Ilja Grzeskowitz

Let's Talk about Change, Baby! How to Dream Big, Act Bold, and Get the Results You Want (Ilja Grzeskowitz)

WINNING WELL CONNECTION

I (David) first met Ilja when we both happened to be visiting Manhattan. He had just released his latest book on change and I was sharing a leadership keynote with a business headquartered in Long Island. On a chilly spring evening, we shared drinks on a roof-top patio overlooking the Empire State building and talked about his favorite places in Germany, changes in the world economy, and leadership. Ilja invited Karin and me to join him in Phoenix, AZ as his guests for the National Speaker’s Association Council of Peers Award for Excellence gala (it’s like the Academy Awards for professional speakers) and we look forward to reconnecting in Singapore where the three of us are presenting at the same conference. As an expert in change and change management, Ilja embodies his message with an energetic, upbeat, and positive response to whatever comes his way.

A while ago, I read an interview with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, where he made a fascinating observation. He said: “Today, mankind produces more information, data and ideas than from the stone age until the year 2003 together.“ And he nailed it with that statement. Because the changes around us are getting more and more intense. Everything changes. Permanently. The economy, the organizational structures in our companies, our very own working space. As a keynote speaker and change coach, I have the privilege of working with a lot of awesome organizations. And it doesn’t matter which industry I look at, whether it’s a big brand or a small company with just a hundred employees. There is one thing they all have in common: The rules have changed and constant change has become the new normal.

Click on the image for more information about Ilja’s book.

The Rules Have Changed

Especially disruptive technologies, the demographic trend and the digitalization are the main reasons that markets change dramatically and the customers are behaving completely different than they used to do just a few years ago. And that means that our ability to deal with this new complexity around us will be the most important factor if we will still be successful in the future or if we become obsolete. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about change for change’s sake, but about change with a purpose. Change with intention. Change to reach your goals, to become more profitable and to grow as a person. In the upcoming years, nothing will be more important, than to adapt to these new circumstances.

Use Your Mindset as Your #1 Asset

What does all that mean to your jobs as a leader? First, you need to quickly adapt to all of the changes going on around you and adjust your own mindset. Even more importantly, you need to lead the changes in your team. Organizations only change when the people change. And it is your job to make sure they do. Not by telling them or giving orders, but by reaching their hearts and leading with your actions. And believe me, I know what I am talking about. In my own career, I started out as the youngest store manager in Germany’s largest department store corporation and overall, I was responsible for ten different stores all over the country. Back then, not only did I have to deal with tough competition, changing markets and the upcoming phenomena of online shopping but also with a huge crisis within the company itself. Locations were shut down, profits were decreasing and thousands of employees were facing the fear of unemployment. During these tough times, I learned the biggest lesson of my life: Change is not what happens around you, but how you deal with it. It is your mindset that makes all the difference. Your attitude. And after all, the culture in your organization. Let me share one of my deepest beliefs with you: A company culture of openness, flexibility, and courage beats every sophisticated business strategy by far. Because there’s one thing you can be sure of: If you are good, your competition will copy everything. They will copy your products, your prices, maybe even your marketing. But they will never be able to copy your culture.

Create a Culture of Change in Your Company

In my book “Think it. Do it. Change it.”, I explained how to develop this special attitude of change. If you know how motivation really works, why the fear of going new ways is actually your best friend, and how to use your own uniqueness to lead the changes in your company, your community and most importantly, in your family, you will be able to make a huge difference. At the end of the day, dealing with change is a mindset. A certain way of thinking, deciding and taking action, that we have to adjust not only once, but on a daily basis. The more you use that special attitude, the sooner you will develop strong habits. And that’s important because changes never happen overnight. They are a process with successes and failures. With ups and downs. You have to work hard to make it happen every single day. Isn’t it true? It’s never the one with the best abilities who wins, but always the one who is well prepared, the one who takes massive action and changes actively. Because under the same circumstances it’s always the attitude, the mindset, the company culture that makes all the difference in the world. So dream big. Act bold. And you will get the results you want.

