Many years ago, in a large city located in this land, there was a popular shoe factory. It boasted a long history of shoemaking. It made beautiful shoes and people from far and wide shopped there. To be a shoemaker at this place was a privilege reserved to a select number of learned craftsmen.
Then something happened. Sales began to plummet.
You see the craftsmen made only one type of shoe, one shoe at a time. To pay their craftsmen, management had to increase the price of shoes year over year. Soon, few customers were able to afford them. Consequently, the factory lost many loyal customers. Then other problems began to emerge.
The factory was run by men and the shoes were made by men. Women were not seen as potential customers, so shoes were not made for them. Women pressed the factory for their own style, but management wouldn't hear of it. Then came complaints that the quality of service and repair were inferior. Management knew best and complaints were ignored.
To compound these problems, scandal hit the factory. Some craftsmen were convicted of sexual harassment and theft. Morale hit a new low, several workers resigned, and fewer men applied for work. Some women who were highly qualified offered to help but to no avail. A few women, who found their way into the factory as support personnel, suggested several ways to up-date the stodgy place. They even suggested that it would help if women became managers. They were blatantly ignored. Instead, management searched the land and foreign countries to see if they could find a steady supply of male workers. Still there was a manpower shortage.
Management couldn't figure out why it was so difficult to recruit candidates to train for work that at one time was so highly prized.
Management called several meetings to solve their growing problems. Consultants were brought in. Many recommendations were made but few were implemented. Several reports sat on the shelf because the managers didn't get the answers they wanted to hear.
Sales continued to decline. The once popular Shoe Factory now lost its luster.
As time passed small start-ups entered the market place. They used new technology, better shoemaking techniques and faster production methods. They combed the internet and found new patterns and styles for both men and women. They used a better quality of leather and experimented with soles that lasted. They opened Boutiques and virtual stores and sold their shoes world-wide.
Back at the Old Shoe Factory management heard about this new way of making shoes and the way to market them. Instead of taking heed, they resorted to competing with the start-ups by launching negative ad campaigns. Behind closed doors they laughed at their automated methods saying, "they will never stand up to the quality of our craftsmen," even though their quality was fast fading away. They suggested, "selling shoes over the internet is just a fad, you watch, people will come back to us," except they didn't.
Today the factory closed its doors. The Old Shoe Factory was just too far behind to catch up.
By now you have probably figured out that this is a fictitious story about the unwillingness of management to change and keep up with new market demands. It may seem dated but not too far removed from today's reality.
Businesses continue to close because they didn't keep up with the advances in technology and the changes in society. I wonder how many businesses are preparing for the next generation of technological advances - that of Artificial Intelligence. Will they be like those in the Old Shoe Factory and treat the new trend as a fad? Or, will they take heed and prepare to adjust their strategies to embrace new and emerging advances.
The Shoe Factory story may be fictitious, but the unwillingness to change, the fear of change or a blindness to learning, often keep managers from doing what is best for the company. They keep doing what they they have always done, and that, as someone once said, "is a recipe for disaster."
So my friends don't get too comfortable wearing old shoes when it's time to try on new ones.
Note: Thank you to my friend Emile Kutarna for permission to modify his unpublished story about the Old Shoe Factory. Emile's original story was presented as a parable regarding the difficulty the Roman Catholic Church faces in its attempt to meet new realities and the evolutionary movement of the Spirit. I have taken the liberty to refashion several parts of the story line and apply it to managers who hold back change when change is necessary.
Many managers have difficulty coaching employees about changing behaviour. They find themselves in a tug-a-war between knowing what to do but not knowing how to do it. I often find that the Executive Team expects managers to engage employees in resolving behavioural issues, but managers don't have the appropriate skills to do the job. Somehow, through some magical thinking, they are just supposed to know. If you are in this situation here is an acronym that may help you: REPAIR.
Use REPAIR to remember a process for changing behaviour, your own included. Remember though individuals must have a positive intention to change before any can occur. Without that, there is not much anyone can do. In fact, no one can change another individual's behaviour. Only h/she can do it. The individual must feel a tension for change and conclude that change is necessary. When this happens tension for change turns into an intention to change. When tension turns to intention we can give individuals a process to help them along their journey. This is when you can use REPAIR.
REPAIR stands for Recognize, Examine, Prepare, Act, Ingrain and Reward.
Recognize: The first step to changing behaviour is to help the individual recognize that his or her behavior is causing difficulty in the workplace. Sometimes individuals are not aware their behaviour is off-setting to others. Take John for instance, he blissfully acts like an insensitive bull in a china shop but doesn't recognise the damage he is causing to his own reputation or the "hurtful impact" he has on others. Or take Susan, she doesn't realize that her "nit picking" perfectionist behaviour or her "Put downs" are frustrating her colleagues. John and Susan's manager-coach should bring these behaviours to their attention in a way that doesn't undermine their confidence or self-esteem.
