Leadership and Change: Build These Three Muscles

There is no real leadership without change.

If you are simply “sustaining” what already exists, you are not a leader because real leadership is about change – moving people, processes, outcomes and culture to a better place.

In an organizational context, there is no change without some leadership.

Without any leadership, things still change but often, in a southwards direction. Any change in a positive direction means channeling collective energy of people, overcoming resistance, building consensus and involving others – none of which is possible without some leadership.

As Esther Derby so rightly says in “6 Rules of Change”,

Leaders don’t drive, install or evangelize change. They NURTURE it. 

Explicit details of change (the gross part) is never as difficult as the soft side it it (the subtle) – how leaders enable and empower others during the change process.

In this post at Rebels at Work blog, Lois Kelly emphasizes on three change muscles that leaders need in order to nurture change – Appreciation, Understanding of character strengths and Creating Psychologically safe environment.

Rebels at Work is an excellent movement and I strongly recommend that you read the post “Build these three change muscles”. Meanwhile, here are my visual notes when I read the article.

Related Sketchnotes/Posts at QAspire.com

Leadership, Connection and Power of Storytelling

If the job of a leader is to take people to a better place, they first need to take people’s imagination to that better place.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when communicating about the future is to show future in form of data, numbers and charts. They are good to capture the mind of people, but people will only endeavor to go there when their hearts are engaged.

Storytelling has been one of the most powerful tools to drive imagination of people first before people decide to take actions towards the future. The historic “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King or the narrative of non-violent movement for India’s independence by Mahatma Gandhi are powerful examples of story telling that led to massive change, first in the minds and hearts of people and then in reality.

If you are a leader who is facilitating a large scale change or transformation effort, paint a compelling picture of the future before you show the data. Ability to tell stories that foster change is a critical leadership skill.

In his classic HBR article titled “Telling Tales”, Steve Denning outlines seven aims of a good narrative. The article also provides an excellent context of leadership storytelling and offers practical ways to frame your narrative depending on your goals. I recommend that you read the original article.

Here is a quick sketch note of seven aims of leadership storytelling:

 

Additional Resources:

Natural Laws of Organizational Transformation

Organizational transformation initiatives come in many forms – restructuring, cultural transformation, service transitions, rapid innovation, process overhauls, turnarounds and acquisitions to name a few. Studies by universities and consulting firms suggest that 70% or more of transformation initiatives fail.

I have been a part of systems that were transformed, companies that were acquired, companies that could not pull of a successful transformation and the ones that did. My observation is – a majority of transformation initiatives fail because of lack of system thinking.

With discrete initiatives across the organization, you may get change. Transformation requires systems thinking.”

As you think across the connected components of a system, you see interconnections that you did not even know existed. Taking time to map these interconnections is vital to create a well defined transformation context.

Natural Laws 

I stumbled upon a 1993 McKinsey article titled “Leading Organization Transformations” which offers some timeless lessons and approach on how to lead organization transformations. I particularly liked the section “Natural Laws of Organization Transformation” which provides a broad guidance on the underlying principles. I feel that these natural laws are as relevant today as it were in 1993.

The authors say,

“Effective management “conversation” about performance improvement achieved through transformational efforts reveals that the specific techniques employed matter less than does adherence to a set of underlying principles.”

If you are planning an organizational transformation or undergoing one (which is very likely), I recommend you read this classic McKinsey article.

While reading the article, I create a quick sketch note to make the sense of these principles.

Better Leadership in 2015 (And Beyond): 9 Essentials

Year 2015 is knocking the door. A few hours later, fireworks in the sky will mark the beginning of another new year. Last few days of a year often pulls us into a retrospective mood and we tend to look back and look forward at the same time. As I write this, I am thinking about leadership.

Our world of work is constantly changing at a rate that is almost unnerving. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) best describes the times we live in. People’s expectations from their leaders are increasing all the time. Generational shifts at workplace combined with business model disruptions is only adding to the woes of being a leader in the current times.

But the same challenges are also opportunities to practice better leadership provided we understand what it takes to succeed as a leader in 2015 (and beyond).