Winning Well Reflection

We were struck by Ilja’s observations that “organizations only change when people change.” As leaders, it’s all-too-easy to fall into the “they-game”e.g. I’ll lead well … when “they” get their act together… when “they” fix the problem … when “they” give us a better system. But that’s not leadership. Leaders take responsibility and create the change that needs to happen. We love the way Ilja reminds us that “change is a mindset” – you often don’t know what you’ll show up to – but you have 100% control over how you show up.

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Frontline Festival: January 2016

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about Vision and Strategy.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to Building Productive Workplace Relationships. Submissions due February 12th– new participants always welcome, please us this form.

Laura Barnard of PMO Strategies takes a realistic look at change management and change resistance with ideas for doing change WITH people instead of TO them. Follow Laura.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited asks, “Are you an overwhelmed professional?” This is the year to change that. Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Strategic success takes more than smarts and a clear vision. Guts and discipline count, too.  Follow Wally.

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.
~ Jonathan Swift

Liza Heidelberger of MyLeaderSphere reminds us, that like two sides of the same coin, vision and strategy are essential to moving an organization forward.  Here are some ways you can identify if you focus more on vision or strategy and what you can do to keep both in balance.   Follow Liza.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  says that when the vision is merely a pretty collection of words that doesn’t drive decisions and behavior it is pointless. When it does drive behavior it is powerful: sadly that is rarely the case. Follow John.

In the post, You are enough, Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog reminds us that vision and strategy are only effective when we come from a position of strength, and why we should therefore give up trying to prove anything to anyone, and more importantly, to even yourself. Follow Lisa. 

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.
~ Michael Porter

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference  asks: “Are you ready to engage the necessary isms of your life work?”  Consistent focus on getting the right balance between them will create a more meaningful life work opus. Follow Jon.

According to Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com,  having a vision and setting goals enables realization of our dreams. Crystallize that vision and let people know where you are going so, if they choose, they can help you. Follow Michelle.

Alli Polin of Break the Frame  suggests that a shared vision is critical for success but without the trust and energy of the team behind that vision even the best strategy falls apart. Follow Alli.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope.
~ George Washington Carver

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  posits that the same strategy, the same goals, the same execution may result in different outcomes. Why? The view. When leaders create the right view, everything changesFollow Skip.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center! shares that body language plays an important role in leadership success. Many entrepreneurs and business owners focus on verbal skills, but they fail to realize there are two conversations going on when they meet another person. The first conversation is the one where words are used to convey information; while the second one broadcasts thoughts, attitudes, and emotions through the body. If we are unaware of the non-verbal messages we are sending, the second conversation could undermine the first one. Follow LaRae.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership shares that the traditional strategic plan is obsolete in this fast-paced VUCA world, but planning is indispensable. Here are five guidelines to create a *dynamic* strategic plan that will prepare you to make quick decisions when opportunities and challenges suddenly arise. Follow Jesse Lyn.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
~ Winston Churchill

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute exhorts that now is the time to redefine leadership. Leadership in the 21st Century must move beyond position or title to everyday people making a difference in the world. Follow Artika.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds reminds us that vision without strategy is just a nice idea; and strategy without vision might be a lot of unproductive activity. Together, however, they are a dynamic duo that can drive unbeatable organizational results. Follow Julie.

Important Ideas on Change and Transitions: A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the  Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. June’s Festival is all about change and transitions. We have a record line-up of impressive thought leaders. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx for their awesome pic (see right). Follow @joy_guthrie. A special thanks also goes to LGL intern Ben Evans.