There are situations, however, when employees know their behaviour is not acceptable , but do nothing to change it. In these situations, the manager-coach must be firm but respectful in dealing with the situation. If the negative behaviour persists then the manager-coach may choose to move to disciplinary action = a step reserved for the more serious behavioural issues, and one not taken lightly.
Examine: Once the employee becomes aware of the problem the manger-coach may now ask the individual to examine the cause behind the behaviour. This is getting to "why" s/he acts the way s/he does. For this step the manger-coach could suggest that the individual complete a cause and effect examination with specific emphasis on the negative aspects of the behaviour. Once this is completed, have the individual think about more positive ways of behaving and how those new behaviours would affect his feelings and the relationship he has with others.
Sometimes there is a deep-seated reason for the inappropriate behaviour. Take anger for instance. Anger may have roots that reach back to childhood. It isn't the manager-coach's role to become the employee's psychologist, but to help the individual recognize that anger is getting in the way. If the individual requires professional help, the manager-coach should recommend that the employee seek counselling form an independent source.
Prepare: Help the individual identify strategies for improvement. The manager-coach could: suggest the employee talk to someone s/he trusts to garner ideas about how to overcome the inappropriate behaviour; recommend s/he read articles or books about how to change behaviour; suggest s/he take time out to think about new ways of behaving and the benefits they may have for him and for those around him; or, ask her to visualize how a new way of acting would make her feel and how others would react. The point of this step is to have the individual identify specific strategies for changing behaviour.
Act: Once specific strategies are identified it is time to act. Recommend that the individual take one of the strategies and implement it. Susan, mentioned above, could develop more patience before responding or pointing out the faults of others. Specifically, she could stop and assess the impact of her "nit-picking" before she responds or makes comments. By taking a bit of time out, she may begin to understand how her present way of relating to others isn't the best way to deal with the situation. Re-focusing her thinking away from the "small stuff" to the "more important stuff," or putting the "small stuff" in the context of the "bigger picture," will help her change the way she communicates with others. The simple act of holding off on her comments for a brief period of time may assist her in finding better ways of expressing herself. An action for John, to help him overcome his insensitive behaviour towards others, may be a course in "Influencing" or "Sensitivity Training."
Ingrain: Acting once isn't always sufficient to change behaviour but taking action consistently will. Individuals need to consistently reinforce an action so that the new behaviour becomes a new habit. Sometime during this process, we fall back to old habits. Not to worry, we just pick up where we left off and try again, and again, and again.
Consistent action requires repetition through self-discipline. This is a great time for the manager-coach to encourage and support the individual. The manager-coach could suggest the individual share his desire for change with a trusting colleague or friend and seek their support. He could also suggest the individual repeat positive self-affirmations as a way to take charge of her own change process.
Changing behaviours is not necessarily easy and takes time. The key is to consistently practice the new behaviour until it becomes second nature.
Reward: During the change process, the manager-coach looks for ways to reinforce the positive steps the individual is making towards taking on new behaviours. A short comment like, "I have noticed the positive change you are making (or have made)" goes a long way in building confidence and showing appreciation for the "work" the individual has done to make the change. The manager-coach could also suggest that the individual find ways to reward herself along the journey, particularly when she feels a noticeable positive change in her own behaviour. When an individual works on changing behaviour and it is also noticed by others and provides an opportunity for the whole team to celebrate. However, watch how you do this as a team celebration shouldn't end up embarrassing the individual
TIP: Try REPAIR to change some of your own behaviour before suggesting it to someone else. When using REPAIR with others, listening and engaging them in the process are keys to positive outcomes. Listening is for understanding and engaging is for helping others find their own solutions.
Let me know how the process works for You
Richard Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
Note: he, she, him, her s/he, h/she are used interchangeably throughout this article as the behaviour in question could be expressed by any gender.
One of the great thought leader's of the past 50 years was Warren Bennis (d July 31, 2014). He wrote tirelessly on the topic of leadership. He was a sought after speaker, academic and coach. His book, "Leaders", coauthored by Burt Nanus and his classic "On Becoming a Leader" remain go-to literature on developing leadership strategies and building internal capacity for leadership. One of his early books "Changing Organizations" was instrumental in my initial understanding of organizational culture and change. His work on leadership was seminal in bringing the topic of leadership to the forefront. His clear and forthright writings helped me understand the relationship and balance between leadership and management and how I had both leadership and management responsibilities in the positions that I held.
According to an article by Julie Kirby ( Harvard Blog Post), Bennis was thinking of writing another book which he would have called "Grace." He pointed out that he was not a particularly religious person, but that this word is very powerful. The book would deal with such issues as generosity, respect, redemption and sacrifices. He was quoted as saying: "All of which sound vaguely spiritual, but all of which I think are going to be required for leadership." And, I would say "not going to" but "are required for leadership, today."