Here are 9 key thoughts on leading in 2015 and beyond:

  1. Leaders need to understand the new definition of power. It is not in titles or how large an office they occupy or where they stand in the pecking order of hierarchy. In this world of work, a leader derives power by engaging others, collaborating with them, build a positive influence and build an environment where people can thrive.
  2. Stability is a myth. As a leader, if you are not making forward progress, you are already moving backwards. Leaders have to maintain constant positive momentum towards achieving the vision and goals of the team. Constant improvement (and innovation) in products and processes is one of the ways to maintain positive momentum.
  3. Communication, collaboration, creativity and commitment are 4C’s that empower leaders in this world of work.
  4. In a complex environment, a leader’s ability to introduce and manage changes is as important as responding effectively to external changes. Leaders have to be creators of change too.
  5. Leaders need to stop trying to motivate people. This may sound counter-intuitive but intrinsic motivation, the one that lasts, cannot be generated externally. Creating an environment and system where intrinsic motivation is more likely to happen is the primary expectation from a leader.
  6. People need two things: purpose and meaning. A leader’s primary (and ongoing) challenge is to clarify the purpose and outline the meaning of work that people do. This is one of the key drivers of engagement that requires a lot of communication and context setting by the leader.
  7. For leaders, constant and self-initiated learning is not optional anymore. Constant learning equips leaders to remain agile in the face of uncertainty (and it sets a great example for people to follow).
  8. Work is a tool to develop people who, in turn, do great work. Traditional view of leadership is that leaders get work done through people. Which is true, however, I also believe that available body of work is an opportunity to develop people. You can use people as ‘resources’ OR you can use work as a ‘resource’ to develop people.
  9. Leaders in the new world have to be graceful and decent – even when facing uncertainties and chaos. They have to respect people, their time and their strengths.

Bonus:

With those thoughts, I wish you a glorious 2015!


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Leadership Development Carnival: June 2014 Edition

 


Namaste!
Welcome to the June 02nd 2014 Carnival of Leadership Development.

I am thankful to carnival leader Dan McCarthy for allowing me to host this event -  a wonderful collection of very practical insights on Leadership Development. It is always a great privilege to host a Leadership Development Carnival because it allows us to explore so many different facets of leadership at one go. In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment where technology is constantly changing how people collaborate and work, the paradigms of leadership are changing.

In this edition of Carnival, we have a solid collection of posts that explores the changing face of leadership in the new world. Continuing the tradition, I have also included Twitter handles of the contributors.

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Beth Miller of Executive Velocity asks “Does Your Leadership Fear Transparency?” and says “With the increasing lack of transparency that Washington DC has displayed, it is more important than ever for business leaders to step up and adopt the characteristics of transparency. Your employees crave and want leaders they can trust.” (@SrExecAdvisor)

Dan Oestreich from Unfolding Leadership says, "We think of the system as ‘out there,’ but the most important system to change is the one within.”  You can read more in this his powerful post titled “Having Tea with the Dragon”. (@DanOestreich)

Jesse Lyn Stoner of the Seapoint Center emphasizes on the importance of creating a team charter through her post “Create a Team Charter to Go Faster and Smarter”. She says, “Taking the time to get clear agreements among team members can slow things down in the beginning, but will help you go faster in the long run. It’s a paradox: Go slow in order to go fast.” (@JesseLynStoner)

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership presents an insightful post “10 Things Your Employees May Not be Telling You.” In this post at About.com, Dan writes, “In the absence of a solid foundation of trust and open two-way communication, here are ten things that you’re not going to hear from your employees.”  (@greatleadership)

Dr. Anne Perschel from Germane Insights shares “The Secret Ingredient of Great Leadership”. We have all read 10 tips, 5 steps, and 4 actions of successful leaders, but we have to look closer to find the secret ingredient of great leadership and outstanding results. (@bizshrink)

Julie Winkle Giulioni  asks “How Well-Populated is Your Pipeline?” She suggests, “Perhaps it’s time to evaluate leaders by the most crucial output for which they’re responsible: the quality of their followers.” (@Julie_WG)

Joel Garfinkle on his Career Advancement Blog shares “7 Competencies Successful HR Executive MUST Know” to be successful. (@workcoach4you)

