Tag Archives: Change Management

Knowing & Becoming Known…A Challenge for the New Boss

new_boss_tshirt-p235578270226180427qj9t_152It’s never comfortable being the newcomer. This is especially true when we start a new job, and even more so if that job involves leading an organization or taking charge of an already established team.

Three words come to mind when I think about this: Culture, Trust and Change. These are big issues and huge, if you happen to be a new boss. How you address them will often make the difference between a reasonably smooth leadership transition and a very shaky one.

For instance, inserting oneself into an already established culture requires some delicacy and some time spent in learning how people think; what they value; and the assumptions they operate from.

As well, most organizations work from a platform of earned trust rather than assumed trust. As such, if you are an unknown commodity, there will be skepticism about your motives, and the effect your presence will have on the status quo. While we like to think people will readily embrace change, we know that it just isn’t that easy. But, the reality is that change comes with every new leader and the immediate challenge is to find ways to send the message that this is a good thing…or at least, the right thing.

All this needs time and work. The point is, in this world of speed and technology, we have to find ways of accomplishing things faster. That includes expediting the process of knowing and becoming known. The question is, how?

Well, it’s a tricky one…but like most things, not impossible

There is, for instance, the New Manager Assimilation Process, which is a structured way of speeding up your collective orientation. Specifically, it is designed to help new managers quickly establish positive working relationships with their direct reports while also building a solid foundation for the future.

But, whether you decide to use this kind of formal process or a less informal one, know that the first few days, weeks and months as leader, will lay the foundation for how you will work and be perceived in the future.

When I think about inserting myself, as leader, into an established group, these are some things that come up:

Listen

People like to know they are being heard. As a new manager this is particularly important. There will be things they will want me to know about them. There will be other things they will want me to know as well, like what they are proud of, or what worries them. And, they will have ideas to share that will help shape how we move forward together.

Respect what went before

As the new one in town, there will be things that were established before I arrived that will have a lot of value. Rather than take a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ approach to my new role, I would take some time to learn what is good about the way things are.

Be clear about my vision and purpose

As an unknown, people will be curious (and possibly anxious) about what I see as my role; what I want to accomplish and; how my personal beliefs and values align with their own. In short, they will want to be able to see themselves in the picture I create. The more often and consistently I communicate these things, the quicker I will become known.

Be accessible

This is not just about keeping my office door open. It’s also about making myself emotionally available and showing my humanness. I would want to give people an opportunity to know me as a person as well as a boss.

Ask for help

It doesn’t matter what I bring to the new organization, there will always be things I’m simply not going to know. Asking for help gives me the opportunity to learn… and others the chance to show me what they know.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

 

Note: This post was originally published in November, 2011

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Shift, Leading Teams, Organizational Effectiveness

Four Things to Remember When Change Hits “Upside the Head”

woman-ice-pack_300Change.  It’s a topic that provides much fodder for discussion among leaders.  We anticipate it; study it; plan for it; and, if we are smart (or lucky), we make it happen or respond to it with strength, a sense of purpose and a clear head.  Sounds pretty simple.

But of course, it’s not.  Sometimes change hits us “upside the head” and cares not whether we have had time to think about it or prepare for it.  It simply happens, rudely and without ceremony, leaving us grappling to make some sense of it all.

Yes, there are ways to mitigate the impact of such brutal changes but for the most part, they have a way of sending us into a tailspin and causing even that which was once so familiar to seem somehow foreign and out of sync with how we understand the world.

The trauma brought about by such change happens every day to countless people, people without contingency plans, or any idea how they are going to cope with what has happened to them.  And yet we do, cope I mean, under many conditions and through many challenges.

Having experienced an “upside the head” change myself, I am given to thinking about aspects of change that I perhaps did not give so much consideration to in the past. Here are a few of those thoughts:

Change is primarily an emotional and people-centred event

In 2001, Jeffery W. Greenberg, Chairman of Marsh & McLennan Companies headquartered in New York, presided over a firm of 58,000 people worldwide.  1,127 of them worked in the World Trade Centre, some in Tower One and others in Tower Two.  Mr. Greenberg’s office was in Mid-town Manhattan.  From his window, he had a clear view of the towers and of the horror inflicted on those who went to work there on September 11th.