Powerful indeed! What a wonderful concept "Grace and Leadership." I think if we want to understand the meaning of the two we will need to go deep within ourselves - to reach a level of consciousness which goes beyond our egotistical self and gets to the core of who we are as a leader - or better, as a person with leadership qualities. We will need to touch our soul so to speak, and in so doing be graced with a transcendence beyond ourselves. This suggests placing our active mind at rest and spending more time in contemplation and meditation.
To be sure, grace-filled leaders will experience internal struggles, maybe even darkness, and hardship. They may be misunderstood, maligned and viewed by some as too soft. They will be tested but being grace-filled their resolve will be strengthened to do the right thing for themselves and others.
Yes, this does bring leadership into the realm of the spiritual world. From my vantage point it means transcending anything negative and focusing on that which is good and worthy. It's based on the principles of: 1) abundance and positiveness (relying on our innate nature to do good), 2) transcendence of self ( moving to a higher level of purpose with humility), and 3) personal discovery (finding a new way to bring the first two to fruition).
The influence of grace-filled leaders will transform toxic and sick workplaces and communities to healthy and vibrant ones. In practical terms this suggests they will rally those around them to forge cultures- whether within or without their organizations - that exhibit compassion, justice, fairness, forgiveness, generosity, respectfulness, and integrity. To do this, however, they too will need to be perceived as compassionate, just, fair, forgiving, respectful, generous and one acting with integrity. And, their power will come from humble and selfless service rather than arrogant and egotistical behavior. My sense is that our troubled world and places of businesses need the wisdom and healing action of grace-filled leaders today.
Fortunately we have proof of grace-filled leaders who can serve as role models for us. Think of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu who promoted reconciliation rather than revenge, Gandhi and Martin Luther King who transformed countries through peaceful protest, and Pope Paul II who opened the doors for a free Poland through integrity and faith based discipline, and Paul Farmer, "an anthropologist and physician who is best know for his humanitarian work providing suitable health care to rural and under-resourced areas in developing countries" . Think of the countless community leaders who bring hope to the downtrodden, health to the underprivileged, and compassion to the homeless. Think of company leaders who promote ethical business practices, hold people to high standards and values and who contribute to the welfare of communities. Think of the artist leaders who share their talents, gifts and wealth. And think of parent leaders who teach their children to give rather than receive, to love rather than hate, to play to enjoy rather than to play to win at any cost.
Grace-filled leaders are all around us and we can become one of them. I wish Warren Bennis lived long enough to write his book, I'm sure it would have been another classic.
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.
It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult."
Warren Bennis on "Becoming a Leader.'
One of the advantages of working with many owners of small businesses is that I have the opportunity to compare the stronger ones with the weaker ones. By watching how they perform I can validate the importance of strong leadership and management practices. The way owners lead and manage successful businesses compared to those who struggle is often stark. The following is an example of the leadership and management practices of an owner of a successful business.
I met Terry over 20 years ago by way of referral from a business associate. He presently owns two automotive dealerships in a community with a population of less than 20,000 and serves a trading area of over 1400 square miles serving more than 150,000 people. His approach to leadership and management has developed over the years. Here's what I found about "Terry's Way."
Strategic Planning: Terry involves his key people in planning and keeps control over the outcome. He spends time ensuring his business plan is current and uses it to keep his business on a growth trajectory. He has a measured approach to development and change and a clear understanding of his marketplace realities.
Management Team: Terry surrounds himself with a strong management team who have well defined roles and responsibilities. He grew his team from within, and when talent and strength were lacking he attracted members from the wider community.
Meetings: He holds regular management meetings. The meetings have agendas. Minutes, and decisions are recorded and are followed up after the meeting. Policy issues are discussed and the over-all activity of the company is monitored against the business plan. He holds general "State of the Business" sessions with his employees and ensures their concerns are heard first hand. He also makes sure his employees interact socially and encourages times for individual and business celebrations.
Delegation: Terry has no trouble delegating important matters to his management team. He allows employees to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. When he delegates he doesn't interfere with how they carry out the action.
Hiring: Job descriptions are well defined and employees are hired based on those job description requirements. Terry's main concern is that there is a proper fit between the person and the position. If there isn't a fit, he has no trouble moving the person to a better fit within the organization, or moving the person out where a more suitable fit may be found.
Learning: Terry regularly reads business related books and articles. His books find their way to an in-house library of current business literature; and, he encourages employees to borrow them. He holds regular technical and people skill training sessions. He understands that the core of his business is all about promoting positive relationships and everyone within the organization needs to continually improve those skills. There are no exceptions including himself. He attends training sessions not only to sharpen his own skills but also to be a role model for ongoing learning. An important by-product of his attending training is, as he states: "to find ways to reinforce the training during the months following the training." He asks himself and others how training fits within the vision and values of his company and what results he should expect.
