If you monitored the United States’ presidential election process or the corporate woes of Nokia and Research in Motion as they try to recover what were formerly massive stakes in the cellular phone market, then you realize that worthwhile change, even when planned, is neither simple nor easy; it is complex and difficult. Organizations struggling most with change, therefore, seem to be the ones that also struggle most with innovative thinking. Successful organizational changes are possible – just not as clear-cut and idealistic as some management books and journal articles would lead you to believe. Many readers can likely recall an encounter with an Organizational Development (OD) consultant ending with a forgotten, polished report. Separated by time and distance from the change implementation process, the projects appeared clean and clear recipes for new life. But, just as recipes are ineffective if the proper ingredients are not gathered in the correct measurements, at the right time, and combined by the proper tools, so change-management plans are also ineffective if misdirected and misapplied.
Organizational leaders, with or without the aid of consultants, are responsible for these spectacular changes or disasters. C-suite leaders are routinely hired and fired with the understanding that they will bring the “magic” that makes change work, resulting in innovation, efficiency, increased brand value and earnings, reduced turnover, and improved talent acquisition. Surely, useful methods for successful change exist and are routinely highlighted by change-management experts. Still, there are also obstacles that hinder change management – some errors of commission, others of omission, and they primarily affect individuals on the receiving end of leaders’ visions for change. Among these obstacles, any which makes or breaks follower buy-in is nonnegotiable. It must be addressed well. When unaccounted for, these organizational booby-traps trip up unaware interventionists and halt progress – to the often repeated rate of 70% failure.
Two coalescing perspectives of the change process have dominated OD: Kurt Lewin’s (1890-1947) three-step approach and, more recently, Chris Argyris’ (1923-) theory of intervention and double-loop learning. For Lewin, change processes consisted of:
1) unfreezing the present condition,
2) changing to a new condition as favorable affections replace affections for the old condition, and
3) refreezing the process by which the new condition becomes established.
Essentially, the need for change is realized, desired, and then consistently pursued after a semblance of acceptance for the change is obtained. Argyris’ theory built upon Lewin’s model by introducing discussion about persistent evaluation. In short, he promoted what is called systems thinking, which examines the foundational issues for why problems arise, promoting change at that level. For instance, in collecting performance data, this would mean not only examining the collected data, but it would also entail critiquing the data collection process i.e. Were the correct data collected and the means of collection proper? The point is that alleviating symptoms is not a long-term strategy for successful OD. Leaders need to address root causes – the metaphorical infection causing the sore throat. Effective leaders manage these change efforts like skirmishes comprising a war campaign. For each, they rally their troops’ morale, negotiate resources and leverage competencies, study the benefits and drawbacks of the environment, and assess costs. Such accounting is needed every step of the way because, if not recognized as an opportunity to be well-prepared, each aspect may become a potential obstacle for followers’ change readiness.
The approach most leaders take, resulting in that dismal 30% success rate, is one of firefighting. They see change as inviting resistance, and so they prepare for resistance and learn to “put out fires” along the way. Their fact-pattern is:
Followers naturally react to change, or the idea of change. It is often a matter of perceived control. Some feel they lose while others feel they can only benefit from the change. Successfully timing change events, therefore, requires leaders to monitor followers’ motivations and evidence of growing dissatisfaction with the present situation and greater affinity for the proposed change (willingness to complete additional work, spend extra time onsite, work jointly in cross-functional teams, etc.). These signs indicate readiness for change. Unilateral action should replace politicking when the coalition in favor of change is strong and vocal.
Leaders do not have to settle for such adversarial change-management scenarios. Those projects will exhaust all factions and exacerbate organizational tensions. Instead, leaders ought to seek improvement in organizational relationships throughout the change-management process. These events bring leader-follower tensions and underlying assumptions to the surface, and so they are prime opportunities to address misalignments and strengthen understanding of the organization’s unifying mission while improving operations. The following list of ingredients for effective change management will increase the likelihood of change “sticking” and the organization improving.
1. Organization assessment
Even novice organizations have endured change efforts, and so leaders can look to history for the strengths and weaknesses evidenced in past events, considering: Are the parties to change the same? What cultural barriers remain or have arisen since? Is this change bigger or smaller in scope than past changes? Is this change necessary? How likely will we survive this change? Are there alternatives?
2. Developed vision
Without guidance, change efforts fail. Leaders are responsible for developing the vision for what change will bring – incorporating the needs and expectations of followers and answering and overcoming their concerns. Visions need to clearly describe the organization’s problem as well as inspire followers in counting the cost of change, concluding what is to come is better and more desirable that what is at hand. Fear is another strong motivator; and, when used honorably, powerful visions of negative consequences for failing to change provide additional motivation.
3. Severed ties
In his seminal work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, British statesman Edmund Burke (1791) wrote, “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” His point was that the reform process recognizes institutions’ need for innovation, but such innovations improve institutions only if they uphold the institutions’ purposes. Strong ties to the past are good when anchoring policy decisions, but they must serve the organizational mission. When they do not do that, leaders must help followers disconnect from former ways of operating. As confusion can overtake and divide followers who may wonder whether leaders are hijacking the organization, leaders must be careful. Consider the strife caused by differences in American churches undergoing changes in worship styles. Research shows that shared resolve to change across diverse groups is yoked to successful change implementation. Thus, the more readily the status quo can be questioned by followers, the sooner the organization can adapt to present circumstances.
In 1949, the infamous Mann Gulch fire took the lives of thirteen smokejumpers. The wildfire was unassuming, until drastic changes in the environment caused it to erupt into an inferno of death. Because of their quick-thinking, three men survived. Organizational leaders must recognize the level of immediacy required not only to motivate change, but also understand and effectively communicate the threshold after which change will no longer be possible without grave consequences (cost-prohibitive, lost market share, lost talent, agreement deadlines, etc.).
5. Strong leadership
Strong leaders effectively motivate followers to change given the particulars of a situation. Such leaders often have know-how related to the change event and are respected by the followers involved in it. They are crucial for gaining followers’ support and preference, meaning that followers give such leaders the benefit of the doubt when judging whether the leaders actually considered followers’ good before recommending and guiding change.
6. Key follower sponsorship
Depending on the size of your organization, the primary leader may need to secure the support of and then charge certain followers to become secondary leaders. The further removed the primary leader is from those immediately involved in the required changes, the more important it becomes to have leaders in closer proximity also actively supporting change. Distance creates uncertainty, which dissolves trust – a key resource leveraged by successful leaders. Leaders closer to the action should be better equipped to secure the necessary commitment. But, such leaders must have strong rapport with their followers, or their involvement will be counterproductive.
7. Clear implementation plan
If followers are persuaded but provided with no details of who is responsible for what tasks and outcomes, when such will take place, and how the effort should proceed, along with clearly defined lines of communication for decision-making and mechanisms for follower-feedback and readjustments midcourse, then they will likely become anxious, disengaged, and frustrated. The best plans generate follower ownership and elicit immediate action, having been co-developed with followers’ input from the beginning.
8. Enabled followers
Smooth change occurs when followers have power commensurate with their responsibility. Have you ever been tasked with a responsibility for which you were not equipped? Such inadequate empowerment results in follower stress. In the United States, stress leads to losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Leaders, therefore, need to support and champion their followers, providing them with the resources and organizational support to achieve reasonable outcomes. It is an unfair – and likely to be opposed – change effort which expects from followers what they are incapable of providing (not having access to reasonable resources, required authorizations, vital information, key contacts, etc.). Early adopters, properly empowered, can prove decisive as to whether change sticks or slips.
9. Communication, collaboration, and credibility
Socrates’ statement, “Speak, that I may know thee,” illustrates the important role of communication in manifesting intent. Followers look to leaders for direction and encouragement. Leaders must honor this relationship where they are yielded influence by providing reliability and demonstrating integrity in how they manage the change process – telling the truth even when it means conveying uncertainty as well as less-than-flattering news about the change process proceedings. Collaborating with key followers in communication efforts will help the truth permeate follower constituencies so that rumors are ineffective. Additionally, it will improve trust between followers and top leaders, as followers will hear confirming information from the secondary leaders. Leaders should embrace dialogue, especially when it permits them the opportunity to strengthen followers’ clarity about the organization’s mission.
By highlighting successes along the way in the change process, leaders can help cement positive attitudes about the change in followers’ minds. Some followers may be skeptical, but they will eventually support the change if they continually see their peers and leaders rewarded (financially, socially, emotionally, etc.) for positive engagement. Since development entails the idea of continuousness, reinforcement should not focus on the change specifics; rather, it should promote the culture recognizing the need for change and proactively engaging to strengthen the organization given environmental particulars.
Ultimately, leaders must think through their organization’s situation with humility, being open to correction and advice. In doing so, they will earn their followers’ trust and mitigate many concerns about what change means for their futures.
