Your Sponge

Your Sponge
Posted by   | October 21st, 2014 | No Comments

When you are faced with a change how do you respond?

Have you ever experienced a time when you felt you couldn’t take any more change? Perhaps your sponge was full.


The SPONGE = your capacity

In Managing at the Speed of Change, Daryl Conner explains the concept of the sponge. “Change is typically poured onto the physically and emotionally saturated sponges of the work force while management watches helplessly as their intended objectives run down the drain.”

Within each person is a limited capacity for assimilation of change. When a person’s finite resources of intellectual energy and physical stamina are used up it doesn’t matter how much the person wants to change, he or she is out of capacity.

“Managers can no longer flip a switch and pour on the changes. The spray-and-pray approach (announcing major change and hoping it will take hold) is out of  date and insufficient.” (pg. 56 Conner)

When you are feeling fully saturated, you can either squeeze out your sponge or increase it. We refer to previous Tuesday Tremendous Tips to provide insights on how to squeeze or increase the sponge!

Squeeze the Sponge – Manage Change Saturation

Increase the Sponge: Resilience is the capacity to recover from change. Here are two previous tips and a presentation that address resilience:

• Aspects of resilience

• Strategies to increase resilience

• A presentation to support your team and discuss resilience strategies you can apply

It’s helpful to understand that no one is super human with a limitless sponge. When you take time to understand your capacity and manage it well, you will improve your ability to recover from change.

When you are saturated from change, it’s helpful to understand that you are not crazy and there is nothing wrong with you. Step away from the sponge and decide whether you want to wring it out (reduce change and complexity) or grow it (practice resilience.)

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    Change and Transformation

    Change and Transformation
    Posted by   | October 14th, 2014 | No Comments

    “This is part one in a series on the change and the process of transformation. Whether you are a leader, inspiring others through change or a person in the midst of change, this is relevant to you.”
    Key points to consider:


    • Change is a deviation from expectation. The bigger the deviation the bigger the change. (some change models call this a break from status quo)
    • There is a difference between change and transformation
      • Change is the external event, circumstance or consequence that occurs. It may be something that you choose (initiated change) or something that happens beyond your control (an external or random change.)
      • Transformation is a personal process that happens one individual at a time in response to change. It’s the internal choice of how to respond to the external change that is happening.
    • The greater your resilience the more equipped you are to deal with change and the internal impacts.

    We all will deal with hundreds of thousands of changes through the course of our lives. Some change you choose, other change just happens!

    Stay tuned for the next few weeks as we explore the process of transformation and change.

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      Heat or Light?

      Heat or Light?
      Posted by   | October 7th, 2014 | No Comments

      Some people change when they see the light;
      others when they feel the heat

      This concept gets at the heart of change management which is about using the best approach for the person to help them change.  Some people need to be persuaded with the heat of consequences while others need to see the positive future that inspires them to change. The best approach is dependent on the person or group that is being asked to change.

      Since change is the transition from a current state to a future state (from the ACMP Standard for Change Management ©) the critical question is, “how to accomplish the transition?” Not all transition is the same and not all transition needs to move at the same pace.

      Tips for using light and heat:

      • Know your audience – who needs to change and what motivates them? Tailor your messages and your change approach to meet their needs, not yours.
      • Understand the transition – is it a big one or a small one? Does it need to happen fast or can it move at a more relaxed pace? Depending upon the answers it may be appropriate to change the ratio of light and heat.
      • Define success – does the transition need to be sustained? As the story below illustrates, forced change often creates resistance. People may comply with the change externally, but internally they are “wrapping their coats around them to protect themselves.”

      The North Wind and the Sun 

      The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes.  The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do.  The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth.  The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.
      The moral of this story…Persuasion is better than Force.

      When you need to create change consider light and heat and use them to inspire people to change as well as help them feel the consequences of not changing. It’s better to use these persuasion techniques than force.

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        Do Your Customers Matter this Much?

