way), what would I see? How inspiring are you as a leader? 

    Tuesday
    Sep082015

    5 Capabilities for Leading into the Unknown

    Leaders leading in uncertain times and unknown situations are needing more flexible capabilities; a mindset of being able to flex and shift no matter what's happening. 

    To lead into the unknown - whatever your industry, field, expertise or role - here are five capabilities for keeping it together when you're not sure what's up ahead:



     
    1. Start Before You're Ready
    You can't wait for the script to arrive. You've got to get momentum and get doing. 

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving. We are adaptable humans. Our survival depends on it. 

    2. Like Surprises
    Scriptwriters call them 'plot twists' and we notice them as shocks, surprises or bolts from the blue. Once you’ve started before you’re ready and you’re in motion, some unexpected stuff will happen along the way. How spontaneous are you?  Do you insist on sticking with the plan or are you open to other ways, paths and possibilities?

    3. Try Something Else
    Experimenting helps you refine, edit and alter your thinking, offers, service, design or idea. It's rare for the first version to be the final version... of anything. In a world that's more accepting of failure as a learning process, you've got to see what works as well as what doesn't. As Keith Johnstone, teacher and godfather guru of improvisation says 'Do something, rather than having lengthy discussions about doing something'. 

     

    4. Go Co

    "If you want to see the future coming, 90% of what you need to learn you'll learn from outside your industry" - so says Gary Hammel, author of 'Leading the Revolution'.

    Thinking with diversity invites varied views, talents, experiences, cultures and backgrounds to the table or conversation to co-create good work. 'Co' is all about together. Working with others is a... co-brainer. It's impossible to do it all by yourself. Plus, others need your expertise to make what they're doing brilliant too.  

    5. Be Curious
    Being a risk taker and brave explorer in times of uncertainty can feel like it’s too big a risk; but bold actions can also reap huge rewards. Leaders who set up an environment where others can succeed are staying open to what that team can do. That means stepping into some uncertainty, some unknown and some unsure. 

    There's nothing to fear when you're leading into the unknown.

    The opposite of fear isn't bravery; it's curiosity.