Leading Change

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” –John F. Kennedy

Kate Nasser of Smart SenseAbilities brings us Leaders, Leading Change Within Yourself Changes Everything. Kate reminds leaders, that if you want to effect change in your organization, first change your behaviors and actions. Then watch the waterfall of change begin. Start with these 5 steps. Follow Kate @KateNasser

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership brings us How Leaders Can Successfully Champion ChangeLearn about 3 lessons from the political realm that inform us on how leaders can successfully champion change initiatives in their organization. Follow Tanveer @TanveerNaseer

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire-CS offers Being the Change.  Your next promotion won’t happen until you “be the change” that those who have your career in their hands expect to see.  Follow Mary Jo @mjasmus

Julie Giulioni of juliewinklegiulioni.com shares Growth: It’s No Longer Optional In today’s hyper-competitive environment, change and growth are no longer optional; they’re non-negotiable. Follow Julie @julie_wg

Bob Whipple of TheTrustAmbassador.com brings us Leading Change Initiatives. He outlines essential steps for successful change among leaders. Follow Bob @rwhipple

Bill Benoist of Leadership Heart Coaching shares Accepting Change. Leaders are supposed to embrace change, right? Even the best of us have trouble accepting change on occasion. Follow Bill @leadershipheart

Artika Tyner of Planting People. Growing Justice shares 6 Leadership Quotes for Leading Social Change. This blog offers practical advice on leading change by discovering your authentic voice, finding your purpose, and empowering others to lead. Follow Artika @DrArtikaTyner

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference offers VUCA Times Call for DURT LeadersChange is defined in many ways, and one way is VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Leaders need to step up their character and capabilities to navigate change effectively. Follow Jon @ThinDifference

Jeff Miller of The Faithful Pacesetters brings us An Agent of Change. We all think things are always getting worse…don’t we? John the Baptist knew that Jesus would bring a better future for all people of the earth. Leaders can also provide an improved future for others by promoting the proper changes needed. Follow Jeff @JeffJayMiller

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com shares The Door to Change Opens From Within.  If we ask others to change without changing something about ourselves, success is unlikely. Follow Michelle @MichellePallas

Brian Sooy of Lead Change Group offers Positive Communication Leads to a Culture of Innovation. This post challenges leaders as to whether or not they are truly comfortable with change.  Follow Brian @BrianSooy

Overcoming Resistance to Change

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” –George Bernard Shaw

Alli Polin of Break the Frame shares Want Someone to Change? You Go First. No matter how much you want someone to change, it’s not up to you. Follow Alli @AlliPolin

Jesse Lynn Stoner, Seapoint Center shares great insights in her post Create an Unbalancing Force if You Want To Move an Elephant. Vision alone is not enough to create change. Neither is focusing solely on pressing issues. Newton’s First Law explains how to overcome resistance to change. Follow Jesse @JesseLynStoner

Bernie Nagle of ZunZhong brings us ‘Power Undies’ Makes You Fly? Resonant, conscious leaders are able overcome the natural human tendency to resist change, and are able to embrace the “new”. Follow Bernie @altrupreneur

Martin Webster from Leadership Thoughts offers Why Some Business Problems Almost Always Can’t Be SolvedMartin discusses the complexity of leading organizational change and the soft skills needed to lead successful change projects. Follow Martin @tristanwember

David Dye of Engage! brings us How to Stop Burning Emotional Energy. Your body turns over 98% of its atoms every year! Change is a constant, but how we react to it is a choice. In this article, David shares a practical tool you can use to reduce and eliminate wasted change-related emotional energy. Follow David @DavidMDye

Managing Through Career and Life Changes

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs

Chantal Bechervaise of Take it Personel-ly shares Have You Chosen Your Future?Dreams and vague hopes are not choices. You have to make a choice to create change. Follow Chantal @CBechervaise

Steve Broe of My Career Intact brings us How to be a Fast Mover in Your Career Change. Steve reminds us to be impatient, and be disciplined too. A career change can be difficult, and highly worthwhile. Follow Steve @DrSteveBroe

Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation brings us 9 Things Team Members Want to Know About the New Boss, but Won’t Ask. Jennifer reminds us that during leadership transitions, new team members are highly curious about the incoming boss. But they won’t always ask what’s on their mind. Here’s what new leaders should be prepared to answer. Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller

Blair Glaser of BlairGlaser.com shares Soul Fetch: The Art of Transitioning between Work and Life. Sometimes major life transitions can be handled more gracefully if we master the small ones. How do you transition from work mode to play mode everyday? Follow Blair @BlairGlaser

