To Succeed In Change Management, Take a Lesson From the Kite

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

— Heraclitus

 

If change is so constant, why do we suck at change management so badly? Right now around the country, change initiatives are failing by the dozen. A few of these initiatives fail because they are ill conceived notions. A few fail because they’re poorly planned.

Most fail because of execution. The idea is good. The plan is good. And, somehow, the change just doesn’t happen.

With a good idea and even a half-decent plan, it stands to reason, a change initiative should succeed. So what happens in the execution to scuttle a change effort?

FRICTION. MENTAL FRICTION.

“Here we go again.”

“This’ll never work.”

“I don’t want to.”

“We’ve always done it this way.”

“We tried that in 1983.”

When people say these things, it’s an expression of the fear of uncertainty. We’ve all got that fear. The difference between those of us who resist change and those of us who charge ahead is how we manage that fear, and how we approach the thinking part of the change management puzzle.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT IS FEAR MANAGEMENT

As leaders of change, it’s our job to support people to embrace what scares them. It’s up to us to help them respond healthfully and think constructively in response to uncertainty — so they can manage their fear and perform.

Change management is not about battering people into submission, and it’s not about coddling them and allowing them to let fear rule the day.

The people side of change management is about setting expectations, and holding consistent and high standards with compassion.

So, here’s a simple tool you can employ to help guide people through a high-performance change execution.

I call it…

THE KITE PRINCIPLE OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT

The simple kite is a very resilient operator. It can fly in a wide range of wind speeds. It can weather the gusts. If the wind switches, it shifts. Quick, easy, the kite doesn’t complain. And it twitches and wobbles only momentarily before regaining its equilibrium.

A lot people think that the purpose of a kite string is to keep the kite from flying away. Nope. If the kite had no string, then even in ideal wind conditions, it wouldn’t fly at all. If the string breaks, the kite falls.

The purpose of the string is to anchor the kite to make flight possible.

It’s this anchor point that allows the kite to keep its head in the winds of change. It permits the kite to make its quick shifts, to bob and weave. The anchor point gives it the ability to maintain an attitude of flight whatever happens.

So what can we learn from the simple kite about change management?

LEADING CHANGE TIP

Don’t tell people only what will change. Change arouses fear and anxiety. And the fear of uncertainty can interfere with people’s equilibrium and their productivity.

Tell people also what will stay the same. When you tell people about what they can count on, you quiet some of those alarm bells. The constant that you tell them about can already be obvious and still be effective for helping people face the change. There’s nothing that’s too obvious that it goes without saying.

Telling people what will stay the same — what’s dependable — gives them that kite-string anchor-point that allows them to maintain an attitude of flight.

EXAMPLES

“Even with all the change we’re going through, I’m going to remain your direct supervisor.”

“Even though we are going through a major reorganization, our mission, vision, and values will not change. We’ll continue to strive for the same culture of transparency we have now. You’ll continue to do the same job you do now, and the company will be able to support you better in your role.”

NOTHING IS TOO OBVIOUS

Nothing is too obvious because the Kite Principle is not necessarily about telling people things they don’t know. It’s not just about the information. It’s also simply about the neuro-chemical response to change, and managing that brain chemistry.

“Hey folks, we’re changing things.” Boom. The brain is flooded with the stress chemical cortisol. Performance declines.

Tell people what anchor they can count on. You can even tell them, “The sun will rise in the morning, and gravity will remain constant. And, you will have the same ergonomic chair to sit in tomorrow and the day after that.”

Hearing even these painfully obvious things can help to reduce cortisol levels and improve performance.

So, next time you announce a change — no matter how small — also announce the constants. Thanks to this little-known secret of change management, you’ll hear fewer objections. Fewer people will drag their feet. Your change executors will draw strength from that anchor, and it’ll be the best executed change initiative you’ve ever been a part of.

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Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.