Customers: Terry knows that customers come first in his business. Without them, he has no business. He has a "make it easy for the customer," mantra that permeates the business culture.
One of my consulting firm's first interventions with Terry was to help him understand how his customers viewed his business and service. We did this through a series of customer focus groups. Terry and his key managers attended those sessions. To this day, Terry continues to glean feedback from his customers through a formal follow-up process and by meeting with them first hand. It's not that he doesn't receive "customer service complaints" but it is his approach to those complaints that is important. He sees them as an opportunity to "do better," and as he says, "we're here to fix what isn't working and make it right."
Technology and Systems: The auto industry has experienced tremendous technological advances since the 1980s, and Terry's Service Department has kept pace with the challenge. But technology has not only affected the way cars and trucks work, it also has impacted the way business systems and processes work. He has developed an improved automated Customer Relations Management system and a more effective use of Microsoft Outlook through the Priority Working Sm@rt program. Terry sees the importance of keeping current with changes in technology hardware and the software that goes along with it.
Terry is first to admit that his business doesn't always run like clockwork, in fact he is sure it never has. No business does. They all have emerging people or technical issues in search of solutions. What's important is that Terry is open to learning, and change and does what is necessary to "fix" the problems as they arise, and does what he can to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
By now you get a sense that Terry is a successful business owner and a leader-manager. His business has grown over the years, kept pace with changes, and developed a loyal customer and employee base. He has improved business systems and processes through a continued learning and application. He has kept his employees current with best practice technological and people skills. He is an authentic, unassuming, and supportive leader who is well respected within his company and throughout his community. He, with the support of his employees, has received numerous industry and community awards and citations. This is one example of proof that strong leadership and management works.
Questions to Ponder: How well do you lead and manage? Do you have a business plan? Do you work the plan? Does your management team show both leadership and management qualities? Do you hire the right people? Have you encouraged a culture of learning, respect and growth? Do you know what your customers say about your business? How do you know? Is your technology current? Are your systems and processes effective? How do you know? The right answers to these questions will put your business on the road to success. They are worth exploring, begin seeking the answers today.
Up-dated from the Archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
All leaders reflect a certain style or behavioural profile from which others begin to describe them. Some are directive and take bold action, others are charismatic and engaging collaborators, others are more methodical and circumspect, while others are agreeable and people focused. Spring is as a good time as any to revisit your leadership style and review how you may be projecting your leadership behaviors.
A leader is involved in three broad areas of work: crafting a vision, influencing others to align with that vision, and championing its execution. Understanding the link between your leadership style and the work you do as a leader will help you adjust to the differing circumstances each of these three areas bring. Let's take a brief look at the four leadership styles.
The Directive Leader: The directive leader is action oriented and moves people to get things done. The danger signs exhibited by an overly directive leader is impatience, insensitivity and lack of concern for others. In their haste in getting things done this type of leader may tend to override others, and blame others because things are not going fast enough. Directive leaders may also push people to the extent that they feel high levels of anxiety and stress which may result in a reduction of overall productivity. Directive leaders can craft bold and dynamic visions but may have difficulty in bringing others in alignment with that vision and miss the nuances that are important when working with people as they execute the vision.
The Analytical Leader: These leaders like to delve into detail, and sometimes have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. They may have a hard time articulating a vision because they see too many options and as a result may have a tendency to constantly change direction. Analytical leaders are usually cautious and like to think things through. However, their tendency to be methodical and attention to detail may give the impression that their vision is the 'only one" and the "right" one. They enjoy the intellectual challenge of crafting a vision and engaging others in aligning the vision. However, they may fall short in overseeing the execution of the plan because they may pay too much attention to detail or procrastinate too long.
The Fitting-in Leader: A third leadership profile sees leaders wanting to fit in with the group or team. They are usually friendly, supportive, collaborative and prone to build stable environments. Their vision is one of a calm organization where people are collaboratively working together in a cooperative environment. Alignment around the vision is key for them and they work hard to harmonize differing points of view so that there is a consistent and an aligned direction. They also seek a collaborative and coordinated effort in the execution of the plan. The watch-phrases for these types of leaders are over accommodating, maintaining stability when flexibility is required and fearing ambiguity and risk when action is necessary.
The Outgoing Leader: This type of leader is one who is outgoing, relational and highly communicative. This leader likes to network, work the phone, bring people together both socially and corporately. They are usually excellent at influencing others and selling ideas. They have a certain charm and enthusiasm about them and exhibit a sense of optimism. They can also be impulsive and disorganized. They are expansive visionaries, and tend to enthusiastically influence others to buy into their vision and excel in keeping others abreast as the plan moves to execution. Their strength ensures high levels of communication but their weaker tendencies could cause disorganization especially if they act impulsively.