Monique Valcour of the Harvard Business Review Blog Network shares If You’re Not Helping People Develop, You’re Not Management MaterialFacilitating employee learning and development is an essential competency for every manager. Here’s why—and how to do better at it. Follow Monique @MoniqueValcour

Subha Balagopal of The Principal’s Pen brings us “Are You Wearing Your Seat Belt?” ~ Tips for New Principals. Reflecting on her journey as a school principal and with a spirit of ‘paying it forward’ Subha shares some tips for individuals preparing to step into new school leadership roles. Follow Subha @PrincipalsPen2

Communicating Well During Times of Change

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” –Robert Anthony

 Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce offers 5 Ways to Fill in the Blanks in Your Change Communication Plans. Ever felt like you needed to say something about the big change but aren’t at liberty to say anything? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce shares 5 ways to avoid Mad Libs leadership by filling in the blanks for your team. Follow Julie @Julie_Pierce

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog offers Communicating Change. John believes the best way to communicate significant change is to explain how the change ties to the long term vision of the organization. This, of course, requires that such a vision actually exists and the change supports that vision. Follow John @curiouscat_com

Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce offers The Magical Mantra for Staying on Track With Change. Ever start in the direction of the new only to find yourself stumbling back towards the old? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce offers a key phrase for any successful change. Follow Julie @julie_pierce

Tom Eakin of The BoomBlog offers Don’t Doom Your Change Initiatives With This Word! There is one word most of us use when we talk about changing things for the better. When we use it, we reduce the probability that change will actually happen. Follow Tom @goboomlife

Making Elegant Transitions

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” –Frederick Douglass

 Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context shares Ethics Isn’t Finite: It’s Evolving. As we strive to build ethical organizations, we must remember that our target is moving. As the world changes, ethical expectations change. Follow Linda @leadingincontxt

Frank Sonnenberg of Frank Sonnenberg Online brings us 13 Ways to Destroy Creativity and Innovation. Do you encourage innovation? Here are 13 ways that people destroy creativity and innovation every day. Follow Frank @FSonnenberg

Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com shares What Great Leaders do in a CrisisGreat leaders thrive in a crisis. It’s when times are toughest and everyone around is shirking responsibility and running away, that great leaders shine. Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2

Lisa Kohn from the Thoughtful Leaders Blog brings us Change is a Chance to Grow. If we don’t change we stagnate – we don’t really grow. By limiting ourselves to what we already know how to do and what we’ve already experienced, we limit how much we really live. Follow Lisa @ThoughtfulLdrsFrontLine2014picmonkey

Coming Soon

Interested in submitting a post for an upcoming Frontline Festival? Here’s the editorial calendar (click to enlarge). Now accepting July submission. Click here to submit.

9 Ways To Be A Positive Force In A Negative Workplace

My German Father-in-law would call trying to fix this negative workplace, Furzen gegen den Donner, farting against thunder. I’ve got to admit, the description I got on the other end of the phone was pretty bad: little to no recognition, development, or teamwork combined with long hours, limited resources, lots of finger-pointing, and the uncertainty of a new acquisition and consolidation.

When my caller tried to get a hold of a list of the company values, no one seemed to know where to find them. The veterans knew they existed, somewhere they were as opaque as the vacation policy no one took seriously.

Leaders were fleeing this negative workplace every day. And yet this LGL member was staying, and pulling people together to improve the scene (which had nothing to do with his day job). Why?

“I used to feel like I needed to get out of here, but now I’m so excited to be part of the solution. it’s fulfilling to see progress. I know I may lose my job in a year or so, but for now this feels like important work.”

Important work indeed. The world needs people who dive deeper to change a negative workforce. It’s far easier to run away. Here’s some tips that can help. Please add yours to the list.