Help me leadership development hotline

A Leadership Development Tool for an Independent Problem-Solving Team

People often undermine their own leadership development by looking to established leaders for help solving problems that they can solve on their own. It’s a part of human nature, and a personal-risk mitigation play. “If I ask the boss for the solution, I won’t be responsible for any failure.” Put another way, “I won’t get it wrong.”

Usually, that’s an unconscious process. Consciously, it’s much more like, “I’m not sure how to solve this. I bet Boss does.”

The way we respond as leaders will determine the future of our team’s performance.

Here’s a tool that will help insure that your people will grow, improve, learn, and lead in their own right. It’ll free you up and leverage your experience so you’re enabling greatness at all levels of your organization.

It’s leadership development gold.

The Problem

Change happens. Surprises arrive. Problems arise. As leaders, our own response to the fear of uncertainty is often to step in. Take it on. Offer our opinion. Tell folks what to do. Control the situation.

Sometimes this deep executive involvement leads to a better resolution of the problem — not always. Almost always, it leads to an undesirable outcome. Instead of breeding confidence, capability, and independence, this style of leadership leads to dependence and self-doubt, and inhibits learning in our direct reports. It retards the leadership development of our team distracts us from the higher-level work we could be doing.

Here’s a valuable alternative.

The SMART Model

SMART is — I admit — a cheesy acronym — The cheese helps you remember, because if you don’t remember, you won’t do it.

So… The SMART Model.


S – Slow down. Giving them the answer may be quicker in the short run, and it will insure that you’d approve of the solution. It’ll also insure that they remain dependent on you for all their problem solving needs. This step is critical because by slowing down, you create the possibility of solving YOUR problem. The problem that people are coming to you. Giving them the answer is the easy thing. It’s addressing the symptom rather than the root cause.

 

M – Make it theirs. Try something like, “You’ve got a problem? Thank you for identifying that problem before it got out of hand. Keep me posted on your progress.” This communicates not only that you view the problem as theirs, but also that your expectation is that they’ll solve it on their own. You even seem to think they must only be informing you, because of course they’re not expecting you to bale them out.

 

A – Ask. Before they go, ask if they’ve considered this variable or that factor. Ask what resources they intend to employ. Ask to be kept in the loop. That way, you insure they’re thinking about the things you want them to be thinking about.

 

R – Reflect. Reflect some of what your experience has taught you. “Look out for this. Be sure to get input from here. When we did X once before, Y happened.” By reflecting your experience, you give them the benefit of your expertise in a way that supports their autonomy instead of usurping it. And they learn to think of you as a resource for learning rather than solutions.

 

T – Trust their judgment. At first, their solutions may not be as good as yours. Trust them to be good enough. You didn’t hire no fools. If their initial solutions are 75-80% as good as yours, you’re still ahead because your time is better leveraged doing the things only you can do. And as they learn and gain confidence by acting with autonomy, they’ll become more and more valuable to the team as their skills grow. And soon, their solutions will be better than yours. That’s the inevitable outcome of sound leadership development.

Your Challenge

Each leader faces their own challenge with one or more of these steps.

Some (like me) get impatient out of the gate. We don’t want to slow down. Giving the answer is so quick. Today. Tomorrow, when someone comes back again for our solution to a problem they can solve, it’ll be quicker again to give them the answer. And those times add up.

Giving over the problem to someone else is hard for some of us. Relinquishing that control opens up a world of uncertainty. Finding the questions to ask that help lead our people to their own best thinking is an advanced skill. Reflecting our experience without handing them the answer is also a fine distinction. And it gives others some of the power we’ve fought hard over a career to build up.

And Trust… Trust is a doozy for a lot of folks. “Prove yourself, and I’ll trust you,” we say. Problem is, no one can prove themselves if we don’t invest our trust in them in the first place. Trust is a verb. Extend it. Feel it later, when your people reward your trusting them by delivering results.

The Leadership Development ROI

Expect big things. Demand greatness. Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown — world renowned leadership development experts — call leaders who are willing to build the capacity of those around them “multipliers.” In their HBR article, “Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People,” They observed, “Under the leadership of these “multipliers,” employees don’t just feel smarter, they become smarter.”