The change-management approach described above is akin to culture-management. The ability to successfully change an organization for greater effectiveness depends on the organization’s ethos – the thinking patterns of its people. Consider this: research shows the failure of change leaders to address this critical concern is listed as a major reason why 80% of corporate mergers and acquisitions fail. The unasked questions driving success or failure in change efforts are: Can we adapt, improve, innovate, and lead? If not, can we become an organization that does? The ten ingredients provided acknowledge this organizational need for leaders and followers who yoke themselves to the future, understanding the times and honoring the past by properly addressing present and future circumstances. In so doing, they create more collaborative environments where change processes produce fruit rather than thorns.
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About the author:
David Stehlik is an independent strategy consultant and in Regent University’s doctoral program in strategic leadership. He received his B.A. from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI and MBA from the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN.
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Removing the Bitter Taste of Change-10 Ingredients for Organizational Transformation You Can Stomach
If you monitored the United States’ presidential election process or the corporate woes of Nokia and Research in Motion as they try to recover what were formerly massive stakes in the cellular phone market, then you realize that worthwhile change, even when planned, is neither simple nor easy; it is complex and difficult. Organizations struggling most with change, therefore, seemDavid Stehlik Articles
Any change to an organization can be disconcerting, but when new leaders come in it can be particularly unsettling. Many times it seems that whenever a new leader comes into an organization, they want to make changes. Whether we like it or not, it is human nature that some new leaders feel an urge to make their mark upon arrival. It is also human nature for the rest of the organization to resist or fear change. Military organizations are no different than corporate America in this regard. It may even be worse given the frequent turnover of leaders. Change has to happen in order for any organization to keep up with the changing world but it is not always a good thing, especially if it is made for the wrong reasons. This essay will focus on change within the realm of Navy shore commands, look at real examples of change, examine costs of changes, and provide recommendations.
Anticipation – What will change this time?
Every Navy command has a Commanding Officer (CO) who is responsible for the safety, well-being, and efficiency of their command and for carrying out the mission. Operational commands such as ships, submarines, and air squadrons normally do not give their COs as much opportunity to institute major changes as shore commands. Operational commands are too busy with carrying out their mission and are guided closely by their type commanders. On the shore command side, it is a little different. There is more flexibility, there may be civilian personnel, and people normally get to go home at night and on the weekend. The tempo of operations is also normally slower at the shore commands. The length of time CO serves in a tour can range from fifteen months to three years. Rarely does a CO serve over three years.
Getting a new Commanding Officer can be an exciting time and an anxious time. Sailors and government workers know a CO rotates on a regular basis and know when to expect the next one. As that time approaches, there will be discussion at all levels of the command. “Have you heard who the new CO is?” “What do you know about him or her?” Members of the command may feel excited to get new leadership, especially if the outgoing CO is not well liked. If the CO was popular, people may feel resentment and concern that a new CO is coming in. But the bottom line everyone wants to know is “How are things going to change around here?” and “How is this going to impact me?”
Congratulations Future Commanding Officers!
This is the greeting prospective Commanding Officers receive in their welcome letters before they attend the Navy’s Prospective Commanding Officer Leadership course. This two-week course provides information on almost anything the COs will need to know for command from ethics to military law to communications. The advice and training received during this fire-hose course runs the gamut and attempts to provide the tools for success. One thing these leaders do not learn is when and how to implement change and the costs of change. However, one old adage passed down in the Navy is whenever you take over a new command; do not make any changes in the first thirty days. This gives the leader an opportunity to see how the command runs. This can be a heady time for the new COs, many who may have worked their entire careers for this moment. Let’s look at a possible scenario using Commander I. M. Newbie:
After graduation from the leadership course and any other training required, the big day comes. Commander Newbie participates in the traditional change of command ceremony, says a few nice words about the outgoing CO, and reports to his new boss. Family and friends cheer and congratulations are spread all around. CDR Newbie is now the CO, responsible and accountable for the new command. CDR Newbie only has a relatively short period as commanding officer and wants to do the best job he can. He receives briefings, talks to key leaders and other command personnel, conducts tours, and makes observations for the first 30 days as advised. Now it is time for change! After all, CDR Newbie is only going to be here for a short period of time. He will most likely be ranked against other COs of his pay grade – how will he break out? What can CDR Newbie do during his relatively short command tour to make an impression that will lead to the kind of fitness report he needs to make Captain and beyond?
Let’s change something!
This urge to make changes and accomplish great things is not restricted just to commanding officers. Navy leaders at any rank may get the urge to make changes just like their counterparts in the civilian world who are put in a new leadership position. We are taught that change is the way to go. Northouse, an organizational change expert, noted “Change, rather than stability, is the norm today. Whereas change once occurred incrementally and infrequently, today it is dramatic and constant.” So CDR Newbie has precedence for coming in and making change. But, is it possible that CDR Newbie and other new leaders like him are making change for change’s sake?
The primary purpose of change is to improve the organization and make it more competitive and responsive to customer needs. Real change requires a reason and strategy for why you want to change, the skills to make the change, and the long-term and short-term tools to support the change. Additionally these areas must be aligned between the leader and the followers or the optimal outcome may not happen. West and Cianfrani (2004) discussed the importance of alignment of the organization’s objectives, leader’s objectives, and individual objectives. All three should work together with their eyes fixed on common objectives. When objectives are not thought through or aligned properly, things can become difficult and frustrating and result in unintended consequences.
A recent military example of this was the change in Army camouflage uniforms. In 2004, the Army issued a new digitized uniform to be worn in all environments. Problems have abounded with the uniform to the point where American soldiers actually stood out in the Afghan landscape instead of blending in. Earlier this year, it was announced that this uniform will be replaced because it does not meet needs. Reports were that Army leaders sped along the decision before testing was complete. All to the rumored tune of $5 billion. How many military awards or civilian bonuses were given out to the perpetrators of this ineffective and expensive uniform? We can only imagine what the additional costs to reinstate new or previous uniforms will be. In this case, objectives were not aligned and this change caused undo frustration and wasted taxpayer dollars.
Making a Mark!
But, let’s go back to CDR Newbie. With all good intentions, he looks to make his mark on his new command and the Navy. However, making a mark may be more difficult than CDR Newbie originally thought. First, most Navy commands are run efficiently and effectively thanks to previous COs who have made needed change. By the time CDR Newbie takes over, there may not be any obvious low-hanging fruit. Yikes! What can he do in his pursuit of that elusive fitness report or evaluation bullet? Let’s look at some examples of real life changes that other COs made:
A commanding officer reports into his new command and decides he does not like the exterior of the building that houses his command. Despite the building being almost as big as a city block, he begins to work to get the exterior of the building redone. Many weeks go into planning, finding funding, and making it happen. To the surprise of command personnel, the CO obtains a considerable amount of funding to put on a new exterior. After several months of disruption to the command, the job is finished leaving subordinates scratching their heads as to why the Navy would spend big money to make a relatively small cosmetic change.
On another base not far away, a new CO reports in. Things must be going well because there are not any significant changes for a few months. Then the new idea for change arises – change the name of the command. People are confused…change the name of the command? Only the Secretary of the Navy can change the name of a command. The new name does make the job of the CO seem bigger and more important, however. It takes over a year, but the name change is approved. Costs include considerable personnel time and effort and the changing of all base signs, highway direction signs, administrative materials, and patches on all enlisted uniforms. More scratching of the head…
Civilian government workers can stay at a command for many years or even their entire career. This gives them an opportunity to see many changes over the years. What can be most frustrating is when one CO comes in and makes a change and then another comes in a few years later and changes the change! These changes are not only costly financially but suck up energy and effort. Then there’s the frustration level of employees. For example:
A long, long time ago, in a far away fleet concentration area, a new regional commander decided to move his headquarters off one base onto a smaller piece of property that was more central to all the nine bases he commanded. Each of those bases had their own CO who reported to him. The thought process behind this move was that the current location not only infringed upon that particular base’s CO but it also appeared to the other base COs that the CO whose base he was on may have special access to him. The move was made, was generally accepted, and appeared to be working well. The move consisted of moving a large staff out of the new location and onto another base. Renovations were done on the buildings and the regional commander’s staff was moved in. A year later, a new regional commander came in and was also pleased with the arrangement. Three years later, another new regional commander took over and decided that his headquarters should be not only back on the base that it originally was on but back into the same building. This required, once again, moving a large staff out of the original building and back to the other property and then moving the commander’s staff back to the other base. The cost of changing the change was enormous – with estimates as high as several hundred thousands of dollars.