Can you identify the leadership tendencies in Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, George W Bush, Pope Francis, Angela Merkel, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton? Each has a predominate style that reflects the profiles outlined above. If you can pick out the style of these leaders you can see it in others as well as your own.
There is no right or wrong leadership style. The leader goes amiss when he or she pushes the extremities of the style as when the directive leader becomes over dictatorial, the analytical leader becomes paralyzed in analysis, the fit-in leader becomes part of the group rather than the leader of the group, or the out-going leader becomes too friendly or overly impulsive.
The good news is that most leaders have qualities which reflect several of the behaviors identified in each of the profiles above. They are a composite, yet a predominant profile emerges whether that be directive and dictatorial, relational and communicative, quiet and collaborative, or cautious and analytical.
All strong leaders have a sense of confidence, know themselves well and use their strengths to advance their vision, align others around that vision and execute the vision through others while exercising their predominant profile.
Questions to Ponder: As you move into spring is it time to think about your approach to leadership; how do you tend to lead? Can you identify with one of the profiles above? What strengths and weaknesses do you bring to your organization? What quirks do you need to watch out for? What modifications do you need to make in your approach? Do you use your leadership style to meet others' needs, or do you use it to meet your own needs?
If you want to learn more about assessing you leadership profile let us know.
We don't have to wait for a New Year to seize the opportunity to launch out on a new path or new direction. We often respond to the freshness of a New Year by making a list of resolutions, which are often short lived. Rather than making a list of resolutions why not focus your attention in one area and settle on one thing in that area and do it well. We don't have to wait until January to do this, we can begin at any time during the calendar year. As an example, let's take leadership as a focus and identify "inspirational leadership" as a specific quality for attention.
The word inspiration has its root in Latin and originally had a deep spiritual meaning relating to divine guidance. Applying the word to "inspirational leadership" means you become a guiding light for others to follow. You become an example or a model for others; you stimulate, encourage and lift up the spirits of others.
Inspirational leaders inspire followers. They have a certain charisma, an aura about them that lights the fire within the hearts and minds of others. Followers place their trust in them and want to imitate their behaviours because they inspire them to do so.
I can think of numerous inspirational leaders who have graced our world, such as: Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. These leaders inspired people of their time and continue to inspire us today. Through their inspiration they created movements that changed the course of history. I don't want to put limits on our potential but realistically the majority of us will not achieve the same status as these giants of inspirational leadership. Most of us, however, can become "everyday" inspirational leaders.
Think about the people in your life who never made the news, wrote a book, had someone write their biography, or stood way above the crowd, yet they inspire you to become a better person, reach higher levels of performance, or improve the way you do things. You feel blessed as a result just by knowing them. These are the "everyday" inspirational leaders. Here are some of my own examples of people who have inspired me:
These people are "everyday" inspirational leaders. They inspire, not because they amass great sums of tangible assets but, because they radiate those illusive intangible qualities worthy of imitating.
Action: As you ponder on how you can strengthen your inspirational leadership style, use your models - the ones who inspire you - and pick out the intangible quality that you can strengthen in the coming year. Clearly identify it, and ask yourself how you will measure your progress. When this quality becomes ingrained in the way you act you will become more of an inspiration to others - you will be on the road to becoming the "everyday inspirational leader" you are meant to be.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC - Up-dated from the archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
Note: Photo by M. O'Neill
It is often said that simplicity is the hallmark of a genius. Strong leaders take complex concepts and boil them down to a simple statement or formula that provides the basis for understanding. Now I don’t pretend to be a genius, far from it, but I have found that there are four simple questions leaders need to ask.
1) Where are we going? The answer to this question lies in the organization's vision, mission, goals, and measurable objectives. Without these statements no one is sure where the organization is headed. We have witnessed numerous occasions where management and staff ran around in circles and operated with sheer frustration when they were unclear about the overall direction of the organization.
2) Who is doing what to get us there? Once the management team knows where the organization is going it is ready to work on designing an effective organizational structure. This includes detailing various roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, Job descriptions and specific work objectives to get the job done. With these in place, work is now structured to accomplish an end and everyone within the organization should know what to do and where they fit.
3) What are we doing today to make things happen? We will never get to our destination unless we make something happen. So clarifying daily, weekly and monthly tasks and priorities to accomplish the work is absolutely necessary. By keeping to task we make things happen.
4) Did we accomplish what we set out to do? The old dictum “you can’t improve unless you measure.” is true today as it was when it was first uttered. The leadership team requires relevant data to evaluate how well and how much was accomplished during the period under review. By keeping score and having the appropriate data it can answer the question: "Did we do what we said we were going to do?"