        Do Your Customers Matter this Much?
        Posted by   | September 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments

        Employee engagement is a hot topic these days and for good reason, because employees are epidemically under engaged. Beyond unengaged comes disengaged and finally disgruntled. Perhaps the Chicago FAA air traffic control challenge could have been avoided with higher levels of engagement from managers and leaders – time will tell us what happened there.

        Customer engagement is also a hot topic and this past weekend I had the opportunity to experience why. It feels really good when you see it happening.

        I am a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers, as well as, one of those people that purchased a $200 piece of team ownership that I can’t do anything with but stare at the paper on the wall. It was a beautiful week end in Chicago and I was fortunate enough to find tickets to the Bears and Packers game held at Soldier Field in my home town of Chicago. There is a rivalry between the Bears and Packers that is legendary and tickets are hard to come by. I was looking for 7 seats together and found myself in Soldier Field seats that where so high up that I felt dizzy from the thin oxygen. Take a look:


        Our tickets were in the very last row of the upper deck. I work out regularly, but walking those stadium stairs made you plan your trips to the restroom very carefully.

        There is a point to me telling you where I was sitting. Early in the 3rd Quarter Mark Murphy, the President and CEO of the Green Bay Packers Organization, walked up to our section to spend a good portion of the quarter talking and hanging with fans. He was in a shirt and tie and walked up to us by himself. I was able to capture a picture of him in action and you will see fans smiling in amazement, snapping pictures, applauding him and taking time from the game to chat with him. This was a special moment and we felt part of something bigger than just a team, we felt part of a family.


        Taking time to engage with customers matters and is a testament to leadership. Under Murphy’s guidance, the Packers organization continues to rank as one of the NFL’s premier franchises, with highly successful operations both on and off the field. On the field, the team has compiled a 66-38-1 overall record (.633), made five straight playoff trips, including three consecutive division titles, and earned a victory in Super Bowl XLV. Off the field, the club continues to perform well in its business efforts, which allows the organization to support football operations. The fan experience at Lambeau Field, a top priority for the organization, continues to be ranked among the best in sports.

        Kudos to you Mark Murphy for coming out of the luxury box to show your customers that they matter and you care.

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          Disgruntled or Disengaged

          Disgruntled or Disengaged
          Posted by   | September 30th, 2014 | No Comments

          There is a huge focus on employee engagement because employees are epidemically under engaged. Beyond unengaged comes disengaged and finally disgruntled.

          Being based in Chicago we got to experience the disruptive power of a disengaged / disgruntled employee since all flights in and out of Chicago are unable to use local FAA air traffic control. While your organization may not have an employee that creates as much air traffic chaos as 9/11, consider the other costs to your economic ecosystem that may be incurred when someone isn’t performing at their peak.

          Engagement is not the same as happiness. This isn’t a measure of how much someone loves their job. This is how well an organization (leaders) understand the strengths of their employees, equips them to do what they are being asked to do and establishes a vision that connects an employee to the “Why” we exist and the value we provide.

          A great vision is the fuel that accelerates your strategy. Seeing and believing in a vision for the future is a big part of engagement.  People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and know that they are on a meaningful journey that will allow them to make an impact with their contributions.

          A Vision Statement:

          • Future Focused – creates a mental picture of the optimal desired future state of what an organization wants to achieve over time.
          • Connects with Each Employee – employees spend a lot of time at work and a well written vision helps employees understand what their work ultimately contributes towards accomplishing over the long term.
          • Easy to Repeat – make it succinct and inspirational so employees can repeat it at any given time.

          If engagement continues to be a struggle for your organization perhaps it is time to take a look at the vision for your organization. Is your vision statement a succinct, inspirational message that tells an employee why they are doing what they do and the value they create for your customers? If not, take time to invest in the words that create lasting engagement.

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            It’s About Focus

            It's About Focus
            Posted by   | September 23rd, 2014 | No Comments

            What is our strategy now?  How are we doing on our strategy?  Have we arrived yet? There are other questions your people could be asking about your organization’s focus, but these are three questions that you should be asking if you don’t already know.

