When change is initiated leaders often forget about their most important asset, people. Organizations are full of people and people that are not considered until after the change is started can make change messy and challenging.
Messy change requires change triage which uses all the best practices of change management in an emergency toolkit to address critical change challenges.
Change Triage – a rapid determination of the priority of change management actions based on the severity of stakeholder impact when there is insufficient time and resources to do complete change management.
Performing Change Triage:
- Assess – what hurts? What is the change impact? What are the immediate impacts, potential impacts and what is creating the greatest amount of pain? Who is being impacted?
- Prioritize – what is the most critical injury? based upon your assessment, prioritize which stakeholders need the greatest amount of care and which actions will most efficiently and effectively assist with their change transition.
- Act – take care of the wounded. Change triage is performed when there is limited time and resources. In order to get the greatest benefit it’s critical to take action. Telling people about the change (communication) is usually not the best first action. A careful assessment and prioritization often uncovers an initial step that will steer the change in a more successful direction.
Although it’s always ideal to include change management as soon as change is considered, the reality is that there are times that doesn’t happen. Rather than filing a missing persons report, perform change triage and assess, prioritize and action on the change issues.
Change Management Made Simple
Although change management is often recognized as critical, it’s often reduced to training and communication. While these are both valuable in the context of doing change management, they miss the mark.
There are four questions you must answer before you can determine the appropriate actions required to achieve the objectives of a specific change.
- START – where are you? If you think of change as a journey, this is your starting position. It’s sometimes referred to as the “current state.” A personal change example is weight loss. The starting measure would be your current weight. In a business change it’s usually not so simple. We’ve found many leaders of change who are unclear about their starting position. This makes it difficult to create a strategy to get where they want to go.
- FINISH – where are you going? This question explains the definition of success. How far along the adoption curve do you have to be to declare victory? Not all change is created equal. There are some changes that don’t require commitment, compliance is sufficient. So if you don’t make this explicit you could be overinvesting or underinvesting in the change management you really require.
- COMMITMENT – is there clarity and commitment to the change? It’s simple to ask and critical to understand in the context of creating a change strategy.
- GAP – the change equation to figure out the GAP:
Definition of success – (where you are + clarity and commitment) = the GAP
Once you’ve answered these questions, then you can tackle the big one, “HOW do you close the GAP?” There are many actions that can be used to close the gap. Structure, process, coaching, leadership alignment, reinforcement, resistance management, training and communications are all part of the toolbox of change management practitioners. The summary of the actions you take to close the GAP creates the change strategy.
The applied art and science of change management helps leaders create powerful change more rapidly and effectively. Take the time to answer the four critical questions and you will create a change strategy that is scaled to meet the challenge of the change you want to accomplish.
How often do you allow other people to put their “monkeys on your back?”
Monkey on Your Back = a phenomenon described by the late William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass in the 1974 HBR classic, “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” They tell the engaging story of an overburdened manager who has unwittingly taken on all of his subordinates’ problems. If, for example, an employee has a problem and the manager says, “Let me think about that and get back to you,” the monkey has just leaped from the subordinate’s back to the manager’s.
Whether it’s a problem searching for a solution, an action that needs to be taken or a decision that must be made, someone else’s monkey only becomes your monkey when you agree to accept it.
Before you accept someone else’s monkey, ask yourself:
- WHY – is this your problem?
- WHAT – are you going to do about it and what will you be preventing that person from learning if you solve the problem, make the decision or take action on their behalf?
- HOW – does this fit into your priorities and plans?
In today’s jam packed busy world, be wary of playing monkey tamer. We suggest deploying a monkey eradication strategy that empowers others to deal with their own monkeys.
Learning to shift a monkey back to its proper owner can be challenging but it’s how you prevent other people’s monkeys from jumping on your back!
Ask yourself “why, what and how” before you accept someone else’s monkey.
It seems like every organization we work with is touting their commitment to a more collaborative workplace. The problem is that we can’t find a consistent definition of collaboration among the leaders who say they want more of it. Collaboration sounds great, but what is it and how do you make it happen?
Collaboration is about working with others to do, create or accomplish something.
Being collaborative has an underlying assumption that the sum of the individuals is greater than the individuals on their own. Creative thinking, innovation and ideas are just a few of the essential elements that are implied in collaboration.
First of all, collaboration is not guaranteed by having open work environments. Collaboration is about working together and sharing ideas. Collaboration happens when there is space in your calendar and your mind not just space around you. When you don’t have time to think or your brain is crowded with facts and figures, collaboration won’t happen.