The people on your team are smart. And you’re smart too. With a SMART leadership response to people who come ask you to solve problems for them, everyone’s smarts will soon be working full strength to help advance your company.

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Leadership behavior shapes and defines culture. Culture shapes and defines the destiny of your company. Adeptability Training helps build leadership habit that supports communication, collaboration, and innovation. And fun. Book a call today.


Unexpected Link Between Dress Code and KPIs

There’s a link between your company’s dress code and the performance of your team. It’s not what you think. It’s not that there are standards of dress that lead to greater performance. It’s much better than that.

The Dress Code Situation

For years, General Motors had a dress code in their employee handbook that was 10 pages long. Whoa.

“What’ll I wear today?” Glancing through the closet. “Wait a second, wait a second.” Sitting in the reading chair and picking up a ten pound employee handbook. “Gotta do a little source research before I dress myself today.”

What’s the unrealistic part of the short story above? It’s the part where someone reads a 10 page dress code. Almost no-one reads a 10 page dress code. Chances are, yours isn’t as long as that. Chances are, yours is between 1 and 2 pages long.

Chances are, even at 1-2 pages, you haven’t read it. If you have read it, you don’t remember what it said. And it’s not just the dress code that you haven’t read. You’ve only glanced through the entirety of the employee handbook.

There are employee handbooks in every workplace in the country simply gathering dust.

The Problem

The important problem here is not that your dress code has gone unread. It’s not the wasted paper or shelf-space. The important problem here is that even when you don’t read a 10 page dress code, it does profoundly convey a message deep into your brain. Two messages, actually.

  1. We don’t trust your judgment. You don’t know how to behave at work. You can’t even be trusted to pick out your clothes for work. So we’re going to spell out our expectations for you in exacting detail.
  2. We’re covering our butts in case we need to discipline, fire, or otherwise protect ourselves from you. The time may come when we’ll need to make a decision in response to your bad behavior. When that time comes, we’ll need to be able to quote chapter and verse so we can prove that you’ve been out of compliance.

The Solution

Mary Barra became the CEO of GM in 2014 and made an adjustment to the dress code that she called, “the smallest biggest change,” she’s made. She shortened the dress code to two words:

Dress appropriately.

When I suggest changes like this one — shortening the employee handbook, setting descriptive policies instead of prescriptive ones — my clients sometimes object.

  • People will interpret this policy wrong.
  • I will have to talk to people about these policies — talk to them about what they’re wearing, etc. I’ll be wasting my time.
  • Each manager may interpret these policies differently.
  • Managers may interpret these policies differently in different circumstances and with different people.

That’s right. each of these objections is true.

The ROI

Each of these objections is primarily a benefit.

  • When people interpret the policy wrong, that’s an opportunity to talk with them about the present circumstances and explain the impact of their interpretation and decisions. Meanwhile, you’re strengthening the relationship if you speak to them with respect, and you’re building their capacity to have strong judgment, influenced by yours.
  • Talking with people about the policies and impacts of different interpretations has the above benefits. That leads to greater engagement, better future decisions, and the incidental development of a leadership bench.
  • Different managers making different interpretations isn’t a problem. It’s flexibility. Small companies with strong cultures often falter as they become big companies. Part of this is centralized leadership that’s far from the front lines. Descriptive policies permit “local leadership” and “local culture.” While the culture is largely consistent because the policies and values are the same, it’s also flexible, permitting greater fit for the smaller climates within a larger company. And managers have a sense of ownership and pride that comes with decision making.
  • While there is some space for discriminatory interpretations and applications of subjective policies, that in turn is an opportunity to reveal the unconscious prejudice for an opportunity to address it. All of this increases feedback and growth. It doesn’t come without some risk. And profit always comes as a benefit of smart, calculated risk taking.

In an environment shaped by principle instead of rules, people are engaged and their performance improves.

So, if I were to make this recommendation in two words…

Principles first!