How To Be A Positive Force In A Negative Workplace

  1. Ask Why They Work – In this negative environment, this may seem obvious: “for the pay check, stupid”. But take it a step further. Do they work to support their sick mom? To pay back student loans? To save for their children’s education? Because they enjoy helping customers? Because? Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.
  2. Call It What It Is – When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out – particularly if other leaders are involved. When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it. Raise the bar and change the conversation.
  3. Rise Above The Drama – Refuse to get sucked into the rumors and gossip. Respond to your team’s concerns with transparency and candor. Be the one people know they can trust for a straight answer.
  4. Find Kindred Spirits – The truth is not everyone is negative, although it can feel that way at times. Look around and find other folks trying to change the scene for the better. There’s strength numbers.
  5. Create A Cultural Oasis – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to fix the overall culture. Start with your own team and do what you can to make it feel better to come to work. See: BYOO: Build Your Own Cultural Oasis.
  6. Find Reasons To Celebrate – With all the negativity, it’s easy to over look the good. Go out of your way to recognize and celebrate small wins. Substitute weak phrases like no problem with more enthusiastic recognition power words.
  7. See Barriers As A Challenge – Encourage your team to embrace the problems they are seeing as challenges to learn and grow from. Recapping learning along the way helps them feel a sense of positive momentum even during the most challenging times.
  8. Laugh More – I had one colleague who would respond to the most ridiculous political nonsense by reminding us it’s all comedy. Stepping back and recognizing how ridiculous some behavior is creates a healthy distance from which to respond more appropriately.
  9. Hold Deeper Developmental Conversations – In periods of uncertainty, people yearn for a sense of control and connection. Take your developmental conversations to the next level. Ask your team and your peers about their hopes and dreams, what motivates them and what scares them. Show up as a real human being caring about other real human beings.

Change Your Mind, Engage Their Hearts

“If you never change your mind, why have one?”
~ Edward de Bono

Weak leaders stay the course to save face. Afraid of looking silly, dumb gets dumber. Strong leaders eat crow for dinner (tastes like chicken).

When You Must Change Direction

You’ve taken a strong stand, rallied people around your vision, and worked hard to engage their hearts and minds. You’ve got momentum.
But life’s messy. Circumstances change. New information. Changing dynamics. Competing pressures. You can change your mind without looking foolish. In fact, changing course elegantly builds credibility.

How to Change Your Mind

  1. Be Honest – Start with yourself. Understand what you’re changing and why. Be clear about what’s changed the information, the circumstances or just your viewpoint. Be sure you can explain it to yourself first. If you were wrong, that’s okay. Be ready to admit that.
  2. Communicate – Be honest with others. Be straightforward. If you were wrong, say so. If circumstances changed, explain the dynamics. Use this as an opportunity to model and teach leadership.
  3. Say Thank You – Thank them for their commitment and support. Acknowledge effort, and explain why it’s not wasted.
  4. Engage – If venting is necessary, take a minute. Address concerns. Explain more.
  5. Communicate Consistency – Remind them of what hasn’t changed. Vision. Core values. Teamwork. Works great as a conversation.
  6. Solicit support – Describe the new vision. Ask for support. Describe specific behaviors.
  7. Establish next steps – Set time to check in.

Chaos Curtailed: How To Shield Your Team

I am a big believer in transparency. Transparency builds trust and creates a trusting and respectful work environment.

Share vision. Share rationale. Share decision-making processes. Don’t share chaos.

Trust me. I’ve learned this one the hard way. Sharing too much may make you feel better, but the stress multiplies as it rolls down hill. Resist the urge and learn to become a buffer.

“Sadly most organizations seemed to have embraced chaos and called it a good thing for an organization. One example is the rising number of job descriptions that include “tolerance for ambiguity’ as a necessary skill. Let me be clear: chaos is never a good thing for an organization. While the world is fluid, and increasingly so, this is no excuse for ambiguity and chaos in organizations. Rather than asking your workforce to accept and develop a skill set around coping with chaos, you should be doing everything you can to reduce the chaos to begin with.”

Your team does not want to…

  • see the stress on your face
  • know about the indecision in the meeting you just left
  • understand the stupid hoops you just jumped through
  • have their schedule jerked around because yours is a moving target
  • have deadlines that creep closer as you get more nervous
  • hear about the pressure you have from those above
  • know about your political or career struggles
  • ???

They do want to…

  • understand the big picture
  • know where they fit in
  • understand what they need to do
  • know which decisions are final
  • understand what is up for discussion
  • know what could still change
  • ???