            Your organization has a strategy and it is being executed as you read this. The strategy sets the overall direction of your organization and establishes the context for everything done in the organization.  If you are not crystal clear on the strategy then decisions you have to make every day become a bit more challenging if success in what you do is important to you.

            The responsibility for staying informed about the strategy is yours. Certainly it is the top leadership’s responsibility to set the strategy, explain it to everyone, provide updates against it and to continually reinforce it, but it is everyone’s responsibility to bring it to life in the organization.

            Here are ideas for breathing life into your organization’s strategy:

            • Understand It – If you’re new to the organization or if you have been there for a long time, get informed about the organizations strategy and why behind it. Talk to your manager, review the website, ask and listen at town halls, because this is so important to an organizations success there will be a wide variety of ways to get clear.
            • Get Refreshed – You should be hearing frequent updates about the organizations progress against the strategy. If you’re not hearing, ask your leaders.  Find out about challenges, successes and adjustments along the way.
            • Explain it – Whether or not your title has VP in front of it you have other people around you that you can help to better understand the strategy.  Take the important time in your 1:1 meetings with your direct reports or team members to get clear on the strategy and their role in executing against it.

            Your organizations success depends on everyone moving in the same direction.  The strategy sets that direction so understand it, stay refreshed on it and do your part in bringing it to life by explaining it to others.

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              Meeting Flavors

              Meeting Flavors
              Posted by   | September 16th, 2014 | No Comments

              This is not about salted caramel, chili chocolate or blackberry cabernet!

              How often are you clear on why you are having a meeting? There are three flavors of meetings that you can savor with participants:

              1. Standard – when participants have radically different points of view, conflict about the current state or differing levels of understanding, a standard meeting is held to inform and create clear, common, shared understanding.
              2. Solutioning – this is a meeting where you know the specifics of an issue and need input on options for solving it. The meeting gathers input through discussion about a very clearly stated problem-solving challenge (we recommend extended question sessions for stretching thinking.) Issues are moved into choices between various solution options.
              3. Strategic – this is a meeting where there is consistent understanding of the issue, prioritized options and it’s time to make a decision. This is a potential minefield if the decision making process isn’t pre-defined. The Vroom–Yetton contingency model is a useful tool. We’ll explain this in further detail in next week’s tip.

              Meetings are mismanaged because there is a lack of clarity about the flavor, the agenda or the outcomes. To improve your meeting mastery we suggest:

              • Set the context by selecting the appropriate flavor. Tell participants what to expect so they know how to contribute.
              • Outline the agenda and set the pace.
              • Define intended outcomes. Be clear about the meeting purpose and non-purpose. These are the boundaries to operate within and clarity about what success looks like.

              Mixing meeting flavors can create confusion. So be clear about the flavor the agenda and the outcomes in order to maximize the limited brain resources of your meeting participants. (According to David Rock, the average number of peak decision making hours people report is 3 – 5 per week!)

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                Cultivating Curiosity

                Cultivating Curiosity
                Posted by   | September 9th, 2014 | No Comments

                When you hear something new, how do you respond? Do you ask WHY or WHY NOT? Brain science reveals that our natural response is usually the negative one.

                According to Wikipedia, curiosity comes from Latin curiosus “careful, diligent, curious,” akin to cura “care.”  It is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning.

                To cultivate your curiosity:

                • Suspend judgment and practice saying, “Hmm, I wonder why that is.” Look for the possibility and wonder WHY rather than NOT.
                • Make the mundane mysterious. Ask questions, lots of them, even when you think you know the answers. You may uncover something you never expected when you stop letting your mind fill in the blanks with assumptions.
                • Stop labeling. Labels make your world smaller, questions expand your world.

                The benefits of increased curiosity:

                • Change the world – Great questions lead to new ideas that change the world. For example, Netflix came from Reed Hastings asking himself why he had to pay $40 in overdue fines after returning Apollo 13 well past its due date.
                • Happiness – in Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, Todd Kashdan explains the connection between curiosity and a happy, healthy, and meaningful life. Curious people learn new things and have unfamiliar experiences which increase their dopamine levels. Dopamine is nature’s drug of wellbeing!
                • Super Power if you only relate to life from a single perspective, you are very limited. Curious people learn many points of view which gives the multiple perspectives to view things. This super power enables curious people to see things other people miss.