Secondly, since collaboration is about sharing, it’s critical that the culture supports and rewards teams’ not just individuals. We recently heard about a sales compensation system where everyone in an office received a percentage of the commissions earned by the entire team. That meant that more senior sales reps benefitted from spending time with new sales reps because they knew that they would get a portion of that person’s commissions. They’ve since moved to an individual reward system. We believe that this will erode the collaboration over time since the reward system no longer values the team contribution.
You collaborate every time you work with someone else to get something done. The question you need to answer is, “how well do you collaborate?”
- Know Your Technology – are you a master of your tools? Just having Lync or Yammer does not guarantee collaboration. In fact, if it’s used poorly this can become a distraction. How many times have you been on a call that wasted ten minutes trying to make a web sharing tool work and there was no document being shared? Use the right tool for the right task.
- Create Collaboration Processes – sharing information is part of collaboration. How you do that matters. Will the information be open and available to everyone or a limited group of people? How do things get circulated? The more intentional you are about how you collaborate, the more effective your collaboration will be.
- Get Random – creativity is stimulated by accidental meetings, weird ideas and other inputs that are not in the normal stream. Make time to add something different to your life. It can be a new idea source or even a meeting with someone outside your typical meeting schedule.
We passionately believe that collaboration is critical in today’s working environment. You cannot grow to new levels of success without collaboration. So make time for collaboration, use technology wisely, be intentional about how you collaborate and get random.
A search of Amazon shows over 100,000 books available on the subject of leadership. While followership isn’t as popular (only 289 results on the topic) it’s the leading indicator of whether or not real leadership is happening.
If you don’t have followers are you really a leader? As a leader it is your responsibility to create conditions to increase the commitment of your followers.
Here are three ways that you, as a leader, can create these conditions:
- Take time - to understand and help your followers apply their strengths. Research shows that strengths based leadership significantly increases engagement which leads to greater follower commitment.
- Create connections - through community. Provide intentional opportunities for your team to develop connections in the workplace. The world of social media has demonstrated that a chorus of many voices often drowns out a single voice. Building strong communities within your followers provides a platform to lead from.
- Be a leader - that others want to follow. Model integrity, authenticity and competence to inspire followers to respect and trust in you.
The opposite of followership is desertion. Studies show that one of the most frequently cited reasons for leaving a job is a problem with the employee’s manager. This is clear evidence of failed leadership and a result of not providing conditions to increase the commitment of your followers.
Build on strengths, create communities and model the critical leadership behaviors needed to enhance your leadership through followership.
Focus on honing your leadership skills so that when you look behind you people will be following you. This is the measure of a true leader.
We were recently having a conversation with a high-tech CEO who mentioned that he was teaching his son to drive. He repeated the three instructions he gave Tyler in order to be a successful driver:
- Know the rules of the road and obey them.
- Maintain a safe distance (at least two car lengths from the car in front of you.)
- Have a 360 perspective – always know what’s going on around you.
These brilliant instructions apply to success in life as well as driving. Here’s how:
- You must know the rules. Whether you are beginning work with a new organization, starting a project or interacting with a new group, there are rules of engagement, also known as culture. The sooner you learn what the rules are the more successful you will be in getting your desired results.
- Maintain a safe distance is an excellent instruction to apply in the context of scheduling and commitments. Calendars get too crowded with meetings. People attempt to pack too much into a day and it collapses around them. We live in a perpetual state of stress because we do not put a safe distance between various parts of our lives. Determine what a safe distance is for you, maintain it and you will be more successful managing your calendar and keeping your commitments.
- Have a 360o perspective is an instruction worthy of repetition. In the chapter, Return on Luck from the book Great by Choice, Jim Collins disproved the theory of luck. He showed that companies which appeared luckier were simply prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. If you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around you then you may miss out. Get luckier by maintaining a 360o perspective.
To achieve driving success and life success, remember that you must know the rules, maintain a safe distance and have a 360o perspective.
The term “Burning Platform” is frequently used incorrectly. Read the story behind the story of the burning platform.
Daryl Conner originated the use of the burning-platform story to convey the intensity of the leadership commitment needed to succeed with major change. When leaders aren’t committed to change there is a significant risk of failure.
In addition to commitment, here are some thoughts on successfully leading change:
- Successfully leading change does not mean scaring people into the future – it does mean creating a sense of urgency.
- Successfully leading change does not mean saying the same thing over and over – it does mean that the leader casts the vision, makes the case for change and tailors the message to the audience he or she is engaged with.