Jim Taggart at Changing Winds blog submits his recent post “Why Arrogance Leads to Eventual Failure”. In this post he says, “I profile two very well-known companies, which happen to be Canadian (as I am) to illustrate how arrogance by top corporate leaders brought down one company (Nortel) and almost brought down the other (Blackberry), whose new CEO is working very hard to reposition the company to compete in the global telecom market.” (@72keys)

John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog presents his post “A Good Management System is Robust and Continually Improving” and says, “An organization succeeds because of the efforts of many great people. But the management system has to be created for an organization to prosper as what we all know will happen, happens: people will leave and need to be replaced.”  (@curiouscat_com)

Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders says, “Micromanaging is a dysfunctional behavior that most leaders fall into from time to time. So how do you know if you’re slipping into the micro management trap?” and presents her post “The Insiders Guide to Micromanagement”. (@LetsGrowLeaders)

Jane Perdue of LeadBig presents “You know you’re not a leader when…” and says “Sometimes leaders need to take a moment, reflect on what they’re doing, and perhaps recalibrate if their actions are leadership material….or not.” (@thehrgoddess)

Mary Jo Asmus at Aspire-CS presents the post “Give them something of value” and says, “Relationships are foundational to great leadership, and value is the common currency that flows between healthy relationships.” (@mjasmus)

Nicholas Bate of Strategic Edge reflects on Leadership in his post “Leadership Reflections Seven”. In this crisp post, he provides useful reminders about fundamentals of great leadership.

S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results Through Culture says, “GM’s recall delays indicate a corporate culture more concerned with profits than with people. These recall delays are a failure of internal systems, of engineering, and, most critically, a failure of the heart.” Read more in his post “GM’s Heart Failure” (@scedmonds)

Bruce Watt Ph.D of Development Dimensions International presents “Who Would Really Want to be a Leader?” and says, “Is negativity about leadership discouraging future generations from stepping up? In this post, I address our responsibility to select and prepare better leaders, hold them accountable and (very importantly) encourage future generations to pursue leadership.”

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference presents an interesting take on VUCA world through his post “VUCA Times Call for DURT Leaders”. He says, “We work in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous times. To lead effectively through VUCA, we need to be Direct, Understandable, Reliable, and Trustworthy. Five leadership practices will enable our DURT approach.” (@ThinDifference)

Alan Robinson, Ph.D of The Idea Driven Blog shows how leaders can prepare for uncertainty by embracing flexibility through his post “A High-Performing System Helps You Face an Uncertain Future with More Confidence.” (@alangrobinson)

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership blog presents “Looking for a leader?” and says, “If you’re looking for someone who will make a good leader, here are some things to look for.” A very interesting list. (@wallybock)

Frank Sonnenberg of Frank Sonnenberg Online suggests, “It’s better to learn from the mistakes that other companies make, than from your own.” and presents “50 Insane Mistakes Companies Make”. (@FSonnenberg)

Susan Mazza of Random Acts Of Leadership says, “Most "to do" lists are often more a compilation of "should do" lists rather than "must do" lists – and the difference between the two determines whether you are clear about your goals and able to achieve them.” Read more in her post “3 Steps to Transform Your To-Do List” (@SusanMazza)

Lisa Kohn of Chatsworth Consulting Group, presents Managing yourself out of the picture on The Thoughtful Leaders™ Blog where she shares why leaders should make themselves dispensable in order that their teams can survive without them. (@ThoughtfulLdrs)

Randy Conley of Leading With Trust presents “After Your Trust Has Been Broken – 5 Ways to Avoid a Victim Mentality” and says, “Suffering a breach of trust can be a traumatic experience that sends you into a tailspin of self-pity and victimization. This practical article offers five concrete steps you can take to avoid a victim mentality.”  (@RandyConley)

Neal Burgis, Ph.D. Practical Solutions presents “Can You Lead Through Your Discomfort?” and says, “When leaders normalize discomfort, you invite your work culture to embrace feedback and change.” (@Exec_Solutions)