What to do: Before something runs amok in your organization ask: Do we know where we are going? Are we clear about who is doing what? Are we focused on achieving results on a regular basis? Do we have the tools in place to measure results?
Want to learn more? Mark Light has an interesting book entitled “The Strategic Board.” He fleshes out these four questions in greater detail from a board leadership perspective.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Leonardo daVinci
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW. FCMC
Image from Fontanie Archives
The Commitments Leaders Make for Themselves as They Move Out of the Middle
This is the last in a four-part series of articles about the difficulties leaders have as they work towards transformational change within their team or organization. It is the last in this series but no means the last word about the muddled middle of a change process. Transformational change doesn’t come easy and leaders must be vigilant about the following five areas of personal commitment if they want to continue moving their team forward out of the middle.
Commit to circular behaviour. “Circular Behavior,” is somewhat akin to “Managing by Walking Around.” The leader commits to being visible throughout the organization. Here the leader is not so much concerned about vertical hierarchy but about helping individuals and teams connect the dots, or the spaces (sometimes chasms) between them. The leader inspires, encourages and energizes through the positive act of influencing (relates to others in a considerate, respectful and attentive manner; takes into consideration individual moods, interests and concerns; and builds rapport by being tactful and diplomatic) rather than the misuse of power (use of authority, control, rules, supremacy, and coercion); and, suggests ways to implement or clarify the “play book” for successful change. “Circular behaviour” is always important but it is crucial during the middle stages of change.
Commit to Re-energizing Self. A change process is hard work. At the end of the day leaders can feel a sense of accomplishment or discouragement. In both instances, and all those in-between where the highs and lows take place, the leader must find ways to re-energize self. Exercises that promote periods of relaxation, meditation, recreation, proper diet and sleep are critical to the leader’s personal wellbeing. The leader is of no use if burnt out; only when h/she is on fire with passion and excitement will he/she pass the fire onto others. To move beyond the middle, leaders must take time to take care of themselves.
Commit to Resilience and Patience. Along with re-energizing self comes resilience and patience. Resilience gives one the capacity to bounce back from difficulties. Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay and difficulties without getting angry. It is synonymous with tolerance, restraint and self-reliance. Resilience and patience are important characteristics when the leader doesn’t see movement or there appears to be a set back from progress. One CEO put it this way, “Two steps forward, one step back. Resilience and patience is the practice of the day.” The leader must re-commit to resilience and patience as he/she moves out of the middle.
Commit to Continued Self-Learning. When leaders move forward from the middle, they need to remind themselves and others that the process requires continuous learning. There is a saying that “nothing stays the same because things are always changing.” The corollary to this is “learning and change are inseparable friends.” If this is the case, then leaders must keep tuned into the learning process and tease out what new things they are learning as the team or organization moves forward. They also, in the process of moving forward, may become stuck once again or mired in a tangled mess of conflicting messages or dynamics that slow down movement. It is during these times leaders could call upon a coach or mentor to help them get back on track and sort through the lessons learned.
Commit to Squelching Unwanted Rumors and Myths. My experience shows that when leaders are about half way through the change process myths and rumors may become more prevalent. All organizations have myths and there will always be rumors. In fact, when people look back on their work career, they often point out the many myths and rumors with a sense of humor. Many of the rumors and myths are harmless, but when they impact the vision, purpose, values, goals and priorities of the organization and effectively slow down the change process, they need to be squelched. Often the rumors start because there is a lack of communication among the key players within the organization. The best way to avoid rumors is to not let them start. Leaders need to keep communications transparent and clarify any misunderstandings through team meetings, coaching or through his/her “circular behaviour”.
Summary: We have learned through this four-part series 1) what happens when teams or organizations become stuck half-way through transformational change; 2) why people are reluctant to change when caught in the middle (or the muddled middle as I like to call it); 3 what leaders can do to help the team or organization move out of the middle; and,4) the commitments leaders must make for themselves as they move forward.
Re-vitalizing the team or organization mid-way through the change process focuses on strengthening a sense of “Esprit de Corps” by:, energizing everyone, bringing people back to the core (vision, purpose and values), encouraging open and transparent communication, nd promoting effective coordination and collaboration. To move forward the leader needs to commit to her/his own circular behaviour, health and wellbeing, resilience, patience, self-learning and squelching unwanted rumors.
Richard Fontanie, MSW. FCMC
Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader
Morgan, Harkins, Goldsmith, The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching
Kouzes, Posner: The Leadership Challenge
Secretan, What Great Leaders Do –
My previous two articles pointed out the difficulties leaders have when they are half way through a transformational change process. The first article discussed “what happens” when the process gets stuck, and the second one emphasized “why” people are reluctant to move forward half way through the change process. It is not unusual in times of transformational change for the process to bog down as transformation often comes about by disruption and a series of relapses and missteps.
