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?

confidence bursts: interval training for leaders

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.

See also my article in Success Magazine: 7 Ways to Build Your Employee’s Confidence