At the end of the reckoning, 295 of the company’s employees had lost their lives.  In the midst of the pain and disarray that was to ensue in the days, weeks and months following the attack, something significant emerged.

In telling his story, Mr. Greenberg’s primary observations were not about executing business disaster recovery plans or repositioning Data Centres and telecommunications systems but about the people in his organization; their courage, resilience and determination to pick up the pieces and move on.

This suggests to me that successfully moving through horrendous change events relies more heavily on the preservation of emotional health than we might otherwise think.  It reinforces, at least for me, that building an organization with a strong sense of purpose, widely shared values and an engaged workforce is not a faddish notion.  It is a business imperative.

During times of drastic change, people are often given far less credit for having resilience than they deserve

It is tempting, I think, for leaders to assume that because a change is frightening, people will fall apart and be unable to participate in working toward a new normal without constant hand holding and caretaking. I believe though, that it is during such frightening times that we each have the potential to discover inner stores of strength and courage that might never have been tested.

While, firm structures are important during times of uncertainty, so is faith in peoples’ ability to adapt and contribute to bringing about a new order of things.

“Upside the Head” kinds of Change bring out the best in most people.

It would be naïve of me to suggest that when disaster strikes, there won’t be some who will take advantage of it for personal gain, or fail to rise to the occasion, but for the most part, people are amazingly supportive of one another during times of trouble.  Even if, in ordinary circumstances, they spend time bickering, there is something galvanizing about life-changing, scary events that brings out the best in most of us.

For leaders, it is something to perhaps remember…and to trust.

Recovery requires us to dig deep and see the funny side of things.

It’s hard to even think of laughing when your world has been turned upside down.  After all, the experience of being caught in a chaotic and foreign situation is far from funny. But, in my experience, there is always something ironic or just downright comical about every situation.

My husband had a stroke, a very serious one.  It scared us both, badly. But, for some reason, along with the crying (and there was some of that), there was also a fair amount of laughter too.

I just think that, sometimes reverence can be overrated and looking at the lighter side of life, even if it seems a bit out of place, has a way of lifting the load for a time. It is even possible that through a recovery period when the going is hard, laughter is indeed a very potent medicine.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

 

Note: A revised version of a post originally published in 2009

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Leadership and the Challenge of Change

ten-tall-tales-climate-change-skeptics-29-Jun-11I am not a baseball fan. Nonetheless one day, I sat, somewhat reluctantly, in front of my television and watched the movie “Moneyball”. I say somewhat reluctantly because, well, Brad Pitt was involved… so I forced myself.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, “Moneyball” is based on the story of Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. It’s about how he defied deeply entrenched tradition and beliefs and changed the game’s system of player selection forever.

There are valuable lessons and reminders in this story that are worth considering when it comes to making change happen. Here are just a few of them:

Begin by defining the problem correctly

Change usually begins with a problem. While everyone involved might acknowledge its existence, it would be a mistake to assume that everyone sees it in the same way. Here is a clip

*

Billy Beane saw the problem as one of disadvantage. His scouts saw the problem, more traditionally, as one of deficiency. If, collectively, you fail to see the problem in the same way, resolving it will be that much harder.

To find a different solution, you have to employ different means and sometimes, different people

In order to better understand and resolve his problem, Billy partnered with a very unlikely individual. Peter was an economist, newly graduated from a prestigious University, who had developed an unorthodox method of player evaluation. It was an untested process and yet to Billy, it spoke of possibility. Sometimes to make change happen, you’ve got to take a leap of faith.

Once you’re committed, there’s no going back

Billy’s story made me think about just how hard it is to make a major change in any organization. At some point in the process the going is bound to get tough, often unbearably so. In spite of it, a leader’s belief in what s/he is doing cannot waiver, especially in the face of naysayers. Failure is always a possibility but giving up too soon, or not trying in the first place, is a kind of failure in itself.

