Leadership

Change is Hard: Here are 5 ways to Accomplish It

At the beginning of each year, many of us resolve to make changes to make the new  year better. For instance, we may resolve to lose weight – by exercising and eating more healthy food , and/or increasing sales and profits  – by increasing price/value and reducing costs through more effective use of staff. The problem is we start out with good intentions and then, if we’re not getting immediate reinforcement that our methods are working, we stop. The fitness industry sees this every year: it starts with lots of new clients, and many start dropping out by the end of the first month.

Daniel Lock wrote a blog for Innovation Excellence that identified 5 behaviors that enable us to execute more effectively:

  • Share a compelling story with a clear purpose to create a sense of urgency. Whether you’re supported at home by a network of friends and family, or you’re changing the company in which case you need to engage other leaders/managers, this is a powerful technique. John Kotter first identified the need to create a sense of purpose and urgency in order to make the change the purpose of the story is to clearly state objectives and processes, and engage your supportive players so they can visualize the future state, understand the risks and obstacles, and commit to doing their part to help effective change.
  • Paint a picture of opportunity. You need to spark people’s growth-mindset so they see how they, too, can grow by doing their part. Their support means giving up current daily practices in order to make time to implement the changes they must make in their routines. They need to visualize themselves in their new roles.
  • Discover what is not working. Leaders must fully understand what behaviors he/she, and the support group are engaged in which are counterproductive to the new change. Sleeping late or buying unhealthy food for the household, or  holding long, unproductive meetings which don’t focus on accountability and individuals committing to make changes, are counterproductive activities
  • Determine why it’s not working. Everyone must understand why the current behaviors are causing the problem that you want to change. Awareness by your supportive players is critical, if they are going to change the counterproductive behaviors.
  • Encourage a Participative and collaborative approach. The point is that you are more likely to succeed if you create a culture which encourages people to make all the changes they have to make to help you make your change. Create a culture that recognizes the risks, and encourages people to accept initial failures in making changes, and rewards ongoing learn for what else can be done to develop new personal habits and/or work processes so every player is a part of the success.

Use these insights to effect the changes you want this year. Then learn from the successes to apply the system to effect more changes throughout the year and in the future.

Share with us what your “change” goals are for 2019 are, how you’re creating a sense of purpose and urgency for yourself and your support group, and then let us know in future months how you are succeeding. If things aren’t working out, share the situation with us, so we can be part of your support group committed to helping you win in the battle for change.

Don’t Settle for Less

Last year, one of the common leadership themes which our CEOs started addreessing is the negative effects of tolerating inferior performance from staff. By becoming aware of bad habits we can change!

Unless we’re excellent at time management and delegation – critical goals our CEOs pursue – we often get overwhelmed with things, especially firefighting. As a result, to avoid the stress of adding a new time commitment to help staff improve, we tolerate inferior performances.  In addition to the damage that sub-par performances produce directly, they have an indirect negative impact – signaling the firm’s acceptance of a lowering of standards. To succeed in today’s world, you need A performances – not less.

We see this especially when we have employees who are not meeting KPIs (performance standards) set for them and also showing no effort to improve. We should dismiss such employees; instead they linger like a virus, usually because of “loyalty”. Yet, when a manager finally releases this employee, others speak out: “What took so long? We all know his/her faults – and they made our lives more difficult!”

This year, the CEOs that I have the privilege of coaching/mentoring, are going to take it to the next level – Don’t Settle for Less. You should too!

Tom Koulopoulos, in a blog posted in Innovation Excellence, notes a conversation he recently had about Steve Jobs with his co-founder of Apple – Steve Wozniak. Woz told him that one of his management techniques explains why Apple’s culture creates such innovatively-well-designed products like the iPhone.  “Jobs had a habit of sometimes just popping into meetings. He’d quickly survey the room, take stock of the problem being addressed, and without so much as five seconds of prelude, he would announce to the people there, ‘You can do better than this’. And with that, he’d leave the meeting. His comment wasn’t necessarily delivered with a tone of arrogance or even disappointment, but rather as a statement of fact– simply put, ‘Don’t settle!’”  The net result is that everyone went back to the drawing board to do better – and created a culture encouraging everyone to do their best.

