Leaders Who Inspire Change

Leaders Who Inspire Change
Posted by   | March 4th, 2015 | No Comments

A recent article about Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management highlighted some of the critical ways that leaders inspire change.

The story, Aiming at Glass Ceilings shares that she is inspiring change; increasing the representation of women on boards in the UK. This isn’t a novel change. There are mandated legal quotas in France and Norway. The US has multiple organizations and lots of grassroots efforts to increase the representation of women on boards. However, neither the grass roots approach nor the legal mandate has resulted in increased representation. Morrissey’s approach is getting real results, inspiring real change.

Tips to Inspire Real Change
Clear Vision. Although many people suggested she broaden her vision to women’s empowerment, like Sheryl Sandberg, Morrissey did not get distracted. You cannot inspire change unless you are clear about what needs changed and remain focused on that vision.
Start at the Top. Helena focused on the chairmen of the boards. They have the authority and influence to make change happen. When change matters, you need to start with the change makers not the change wishers or change hopefuls.
The Right Approach. Using research data, Morrissey framed this as a business issue and made the case that more diverse boards provide better shareholder returns. There is a popular change acronym, WIIFM, which means what’s in it for me. Find the change maker and frame the change in a way that appeals to them.
Build a Coalition. This is a key step highlighted in John Kotter’s Leading Change. Essentially, this means that you need to enlist the support of other leaders. Early in her campaign, Morrissey sent personal notes to each of the chairman suggesting that they add women to their board. That was not favorably received. So she quickly changed her strategy to get a few chairman to support the change and then reach out to their colleagues.

Since 2010 the percentage of women on top boards in Britain has doubled from 12.5% to 23%. In the United States the percentage is stagnate at 17% with very little increase in the number of women represented on top boards.

Mandates and grass roots efforts are less effective than inspiring change by having a clear vision, starting at the top, using the right approach and building a coalition of other supportive leaders.

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    Who Has The Right?

    Who Has The Right?
    Posted by   | February 25th, 2015 | No Comments

    Last week we talked about HOW to make decisions. Today we are addressing WHO makes decisions. Lack of clarity around this seemingly simple concept derails teams and destroys organizations.

    Organizational effectiveness, bottom line results and competitive position in the marketplace are linked to each employee’s ability to make high-quality decisions consistent with the organizational mission and objectives.

    Leaders must be clear about the span of their decision making. While there is often a desire to push down decision making into an organization, they must be specific and intentional. This occurs when people know when to provide input, who should follow through and what is beyond their scope.

    Tips for decision making rights assignment

    Define Boundaries and Roles Up Front. It’s unfair to hold people accountable for something that hasn’t been clearly defined or communicated. We worked with an Executive Team who struggled with a leader who didn’t define decisions rights. She made them believe they were responsible for making a decision and then overrode their decision with her own decision. This created chaos and after a few months no one was willing to make decisions because they knew the leader could change her mind and invalidate their decision.
    Be Clear about the rights of each role. For example, there are people who provide input, people who need to agree with the decision, someone who makes the decision (this must always be a single person, decision by committee is a myth) and people who implement the decision. Meetings and discussions quickly get derailed when the roles of the participants are not clear. You will increase everyone’s participation and satisfaction when they know their role.
    Eliminate Fault and Blame. By eliminating the witch hunt to fault or blame someone, team members will work together to solve issues more quickly and efficiently. This does not abolish responsibility for consequences. The goal is to quickly focus on the information that is presented and take action based on the new information. Take out the faultfinding and the blame game to prevent decisions from being trapped in analysis paralysis.

    Whether you are leading an organization, a team or a family it’s critical to set clear roles and accountabilities and give everyone involved a sense of ownership of the decision. Clear decision rights ensure that critical decisions are made promptly and result in effective actions.

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      How Do You Make Decisions?

      How Do You Make Decisions?
      Posted by   | February 18th, 2015 | No Comments

      Good decision making is a critical skill. While many people use the pro versus con method of deciding we’ve found that the Kepner Tregoe rational model for decision making is superior. It includes risk analysis which is an overlooked component that is missing in the pro/con analysis.