- Successfully leading change does not place all the responsibility “on them” – it does meant that a leader models the change and sets an example. Sometimes, in order to lead well, a leader must go through a painful process of change themselves.
- Successfully leading change does not mean knowing all the answers – it does mean that you create certainty in a successful “what’s next” and help everyone see their place in it.
- Successfully leading change does not mean sharing facts – it does mean that you build a trusting relationship with those you are leading through change, engage their mind with facts AND their hearts with stories so their feet move the change forward.
We wish you great success in ALL the change you lead.
On a scale of one to ten, how much do you love being told? Whether you are eight, eighteen, eighty or anywhere in between, chances are, you don’t like to be told.
To get people to listen you need their attention. To get their attention you need to engage in a conversation. Unfortunately many leaders (and spouses, and parents…) communicate in such a way that they appear to be telling not conversing. So people hear what is being said without really listening.
If you want someone to listen to you, here are some critical tips:
- Who – Begin with the listener. What matters to him or her? Many times the starting point is the message and what you want to tell. We did focus groups with front line employees at an organization who told us that they really didn’t want emails about the six figure executives being hired. The message wasn’t made relevant to them so the emails were ignored or trashed.
- Why – Set the context. What is the listener supposed to do with the information? If the listener understands that they are going to give input, apply what you tell them or have to share the information with someone else they will listen differently.
- You – Focus on the listener. Create an opportunity for some type of interaction with the listener. If you don’t hear from the listener, then you are telling not conversing. You can ask for validation of understanding or confirmation of next steps. Get the listener to participate to ensure that they are listening.
- The End – Determine what needs accomplished. If you plan for a good outcome or are clear about what the ending looks like then you are better prepared to be listened to! Too many conversations wander or leave the listener wondering, “what was the point?”
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Listening requires understanding which requires attention. You can’t make anyone listen to you. They may hear you but they decide whether or not they will listen for understanding. Give them a reason to listen by engaging them where they are at, setting context, focusing on the result and involving them. Remember, “Who, Why, You…the end.”
“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
— Deborah Tannen Author and Professor of Linguistics Georgetown University
Change leaders sometimes forget that a change they’ve processed and made peace with is a new idea for the people they are sharing it with. We’ve had to remind leaders that when their team doesn’t immediately embrace a change, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the change (or with the leader.)
When you are introducing a change here are some tips to remember:
- Resistance is a normal, natural response. As Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Be prepared for pushback and realize that it’s not about you.
- Give people time. When leaders introduce change, they’ve usually had plenty of time to wrestle with information, look at options and make a decision. In other words, they’ve processed the change and they are ready to move forward. While you may not be able to give your team the same amount of time, make sure you give them enough time to process the change, ask questions and make sense of it for themselves.
- Respect. Show people that you respect and care for them by listening. Communication goes beyond telling people something. It’s always amazing to us when leaders get feedback that they need to “improve communication” and they promptly increase the number of emails they send or town halls they conduct. Communication is TWO way. You share and you listen in order to truly communicate.
- Find Nuggets. As you listen and process the feedback from people, pay attention to ideas or insights that improve upon the change. There may be things that others see which makes the change better or at least makes the change better received!
Just because you tell someone about a change doesn’t mean they fully understand or accept it…and that’s okay. It takes time to make sense out of change.
So when you are introducing a change make sure you are prepared for resistance, give people time, respect others by listening and find nuggets of wisdom to use to improve.
Whether change is initiated by you or imposed on you, your challenge is to lead well. You have a choice in the way you play your role as a leader of change. Will you be successful or ineffective?
The following critical behaviors will help you be a successful Change Leader:
- Be Yourself – authenticity is critical during change. Not everyone leads the same way, communicates the same way or connects with others in the same way. You need to use your unique abilities and strengths to lead change effectively. Understand who you are and use it to your advantage.
- Make Meaning – while communication is critical, what really matters is making meaning out of the madness that occurs during times of change. Making meaning is about connecting the disparate activities and decisions in a way that employees can make sense of them. Making meaning is contextualizing a message so it can be received and achieve its intended results.
- Believe It – you cannot lead change that you do not support. That does not mean that you can walk away from a change you disagree with. It’s your responsibility as a leader to process a change with a peer or your leadership in order to be able to believe it. It’s never appropriate to talk about your lack of belief with your team.
If you are interested in some additional perspective on behaviors that make a difference when leading change, go HERE for a document. Change may or may not be your decision. How you lead though change is always your decision. Decide today to be effective and succeed.