In the face of immovable obstacles, go around

In the movie, the Oakland Athletics Team Manager was fiercely opposed to Billy’s new approach. Billy’s suggestions for player positioning fell on deaf, and very stubborn, ears. The manager continued to play in his time-honoured way, honestly believing that Billy was making a terrible mistake. No manner of persuasion would convince him otherwise. So Billy traded the players favoured by the team manager, effectively forcing him to do something different. Sometimes you have to rattle the cage hard.

Know when it’s your turn to take charge

The introduction of a new process and a new Assistant GM was a great boon to Billy in initiating change. When something is working it is tempting to become reliant on it for all the answers. However, good leaders understand that a system, process, or even the advice of others can only take you so far. That means that on occasion, decisions have to come from your own experience, your own talents and your own understanding of what’s going on. It goes with the territory.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please Note: The clip used from the movie “Moneyball” is not used for commercial purposes or financial gain. It is respectfully borrowed from Sony Pictures for illustration purposes only and not intended to infringe on copyright.

* This post was written and originally published in June, 2012

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Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Vision, Leading Teams, Management

Leadership and the Challenge of Change

I am not a baseball fan.  Nonetheless the other day, I sat, somewhat reluctantly, in front of my television and watched the movie Moneyball.  I say somewhat reluctantly because, well, Brad Pitt was involved… so I forced myself.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, “Moneyball” is based on the story of Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. It’s about how he defied deeply entrenched tradition and beliefs and changed the game’s system of player selection forever.

There are valuable lessons and reminders in this story that for any leader are worth considering when it comes to making change happen.  Here are just a few of them:

Begin by defining the problem correctly

Change usually begins with a problem. While everyone involved might acknowledge its existence, it would be a mistake to assume that everyone sees it in the same way.  Here is a clip

*  

Billy Beane saw the problem as one of disadvantage.  His scouts saw the problem, more traditionally, as one of deficiency.   If you fail to see the problem in the same way, resolving it will be that much harder.

To find a different solution, you have to employ different means and sometimes, different people

In order to better understand and resolve his problem, Billy partnered with a very unlikely individual.  Peter was an economist, newly graduated from a prestigious University, who had developed an unorthodox method of player evaluation.  It was an untested process and yet to Billy, it spoke of possibility.  Sometimes to make change happen, you’ve got to take a leap of faith.

Once you’re committed, there’s no going back

Billy’s story made me think about just how hard it is to make a major change in any organization.  At some point in the process the going is bound to get tough, often unbearably so.  In spite of it, a leader’s belief in what s/he is doing cannot waiver, especially in the face of naysayers.  Failure is always a possibility but giving up too soon, or not trying in the first place, is a kind of failure in itself.

In the face of immovable obstacles, go around

In the movie, the Oakland Athletics Team Manager was fiercely opposed to Billy’s new approach.  Billy’s suggestions for player positioning fell on deaf, and  very stubborn, ears.  The manager continued to play in his time-honoured way, honestly believing that Billy was making a terrible mistake.  No manner of persuasion would convince him otherwise.  So Billy traded the players favoured by the team manager, effectively forcing him to do something different.  Sometimes you have to rattle the cage hard.

Know when it’s your turn to take charge

The introduction of a new process and a new Assistant GM was a great boon to Billy in initiating change.  When something is working it is tempting to become reliant on it for all the answers.  However, good leaders understand that a system, process, or even the advice of others can only take you so far.  That means that on  occasion, decisions have to come from your own experience, your own talents and your own understanding of what’s going on.  It goes with the territory.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Please Note: The clip used from the movie “Moneyball” is not used for commercial purposes or financial gain.  It is respectfully borrowed from Sony Pictures for illustration purposes only and not intended to infringe on copyright.

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Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Vision, Leading Change, Leading Teams, Management

Knowing & Becoming Known…A Challenge For the New Boss

It’s never comfortable being the newcomer.  This is especially true when we start a new job, and even more so if that job involves leading an organization or taking charge of an already established team.