Henry Kissinger, a foreign policy expert who helped President Nixon open the doors to US-China relations in the 1970s, pursued a similar goal.  As the story goes, he would often request from a staff person a policy position paper.  A few days later, the colleague would put it into Kissinger’s  inbox, and be told to return the next day. The next day, the colleague would return, and Kissinger would hand the paper back to the person with the following comment; “you can do better”.  A few days later, an improved paper was produced and submitted. The following day, Kissinger would hand it back saying, again, “You can do better.” A few days later, a third version of the paper would be submitted. Mr. Kissinger would accept it, saying to the colleague, “Thanks, now I’ll read it.”

He knew that the first set of papers were not thought through well enough and refused to settle for less.  How often does do you get “data-dump presentations” rather than fully developed products that meet the standards. Several CEOs I know complain that even new analysts hired from top schools often don’t pay an attention to detail. Also they follow the prescribed presentation template, focusing on detailed facts, with no attention to crafting a persuasive, compelling presentation that drives the audience to the desired conclusion (e.g., not following our ADAP (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentation) standard.

So this year, make one of your leadership themes not to settle for less! 

Share with us, how are you inspiring people to take the time to submit their best work possible?  Are you creating a CILO (Continuous Improving Learning Organization) where staff are held accountable for improving skills? (For more on how the Eval2Win Job Description and Performance System guides the worker and supervisor dyad to constantly improve, contact  Jcahn@eval2win.com or 646-290-7664).

Employee Jobs Should Address Strategy and Culture

Tom Peters, in his new book, The Excellence Dividend,  which is a follow-up to the classic,  In Search of Excellence, he shares two quotes which make an important point which leadders should heed: we all need to address culture!

In 1990, Lou Gerstner, took the helm of IBM, which was failing to adapt to the changing computer landscape. Many people thought it could only survive if major changes took place. Mr. Gerstner previously was CEO of RJR Nabisco – a consumer products company – with little expertise in technology. He was a “strategist’s strategist; he believed that if you “get the strategy right and you’re three quarters of the way down the road.” Yet, he took the time to truly understand the company and do what was needed to turn it around.”

In his book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Hstoric Turnaround, he shares an important perspective:  “ If I could have chosen not to tackle the IBM culture head-on, I probably wouldn’t have. My bias coming in was toward strategy, analysis and measurement. In comparsion, changing the attitude and behavior of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard. Yet, I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it IS the game”

Similarly, Parick Lencioni, in his book, The Advantage: why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, recounts a story consistent with this issue. “As I sat at the conference listening to one presentation after another highlighting the remarkable and unorthodox activities (people-first dogman, leadership stule, communal culture etc.) that have made this organization so healthy, I leaned over and asked the CEO a semi-rhetorical question: Why in the world don’t your competitors do any of this? After a few seconds, he whispered, almost sadly, ‘You know, I honestly believe they think it’s beneath them.”

Leaders heed the advice: address culture and strategy if you truly want a more successful company. As our  Eval2Win system advocates, in a Continuous Improvement Learning Organization (CILO) each person is accountable for specific job responsibilites that fulfill the company’s cultural values and his/her component of its strategic mission. This allows you to hire, develop and promote people to new positions over time while always maintaining an aligned situation in which as employees win, the company also wins.

The Challenge of Innovation Inertia

People love talking about innovation because it generally makes life better. Yet institutions generally resist the efforts needed to generate innovations.

The Law of Inertia says that an object at rest or in motion tends to stay in that state unless acted upon. Companies spend enormous amounts of time, energy and capital to build “strategic systems” to develop effective systems for all aspects of the company – leadership, operations, finance, marketing, sales, etc. Mike Shipulski notes in the HOW and WHY of Innovation that any innovation, especially disruptive innovation, for such companies is “more difficult because it requires an admission that the way you’ve done things are no longer viable.”  As a result, when things don’t work as well as they should senior management gage in incremental innovation – smaller steps to improve things. Only when the hurdle of admission is crossed, can significant innovation efforts occur.