They are looking for you to…

  • do what you said you would
  • stay the course on your big plans
  • be there to support
  • explain the reasons behind any changes
  • follow through on your commitments
  • ???

It takes courage to buffer the chaos. Teach resilience, but shield as much as you can. They will watch and learn and grow from the experience of watching you do it well.

 

To Tell The Truth: The Problem with “Positioning”

Framing.

Positioning.

WIFM (them).

Spin.

If you are a leader, you have sat in one of these meetings. How do we explain this to them... in a way they can hear, understand, and feel good about?

How you position a change matters. A lot.

And yet,

If you find yourself in meeting after meeting, working to wordsmith the change to better “position” what is happening, I encourage you to ask one question.

“What if we told them the truth?”

  • … overtime is too high, we must increase productivity
  • … the stock price is stagnant, we will all benefit from better financials
  • …we need to ensure everyone is contributing
  • … this new automation will be more efficient
  • ???

Grown-ups want the truth. Not spin. The truth is most people will respect you far more for telling them the truth than any elegant positioning you can concoct.

When people feel respected, they will respond.

When people feel respected they will join.

 When people feel respected they will try.

On the other hand.

Unfiltered truth shared in an uncaring way creates unproductive havoc.

What If You Start With the Truth?

And then consider…

  • What are the best and worst parts of this change?
  • Who will this impact in what ways?
  • What questions will be most relevant to whom?
  • What additional information should I have available?
  • What other questions will they ask?
  • ???

I have never regretted erring on the side of the truth even when it was scary. Even if the awkward truth creates short-term anxiety, communicated well, the credibility you establish is worth the risk.
 

To Tell The Truth: The Problem with "Positioning"

Framing.

Positioning.

WIFM (them).

Spin.

If you are a leader, you have sat in one of these meetings. How do we explain this to them... in a way they can hear, understand, and feel good about?

How you position a change matters. A lot.

And yet,

If you find yourself in meeting after meeting, working to wordsmith the change to better “position” what is happening, I encourage you to ask one question.

“What if we told them the truth?”

  • … overtime is too high, we must increase productivity
  • … the stock price is stagnant, we will all benefit from better financials
  • …we need to ensure everyone is contributing
  • … this new automation will be more efficient
  • ???

Grown-ups want the truth. Not spin. The truth is most people will respect you far more for telling them the truth than any elegant positioning you can concoct.

When people feel respected, they will respond.

When people feel respected they will join.

 When people feel respected they will try.

On the other hand.

Unfiltered truth shared in an uncaring way creates unproductive havoc.

What If You Start With the Truth?

And then consider…

  • What are the best and worst parts of this change?
  • Who will this impact in what ways?
  • What questions will be most relevant to whom?
  • What additional information should I have available?
  • What other questions will they ask?
  • ???

I have never regretted erring on the side of the truth even when it was scary. Even if the awkward truth creates short-term anxiety, communicated well, the credibility you establish is worth the risk.
 

How To Be Your Own Experiment

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? I am always astounded at how many folks tell me that their resolution is “the same as last year.”

It’s often the same with our leadership. We read the books, we take the course, we build our action plans. We keep working on the same stuff, it gets better for a while and then we hit a snag. Perhaps we revert back to our old behavior. That’s when the real work begins.

“If you call failures experiments, you can put them on your resume and claim them as achievements”
~Mason Cooley

Hmm… Perhaps we are going about it the wrong way. What if instead of a New Year’s resolution, we approached 2013 as an ongoing experiment toward what we are hoping to become.

I’ve been intrigued by the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.  It’s not a leadership book per say, but worth a read, particularly if you are serious about making a significant change.

Be The Scientist and The Subject

What struck me most in terms of application to leadership was the concept of “being the scientist and the subject.”

Whether working to lose weight or changing your leadership approach, it’s not about following someone else’s diet or following the steps outlined in a leadership course.

Instead what works best is trying something new and carefully paying attention to how that worked adjusting and trying again.