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares "Leading Change-It’s Not about You" on The Lead Change Group blog and says, “This post serves as a great reminder of the humble leadership that ought to happen, where leaders are the first to admit to their employees that they don’t have all the answers, they don’t have all the ideas, and that they need everyone to be engaged and feel valued in order for there to be true success.” (@paul_larue)

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS Blog gives detailed, thoughtful instruction that will help all leaders develop more effective, productive, and meaningful relationships with their direct reports. Read more in this post “Do You Bail Your People Out? Rescue Management Diminishes Employee Accountability” (@DialogueWORKS)

Anna Farmery of The Engaging Brand says, “Stress is down to two things – control these two factors and you can conquer the world!” and shares the post “How The Best Leaders Deal With Stress” (@Engagingbrand)

Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace asks a question, “What does your CEO consider important when discussing talent?” The answer, in his post, “Tell The Truth About Talent” is thought-provoking.(@steveroesler)

Dana Theus of InPower Blog says, “Leadership is all about being able to see success, and help others see it and find their motivation to pursue it. But what happens when leaders see things differently? We don’t often take the time to think about the leadership gifts our gender gives us, but take a few moments to learn how others view success.” and shares the post “Do Men & Women Vision Success Differently?” (@DanaTheus)

Mary Ila Ward of The Point Blog shares “I’m spending a lot of money on this: Getting and Measuring Bang for your Buck through Leadership Coaching” and says, “Thinking about getting a leadership or executive coach or have one? Coaching has been cited to be both effective and efficient for certain organizations, but how do you know if coaching will pay off for your organization?  Read this post to learn how to measure for efficiency and effectiveness of coaching.” (@maryilaward)

Bill Bliss of Bills Blog breaks down the art of delegation into its value-added parts. Readers will never question the benefits (and bottom line impact) of delegation again after reading this post. Find more in the post “Delegation is the Killer App for Leaders” (@coachwmbliss)

Dr. Dean Schroeder of Dean M. Schroeder Blog demonstrates how leaders can realize a sustainable, substantial competitive advantage in the marketplace – and create a more engaged workforce in the process. Find out more in the post “Organizational Improvement: It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Journey” (@deanmschroeder)

Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success shares “Ducks in a Row: Robert Sutton—Scale Means People” and says, “It’s important to understand that a company has no existence beyond its people who are united in a shared vision and their efforts to reach a common goal—to scale a company you must scale its people.(@OptionSanity)

That’s it for this month’s edition. Thank you to all the bloggers who submitted their posts this month and I hope you enjoy reading/learning from these brilliant posts!

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Change: The Power of Gradual

In a fast paced environment, we notice things that are urgent, immediate and abrupt in nature. We forget to notice the gradual.

One small serving of unhealthy food doesn’t seem to harm but many such servings over a long duration increase the odds of having a health problem manifold. One conversation that went wrong now doesn’t seem to have any direct impact on a relationship but with every such conversation, trust is eroded till it reaches a point where relationship ends.

In an organization, this becomes even more complex where larger system is a collection of many independent sub-systems. Decisions and conversations in each of these sub-system affects the whole. The impact of one strategic failure may not be visible in a short term but can prove fatal in a long run.

The good news is: the converse is also true. Any great success is, almost always, a result of many small things done right. Careers are built one opportunity at time. Trust is earned one deed at a time, lessons are learned one experience at a time and great teams are built one conversation at a time. It is gradual and very powerful.

Why do we fail to notice the gradual then? Because we are too obsessed in responding to the immediate. Because doing takes a precedence over thinking. Because we fail to see living systems as “systems”. We work on components without considering the impact on the system as a whole.

This reminds me of a metaphor of a boiling frog

A frog, when placed in boiling water will jump out immediately because of heat. However, if placed in cold water that is heated very slowly, the frog does not perceive the danger and enjoys the warmth. Incrementally, as warmth turns into heat, it becomes groggy unable to climb up. Eventually, it is boiled to death.

As leaders and professionals, our ability to notice the slow and subtle changes in the system is as important as our ability to respond to urgent and immediate changes. 

In the novel “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, one of the lead characters Mike Campbell is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?”. Mike responded, “Gradually… and then suddenly.”