So how do companies that are committed to keeping their industry leadership roles overcome inertia? They accept the challenge and build systems outside the normal business process to address it. Some companies hire inside Strategists whose mandate is to challenge assumptions, by listening to innovative ideas proposed by staff not wedded to existing system and explore them. If a disruptive system makes sense, a proposal is made to a group of senior leaders committed to improving situations, not just the head of that department. Other firms create events each year encouraging people to try new things (e.g., hackathons) to use the special forum to open itself to new ideas. Still others create a culture in which people are encouraged to try new things, advocate for them and discover if they work before someone shoots down the idea.  For instance, companies like Google and 3M give employees free time to pursue ideas in their own (15-20%) time.

Given the challenge of Innovation Inertia, what is your company doing to harness the creativity of your employees and create, when possible, significant, even disruptive innovations. Share the system with us, so we can share with others!

 

Why You Need Succession Planning..At All Levels

Whether you build a company or form a government, the goal usually is to make it sustainable not just for the time you’re in office, but afterwards.  Most leaders focus on what all the strategic components of running a coompany – leadership, strategy, talent management, operations, finance, sales/marketing, etc. Succession planning at all levels – makign sure you have the right people in place with the leadership and technical skills to continue the process – often is often until someoone is ready to  leave or is not ready able to continue in the function – and that can undermine the future of the enterprise.

Three different situations drove home this key point.

  • Developing democracy in Myanmar has been very difficult. It’s taken decades, including many years when Aung San Suu Kyi, the symbol of democracy and current civilian leader was under house arrest by the miltiary leaders, for democratic practices to begin to be adopted. Making sure that a new generation of leaders would be available to continue the process should have been a priority. Yet the Wall Street Journal reports that the “graying leadership of the nation’s ruling party lacks new blood to inherit power”. When the 71 year old president resigned, a 66 year old Suu Kyi loyalist was picked to replace him. Two thirds of the ruluing Executive Committee is over the age of 66 – the male life expectancy is Myanmar. The government seems to be “recycling the same top leaders”. The author observes that the National League for Democracy “risks losing its struggle with the (military) institution if it fails to groom a new generation of leaders”.  Clearly, encouraging a new generation of democratic leaders in a country still run by the military leaders who took power in 1962 is not easy; but it should be a priority.
  • A CEO who made a decision recently to join Vistage, explained that his main reason was a desire to retire in a few years and build a solid management team that can take over the company. An analysis of the senior team revealed that many were there a long time and not very effective and had not considered devleoping people below to help take over should something happen to them. Turns out not all of the team members were as competent as he thought, and left. So now, the CEO has to postpone the effort to expand the business to make it more valuable to the next owners, and focus on identifying who can take over their divisions (from inside and/or outside) and tain them to be effective leaders. Further, there are some capable people within the company that have not been earmarked for future leadership roles and can be fast-tracked, with supervision, to see what they really can do. All this extra work is draining substantial energy. We now have a race to do a lot within the allotted time period.
  • Age Brilliantly advocates allowing talented people to continue working in companies as long as they want to do so and continue to be productive – regardless of age – either in their jobs or as SharExers where they “share their expertise and experiences” with others to groom new leaders and help innovate processes and products. Recently, a CEO, who runs a company that uses lots of specialty equipment, mentioned having a few employees over the age of 70 that are quite skilled; they haven’t initiated discussions about “retiring” for their jobs, and neither has he. Periodically, we discuss how they’re doing… and raise the question of who will take over when they want to, or need to, leave. It’s been flagged as an issue because no successor exists in the company and no outside search is being initiated. (“Ostrich, keep your head in the sand.”) Recently, the conversation changed…two are thinking of moving on. So now we’re scurring to find ways to “phase their retirement plans” for the good of the company and these valued employees. Stay tune for how the SharEx model gets adopted by this company!

Everyone benefits when we begin succession planning early on.  What are you doing in your company?  Share with us your experiences and solutions.

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