Another example in this same fleet concentration area involved the regionalization of several support programs including family housing; morale, welfare, and recreation; bachelor housing; family advocacy; galleys; and family service centers. Several years ago, the regional commander put one CO in charge of these programs which were spread out on nine bases and included over 3,000 personnel. This change was considered a success, saving the Navy millions of dollars and improving service to the sailors and their families. One of the real tests of the success of this effort was the ability it gave the Navy to respond to the devastating attack on the USS Cole. Thanks to the regionalization effort, within hours personnel and resources from around the region quickly mobilized to provide counseling, housing, meals, and a wide range of other services for the hundreds of family members who converged on the USS Cole’s homeport from around the country. Captain Joe Bouchard, the base CO, noted “The families were effusive in their praise. By all accounts, the effort to support the crew of the Cole and their loved ones was a tremendous success-and a testimony to the soundness of the Navy's often maligned and little understood decision to regionalize the management of its shore installations.”
Captain Bouchard was so impressed with the regionalization efforts, he wrote an article praising the process which was published in Proceedings Magazine. To answer the COs who thought regionalization might take some power from them, he reported, “Regionalization is founded on proven, long-standing organizational and command principles commonly used across the Navy. I have no less authority as a commanding officer than did my predecessors…The Navy cannot afford to return to the old way of doing business without unnecessarily diverting scarce resources from personnel, readiness, and modernization.” Later I became a base CO in the region and was equally impressed with the regionalization efforts. A few years later, under pressure from other base COs who wanted more control, the regional commander reversed the regionalization efforts. Total costs to reverse this effort were not documented but are estimated to be considerable. A price could also not be put on the frustration and confusion the 3,000 employees endured.
The fact that changes did not stick even though they were good ideas is not surprising. It has been reported that on-half to two-thirds of major corporate change initiatives fail and that less than 50% of reengineering programs succeed. In giving advice to public service ministers in England, Richard Layard noted: “…many different organizational structures can be made to work equally well. What cannot work is constant reorganization, where nobody understands what is happening, institutional memory is lost, and everybody worries about their future rather than the job in hand.”
What can be done?
The Navy has a great respect for Commanding Officers and their position and generally hesitates to interfere with changes they make unless they are immoral or illegal. Like CDR Newbie, most COs are not completely self-motivated. If they were, it is unlikely they would choose the military for a career due to the personal hardships required and the relatively low pay. Navy officers generally want to do the right thing for the right reasons. Through the Prospective Commanding Officer Leadership Course, the Navy tries to give the COs the tools they need for success. By adding a learning objective on change theory, the COs may be better prepared to address change, determine where it is needed, weigh the costs of change, and the best way to implement it if needed. They should also be made aware that the legitimate function of resistance to change is avoiding unnecessary change.
Avoiding these types of changes by COs in Navy shore commands will require a culture change. Currently, the culture is “what can I do to stand out among my contemporaries?” The other cultural issue at work at all levels and in all organizations is that new leaders feel they have to make change. Cultural change may be the hardest change of all. This is especially true when the culture is not something that is generally talked about. Attention to these issues should be made through open discussion during Navy leadership courses and other avenues. Commanding Officers need to know that carrying out the mission of their command effectively, efficiently, and safely will make them stand out – not change for change’s sake!
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 De Jager, Peter. "Resistance to Change: A New View of an Old Problem." The Futurist. May-June (2001): 24-27. Print.
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
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Any change to an organization can be disconcerting, but when new leaders come in it can be particularly unsettling. Many times it seems that whenever a new leader comes into an organization, they want to make changes. Whether we like it or not, it is human nature that some newJeanne M. Mc Donnell Articles
Over the 20 years that I’ve been advising leaders and their teams on how to enhance customer service, I’ve found that with proper training, customer contact workers can quickly learn to enjoy dealing with external customers - even those who are stressed. The main people who make their jobs stressful are their internal customers; their co-workers, subordinates, and supervisors. Turns out, the problem isn’t usually the job itself – it’s office politics. If you’re not into playing politics, if you don’t want to suck-up to supervisors, if you don’t want to step on others to climb the ladder, here are a few questions and answers they won’t tell you in the company manual.
How do I handle a colleague who is bad-mouthing me to the boss without looking like a whiner?
You don’t. Or you will indeed look like a whiner. If your boss has a problem with you, he or she will bring it to your attention sooner or later. Focus on doing your job well and ignore the other person. If they write lies about what you’ve said or done, then you need to refute them (in writing, without exaggerating) and copy your boss on it. Stick to facts only; your opinion will only make you look desperate.
I feel awkward trying to find mentors in the office just so I can get a promotion. What’s an authentic way of meeting influential people?
Join your professional association and get involved. Plumbers have plumbers associations; dog walkers have dog walking associations. They are clamoring for volunteers. You can easily distinguish yourself by showing-up, offering to serve, and being reliable. Mentors will appear. You’ll develop your expertise and your professional network. Eventually, people will want you to become their mentor.
I'm older and I’m concerned I may not fit in with younger coworkers. Any suggestions?
In this case “fitting in” doesn’t mean trying to become one of them. It won’t work and will only make you look insecure. I’ve had similar questions from married employees with young families who are concerned they may not fit in with single workers who socialize after hours. It’s human nature to worry about whether people like us – but it’s a waste of mental energy. The real secret to being liked at work is to be reliable and deliver solid results. Treat everyone positively and respectfully. Then go home and socialize with your own family and friends.
I just got a promotion and it’s awkward to delegate and discipline my colleagues who were my friends up until recently. Your advice?
You’re right, it will be awkward, but that’s true for any leader; whether they were buddies with the person or not. I suggest you call a meeting with your team. Openly explain that of course things will change now that you’re their new boss; things would change with any new supervisor. Explain that whatever happens – good or bad with the team - it will be you as their supervisor who will now be ultimately held accountable. So, while you will ask for their input, you will make the final decision. You will also be giving each of them one-on-one feedback, both positive and areas for improvement. In turn, this role is also new to you. So you will also be asking for individual feedback from each them about ways you can improve as a supervisor. If they have concerns about your leadership, you are asking them to discuss it directly with you; not behind your back. (That won’t prevent back-biting from happening, but it will make them more conscious about it when it occurs).
Some reality TV programs give the impression that the only people who get ahead in their careers are those who connive, backstab, and toot their own horns. That may be true in Hollywood. It rarely works in the real world with successful organizations led by ethical people. That is the kind of place where you want to work, right? In reputable organizations, shameless self promoters quickly wear out their welcome. Ironically, the best strategy for winning at office politics is to refuse to become embroiled in them.
About the author:
This article is based on the bestselling book, Influence with Ease by customer service strategist and certified professional speaker Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit www.jeffmowatt.com
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
Over the 20 years that I’ve been advising leaders and their teams on how to enhance customer service, I’ve found that with proper training, customer contact workers can quickly learn to enjoy dealing with external customers - even those who are stressed. The main people who make their jobs stressful are their internal customers; their co-workers, subordinates,Jeff Mowatt Articles
The job market is rebounding. Are you ready? Not everyone is…. If we were to take a hypothetical conversation between a hiring manager, whom we’ll call Dave, and his boss, we can imagine the conversation might go something like this: “Don’t worry. The candidate will wait for us to make our decision. We are the ones with the job and the job market is still tough” Three weeks later however, Dave would probably come back with something like “I really thought we had this hire – I mean, the position is a great opportunity and they wouldn’t have to relocate. Look, I’m sorry. I just didn’t think they would take the other job. I know it’s a loss – and to our competitor. I promise this will not happen again.”
One thing that is for certain is the tide is changing, or may have already changed. Talk with recruiters in the software arena to be specific and you can be sure, hiring is heating back up. And, because of these current hiring shifts now is the time to evaluate and tighten up your recruiting processes, if you haven’t already done so. A number of companies who may have had solid recruiting processes in the past have abandoned their practices over the last several years. The reasons are varied – a cut back of the recruiting team and HR, massive restructurings, and perhaps most significantly, companies simply losing their recruiting mentality. Organizations, just like the people in them, lose skills when not exercised.
So let’s take another look at Dave. The first mistake he made was that he thought he had plenty of time. Really good people, especially those candidates who are passive and not currently in the market for a new position, do not have to wait around for an opportunity. They are valuable in any market and will therefore have the opportunities that reflect this. His second and third mistakes go hand in hand: not having a solid interview process in place and not investing the time it takes to produce a quality result – a great hire. More than likely his interview tactic, resume review process, and communications with the candidates were not crisp, disciplined and thoughtful, as they should have been when making a significant investment for the company.
Let’s take this example one step further and think of it in this manner: if you were given $110,000 to buy a resource for your company, you would invest the due diligence required. You would be very clear on the requirements, specifications and needs that this new resource must fulfill and you would probably check references through other buyers. You would also understand that the price and availability of this specific resource may change if too much time passes. Bringing on a new professional should be thought of in these same terms and requires the same discipline.
Some objectives to keep in mind the next time you are in need of bringing on a new team member are: paint a picture; be very clear on the requirements and specifications of the position; assign a team of staff that consists of a few people who know the position and can be trained in effectively interviewing the candidates; and finally, develop a timeline for hiring and a communication plan both internally and externally for candidate review, acceptance and rejections.