Three words come to mind when I think about this: Culture, Trust and Change. These are big issues and huge, if you happen to be a new boss.   How you address them will often make the difference between a reasonably smooth leadership transition and a very shaky one.

For instance, inserting oneself into an already established culture requires some delicacy and some time spent in learning how people think; what they value; and the assumptions they operate from.

As well, most organizations work from a platform of earned trust rather than assumed trust. As such, if you are an unknown commodity, there will be skepticism about your motives, and the effect your presence will have on the status quo. While we like to think people will readily embrace change, we know that it just isn’t that easy. But, the reality is that change comes with every new leader and the immediate challenge is to find ways to send the message that this is a good thing…or at least, the right thing.

All this needs time and work.  The point is, in this world of speed and technology, we have to find ways of accomplishing things faster. That includes expediting the process of knowing and becoming known.  The question is, how?

Well, it’s a tricky one…but like most things, not impossible

There is, for instance, the New Manager Assimilation Process, which is a structured way of speeding up your collective orientation. Specifically, it is designed to help new managers quickly establish positive working relationships with their direct reports while also building a solid foundation for the future.

But, whether you decide to use this kind of formal process or a less informal one, know that the first few days, weeks and months as leader, will lay the foundation for how you will work and be perceived in the future.

When I think about inserting myself, as leader, into an established group, these are some things that come up for me:

Respect what went before

As the new one in town, there will be things that were established before I arrived that will have a lot of value.  Rather than take a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ approach to my new role, I would take some time to learn what is good about the way things are.

Be clear about my vision and purpose

As an unknown, people will be curious (and possibly anxious) about what I see as my role; what I want to accomplish and; how my personal beliefs and values align with their own.  In short, they will want to be able to see themselves in the picture I create.  The more often and consistently I communicate these things, the quicker I will become known.

Be accessible

This is not just about keeping my office door open.  It’s also about making myself emotionally available and showing my humanness.  I would want to give people an opportunity to know me as a person as well as a boss.

Ask for help

It doesn’t matter what I bring to the new organization, there will always be things I’m simply not going to know.  Asking for help gives me the opportunity to learn… and others the chance to show me what they know.

Listen

People like to know they are being heard.  As a new manager this is particularly important.  There will be things they will want me to know about them.  There will be other things they will want me to know as well, like what they are proud of, or what worries them.  And, they will have ideas to share that will help shape how we move forward together.

What about you? If you were the new boss, what would you do to accelerate the process of knowing and becoming known?

 

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Shift, Leading Teams, Management, Organizational Effectiveness

Change…And Six Ways To Reinforce It.

I think it was Alphonse Karr who first said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” And, if we look back in history we will no doubt find a myriad of examples that bear this out.  The thing about change though, is that while it’s happening, it feels new, raw, foreign and unfamiliar. So, making a planned change successful is probably one of the most challenging things a leader can undertake.

A few weeks ago Anne Perschel wrote a post called “Leading Change: The Playbook Chapter 1, Principles 1 & 2”, those principles being, Empathize and Involve.

After reading Anne’s post, I began to think about what might follow after everyone has come to appreciate the need and urgency for change and signed on.

The word that kept coming up for me was Reinforce.

For instance, I remember the year I stopped smoking.

I had been thinking of doing it for a while, not for any noble reason, but because my office building was about to be declared a smoke-free zone and I didn’t fancy smoking on the street.  And too, smoking, I was told, would give me wrinkles.  (I am nothing if not vain).

In spite of my initial enthusiasm, as I moved through the process of changing from a smoker to a non-smoker, my commitment to it began to wane.  The new vision I held of myself as a non-smoker started to blur and the temptation to revert to my old ways grew stronger. That’s pretty typical, even when we choose to change.  That’s why reinforcement is vitally important.

So what must we do to provide this reinforcement?  Well, here’s what I think.

Watch and Listen ~ Over the course of the change process, people will suffer in a variety of ways.  For example, when I stopped smoking, I gained weight; I contracted shingles; and I experienced inexplicable emotional meltdowns. While this may not be a consequence of organizational change, you can bet there will be other kinds of suffering and stress in the air.  Watching carefully and listening for the signs will allow us the opportunity to anticipate the negative effects of change and mitigate them to avoid the potential for derailment.