Collaborator's "Bad Idea" Response Tool -- Teamwork Kicker

You have the power — using one simple tool — to help others get the nuggets of gold from even their least usable ideas. This teamwork tool will not even take up any space in your pocket.

The Teamwork Challenge

People say things to us all the time that don’t seem to make sense.

The easy thing, the automatic response, for so many people is to respond with:

  • That makes no sense.
  • You make no sense.
  • What are you talking about?
  • You have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • That’s a terrible idea.

The Teamwork Cost and Alternative

These are destructive responses. They tear down the team.

One of the principles of Adeptability we stress in our training program is: It’s never about the Thing. It’s always about the Relationship. I’ve said it before. When we focus on how the idea is flawed, we degrade the relationship.

Contrary to what some people like to say, we’re not surrounded by idiots. And each of us is sometimes inarticulate. Each of us sometimes misses an obvious and important factor.

When others face that difficulty, we can shut them down, or we can help them find the gold in their inspiration.

That’s another Adeptability teamwork principle: Make sense of the nonsense.

When we look for what makes sense in what someone else is saying… When we help them find the inspired core of their thinking… We’re playing an invaluable role as a team mate. That’s extraordinary teamwork.

The Teamwork Tool

One of the best ways you can help someone make sense of the nonsense is a simple tool you don’t even have to make room for in your pocket. It’s a sentence.

Tell me more about that.

Performance expert, Michael Bungay Stanier, says, “Stay curious longer.” Tell me more about that. That’s an expression of curiosity. It prompts your team mate to think further, deeper, longer about what they’re saying.

Here’s the thing. Using this tool takes discipline. Even when you’re sure your team mate is out to lunch, disciplining yourself to a steady practice of, “Tell me more about that,” can be very illuminating.

Try it.

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Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.


Why Most Corporate Training Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It

There are a number of factors contributing to the prevalence of mind-numbing corporate training programs out there that don’t lead to change.

In this video, 4 reasons and remedies.

It’s not a lack of great information. And it’s not a shortage of well-meaning corporate training providers. I blame school. It’s the model we all have for information transfer. So school is what most training programs are modeled after.

Here are the reasons most training doesn’t work.

1) It’s not training. It’s teaching — an information dump with a bit of practice for good measure so you KNOW how to apply it. Training involves reps, exercise, solidifying the principles and strengths required to “DO” in the field. KNOWING how to apply the learning is less important than having the experience and habit of using the tools to actually practicing what you’ve learned in real-life.

2) It doesn’t inspire emotion. Our brains have evolved to dismiss as unimportant anything that doesn’t inspire emotion. We need to remember the things that scare us, delight us, excite us, cause us pain, make us laugh. Emotion is the brain’s signal that I may need to avoid or repeat what’s happening now. So I’ll need to store it for future reference.

3) It doesn’t create community reinforcement. Habits are powerful things. Community can help us shift habits over time by providing feedback and modeling. Without encouragement and feedback, we all revert to easy, established habit.

4) It doesn’t effectively answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Like it or not, our brains are deeply concerned with this question. It’s hard to get the brain to resolve to maintain a new direction without a clear reward in sight. An abstract and distant reward doesn’t change behavior as fast as a clear and present one that’s directly tied to the desired change.

Want your training to be impactful, effective, memorable? Address these 4 shortcomings, and reap the rewards.

 

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Imagine your team operating with great effectiveness and efficiency. And imagine a sense of community among you to fuel that performance. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t often change behavior. That’s why we created Adeptability Training for your team for a communication and collaboration culture as a matter of habit and mindset. Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


MGW #22 - Integrity is the keystone value



Here are some action items taken from the episode to help you put your company's core values to work:

Step 1: To get your company values off the wall, and actually working in your organization from top to bottom, make sure INTEGRITY tops the list.

Without integrity, your other values are just suggestions.

Step 2: Define integrity. Don't take for granted that everyone knows what it means.

Many companies define integrity as, "do the right thing."