                Curiosity is essential to learning, innovation and change. Cultivation of curiosity is a lifelong pursuit that we encourage you to practice.

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                  Change Leader Checklist

                  Change Leader Checklist
                  Posted by   | September 2nd, 2014 | No Comments

                  Today’s tip is a checklist for leaders when they are faced with change. Hope the checklist helps :-)

                  Understand the Change
                  Before you concern yourself with the leadership actions needed during change, start with an understanding of the change by answering the following questions:

                  • What is the change? This isn’t the action that you are taking, change is the difference between the way things are today and how you intend for them to be in the future.
                  • Why does the change matter? Why is the change happening?
                  • Who is being impacted, directly or indirectly by the change?
                  • How significant is the change to the people being impacted? This is from their point of view not yours. Sometimes it’s easy to assume the change is insignificant because you see if from a different vantage point.
                  • When is the change taking place? While one change may seem rather minor when it’s happening in the midst of multiple other changes the impact is compounded. There are limited resources for adopting changes. Be careful how you use up your people’s change capacity.

                  Change Leadership Success: once you have a clearer understanding of the change here are some considerations for successfully leading through the change:

                  • Uncertainty drains productivity – when your people are uncertain about the future or the change, it significantly impacts productivity. While you may not have all the answers, it’s important to share progress and create some certainty.
                  • Data doesn’t have meaning until you make it – too many change messages contain lots of data that gets lost on the recipient. Without context, content is confusing. So take the time to clearly and effectively share the story behind the data and make meaning.
                  • Begin with the reader / listener in mind – when you are sharing the change with others, remember who they are and what matters to them. Speak in their language not yours. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart” (Nelson Mandela.) The language of the heart is the language of change.
                  • Beware of the Curse of Knowledge – once you know something, it’s hard to remember not knowing it. It’s very easy to assume that everyone else knows what you know. So beware when you share that being abstract creates more confusion than clarity. Beware of knowledge imbalances and don’t make assumptions about what others do or do not know.

                  Leadership is the magic ingredient for successful change. The best processes, methods and tools cannot overcome a lack of great leadership. So take the time to understand the changes you intend and then use this checklist to improve your change leadership effectiveness.

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                    Catch a Smile

                    Catch a Smile
                    Posted by   | August 26th, 2014 | No Comments

                    Do you believe that moods are contagious? Have you ever experienced a person who changed the entire mood of a room?

                    We were in an elevator that was packed with people. It was one of those days where it seemed that we stopped at every floor to pick someone up. Then came the man with the bike. He saw the elevator was crowded and pushed his way on. Many people would respond with frustration or silently glare at the inconsiderate biker cramming himself and his machine into such a tiny space. Fortunately a fellow passenger made a comment, “how wonderful that we all took a shower this morning.”  This bit of humor diffused the irritation that hung in the air and immediately brightened the mood of the dozen cramped riders.

                    What kind of intangible trail does your mood leave behind?

                    Do you sour or brighten a room with your presence?

                    Another recent event reinforced how contagious someone else’s mood can be. Last week on my way back from Toronto I was in the airport security line. It was early Saturday morning and most people were half awake, slightly grumpy and in desperate need of their morning caffeine.  A cheery woman was standing at the checkpoint. With a loud voice she told everyone that they could put away their passports, they just needed their boarding pass and a smile. She was so joyful, so upbeat and so positive you couldn’t help but smile. She made my day despite being denied TSA Pre Check because I had SSSS on my boarding pass. Her energy, enthusiasm and positive words completely lifted my flagging spirits. It takes a lot to make passengers smile in a pre-dawn airport security line. But one person made all the difference.

                    The next time you are in a bad mood, do the world a favor and put yourself into quarantine. Your negative or positive mood can change the trajectory of your life and the lives of everyone around you.

                    Have a bright, beautiful and very blessed day..then pass it on!

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