Above, I list one of the helpful interview objectives as being “Paint the Picture.” I would like to take a moment to expand on this. Painting the picture for any position simply means establishing a context for the position you are about to hire. Painting the picture can be especially important for management positions that tend to be complex, fluid and placed within a matrix-ed organization. If you are hiring a high performer, they will be much more effective if you have articulated the vision. They need to understand the importance of their role, the key stakeholders involved and a definition of success for the position.
Years ago I was working with a company that had a revolving door of front desk receptionists. As a first step towards solving the situation, I asked the manager to define for me what he thought the job entailed. He replied the phone had to be answered within 3 rings, and that whoever came through the door was to be ‘dealt with’ by being pointed to the appropriate department. Sounds simple enough, yet the manager had never been satisfied with the performance of any of the previous hires. So in a step further, I asked him what was really important – what was the actual end result he desired from this position? He said he wanted the customers to feel they were calling into a professional organization that cared about them and their issues; a company that would go the extra mile to help solve problems and would really partner with them. He wanted that ‘high touch’ that would differentiate them from other software companies.
As we proceeded with the interview process (made with appropriate objectives and a disciplined process), the receptionist hired ended up being the epitome of his desired result. The effects were immediately noticeable and fulfilled the real reason the position had been created in the first place. The following example describes the effects of a successful hire crafted around clear objectives. It was a Friday afternoon. The company’s major client called in – experiencing some serious problems with the new software. The lead project manager had left for the day and could not be reached. The receptionist left her desk, tracked down another project manager who could help and assured the customer that the company would not leave them hanging. The issue was resolved quickly and efficiently that evening. On the following Monday the client called back to the company’s CEO and said, “I just want you to know that the reason I am still a loyal client with you is because of your receptionist. She really represents what you say in your brochure.”
My point with these above stories is that none of this would have occurred if in his last hire, the boss had not painted the picture of his desired results. Articulating how and what this position entails really matters. Match your expectations to your vision.
Although painting the picture is a vital part of successfully filling a position within your company, we are not done here. It is indeed important for the details and expectations of the role to be specified but, moving past this, providing your candidate with specific ‘course approaches’ is also essential for their success or, in other words ‘Charting the course’ for them.
Imagine one of your clients has left your company. Their complaint is “You just are not delivering what they need. The response in your head to their complaint is “You never stopped long enough to tell us what you really needed. We are not mind readers.” In getting what you want, it is important that you clearly and effectively communicate it. People are lousy at mind reading, just ask your spouse or partner. You want to have an immediate, positive impact on a new employee’s success –right? You can assist this through effective communication. Providing objectives supports your context; think of it as giving color to the picture you have already painted.
Here is quick activity to help you ‘Chart the Course’ for success:
Begin by listing out the top 10 objectives for the next 12 months for this specific position. Under each objective, list 4 or 5 Actions Steps, which, if accomplished, will greatly help your new hire in achieving the above objectives. In this manner, you are helping to chart a course towards success for them. You have the knowledge because you have been on these waters before – but they have not. Fortunately through these action steps and your painted picture, you have set them up with successful means to accomplish the objectives.
I am reminded of a company I worked with that was tied into the financial industry – they had offices in over 20 locations, multiple divisions – and were in a very fast paced competitive environment. The CEO was on the road more often than not. In the process of hiring a new SVP (Senior Vice President), the company took the time to develop their top ten objectives and came up with the action steps. Guess what? When their new SVP started, he hit the ground running. He did not need the handholding or redirection that the previous SVP had required and he created no chaos within their own division or the divisions of others. Further, initiatives that had been stalled or shelved came back to life. They went from treading water to winning the race; and all this because their CEO took the time up front to chart the course.
Once you have your picture painted and the course for success has been charted, you are on a pretty solid path towards a successful hire. However, I believe there is one more area we should explore. Creating a culture of accountability is one more aspect that will further support your company culture and its success. It is important to hold ourselves and the people we work with accountable, and we are more capable to do so when the vision and expectations are clear. Clarity about purpose goes far beyond a detailed list; it provides the framework in which individuals and teams can excel without constant direction. Our world is rapidly transforming, therefore how companies go about achieving their goals and objectives is also changing. Yet even with all these adjustments in technologies, environments, and markets we still need to achieve our targets.
In our world today, it seems we are surrounded by a lack of accountability – in our government, our schools, places we shop, our neighborhoods and in our homes. I would make the argument, however, that it starts with us. Each of us needs to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask the question, do I live up to my commitments? Do I hold myself accountable – especially when it’s tough? Open communication between ourselves and others about our levels and expectations of accountability is where it all starts. I believe an effective tool in developing a culture of individual and team accountability is this:
*Hold an Accountability Check-In once a month.
*Have a conversation between you and your staff related to accountability.
*Complete and share responses to these two statements:
*Here’s what you’re doing that’s helping me meet my commitments.
*Here’s what you’re doing that’s hampering me from meeting my commitments.
These two questions can also be important questions to ask yourself. What am I doing that is helping me meet my commitments and what am I doing that’s hampering me from meeting my commitments?
There are two books I would strongly recommend reading on the topic of accountability. The first is by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. His book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, provides wonderful insight into the thought of accountability. The second book is The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This is also an outstanding book that beautifully describes the complexities of our world and the tools needed to support individual and team accountability. I would wager that you will not be able to put either book down until you have read the last page.
So, what is the take-away? Does any of this really matter? The only way to build companies that have sustainable, economic value is to start with a team of smart, dedicated staff, driven by a clear purpose and held accountable for their results. The one factor that our competitors cannot duplicate is the depth and quality of contributions that our employees make – led by supervisors, managers, owners and boards of directors who view the attainment and retention of staff as an asset and not an expense. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts on what I believe are critical factors in the talent acquisition world. I hope you have enjoyed reading this piece and have gleaned some helpful ideas.
About the author:
Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management. She has held the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, midsize companies and software start-ups. Much of her experience has been in the software, financial and insurance industries, representing significant merger, acquisition and divestiture activities. In addition, Julia has extensive experience with large, nonprofit organizations. You can find out more about Julia and her work at http://leaderscove.com/about.html
*image courtesy of SOMMAI/freedigitalphotos.net
The job market is rebounding. Are you ready? Not everyone is…. If we were to take a hypothetical conversation between a hiring manager, whom we’ll call Dave, and his boss, we can imagine the conversation might go something like this: “Don’t worry. The candidate will wait for us to make our decision. We are the ones with the job and the job market is still tough” Three weeks later howeJulia Hill-Nichols Articles
Despite the hundreds of books, programs and websites devoted to leadership, the truth is that leaders can't be trained. Leaders need to be developed. Hopefully this doesn't seem like a simple matter of semantics, because it isn't.
Let me illustrate this distinction. Leadership is more about WHO you are than about what you do or what you know. Two executives can do and say the same things but get very different results - even when they do and say those things to the very same person! Although what you say and what you do are important, effective leadership is even more dependent on HOW you do or say those things. This explains why the actions of those two executives can elicit such different responses.
You can train people about what to say. You can train people about what to do. You can even show someone how to do and say those things. But getting them to change how they go about doing things and getting them to change how they go about saying things is a whole other story.
Leadership is about who we are, and it's this "how" of doing, saying, and being that defines who we are. I think a good deal of "who we are" is captured within the competencies of Emotional Intelligence, developed and made popular by Daniel Goleman. There are 12 EI competencies, with five of them being the one's that ultimately affect our effectiveness as leader. These five competencies are:
1) Coaching and Mentoring - The ability to develop others
2) Inspirational Leadership - The ability to develop a compelling vision and to lead with it
3) Influence - The ability to utilize persuasion
4) Conflict Management - The ability to resolve disagreements
5) Teamwork and Collaboration - The ability to build and guide teams
Let's briefly examine each one of these competencies with respect to training vs. development as it pertains to leadership.
Coaching and Mentoring
As a professional coach, I know many professionally trained coaches. They've gone through a curriculum of coach training from an accredited coaching school. And yet, although they have the necessary skills and knowledge to be a good coach, a number of them are really rather poor at coaching. Conversely, I've come across associates who are reasonably good at coaching, yet have never had any formal coach training.
How is this possible? How is it that someone with great coaching skills is mediocre at coaching? And how is it that someone without any formal training is very effective at coaching?
The answer of course, is in HOW they apply their coaching knowledge and skills. In order to be effective as a coach, one must, at the very least, be aware of one's own emotions, have control of one's emotions, be empathetic, and have good judgment. The reality is that each of those traits must either be developed or be natural to a person. They just aren't things that can be "trained".
Leaders need to be inspiring. They need to instill pride, they need to hold and communicate a vision, and they need to inspire an organization and its people to aspire to excellence.