The problem with that is... people can and do argue all day about what the right thing is.

A more practical definition for integrity is Consistency. Consistency of thought word and action. You, your company, me? We have integrity to the degree that our actions are consistent with what we say, is consistent with what we think.

Step 3: Get everyone's explicite buy-in. If you don't have a shared commitment to integrity on your team, then every other value will collapse when it becomes inconvenient enough.

So, Integrity provides structural support for everything you do as a team. Including the primary driver of performance, growth, and fulfillment? A tool that's difficult to wield: FEEDBACK

The shared commitment to integrity helps you as a leader to overcome 4 obstacles to effective feedback.

1st, the THRESHOLD question: A question I hear from leaders often is, at what point do I have to give feedback? How incongruent, how "bad" does behavior have to be before I have to give feedback?

My answer? Use your shared commitment to integrity to rethink the question. Integrity is all or nothing. You're shooting for 100%, so every behavior you see either supports your values and goals, or not. So every behavior is an opportunity for kudos or correction. Thank you. That's the ticket. Or, hey, we're committed to consistency -- and that behavior is inconsistent.

There is no threshold.

2nd, its corollary, the permission objection: Clients tell me, I give feedback, and my team acts put upon. They think I'm patronizing them or they think I'm picking on them. PArt of a shared commitment to integrity is the idea that we're going to talk about the behaviors we see with one another as a team. "Maybe you already know what I'm about to tell you. In being obvious about what I'm seeing, I'm supporting your commitment to integrity. THis is the expectation we have of each other, and permission is granted in advance when getting everyone on board with integrity.

3rd, the Respect Hurdle: The VP I mentioned earlier had a respect problem. Her team didn't respect her because she asked for above and beyond from them, but created policies that prohibited them from going above and beyond for the customer. They felt demoralized, and thought she was a hypocrite. As she committed to integrity -- and as the company came into consistency as well -- the team's respect for her and the company grew. They became less resentful and even appreciative of feedback.

4th, the self-worth challenge: Acting with integrity, growing ever greater integrity is a matter of aspiration. Inconsistency on occasion is a part of the human condition. And our sense of self worth is tied to it. The more we practice integrity, the greater our sense of self and self worth. The greater our sense of self, the more in touch we are with our responses to one another. We're more confident both in giving and in receiving feedback with equanimity and balance.

So, growing integrity is also growing feedback capacity -- as a giver and as a receivier.

For more on how to give and receive feedback effectively, check out my podcast conversation with Elaine Lin Hering on Episode 16 of the Mighty Good Work Podcast.

Thanks for your efforts to make work good. Together we can insure that people are good for work, and work is good for people.

If you're ready for High-Performance Accountability Culture in your company, let's discuss your training goals. Book a call today at TheYesWorks.com.

Check out this episode!


How to Voice Concerns Without Being a Jerk

The Circumstance and The Problem

New ideas represent change. And change implies risk. Risk brings fear. So…

Very often, when one person in the office proposes change, someone else — out of fear — responds with some form of “no.” And, “no” is a communication inhibitor. No takes many forms.

  • That’s a good idea, but it won’t work.
  • We’ve always done it this way.
  • You don’t understand.
  • We tried that once and it didn’t work.
  • That’s not my job.

We’ve all said these things… and we’ve all been on the receiving end. It feels like talking to a brick wall, or getting a flat tire. It starts an argument, or ends all conversation, or leads to someone pulling rank. And pulling rank is a communication inhibitor.

The Alternative

To keep the discussion rolling try these conversation starting alternatives.

You can say:

  • Here’s a challenge we’d need to address.
  • To make that work, we’d need X.
  • Have you considered Y?
  • I’d offer this tweak for that reason.

Taking this open and supportive tack is a communication that you’re on the same team, even if you have reservations.

How to Practice This

There’s a three part principle at work here.