Keep the empathy coming~ I believe people are more willing to stay the course of change when their leaders genuinely strive to understand and share their feelings during each stage of the process.  That means travelling down the road with them and bringing our own emotions with us.

Keep everyone’s eyes on the prize ~ Just as I had to be reminded, and continually imagine, life as a non-smoker, in change initiatives, so must we, as leaders, keep the new vision alive in the hearts and minds of people who follow us. I needed someone to tell me that my suffering would, in the end, be worthwhile. So will they.

Burn the bridges that Lead back to the old world~ I think, if we want people to move away from the old world, we have to render that world unattainable. For example, I was no longer going to be able to enjoy smoking at my desk or even in the cafeteria at work.  That world had changed.  And so, even if I wanted to go back to the way things were, I couldn’t.  The bridge had been burned.  So, a question to ask ourselves might be, to what extent have I dismantled the trappings of our old world?

Model what we want to see ~ No matter how much encouragement my colleagues who smoked gave me in my quest to stop, it was hard for me to believe them as they offered me their best advice between cigarette breaks. Being mindful of our own actions as we move through change keeps things real for everyone. Simply put, if we want others to change, we have to change too…and go first.

Recognize and acknowledge behaviour and actions that align with the new ~ Real change comes about when we begin to notice new behaviour and actions in others. When this occurs, it is crucial to acknowledge those who are both consciously and unconsciously bringing the change to fruition.  It is a prime opportunity for reinforcement, especially for those people who continue to struggle with the prospect of embracing the new world.

What do you think? What have I missed?  What other principles besides empathize, involve and reinforce come to mind for you when you contemplate the challenge of change?

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Filed under Change Management, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leading Change, Organizational Effectiveness, Uncategorized

A Reflection on the Hardness of Change

Now and then, I feel the need to have a little rant.  Luckily, for us all, it doesn’t happen that often. Today’s little rant is about change.


Whenever I think of the challenge of change, I think of Sally Field, well, not Sally Field exactly, her character, Norma Rae. I picture Norma, all five feet of her, standing on a table with her arms held high, holding a sign that simply says “Union”.  She stands on that table in defiance of her bosses, and on behalf of her often frightened and reluctant co-workers.  She does it because deep inside herself she knows it to be right.  It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth the risk. It will make life better in the end.  I notice her face as she’s standing there.  I see rebellion, fear and desperation.  And yet she stands there until the local police come and drag her away kicking and screaming. Take a little time to watch this and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s the thing about change, the revolutionary kind anyway.  It’s hard and scary and sometimes involves some kicking and screaming. That sort of change is rarely the kind we eagerly put our hands up for.  That’s when leadership and those who practice it are truly tested.

Today, there are those of us who long for a time when our world could be like it was before our global economy took a frightening plunge.  There are people without jobs who have lost their houses and the way of life they have become accustomed to.  To so many, it feels, and is, catastrophic and terrifying.   There are others who are less affected directly and see no reason to change their habits or their perspectives, those who fail to see that they are part of the problem…and part of the solution.

The job of leadership in times such as these requires the kind of grit that Norma Rae showed as she climbed upon her table and stood her ground.  In these times, change means hard work, hard heads, hard times and tender hearts.   And it’s not about one or two people leading everyone else out of the wilderness either.  We are all responsible.  We must all find a new way of being in the world.  Those who lead  will have a vision of the future.  They will put themselves forward to be followed; to be challenged; to be criticized; and sometimes to be scorned but they will each stand on their respective tables with their vision of better times held firmly in their hands.

The good ones will not make promises to bring back the past.  They will not waste their time, or ours, denigrating each other.  Instead, they will hold a firm vision of how things could be should we choose to act differently.  They will find ways to work together and to include us all by demanding our participation in building something else, something better…just like Norma Rae did.

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Filed under Change Management, communication, Establishing Direction, Leadership Vision, Leading Change