      The rational model includes clearly describing the decision and then developing decision criteria called objectives. Categorize the objectives as either required (must) or optional (want.) Develop a list of alternatives and then evaluate the alternatives against the objectives. The missing step is to analyze the potential risks of your final choice.

      Tips to enhance your decision making process:

      • Get to the point – Focus on the most important piece of the decision. Don’t overload the decision with superfluous details and extraneous facts.

      • Discipline – Good decisions come from disciplined thinking. Use a process and allow adequate time to make a good decision. There are times that an immediate response is required. However, if you need time for contemplation, don’t shortchange yourself.

      • Record – Track your decisions and the outcomes. This will give you statistical data about your decision making process. Use the data to refine and improve your decision making.

      If you are random in your application of a decision process you will get random outcomes. We encourage you to develop an intentional approach to decision making that you consistently apply. The more consistent you are the better your decision skills become.

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        Honor the Past

        Honor the Past
        Posted by   | February 10th, 2015 | No Comments

        A mistake that many newly hired or promoted leaders make is to overlook, disrespect or not take the time to understand the past.

        When a leader honors and respects the people or changes that have been part of the past they can accelerate their own change agenda for the future. Exciting new ideas risk alienating people who have been with an organization when the new leader doesn’t take time to “listen before leading change.”

        Tips for honoring the past while in the midst of change:

        1. Acknowledge Strength – Remind people of past successes. (If you can’t identify any then you need to investigate before you assume that everything is broken.) Talk about the value of what was learned and acknowledge the strengths that are being built upon rather than dismissing and replacing with the new.
        2. Be Clear about the Beginning and the End – change is the journey in the middle

        When making a case for change there is a risk of two extremes. The first extreme is that a leader can create a threat response by talking about the current state as an impending disaster which dismisses the value of past accomplishments.

        In the other extreme, a leader can focus solely on the vision for the future. They risk losing credibility with their followers when they don’t acknowledge the challenges of getting from where they are to the rosy future.

        To make a change you need to be clear on where you are and why it’s not working. However, you must also be clear about where you are going so that everyone understands the path or the journey of change.

        Connecting the old and the new creates continuity and supports productivity throughout a change. Disconnecting past, present and future creates dissonance and resistance.

        As you lead through change, you must begin by meeting people where they are at. Acknowledge the strengths of the people and the organization, be clear about the beginning and end of the journey and you will honor the past which gives freedom for the future.

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          Notes on Creativity

          Notes on Creativity
          Posted by   | February 3rd, 2015 | No Comments

          This is the name of the current Ferran Adria exhibit. He is a personal hero and a genius in the field of creativity. He would close his restaurant for six months each year and completely reinvent his menu. His creative process of experimenting, documenting and discovery is captured in the film elBulli named after his restaurant in Spain. This was the #1 restaurant in the world until it closed in 2011. Ferran is reinventing the creative expereince through his elBulli foundation and museum.

          What is Creativity?

          “The tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.” Human Motivation, 3rd ed., by Robert E. Franken

          “… to bring into existence something genuinely new that is valued enough to be added to the culture.” Creativity – Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
          Being Creative Requires:

          • Permission - too many people give up easily by saying, “I am just not creative.” That’s false. You can be as creative as you allow yourself to be. This is a skill that you can learn and with practice you will get better and better. Creative genius is developed, so give yourself permission to be creative.
          • Curiosity > Chaos > Connection > Confidence - this is an interesting blend. You need to be curious in order to stay open to new ideas. If you believe that everything is solved, invented and figured out, then you have no space for creativity. You need to allow some chaos to exist as ideas are being generated. In the midst of chaos you make connections between different ideas. Finally you must have confidence to play, experiment and share your ideas with others.
          • Great Questions - excellent questions are the gateway to breakthrough creative thinking. Great questions create the curiosity that opens new possibilities for a creative mind to solve. Although many people associate creativity with literary, musical or artistic endeavors, you can apply creativity to any and all areas of life. What is your question?

          An inspiring story of creativity comes from The Empowerment Plan. Veronika Scott was working with the homeless when she observed that they slept in their coats and asked, “why can’t they have a coat that converts to a sleeping bag so they can stay warm on the street?” Through creativity and some hard work she’s created an organization that’s making a difference.