  1. Leave open the possibility the idea could work. Your perspective may have led you to believe it won’t. You can acknowledge that your perspective — like every person’s perspective — is limited. Therefore solutions may exist that you can’t see.
  2. Identify potential problems. Your perspective — including your objection — is valuable. You can and should identify and point out potential problems.
  3. If you can, identify what it would take to make it work. Instead of shooting the idea down, name the problems that would need to be resolved in order to make the idea work.

By following these three guidelines, you become a collaborator instead of a nay-sayer.


Define "Integrity" and Activate Your Company Values

These videos — the first in our Kicker and Shifter series — will help you take your company values off the wall and put them to work in the day-to-day operations of your business.


MGW #21 - “Anxiety Free Workplace” with Bud Torcom



GUEST: Bud Torcom

https://mazamamedia.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/budtorcom/

Twitter: @BudTorcom

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR CONVERSATION:

 

Bud Torcom’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal is an anxiety free workplace.

 

I’ve wanted to treat people the way I want to be treated and work in the kind of workplace I’d want to be working in.

 

As a digital marketing company, being in the office for normal business hours isn’t necessary.

 

We’re on a constant, steady drip of the stress hormone, cortisol. OUr bodies did not evolve for a constant cortisol drip. Anxiety is making us sick.

 

Bud’s not sure an anxiety free workplace is possible. Even so, he’s on a mission to try? to see if it’s possible.

 

The people of Mazama Media are the face of the company — and the interface of the customers. Happy team members create happy clients.

 

Human Prairie dog — When each member of the team looks out for the interests of the others, then all individuals feel they can afford to look out for collective interests.

 

“It’s my responsibility [to take on the stress].”

 

The message to the team? “The thing that just happened is not going to mean you don’t eat tonight.” You’re not going to lose your job. We’re going to learn from the way things went down.

 

We’re anticipating dips on the path of growth. Setting expectations of inevitable setbacks helps to smooth out the experience people have of the ups and downs of any business.

 

“Blame the process, not the person.”

Where did the problem hit? What can we learn about our processes and procedures from each setback, failure, or bump in the road.

People want to have purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.

 

Checklists help insure success. Set people up for success.

 

When you work together as a team, and with the support of technology, much fewer errors are missed and less slips through the cracks. Both team redundancy and technology backup makes for effective performance.


Processes and systems get refined over time. Learn from the data and refine as you go.

 

The message to the team, “These processes and checklists are here to support you.”

 

Limit the number of things on your list of to dos. A huge list is a stresser. Focus on the few that will have the greatest impact.

 

Your team is going to be right about their priorities 90% of the time. Go with their gut.

 

The presence of ping-pong and other games in the modern workplace does have a work relevant role to play — to give the mind a break during which breakthrough can happen.

 

Bud fires paying clients when they treat his team in ways that he doesn’t want people to be treated.

 

Prospects who will create anxiety in the organization are disqualified as clients.

 

Where are the places to relieve stress and anxiety from the whole system — the team, leadership, and clients. Stress is cumulative and contagious.

 

Prevent burnout by defining limits. Setting limits can enhance performance because results will have to come from effective behaviors over hustle.

 

Delegation is a leader’s force magnifier.

 

Richard Branson says that your team comes first, not clients. This is because people who know that someone’s got their back are freed up to care for the clients.

 

Enough high-level thinking. Here are seven specific actions you can take to reduce anxiety in your organization.

 

  1. Blame the process, not the person.
  2. Build a got your back culture.
  3. You can get people to do more through praise than through condemning. So praise people.
  4. Thank people frequently.
  5. Give people the ability to create. Give them agency to affect the work they do and the way they do it.
  6. Put relationships first. “It’s never about the thing. It’s always about the relationship.” Build relationships that will deliver results.
  7. Let the people go surfing.

 

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Your host on Mighty Good Work is Aaron Schmookler.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/schmookler/

 

And, we’re The Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.

 

www.TheYesWorks.com

 

Resources mentioned in today’s show:

 

Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last

And his website: https://startwithwhy.com/

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia

Mazama Media’s youtube channel

Five Cent Thank Yous

Check out this episode!