Here's the challenge… People aren't simply inspired by the right words. The right words spoken by the "wrong" person will have only a minimal effect. In order for a leader to move others to action, he or she needs to be someone who others admire and respect.
How does someone garner the respect of others? It's obviously through our words and actions, but once again, "how" we say what we say and do what we do determine the impact those words and actions will have. "Who we are" is something that can be shifted and developed, but it cannot be "trained".
Effective leaders are influential. We influence people by our words and actions, but of course, it comes back to how we're viewed by others and how we do and say the things we do. Honing and improving those abilities comes down to development and not training.
Conflict and challenges are inevitable in business, and a good leader has the ability to diffuse and resolve situations as they arise. In order to be effective in this effort, a leader needs to have the respect and trust of those involved. How we conduct ourselves during these times is important, but even more critical is how we've conducted ourselves in the past. Establishing "who we are" takes time and is not something that can be trained - only nurtured and refined.
In order for a leader to successfully foster an atmosphere of collaboration, he or she must be good at the previous competencies - coaching, inspiring, influencing, and resolving. Clearly this ability once more rests on things best developed and not trained.
Now that we've made a case for leadership development and one against "leadership training", we need to address how this development occurs. Here's what has to happen:
1. An objective assessment of one's competencies needs to take place. Since "how" we do and say things is habitual, we're generally blind to our shortcomings.
2. No one needs to be excellent in every competency in order to be an effective leader. Based on the objective assessment of our leadership skills, we need to focus on one or two areas to target for improvement.
3. Enlist the help of one or two trusted associates to help point out (in a loving fashion, of course!) when we fall back into old patterns.
By being mindful of your words and actions, and being persistent in your efforts to improve, you'll find that over time - there is no "quick fix" for what we're achieving - your effectiveness and impact as a leader will increase. Not only should we strive to develop ourselves as leaders, but need to work to develop those around us. Ultimately, a great leader is someone who develops other leaders.
About the author:
Michael Beck is a Business Strategist and Executive Coach. For more articles on leadership, personal effectiveness and personal productivity, please visit www.michaeljbeck.com.
Despite the hundreds of books, programs and websites devoted to leadership, the truth is that leaders can't be trained. Leaders need to be developed. Hopefully this doesn't seem like a simple matter of semantics, because it isn't. Let me illustrate this distinction. Leadership is more about WHO you are than about what you do or what you know. Two executMichael Beck Articles
Turmoil, stress and uncertainty would all describe the working experience of many of us over the past three or four years and even today as we are beginning to look forward to an improving economy, many millions of Americans remain out of work. Many millions more remain marginally employed and stuck in a world that does not give them the luxury of choice. A job, any job, remains a blessing and upward mobility remains a distant memory to many among us. Confidence remains tenuous in the American work place. As leaders, not only are we tasked with hitting our benchmarks and goals, we are also responsible for looking out for the welfare of our people. The current economy gives us the chance to do both.
There is no doubt that the fight and drive of the American worker took a hit several years back, when we went from, what on the surface, looked like a strong healthy economy, to one where nothing was for certain and one where we did not immediately know where the bottom was. It took agonizing months to understand just how low it could go and suddenly jobs were at a premium, companies were disappearing and millions of Americans whom had never seen or experienced a true economic down turn, were out on the street and unemployed, unemployed and with no immediate prospects of finding another job. Talk about frightening!
I would have to admit to loving the spirit of the American worker. Irascible to the core but damn they can surprise you with their ingenuity and willingness to put their head down and get the job done. The chances are very good that they will whine about something after the crisis has passed but there is not a more productive worker in the world. Part of what makes them such an incredible and productive asset is that ingenuity and the great initiative they show in getting the job done. Needless to say, the trauma suffered by the US economy in 2008 and well into 2009, was way more than enough to dampen that spirit and way more than enough to take away that incredible initiative.
Though I am very cautious in saying this, and though the signs and measures remain very mixed, it would seem that the American economy is in recovery. There remain any number of challenges and obstacles to our getting back to something resembling the powerful economic engine we had known and pretty much took for granted but consumer spending and confidence are steadily improving, the unemployment rates are inching downward and the real estate market has regained a pulse, though it remains in very grave condition. This is a critical moment in time and one in which strong and effective leadership can and should play a big role.
Certainly it would be hoped that leadership has sustained us through all that has gone on but now it has gone from being a fight just to survive, for both the business and our staffs, to one where we need to stand up and move forward, to compete, to attack, to overcome and to win. A great many of our staff members are scared and very reluctant to move and we as leaders need to show them the way. Leaders have to lead, that is what we do and why we are here. In taking these initial steps, we have every opportunity in the world of getting shot down or shouted down but our determination to stand up and move forward will give our people great reasons and the inspiration to do the same. I can promise you that there will be many wanting and hoping we will fail, not many willing or able to face their fears and do much more than keep their heads down. Our willingness allows them to have hope, to believe that something can get better and it will inspire others to follow suit. More than anything else, leaders are purveyors of hope and hope can lead to action and action well directed (leadership) can lead to success.
Of course there is that chance that our timing will be off or that our actions and message will be misunderstood and we end up standing out there by ourselves looking the fool but that is why we do this right? I can promise that the alternative and our failing to stand and make the attempt to move our people will not move us any further toward success.
In the aftermath of this long and very deep recession there are not many among us who are looking forward to doing anything other than keeping their heads down and remaining a part of the anonymous masses. There are not many among us who are that confident in our status and willing to stick out their necks. The immediate and most obvious impact of this fear driven environment is a complete lack of initiative. People who are scared do not take chances and do not stick their necks out. Our job as leaders is to give our people the confidence to step forward to have the willingness to take chances, to make mistakes and to have the courage to succeed. Leadership and only leadership can inspire that change.
Why does any of this matter? Isn’t blind compliance a good thing in the work place? What does it matter if our staff members have initiative or not, as long as they do their job? As leaders we are not so much the ones doing and touching everything, as we are the ones assigning who does what, to what standard, as well as assuring that tasks are getting completed and assuring that those standards are being met. There is no doubt that our lives are simplified if our people are doing what they are told and shutting up in the process but without an attachment and sense of ownership to the tasks our staff members would take on, there is no sense of accomplishment, no sense of ownership and no sense of pride. Beyond that there is no interest in finding better or more effective methods and little or no desire to improve. It is nice to think of ourselves in our various leadership roles as being all knowing and omnipotent but that is just not reality and beyond benefitting from the collective knowledge of those we lead, a huge side benefit to listening and giving voice to their suggestions or concerns is letting them know they are valued and that their opinions matter. Even if we ultimately choose a different path, that we listened and considered their suggestions is extraordinarily important and encourages that initiative and extra effort we need as leaders. Beyond simply accomplishing tasks, there has to be something in it all for our people and a big part of leadership is providing that insight, that vision of something better. If they can see it, they are much more likely to accomplish it.
For his actions on 16 February 1967 in the Republic of Viet Nam, Platoon Sergeant Elmelindo R. Smith of Honolulu Hawaii was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was 32 years old. The chances are very good you never heard of him. I wonder why that is?
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty: During a reconnaissance patrol, his platoon was suddenly engaged by intense machinegun fire hemming in the platoon on 3 sides. A defensive perimeter was hastily established, but the enemy added mortar and rocket fire to the deadly fusillade and assaulted the position from several directions. With complete disregard for his safety, P/Sgt. Smith moved through the deadly fire along the defensive line, positioning soldiers, distributing ammunition and encouraging his men to repel the enemy attack. Struck to the ground by enemy fire which caused a severe shoulder wound, he regained his feet, killed the enemy soldier and continued to move about the perimeter. He was again wounded in the shoulder and stomach but continued moving on his knees to assist in the defense. Noting the enemy massing at a weakened point on the perimeter, he crawled into the open and poured deadly fire into the enemy ranks. As he crawled on, he was struck by a rocket. Moments later, he regained consciousness, and drawing on his fast dwindling strength, continued to crawl from man to man. When he could move no farther, he chose to remain in the open where he could alert the perimeter to the approaching enemy. P/Sgt. Smith perished, never relenting in his determined effort against the enemy. The valorous acts and heroic leadership of this outstanding soldier inspired those remaining members of his platoon to beat back the enemy assaults. P/Sgt. Smith's gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and they reflect great credit upon him and the Armed Forces of his country.”
Leadership, no matter how much we would try to make it into an academic exercise, is our looking our people in the eye and asking them for something better and our being willing to, not only stand with them, but to stand out in front of them, in the effort. If we are not willing to take risks and sacrifice toward accomplishing an end, why should they?
Leadership is about inspiring others in accomplishing our goals, even if we are wounded and have to crawl or perish in the attempt.
Who have you inspired today?