The changers we studied discovered what worked for them through a scientific process of trial and error. They didn’t get it right the first time. in truth, when people are struggling with tenacious habits, few ever do. Instead they took two steps forward and one step back — and sometimes the reverse. But they had a skillful way of learning from their setbacks so that their plan evolved in a deliberate direction. They snipped a little here and added a little there. They tried a new technique, observed, learned and tried again. Day by day, week by week, they moved forward until one day their plan addressed all of their unique challenges– and they succeed.

Change Anything author Kerry Patterson and team go on to share how identifying critical moments, vital behaviors and understanding the sources of influence can all inform this personal experiment.

“If you want to succeed, you’ll have to give up the hope of simply being the subject of some smart person’s discovery. You’ll have to be both the scientist and the subject– in search of the most important science discovery of all: how to change you.”

How can you “turn bad days into good data?”

When your resolution becomes an experiment, even mistakes can be progress.

What is your 2013 experiment?

How to Build On What's Working

I am honored to have published the first post of the year on Lead Change Group, Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: Building on Your Leadership Success.

In this post I encourage you to think beyond what must change in the New Year, and ask yourself targeted questions of what you must continue on your leadership journey. How can you build on what’s working?

I encourage you to click on the link and enjoy the post as well as the other posts from leadership thought leaders.

Happy New Year.

How to Build On What’s Working

I am honored to have published the first post of the year on Lead Change Group, Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: Building on Your Leadership Success.

In this post I encourage you to think beyond what must change in the New Year, and ask yourself targeted questions of what you must continue on your leadership journey. How can you build on what’s working?

I encourage you to click on the link and enjoy the post as well as the other posts from leadership thought leaders.

Happy New Year.

Confidence Bursts: Interval Training To Drive Results

I have run many, many miles. I’ve had the injuries, experienced the chaff, my toenails have turned black and then fallen off. I have also experienced the exhilaration and confidence that comes from training hard and long. Marathons build confidence.

Yet, lately I’ve learned that it’s possible to achieve similar fitness levels, in much less time, through carefully organized interval training. Bursts of work, versus many long miles.

Apparently, it’s not the grueling hours, but the constant pushing on limits and stretching of competence levels (followed by “active recovery”) that leads to growth.

As a leader, I have also experienced the value of teaching and celebrating new skills intervals or “confidence bursts.”

Confidence Bursts During Times of Change

When leading large-scale change, some of the most important work involves giving people the confidence and competence to be successful. Even when people have the skills, if they don’t feel confident and excited about their ability to be successful in the new arena, they will be reluctant to try.

Leaders can build more confidence and competence on their teams by training them in intervals, or short confidence bursts.

The idea is to create a full court press on a given behavior during a finite period of time (usually one day) to prove what is possible at an individual and organizational level. Scaffold people with lots of extra attention, skill building, fun, recognition and celebration. The risk is low it’s just one day, it doesn’t feel like a big commitment to change. Once people experience success with the behavior, their confidence improves and the ceiling of what they perceive as possible moves a little higher.

Every time I have done this, the results have been head-turning and remarkable. The best part comes in the after-glow discussion if you (and we) can make this much magic on this day, why not every day?

How To Build Confidence In Bursts

  • Pick one or two tangible skills to work on
  • Schedule the “special day” and create anticipation
  • Begin the day with energy and fun, make it feel like a holiday
  • Set specific, measurable goals that can be achieved that day
  • Hold training and focused skill building throughout the day
  • Have your “experts” work side by side with those still learning
  • Celebrate every little success in a big, public way
  • Communicate specific success stories including the “how” behind them
  • Celebrate and debrief at the end of the day on “what worked” differently on this day and what was learned
  • Begin the next day with a reminder of key learnings

I find a few sets of these intervals (usually a month a part) in the context of a larger change management strategy can lead to remarkable and lasting change. I also know that the change has sunk in when the impact of such days begins to dwindle but the overall results stay up. The behaviors have become so frequent that the extrinsic motivation is no longer necessary. The value in the behaviors has become an inherent choice.

Change is a marathon. And sometimes, finding opportunities to train in intervals small bursts of confidence can be a good part of the plan.