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Photograph Courtesy: Chaula Vora – Red Eyed Frog, Costa Rica

Hansei and 6 Pitfalls to Avoid in Reflective Exercises

As individuals, teams and organizations, how much we learn from our past is critical for our improvement and future success.

Hansei (meaning self-reflection) is an important part of Japanese culture – an exercise undertaken to look at past mistakes, outline the lessons and pledge to act on those lessons. According to Wikipedia, “Han" means to change, turn over, or turn upside down. "Sei" means to look back upon, review, and examine oneself. This may sound like common-sense but how many organizations/teams really do Hansei effectively? By effectively, I mean not just identifying lessons and feeling good about it, but putting those lessons into actions the next time.

Here are some common pitfalls that should be avoided in any form of reflective exercise:

No Actions, No Results: In many other methodologies and cultures, Hansei is termed differently, like retrospectives in Scrum and After Action Reviews in American Culture (developed by US Army). But the essence remains the same – unless you act on your lessons learned, no improvement can happen. In such meetings, people often end up providing views, cite examples from the past, outline the lessons learned. All this is only helpful when it results into a meaningful change. Kaizen complements Hansei and ensures that lessons are executed.

Not Focusing on Emotion: True reflection is not about looking outwards but about looking inwards. It is not just an intellectual exercise but also an emotional one. It is only when our emotions are channeled that real improvement and meaningful change takes place.

Not Starting with You: As a leader, it all starts with one’s own willingness to look at shortcomings objectively. You can never expect people around you to be more willing to improve than you are.

Non-participation: Reflection is a highly collaborative sport. Most people and departments know what practices are required to improve. As a facilitator of a reflective exercise, help them outline solutions by asking open-ended questions. If people keep waiting for senior leaders to drive every single change, their wait will be way longer.

Reflecting only at the end: There is little advantage if you only reflect when all damage is done. Hansei is an attitude, a way of working. If you embed reflection as a part of how your team operates, early learning will help them adapt quickly. Reflection can also be done on events and milestones.

Isolating Events: Every event has a larger impact on other interconnected parts. If people only reflect on their part without considering the whole, isolated improvement may happen. When on a team, our contributions are interwoven, so are results.

Conducting reflection without addressing these common pitfalls will mean a waste of time. It will be a feel-good exercise and nothing else. I would like to conclude with a quote from Margaret Wheatley:

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

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Also Read: Using Kaizen for Employee Engagement and Improvement

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Photograph By: Tanmay Vora

Leading Others: How NOT to be in Control

Excessive use of positional power: I was interacting with a leadership expert recently when he said, “If you have to use your position to exert your power, you are not powerful.” Being at a certain position within organization means that you have a higher visibility which needs to be extended to others. Your position is an opportunity; an obligation to make a difference in how your team performs. When you blatantly use positional power, you quickly isolate others. Disengaged team will, at the best, comply to your directives but will never be able to bring their complete creative potential on board.

Simply staying on top of information: Yes, you definitely need to know what is happening in your team. Getting status reports on various initiatives is important. However, when you excessively consume information given to you without acting on it, you fall in a trap. When team members provide you information on issues, risks and concerns, they need to be acted upon. Your are NOT in control when you know a lot of things, but when you act on it to make a positive difference. Sitting on top of information (and simply passing that information higher up in the hierarchy) is not a useful way to stay in control.

Keeping People Uninformed: The more people in your team know what your goals are, the more buy-in you will get – and hence better results. You cannot expect your team to perform if they are not informed about the vision, context, goals and progress. Team also needs your guidance on how something can be accomplished. They need you to validate their ideas. They need to know the purpose. Good leaders remain in control by clarifying the purpose relentlessly, then allowing people to execute, and provide support where needed.

Bottom line: Dr. John Maxwell puts in brilliantly, “The point of leading is not to cross the finish line first; it’s to take people across the finish line with you.” If you are a leader at any level who aspires to be in control, focus not on yourself but on them – your people. Connect with them, help them understand, guide them in their performance, eliminate their roadblocks, give them the control and keep them informed; the results may surprise you!

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If you liked this post, you will also like bite-sized ideas on quality, leadership and people in my book #QUALITYtweet. Click here to check it out.

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