About the author:
Brian Canning is a regular contributor to weLEAD and a business analyst working in the federal sector. For the past thirty years he has worked in the automotive repair industry, most recently as a leadership and management coach with the Automotive Training Institute in Savage, Maryland. After serving as a tank commander with the 1st Armored Division in Europe, he started his career as a Goodyear service manager in suburban Washington D.C., moving on to oversee several stores and later a sales region. He also has been a retail sales manager for a large auto parts distributor, run a large fleet operation and headed a large multi-state sales territory for an independent manufacturer of auto parts. His passions are history, leadership and writing.
Turmoil, stress and uncertainty would all describe the working experience of many of us over the past three or four years and even today as we are beginning to look forward to an improving economy, many millions of Americans remain out of work. Many millions more remain marginally employed and stuck in a world that does not give them the luxury of choice. A job, any job, remains a blessing andBrian Canning Articles
Leaders not only challenge us but also inspire us to take action. Some leaders post quotes in their office as reminders to inspire themselves and others. Here are a few examples.
“Make It a WOW Experience!”—Sign in the office of Kate T. Labor, Vice President-Customer Support, Systems, and Software.
“I will change one life today!” —In the article, “Understanding the Importance of Rituals,” author Justin W. Carter said that this sign was in the front office of a small company. As employees entered the office, they tapped the sign with their hand. This ritual instantly reminded them of the importance of their mission.
“Bring Energy!” —Sign on the desk of Maxine Clark, Founder and Chief Executive Bear, Build-A-Bear Workshop.
“Prove Your Groove.”—Sign on the office wall of Peter H. Reynolds CEO/Owner, FableVision Enterprises.
“The Buck Starts Here!”—Sign on the desk of Donald Trump.
Leaders inspire us by what they say, how they say it, and what they do. You must believe in yourself, your employees, and your message.
What Leaders Say
Leaders speak the truth about what is—current reality and about what’s possible—their vision. They keep it real but also identify opportunities for a better future. Leaders use words that are positive, affirming, uplifting, and encouraging. They inspire us by making us feel good about ourselves.
We all want to feel respected, valued, useful, and part of something important and successful. Package your message in a way that connects to these universal feelings. In addition, you can inspire people by tapping into their core values. Emotions and values are the spark that get us excited and energized.
The words leaders say that inspire us include:
*Telling Stories. Stories that describe setbacks, great struggle, hard work, perseverance, and eventual success inspire us to press on and achieve demanding goals.
What’s your inspiring story?
*Affirming Statements. Leaders inspire us by telling us we have the ability and talent to be successful. Doug Conant former President and CEO of Campbell’s Soups said that in graduate school his grades started to slide. He was working two jobs and taking a full course load. His favorite professor pulled him into his office and said, “You can do better.” Those four words touched him, affirmed him, and inspired him.
Who have you affirmed in the last two days?
*Planting Seeds. Leaders inspire us by getting us to see ourselves performing a bigger role. They plant seeds with comments such as, “I can see you leading our international marketing campaign.”
*Encouraging People. One of my mentors always encouraged me to pursue bigger goals. Whether I was applying for a new job, considering graduate school, or starting my own business, her consistent response was: “Now’s your time. Believe in yourself and your goals. I’m confident you can do it.”
Who are you encouraging to pursue loftier goals?
*Empowering People. Ralph Stayer, former CEO of Johnsonville Foods, inspired his employees and built their confidence by empowering them. He gave people power and authority to get things done. When leaders empower us, they’re saying, “I have confidence in you.”
How Leaders Say It
Leaders deliver their message with passion and conviction. Check out some of the YouTube videos of Tom Peters, Pat Summit, Colin Powell, and Tony Blair. Observe how animated and passionate they are. If you don’t have enthusiasm for your ideas, who will? A passionate speaker gets the audience to sit up, open up, and fully consider the key points. You must have great conviction for what you’re advocating. Leaders have no doubts, no hesitation, and no questions about the correctness of their ideas and recommendations. If you’re not fully committed to what you’re doing, why should anyone else?
Do you deliver your message with passion and conviction?
What Leaders Do
They set the example. When change is taking place all eyes are on the leader. Setting an example is a powerful way of inspiring people. People can’t ignore what you do. Leaders are often the first to take action. Their actions are strong and decisive. You increase your influence exponentially by adding highly visible examples to your words. Author and Artist, Susan Conroy said that the best example of leadership she got was from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Susan states, “I made my first trip to work with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in 1986. Mother Teresa inspired us by her example.” Every day she was a consistent role model of humble service.
What example are you setting for your people?
Problems Related to Inspiring People
1) Some leaders lack optimism. Others are too optimistic and are thought to be out of touch with reality.
2) Some leaders aren’t inspiring because they are flat in their delivery. They lack energy and conviction when presenting their message.
3) Some leaders don’t create a sense of urgency. There is no burning platform so people are reluctant to jump into the water.
4) Some leaders talk a good game, but don’t back it up with action.
What Can You Do?
First, inspire yourself. Discover what gets you excited. Second, think about your life stories. What challenges and obstacles have you faced and overcome? Craft your own personal stories that you can use to inspire others. Third, build your vocabulary. Ed Zimmer, Founder and President, Zimmer Foundation says that a large vocabulary helps you select the best words to sell your ideas and inspire people to change.
About the author:
Paul B. Thornton, MBA, M.Ed., is an author, trainer, and professor of business administration at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He has provided leadership training for over 10,000 supervisors and managers. This article is an excerpt from his new e-book, WHAT I TEACH ABOUT…LEADERSHIP. His e-mail address is PThornton@stcc.edu
Leaders not only challenge us but also inspire us to take action. Some leaders post quotes in their office as reminders to inspire themselves and others. Here are a few examples. “Make It a WOW Experience!”—Sign in the office of Kate T. Labor, Vice President-Customer Support, Systems, and Software. “I willPaul B. Thornton Articles
Two startling facts regarding issues absolutely impacting the bottom line of manufacturing companies in today's challenging economy:
*The Gallup organization, an international research company with a division that focuses on employee engagement and motivation, estimates $300 billion is wasted every year in lost productivity at U.S. companies due to un-motivated, dis-engaged employees.
*Another research firm, Sirota Survey Intelligence, reported in 2005 that in 85% of Fortune 1000 companies, employee motivation and morale "declined significantly" within the first six months of employment and continued to go down after that.
Those statistics are startling with regard to the potential impact on bottom line results of companies today. But, it is also not surprising.
Research I recently conducted of over 3000 subscribers to the Workplace Communication Expert blog (www.WorkplaceCommunicationExpert.com) showed 44% of business leaders are unhappy with employee performance.
When you look around your workplace and evaluate the productivity, motivation and morale of your people, how much might your organization be contributing to that $300 billion?
And, in evaluating the cost of hiring, on-boarding and training new employees, if not being done effectively, could this be another place where company profits are stealthily slipping off the financial statement?
Here are three specific strategies manufacturers can apply to develop, maintain or recapture employee motivation, morale and engagement so that your employees are truly assets bringing high value to the work environment:
1) Define your "Championship Game"
From the first day of training camp everyone that is part of an athletic team at any level from little league through the professional ranks knows the ultimate objective and vision for their team (organization) is to reach the Championship Game (for baseball it's the World Series, football The Super Bowl, soccer it's the World Cup, etc).
It is the inspiring vision to win the championship that keeps everyone focused, doing the right things for the right reasons so they can contribute to the team's success, while also being able to reap the well-defined, and not so-well defined, individual and collective rewards and opportunities that come with their contribution.
The same type of culture can be created inside any business. It takes strong, visionary leadership and consistent communication to make it successful.
2) Jointly create an agreed upon set of core organizational communication and behavioral values
Many organizations have their "values" hanging on posters in the hallways while managers and leaders both engage in, and enable others, in behaviors inconsistent with those values.
With no one holding anyone accountable to the values on the walls, performance and behaviors deteriorate and subsequently default to what is witnessed and experienced in the halls.
This, too, is a strategy that is both easy to create, plus easy to maintain when two processes are applied:
*Bring your team(s) together to jointly create the organizational communication and behavioral values and commit to a "team agreement" that everyone, literally, signs on to.
*Leaders, managers and teammates agree to address violations of the values and team agreement immediately (or, at the earliest possible opportunity after a documented and witnessed behavior).
NOTE: One client that recently concluded this process reported employees were self-regulating themselves and their teammates six months after installation of the above strategy.
3) Create a communication "Forum" that includes a "feedback loop"
Communication is always among the top three issues or problems identified by employees in organizations. The challenge with this generic, vanilla statement is that there are too many aspects of communication to fix the problems.
It must be more clearly defined.
In a recent client project three different teams in one focus group identified communication as an organizational problem. Yet, each defined it differently from a completely different context.
One simple way to resolve this issue is to create a formal forum for communication that includes a two-way feedback loop.
This sounds much more complicated than it really is. It simply means that regular, structured meetings are facilitated to bring issues, problems, ideas and suggestions to the fore for company leaders to address and respond to.