          How can you apply your creativity to make a difference?

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            From Neutered to Juiced Messages

            From Neutered to Juiced Messages
            Posted by   | January 27th, 2015 | No Comments

            After listening to the book, Unbroken, on Audible, we went to see the movie. The difference in our experience of the story was striking. The emotion, passion and human triumph that left us riveted throughout ten hours of listening were missing from the movie. It’s a tragedy that such a powerful story was reduced to a plodding narrative with poor cinematography.

            How often does this happen to messages? In an effort to be politically correct, the passion and emotion gets drained from most messages as they are written in “office-ese.” In our experience, more than 78% of messages are achingly dull, dry to the point of itchy and much less effective than they should be.

            We encourage you to JUICE your messages!


            • Amp Up with powerful words – your word choice makes a difference. Zig Ziglar used to tell a joke about the power of words. He’d say that there is a big difference in the impact of “you broke the clock” and “you are so gorgeous, you make time stand still.” Use powerful words that capture the imagination and create explosive impact.
            • Reconnect with passion - when you create a message, you need to create context. Connect people with the reason why or the bigger picture. Passion only happens when you “get it.” People believe in causes because they understand the why behind the what.  Share context, share your heart, explain why this matters to you. Passion is the juice of life, add a little to your messages.
            • Put some personality in your messages. Relate the information to everyday items, experiences or amusements. Tell stories to explain your message.  Remember your humanity when any message is being crafted; it’s a human to human connection. Too many times humanity is replaced with crackling dry, informational statements. When you put personality into your message you juice it up!

            Messages need powerful words, a passionate why and some personality. Juice your messages and make them memorable by applying today’s tip the next time you create a message.

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              Lasting Change

              Lasting Change
              Posted by   | January 20th, 2015 | No Comments

              In our Tuesday Tremendous Tip we talked about how Robert Cialdini’s six influence principles (from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion) are useful in creating effective change. We shared how three of the six principles link to change. Here are the other three:

              • Liking – we are more likely to be influenced by people we like. When leading change you must make time to build trust and rapport with the people you are asking to change. Prior to communicating about the change, assess the level of trust and take action to reinforce the likability of the change leader.
              • Authority – there is a sense of duty or obligation to authority figures. This is why sponsorship or change leadership is absolutely essential to successful change. One of the most overlooked areas of effective change is working with managers. They have authority over their direct reports and when they are supportive of a change, their employees are more likely to support the change.
              • Scarcity – things are more attractive when we believe they are in demand or that we might lose an opportunity if we don’t act quickly. An example of this influence principle comes from a change project we supported where early adopters of the change. There was a deadline when the special coaching, benefits and rewards would end and anyone who didn’t make the change would miss out.

              Remember that forced change doesn’t last. Only when a person is in agreement with the change will you achieve change that endures. Influence creates agreement, acceptance and buy-in.


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                One More Gift

                One More Gift
                Posted by   | January 13th, 2015 | No Comments

                You deserve something special, a gift that no one has given you this holiday season.  You are the only one who can decide what it is and you are the only one who can give it!

                Here are just a few of the gifts you can give yourself:

                • Time – life gets filled with busyness, commitments, activities and doing. This is a reminder that we are human beings not human doings. You can choose how to spend your time, including giving yourself fifteen minutes of quiet, open reflection time. If you get great ideas in the shower (quiet, open time) imagine what you could accomplish if you gave yourself the gift of time and set aside a few minutes a day for YOU!
                • Relationships – the funny thing about relationships is that they require both people to be involved and they require intentionality. Relationships may start by accident but they only get deeper when you invest in them. Research shows that more than any other factor, the quality of your relationships will sustain you throughout your life. We believe that people are treasures and you build wealth through relationships with great people. Give yourself the gift of relationship by deciding who and when you will be connecting with and then build a deeper relationship.
                • Freedom – you have the ability to forgive yourself, accept yourself and decide the life you want to live. We live in a continuous improvement world where nothing is good enough. We blame, criticize and feel frustration rather than giving ourselves the gift of freedom. The past is behind you, the future is in front of you. You have the present to be free and create your life from the choices you make. Give yourself the gift of freedom.
                • Learning – one of the most profound things we learned from John Kotter’s book Leading Change was in the chapter, Leadership and Lifelong Learning. He talks about the value of learning because it compounds over time. Give yourself the gift of learning and you are making a lifelong investment that can never be taken away. No stock market plunge, Ponzi scheme swindler or financial difficulty can take this away from you. While financial investment is important, personal investment in learning will pay greater returns.