This article outlines four actions leaders can take to help the organization or team move forward; my next article will suggest the personal commitments leaders can make to keep themselves moving ahead.
Re-commit to the Vision and Purpose. When progress falters it’s time for the leader to engage the appropriate people to re-commit to the initial vision and purpose for the change. This isn’t just reminding them about “why” the change is necessary but about engaging everyone in a realignment of both vision and purpose. Here the leader encourages a dialogue with them about their understanding of the vision and purpose and how it applies to improving the organization and the service to customers. By re-committing to the vision and purpose leaders give people “hope” for a better outcome. They are appealing to people’s emotions or to the “heart” of why the organization is engaged in a change process. During this re-commitment exercise leaders need to be prepared to tweak or modify the vision or purpose statements to clarify any misunderstanding.
Re-commit to the Values of the organization or team. Values provide the principles upon which an organization or team culture rests. Values, if they are relevant and meaningful, must be owned by the people within the organization. In most instances they are developed and approved by them at the beginning of the change process.
Sometimes, when teams and organizations are stuck in the middle of change, values become muddled, or people don’t adhere to them which causes angst and frustration. This presents an opportunity for leaders to engage people to re-commit to the values. One way to do this is by conducting a short survey on how well people perceive they and others are living the values; and, sharing the results with them and then entering into a dialogue on what they can do to improve their behaviour so that they better reflect the values. Other times, unfortunately, the values and principles underlying the change process did not occur at the beginning of the change process. If this is the case the middle muddle becomes more desperate and it is incumbant opon the leader to engage the team or organization in a process of value determination and clarification.
One principle that should always be front and centre for all change is that the change must be customer centric; if this isn’t the case then the change will be futile, costly and with limited return on the hard and soft investment given to the process.
Promote the Change Process as Everyone’s Business. Change is not the leader’s challenge alone. Change occurs when everyone in the change process recognizes that they have a role to play. By clarifying “change as everyone’s business” the leader seeks a re- commitment from everyone to join in the process – to take ownership, responsibility and accountability for their part. Just as in point one above, the leader engages the team or organization in a dialogue. This time it is about seeking input regarding the importance of ownership, responsibility and accountability. The discussion about “change is everyone’s business,” often ends with a formal commitment agreement i.e. a signing or re-signing of a document indicating a commitment to take ownership, responsibility and accountability for actions and behaviours.
Re-commit to Collaboration, Coordination and Communication. Collaboration, coordination and communication are three ingredients for a successful change process.
It is important at the beginning of the change process for leaders to engage participants in setting the ground rules for collaboration, coordination and communication. Mid-way through the process they may find that they need to re-engage team members to re-commit to the three ingredients. This usually takes a session to review what is working and what is not and make corrections and a re-commitment to the three ingredients.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
Workplaces "are a-changin" to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan's title song "The Times They Are a -Changin". When we think about it, hasn't change always been with us? Every generation sees a shift in how we build and relate to each other. I think of my father, a mechanic, who worked on the Model T and Model A Ford and advanced to vehicles with sleek designs, automated transmissions, travelled farther, faster and with greater efficiency which could only be a dream back in the 1920s. Change in the automotive industry was constant. He also witnessed massive changes in the social order, having lived through two world wars, the impact of coming of television and the spread of the entertainment industry, the exploration of space, the advancement in education and the dawning of the computer and the information age.
Massive changes these were. All affected the way we work, play and relate to one another. Yes the times were "a-changin." And they still are. However some things don't change. These are the legacy of great leaders of the past who can continue to inspire today's workplace leaders.
What I find as we move from one generation to another is how successful companies were and are open to change, both on the technical and socio-cultural sides of the business. They understand the "yin and yang" of business. This means attracting leadership that continuously advance products and services but also can inspire loyalty, commitment, and fervor in the workplace. In today's workplace what are the qualities leaders need to do this? I suggest they are the same ones that have marked the leaders of the past. However, I think we need these qualities more than ever today. Leaders keep employees when they:
Have Integrity. Leaders with integrity practice what they say or "walk the talk" as the saying goes. They walk with consistency, honesty, trustworthiness, and moral up rightness. They hold themselves to high ethical standards and deal with others with respect and dignity. One of the greatest compliments one can give a leader is to say, “Her/his actions show he/she has integrity.”
Show Gratitude. Great leaders count their blessings and understand they are leaders only because they have followers. Without followers who do they lead? Their gratefulness is exhibited through a strong sense of appreciation for those who work for them and with them. They are humble when they receive praise and point to those around them who help them achieve the company's vision and goals.
Champion Values. Great leaders clothe themselves in the values and principles that guide the organization. Too many businesses spend time mapping out their values and then the leaders fail to champion them. One of the most demoralizing behaviours within organizations occurs when people see their leaders contradict the values everyone is expected to up-hold. Leaders can only champion values if their behaviour is consistent with those values. Championing living values goes hand in hand with integrity.