There are four key steps for doing this successfully:
1) Schedule meetings at regular and consistent times
2) Invite a cross section of participants representing the various departments, divisions, etc.
3) Collect ideas, chunk them into related categories and prioritize
4) Create a system through which company leaders can respond to every item in a reasonably timely manner.
Often company leaders are leery of developing this type of communication process for fear of the meetings devolving into gripe sessions. These fears are valid and can be eliminated by doing these three things:
1) Setting clear guidelines at the outset,
2) Ensure that all ideas and suggestions are articulated in a positive, constructive manner, and
3) Following through with prompt feedback on all ideas so that those contributing feel as if their contributions were taken under consideration and were valued (it is perfectly okay to say "no" to an idea as long as it comes with a credible reason).
Manufacturers that have implemented some, or all, of the three above suggestions have been able to generate dramatic results, such as:
. $900,000 in waste eliminated within 12 months of implementation
. 300% increase in pre-tax profits over a five-year period
. 100% increase in pre-tax profits within four months of implementation
. 65% permanent improvement in workflow processes and 22% waste reduction within 12 months.
With results like that no business leader in Western civilization can argue that they can't invest the time, energy and resources to learn how to implement the three simple strategies outlined above.
Give it a try.
About the author:
Skip Weisman is The Leadership and Workplace Communication Expert based in Poughkeepsie, NY. Since 2001 he has partnered with business leaders and their teams to transform communication in workplaces in a way that offers dramatic increases in productivity, profit margins and the bottom line. You can find out more about Skip at www.TheEmployeeEngagementExpert.com
Two startling facts regarding issues absolutely impacting the bottom line of manufacturing companies in today's challenging economy: *The Gallup organization, an international research company with a division that focuses on employee engagement and motivation, estimates $300 billion is wasted every year in lost productivity at U.S. companies due to un-motivatedSkip Weisman Articles
Leaders from around all types of fields are facing a new kind of challenge: coping with the various waves of disruptive, revolutionary change. One wave has to do with the rise of the Internet-based “new” business and its driving force, the process of digitization (Castells, 1998; Kelly 1998). A second has to do with the rise of new relational patterns and their underlying driving forces: the processes of globalization (of markets, institutions, products), individualization (of products, people, and their careers), and increasingly networked structures and web shaped relationship patterns (Castells, 1996). A third and more subtle dimension of change has to do with the increasing relevance of experience, awareness and consciousness and their underlying driving force, the process of spiritualization (Conlin 1999) or, to use a less distracting term, the process of becoming aware of one’s more subtle experiences (Depraz, Varela and Vermersch, 1999). An example is the recent growth in interest in topics like “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) or personal mastery (Senge, 1990) both inside and outside the world of business.
There are two different sources or processes of leadership: one that is based on reflecting the experiences of the past (Type I) and a second source, one that is grounded in sensing and enacting emerging futures (Type II). Each of these processes is based on a different temporal source of learning and requires individuals to work with fundamentally different learning cycles.
The temporal source of Type I learning is the past, or, to be more precise, the coming into presence of the past—learning revolves around reflecting on experiences of the past. All Kolb-type learning cycles are variations of this type of learning (Kolb 1984). Their basic sequence is action, concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and action again.
The temporal source of Type II learning is the future, or to be more precise, the coming into presence of the future. Type II learning is based on sensing and embodying emerging futures rather than re-enacting the patterns of the past. The sequence of activites in this learning process is seeing, sensing, presencing, and enacting.
Yet, Type I learning is no longer effective as the single source of learning, because the previous experiences embodied in the leadership team are no longer relevant to the challenges at hand. And the experiences that would be of relevance are not yet embodied in the experience base of the leadership team. The issue for leaders is how to learn from experience when the experience that matters most is the not-yet-embodied experience of the future.
Moreover, large-scale change, particularly transformational change, always plays out on multiple levels. The action (at level 0) is “above the waterline” and is embedded in four underlying or contextual levels of reorganization and change. The four underlying levels of reorganizing are restructuring (level 1), redesigning core processes (level 2), reframing mental models (level 3), and regenerating common will (level 4).
When leaders face a challenge, they must choose whether (1) to react directly to the issue (level 0) or (2) to step back, reflect, and reorganize the underlying contextual levels that gave rise to the challenge in the first place. Accordingly, we can distinguish among five different responses to change: reaction (the response on level 0), restructuring (the response on level 1), redesigning (the response on level 2), reframing (the response on level 3), and regenerating (the response on level 4).
The Invisible Territory of Leadership Practice
The invisible territory of a leadership practice (aka. blind spot) concerns the inner place from which an action—what leaders do—originates. Leaders are usually well aware of what they do and what others do; they also have some understanding of the process: how they do things, the processes they and others use when they act. And yet, there is a blind spot: usually they are unable to answer the question “Where does our action come from?” The blind spot concerns the (inner) source from which they operate when they do what they do—the quality of attention that they use to relate to the world (Scharmer, 2001).
I first began thinking about this blind spot when talking with the former a Senior Manager from IBM due to my research study about organisational learning. She told me that her greatest insight after years of conducting organizational learning projects was that “the success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor.” That sentence struck a chord. What counts is as Scharmer (2001) stated not only what leaders do and how they do it, but the inner place from which they operate (Scharmer, 2001).
I also realized that not only individuals but also organizations, institutions, and societies as a whole have this blind spot. What might really set successful organizations and societies apart has to do with that dimension that Senior Manager was talking about: the inner place from which a person, an organization, or a system operates.
The issue that most of today’s leaders face is that they haven’t yet learned how to see below the surface, how to decipher the subtle structures and principles of the territory underneath. They haven’t got the proper methods and tools yet that would allow them to dig beneath the surface to learn what otherwise would remain invisible. And yet, it is this invisible territory that is the most important when it comes to creating the conditions for good learning to occur. Maybe, leaders can learn to see what so far has largely remained invisible: the full process of coming-into-being of social action, the creation of a social reality (Scharmer, 2001). This invisible territory beneath the surface (aka. the territory of the blind spot) is what leaders should explore and describe.
Scharmer (2001) claims that the attention of the actor, group, or organization is exactly the blind spot that corresponds to the invisible quality of the field underneath the surface. He believes that the term ‘field structure of attention’ allows researchers to get their arms around a surface layer of social fields that is still somewhat accessible to scientific observation (Scharmer, 2001). In social fields the corresponding area is where the light of consciousness—our attention—meets and is permeated by that which normally is in the background of our awareness—the structure based upon which we pay attention to the world (Scharmer, 2001). Each field structure of attention embodies a particular type of relationship between the self and the world. Scharmer (2001) identifies seven archetypal field structures of attention that map the territory of the blind spot. They are:
1. Downloading: projecting habits of thought (seeing 0)
2. Seeing: precise observation from outside (seeing 1)
3. Sensing: perception from within the field/whole (seeing 2)
4. Presencing: perception from the source/highest future possibility (seeing 3)
5. Crystallizing vision and intent (seeing/acting from the future field)
6. Prototyping living examples and microcosms (in dialogue with emerging environments)
7. Embodying the new in practices, routines, and infrastructures.
These seven field structures of attention describe seven different ways of relating the self to the world. The one probably least familiar is that of presencing, a term that blends the two words “pre-sensing” and “presence.”According to Scharmer (2001), it means to pre-sense and bring into presence one’s highest future potential. Presencing liberating one’s perception from the “prison” of the past and then letting it operate from the field of the future. This means that we literally shift the place from which our perception operates to another vantage point. In practical terms, presencing means that we link ourselves in a very real way with our “highest future possibility” and that we let it come into the present. Presencing is always relevant when past-driven reality no longer brings us forward, and when we have the feeling that we have to begin again on a completely new footing in order to progress.
Presencing is both an individual and a collective phenomenon. For a social system to be transformed and for a profound innovation to come into being, the process must cross a threshold at the bottom of the ‘U’ (Scharmer, 2001). That threshold can be referred to as the eye of the needle. It is the location of the Self—one’s highest future possibility, both individually and collectively. At the moment we face that deep threshold, as economist Brian Arthur once put it, “everything that is not essential has to go away.” Having crossed this threshold, we experience a subtle and yet fundamental shift of the social field. So, instead of operating from a small localized self at the center of our own boundaries, we change our focus to operate from a larger presence that emerges from a sphere around us. The seven field qualities listed above represent archetypal patterns that apply to the evolution of systems at all levels (individuals, groups, institutions, ecosystems, and so forth) (Scharmer, 2001). They capture an evolutionary grammar of emerging systems from the viewpoint of the actors who actually bring about this process.
Every human being has the potential to activate this deeper capacity. Yet, although most people have had small pockets of this experience in their lives, they are quick to assert that this level of operating is not only very difficult to sustain but also seems almost impossible to perform on a collective level. In most institutions, people spend the most time in the mode of downloading, not in the mode of sensing or presencing the best future potential. What is missing, though, is the social leadership technology that would allow them to shift from learning from the past to learning from presencing emerging futures.