                We hope that you take a moment, pick a gift (or two or four) and give it to yourself. Here’s to the best year ever! Have a spectacular 2015.

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                  Magical Meetings

                  Magical Meetings
                  Posted by   | January 6th, 2015 | No Comments

                  As the New Year unfolds before you, you have the opportunity to make the most of the time that you spend in meetings.

                  Tips to Manage Your Meetings:

                  • Trim the attendee list – meeting productivity precipitously drops the more people you add to the mix. When you have more than five people in a meeting you might as well light your money on fire.
                  • Have a point – the objective of a meeting isn’t to plan the next meeting (we were facilitating a group of extroverts who wanted to get together to figure out what a meeting was going to be about.) Be clear about WHY you are having the meeting and what you want to accomplish. A meeting should never be held for informational purposes.
                  • Minimize the time – try scheduling 30 minute meetings. Who said you need to put 60 minutes on the calendar for every meeting? Alternatively you can start meetings at five minutes after and end them five or ten minutes before the hour. This is most appreciated (although confusing at first) for attendees.
                  • Come topless (no laptops) and no electronics – devices distract. So eliminate them, get your business done and move on.
                  • Be prepared - meetings are maximally productive when everyone is prepared. Send out any materials and an agenda at least a day in advance. If attendees are not prepared, you have the right to cancel the meeting in the middle of the meeting. Better to release the attendees to spend the time more productively. Find another time to meet and stop the madness. Meeting attendees who read the materials during the meeting are not adding value.
                  • Frame the meeting before you begin – everyone is busy. Take a minute or two to remind everyone why they are there, what needs to get done and what the outcomes will be. Then at the conclusion of the meeting, review what you committed to do and show that you accomplished your intended outcomes. Everyone will benefit from a squirt of mental happy juice.
                  • Just say no – when something comes up that is not part of the agenda, is not included in the objectives or doesn’t support the meeting outcomes…just say no. Table the discussion and move on. Too much time is wasted on tangents during meetings. Stay focused and get the job done.

                  Magical Meetings happen when you are responsible for people’s time by being clear on what needs accomplished, who needs to be there and you maintain focus on the outcomes.

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                    Fresh Start

                    Fresh Start
                    Posted by   | December 30th, 2014 | No Comments



                    The start of 2015 is an opportunity for you to evaluate where you are, where you want to go and the actions you need to take to get there.

                    The life you have is a result of the decisions you are making.

                    2015 is an opportunity to make a fresh start with some different decisions.

                    Step One – Where are you? In consulting terms this is the “current state.” You cannot make any progress unless you know where you are. Start by drawing a circle and putting your name inside of the circle. Then connect your circle to other circles, like orbiting planets, with all the things going on in your world. You may be surprised by the size of your universe once you write everything down.

                    Step Two – What do you NOT want? Sometimes it’s challenging to get clear about what you do want until you spend some time thinking about what you don’t want.

                    Step Three – What do you want? Be specific and define this in as much detail as possible.  This is known as the “future state.” That’s a helpful frame because it’s more than just a goal. Think of this like a movie script that shows in lush, living color what you really want.

                    Step Four – What are the actions needed (new decisions) to move you in that direction?

                    Powerful change words that can accelerate a Fresh Start include:

                    Decision - while change may be a process, every change begins with a decision. You can’t change your life without making different decisions.

                    Determination - when you are clear about where you are and where you are going, you can have, “firmness of purpose.” This is about resolve; the promise you make to yourself that you will never give up.

                    never give up


                    Desire - this is the deep down personal hope or longing for something. Your desire must be greater than the obstacles you will face.

                    May your decisions be wise and lead you in the direction that fulfills your life purpose. Here’s to a Fresh Start!

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