Encourage Participation. Great leaders understand that the way to achieve commitment to goals and strategies is to engage participants in determining what action to take to make them come alive. This requires strong influencing and communication skills. They encourage employee participation in the planning process and those expectations that affect them. Great leaders don't say "Do this and that!" Rather they say "How do you think we should do this or that?" They are consultative rather than directive; however, they can be directive when the need arises such as in an emergency or crises situation. Even in a crisis though they often call upon their key advisers to discuss options. Sometimes business leaders can be mini-dictators, and when they are they primarily operate by creating fear. Great leaders don't lead with fear but inspire with hope, encouragement and engagement.
Take Time to Listen. The art and skill of listening is a lifelong challenge for some, but for great leaders they are a necessary attribute. Great leaders don't close their ears to receiving new ideas, ways to improve, the story of a troubled employee, or, a plea for help to solve a problem. They are empathetic listeners who try to understand the context of a problem, issue, or employee difficulty and engage those affected in determining a solution. An empathetic listener may not have to say anything, but evidences that h/she is listening. The point here is that great leaders take time to listen before they act or encourage others to act.
Promote Continuous Learning. Great leaders are open to continuous learning. They are eager to challenge their own thinking and not afraid to change a course of action or learn from both mistakes and successes. In today's business world great leaders know that the only way to keep ahead of the curve is to continuously improve people, processes, products and services. They identify as a priority training dollars for both technical and transferable skills during economic up-swings and down-swings. It takes courage for leaders to protect training dollars during economic down turns particularly in a culture where employee training is viewed as an expense rather than as an investment in the growth and regeneration of companies.
Lead Without Micromanaging. Great leaders know how to delegate and then get out of the way. Leaders who micromanage become the thorn in the side of those whose responsibility it is to carry out that which has been delegated. Leaders who micromanage have difficulty in letting go, they want to be 'doers' rather than leaders. Leaders set the boundaries for the delegated responsibility: they clearly state what they are delegating, put the matter into context for the delegatee, identify when the matter is due, hand over the responsibility to get the job done, and then get out of the way. When the matter is completed they review process and outcomes with the delegatee; and, if there are problems along the way, they engage the delegatee in finding solutions rather than providing solutions. If the person doesn't carry out the responsibility, then the leader needs to understand why. If it is because the person doesn't have the skills then a teaching moment presents itself; if it is because the person doesn't want to do it, is a procrastinator, or other factors are in the way, then a performance coaching session presents itself. Whatever the situation, great leaders divest themselves of micromanaging and arm themselves with managing the behavioural issues surrounding the delegated task.
Do the Usual Things Well. When the normal functions of an organization work well, great leaders stand back. To get to that level they ensure the usual requirements of the organization are done well. They put in place appropriate policies and review those that are outdated and make changes where necessary, follow sound hiring practices and lead the marketplace with better salaries and benefits. In short, they hire the best and pay them well. They continually promote process and operational improvement strategies; ensure technological tools are current; keep products and service relevant; scan the marketplace environment and adjust their market and sales strategies accordingly; and keep sound stewardship over all their resources. Yes, they do the usual things well.
Show Compassion. Great leaders are compassionate people. They are contributors to their communities in several ways. They encourage employees to become involved in extending themselves to those less fortunate. Examples abound in our community alone where leaders donate portions of their profits to contribute to such causes as the Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Head Start schools, University expansion, United Way, hospital expansion, libraries, health research, and scholarship funds, to name a few. They also encourage employees to contribute in a direct way with food drives, fund raising, and volunteering. Great leaders have learned that in "giving" they "receive."
Celebrate and Socialize. Great leaders understand that it is not always work that counts. They encourage employees to celebrate achievements both from a business and a personal perspective. They promote opportunities for company socialization to bolster camaraderie and team spirit. Sometimes they combine these with learning events or office retreats; often they are promoted as a recognized dimension of the corporate culture.
Lessons Learned: Change has always been part of growth and development. Without it we stand still. And when we stand still we start to go downhill and growth atrophies. Great leaders understand this. They also understand that employees want to work in a place that is alive with enthusiasm and joy. They know how to engender loyalty, even in a time when research indicates that employee loyalty is waning. They know that exhibiting personal integrity, living strong personal and company values, showing gratitude, listening deeply and being compassionate are the intangibles that make a difference in the workplace. They are also confident that the way to foster loyalty is to encourage engagement and participation, make sure all the usual things are done well, delegate without micromanaging, view learning as a necessary adjunct to personal and corporate growth, and celebrate and foster socialization within the workplace. If you want to become a great leader check how well you are acting on these attributes and develop a strategy where you think you can improve.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC Up-dated from Fontanie Leaning Solutions.
Note: Image from Freedigitalphotos.net