Defining the Social Technology of Leadership
The core of the social technology of leadership revolves around illuminating the blind spot by learning to use one’s self as the vehicle for the coming-into-being of one’s future potential (Scharmer, 2001). Scharmer (2001) defines leadership as the capacity to shift the inner place from which a system operates. And the most important tool in this leadership work is the leader him- or herself, and his or her capacity to make that shift first.
The seven field structures of attention and their underlying principles apply to the evolution of all systems (individuals, groups, institutions, ecosystems, and so forth). They provide a method for producing a common capacity to act from full presence in the “now” (Scharmer, 2001). They also introduce a language to articulate a universal social grammar for bringing forth new worlds (Scharmer, 2001). Presencing is both an individual and a collective phenomenon. The point of the presencing theory is that, for a social system to go through a profound process of transformation, the process must cross a subtle threshold, a threshold that Scharmer (2001) refers to as the eye of the needle. The eye of the needle is the Self—our highest future possibility, both individually and collectively.
Changing one’s method of leadership, when defined as shifting the place from which a system operates, involves a deep cultivation and inversion of one’s quality of attention.
• the inversion of thinking: from being bound by judgmental reactions to opening up one’s thoughts as a gateway to perception and apprehension (“access your ignorance”)
• the inversion of feeling: from being bound by emotional reactions to opening up one’s heart as a gateway to sensing—to enhanced perception and apprehension (“access your emotional intelligence”)
• the inversion of will: from being bound by old intentions and identities to letting go of them and opening up to one’s higher self as gateway to presencing the new that wants to emerge (“access your Self”).
The blind spot can be described in terms of experience (the self), leadership (source of action), organizational learning (learning from the future rather than the past), systems theory (deep field conditions from which social systems arise), as well as capitalism and democracy. For each aspect the same point could be made: that there is a blind spot in the current theory and practice of leading, learning, and change—and that the blind spot concerns the deeper source, the inner place from which an individual or a system operates. The following five practices appear paramount:
- observing: seeing reality with fresh eyes
- sensing: tuning in to emerging patterns that inform future possibilities
- presencing: accessing one’s inner sources of creativity and will
- envisioning: crystallizing vision and intent
- executing: acting in an instant to capitalize on new opportunities
These five practices embody a single movement of co-sensing, co-presencing, and cocreating the reality that wants to emerge.
The cultivation of this leadership capacity involves an inversion of one’s field quality of attention. Crossing the thresholds requires one to transform old patterns of thought, emotion, and intention by (Scharmer, 2001):
• opening the mind: through appreciative inquiry rather than judgmental reaction;
• opening the heart: by providing a gateway to sensing rather than reacting emotionally;
• opening the will: by opening up to one’s higher self and letting go of old intentions and identities.
Performing this new art of leadership effectively requires developing and refining a new leadership technology—a social technology of leadership. In contrast to a social technology of manipulation or control, a social leadership technology focuses on methods and tools that help diverse groups of stakeholders to see, sense, and create together in a way that transforms past patterns and actualizes future possibilities. The most important tool of this technology is the leader’s self, his or her capacity to shift the inner place from which he or she operates.
Arthur, W. B. (2000), Sense Making in the New Economy. Conversation with W. Brian Arthur,
Xerox Parc, Palo Alto, April 16, 1999, in: Scharmer, C.O. et al (eds.), Accessing Experience, Awareness and Will. 25 Dialogue-Interviews on the foundation of knowledge, awareness and leadership. Unpublished project report, Cambridge, MA, August 2000, Vol. IV: 541-576.
Castells, M. (1996-98), The information age: economy, society, and structure. vol.s 1-3. London: Blackwell.
Conlin, M. (1999) Religion in the Workplace, The growing presence of spirituality in Corporate America, in: Business Week, New York, November 1, 1999. Issue: 3653
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990), Flow. The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, N.Y.: Harper Perennial.
Depraz, N., F. Varela and P Vermersch (1999), The Gesture of Awareness. An account of its structural dynamics, in: M.Velmans (Ed.), Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness, Benjamin Publishers, Amsterdam.
Kelly, K. (1998), New Rules for the New Economy. 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World. New York, NY: Viking.
About the author:
Ayse is a graduate student in the field of organizational learning and now an adjunct lecturer and consultant in this field. You can find more info about Ayse at http://www.aysekok.info/
Leaders from around all types of fields are facing a new kind of challenge: coping with the various waves of disruptive, revolutionary change. One wave has to do with the rise of the Internet-based “new” business and its driving force, the process of digitization (Castells, 1998; Kelly 1998). A second has to do with the rise of new relational patterns and their underlyinAyse Kok Articles
What if servant leadership had not been initially labeled servant leadership? How many times has this been pondered as this value-laden leadership concept evolved? And why does the name itself present an impediment for implementation, empirical researching, and overall comprehension? Could we not argue that the oxymoronic implication the terminology suggests has hindered the spirited and necessary debate within leadership, management and organizational behavioral circles, both academic and anecdotal, to nearly subjugate this important leadership theory to others such as transformational or authentic leadership?
This brief essay is not intended to offer substantiated results of exhaustive research that are based on testing terminologies and definitions in an effort to “poll”, if you will, labels that might be less controversial. But when most – at least in my experience – conversations about servant leadership begin with an obligatory and extensive discussion on the terminology itself rather than on the characteristics of the theory, it causes me to wonder what if our beloved founder, Mr. Greenleaf, had selected another term. Of course one could make the argument that a conversation on the definition of the term aids the overall explanation of the theory. But I will leave that debate for another day.
So what is it specifically about the term servant leadership that creates a barrier to further understanding? I believe that the challenges are primarily three-fold: the contradiction inherent in the term, the religious connotations that are implied and the lack of operational clarity offered by the theory’s title. I offer the suggestion that a slight adjustment to the theory terminology e.g. the name of it could open the door to further acceptance within the wider community.
Servant and its entomological cousin, service, by its very definition imply assuming an inferior position to a master or leader. Those who are either in positions of leadership or those who aggressively seek these offices (which causes its own set of servant leadership implementation issues) are immediately disengaged when they encounter passive terminology. How can one effectively and efficiently lead while taking an inferior posture. Moving past this initial barrier may be accomplished if the individual is able to transform servant into supporting or, better yet, into stewardship rather than focusing on the more stereotypical passive role of a servant.
Issues of faith are complicated within a standard corporate environment. Not only does their exist an intangible quality to one’s belief system that varies greatly across the world but also there are human resource and legal implications that have to be seriously considered which makes the discussion of religion taboo within most situations. The frequent use of the term servant within religious circles as well as the well-used example of Jesus Christ as the pinnacle of servant leadership has given the impression to many that servant leadership is strictly a faith based approach to leadership and may work in those arenas but not in a serious business environment.
Compounding this issue is the servant leadership community itself. There have been many academic programs that have emerged that teach servant leadership and have attempted to define the theory for future research. Many of these “centers” have emerged at faith-based institutions that teach the subject within a biblical context. Certainly there are moral parallels within servant leadership that align well with religious instructions but until the servant leadership community matures past “do these things because they are the right thing to do” and into demonstrating compelling, measurable increases in output; the theory will continue to remain primarily anecdotal.
Finally, the term does not provide implicit instructions on how to implement the style. Authentic leadership means to lead authentically. Transformational leadership means to lead by transforming. When our hypothetical corporate leader stumbles across servant leadership, although those of us within the subculture know that it means to lead by serving, to the CEO this immediately brings up connotations of inferiority which brings us back to square one of this essay. What if servant leadership was not called servant leadership?
I ask this question merely to generate conversation on a clear hindrance to the development of this wonderful leadership concept. Is it possible to alter the labeling terminology to open up the concept to further research or is the fact that the term “servant” being in the definition give the theory strength and separation from other value-laden leadership approaches? What other terms could be applied to allow the theory to gain more widespread recognition?
About the author:
JJ Musgrove is currently the Director of Donor Services, Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley in Columbus, Georgia. He joined the community foundation’s staff in April of 2011 after serving for six and a half years as the executive director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in the same city. He has a bachelor of arts in theatre from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, and a masters of arts in theatre from the University of Central Missouri. He is currently enrolled in the masters of organizational leadership, servant leadership track at Columbus State University. He is a featured speaker on arts administration, nonprofit leadership and fundraising, and value-laden leadership theories. He is a member of the Greenleaf Center on servant leadership and serves on the panels of the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance and the Georgia Council for the Arts.
What if servant leadership had not been initially labeled servant leadership? How many times has this been pondered as this value-laden leadership concept evolved? And why does the name itself present an impediment for implementation, empirical researching, and overall comprehension? Could we not argue that the oxymoronic implication the terminology suggests has hindered the spirJJ Musgrove Articles
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