leadership dot #2548: labyrinth

Navigating a change process is like moving through a labyrinth – you need to pay attention to the process or you’ll get lost. As I told my Organizational Behavior class, creating change goes against many of the natural inclinations that we have. You need to intentionally pay attention to the change effort itself – not just the outcome you seek — or your actions will carry you in ways that are counter to your effort.

Some examples:

  • Leaders who forget that they have been thinking about change long before they share it with others will be negatively impacted by the Leader’s Lag (dot #2317). You must remember your message is new to others and therefore allow time for them to absorb the idea – even though by the time you share it, you are ready to jump into motion.
  • Changemakers inherently think they can go from the old to the new but will get tripped up if they forget about going through Crazytown first – that period when both the old and new are still present. You must intentionally prepare your team for that period of confusion. (dot #2301)
  • We naturally think that once the change happens, it is the beginning. Not true – William Bridges teaches us that the first stage of a transition is the ending and leaders must help their team deal with loss and limbo before expecting forward motion. (dot #75)
  • Leaders must also fight the natural inclination to squelch tension that occurs. Peter Senge’s rubber band analogy reminds us that the further “current reality” is from “future vision”, the more tension that occurs. Conflict means that you are getting someplace! (dot #371)
  • It’s also tempting and the first impulse to jump right in and start making changes. The School Retool framework reminds us to start with an aspiration (the why) and then identify small experiments that can lead to the desired behavior. Even though we want to act now, we need to know where we’re going before we just head down the road. (dot #2358) We also need to see our actions through the lens of learning rather than just doing, with the former more important. (dot #2359)

Change management is becoming an increasingly important skill in today’s fast-moving world, and, ironically, the faster we move the greater the tendency to focus on the outputs instead of the internal process driving the change. Do yourself and those you lead a favor and be the exception. Helping people through the labyrinth makes it much more likely that the change will endure.

leadership dot #2547: remembering

It has been called the most significant 24-hours of the 20th Century, yet today many Americans don’t know the history of D-Day. The Allied Forces’ victory at Normandy is considered the turning point in World War II – a heroic series of battles that saved Europe from Nazi rule. The invasion on France’s beaches literally changed the world – 75 years ago today.

 The victory was monumental at the time and those who were alive when it happened can recall where they were when they learned of the raid. Today, most people don’t appreciate the magnitude of the war, let alone one battle within it.

The same thing happens with other key points in history. In less than 20 years, emotions generated by the terrorist attacks of September 11 have waned and Patriot Day has become just another day for those not directly impacted. On November 22, people are thinking of Thanksgiving instead of JFK.

Consider the history you need to preserve in your organization (or family, etc.). What were the turning points that made your organization what it is today? Who were the leaders and what risks did they take? What were the battles that were won – and lost – and what lessons were learned along the way?

History fades into the past without intentional efforts to keep it alive. Be your organization’s – and community’s – storyteller and help honor the key events of the past in the present.

Monument Des Braves St. Laurent-Sur-Mer, Omaha Beach France

 

leadership dot #2535: while waiting

For many people, time spent waiting is time “wasted” — but not for the Gardner family. Every day, instead of being irritated by the time spent in the school drop off or pick-up lines, they would read books. The goal was to complete the A to Z Mystery Series this year and this week they accomplished it – with even a few days in the school year to spare!

Reading while in line is a great habit to instill in children (and yourself!). We all know that inevitable waits will occur yet we tend to treat them as unexpected. As a result, we fail to prepare for them – or to use the minutes to actually do something besides “wait”.

There is no one I know that doesn’t wish they had more time. Take a lesson from these children and be more effective in using the time you do have.

Thanks, Jeni!

leadership dot #2531: curator

Think of the influence that the person has who determines what stories show up on the newsfeed of your smartphone. There are usually only five or six articles that make the list and somewhere there is a human that either makes the selections or programmed the algorithm to do so. Such power they hold.

So many decisions go into what makes it onto the feed: which stories, whether they are serious news or novel, which source to use for the story, etc. You may have some choice in which topics you check as preferences, but someone else is still curating the content and shaping the views of millions. In the U.S. alone there are over 90 million iPhones – quite the audience for Apple News.

Whether we consciously read all of the selections or just unconsciously absorb the headlines, the content from this feed serves to populate our brain and perspectives. Don’t rely on a stranger’s limited actions as the only source of your information. Pick at least one source of journalism to read deeper and make your own choice about what is relevant.

leadership dot #2530: frames

When people think about how to get their message across to others, they often solely concentrate on the words that will be used to convey their meaning. A recent webinar by the FrameWorks Institute encouraged communicators to expand their planning to encompass the entire frame of the message.

According to FrameWorks, framing is about what to say, what to emphasize and what not to say in order to shape people’s understanding of an issue. To achieve this, the communicator can intentionally craft components in twelve different areas including tone, messenger, numbers, the order of messaging, examples, context, visuals and explanatory metaphors. It’s not just what you say, but how you combine all the components of the entire messaging process in order to maximize its effectiveness.

The next time you need to communicate something of importance, take the time to consider not just the words, but the frame of the whole picture that you are trying to convey. The subtle choices you make beforehand will determine the overall impact of what you share.

FrameWorks framing choices

leadership dot #2521: be serious

Many organizations think they are doing their part for the environment by having recycling bins available in their facility, but the St. Paul River Center is serious about actually being able to recycle or compost the waste from their events. Instead of allowing people to independently decide what is trash and what is not, the Center had staff members at each of its stations directing people on how to properly dispose of their waste.

Far more items were recyclable than I would have expected or done on my own, including silverware and seemingly-plastic salad containers, but I was informed that they were corn-based and could be reclaimed. I have written before that one of the challenges of recycling efforts is the inconsistency in what is allowable in different jurisdictions and as a result, the bins are often so contaminated with incorrect items that the whole container needs to be thrown into the trash. In St. Paul, not only was this fate averted, but the staff who gave directions served as both a customer service and environmental ambassador.

Yes, there was a labor cost, but it was small compared to the environmental savings. The next time your organization touts an initiative, go the extra mile to be serious about implementing it. Do what it takes to truly do what you profess is important.

leadership dot #2520: deal or no deal

I found it interesting to witness the varied approaches sellers used when hosting a garage sale.

For some, it was all about getting rid of things. These sellers had many items that were marked “free” or would initiate bargaining conversations: “If you don’t like that price, name another.” They had made the effort to declutter and as one seller said: “Nothing out here is going back into the house.”

Others were holding their sale strictly to make money. When I asked if a set of items sold as a combination could be split and sold for less, the answer was: “you can split them, but you still need to pay full price.” This seller wouldn’t negotiate to $120 on a $150 vintage item and would not accept negotiation on anything.

Many fell somewhere in the middle – they may have lowered the price if asked but seemed content to keep anything that did not sell. While they would have liked to have sold more, they couldn’t quite bring themselves to part with possessions at a significant discount. The items still represented value to them, and they retained hope that they could obtain that value at a later date.

What is your philosophy when conducting transactions?

Do you operate from the perspective that the past is the past? You believe that if the item is paid for, use obtained from it, and now it no longer serves a purpose, it is better to receive nothing than to be burdened with the possession. Your focus is on the present where retaining it has negative implications.

Or are you more likely to focus on the future and be willing to wait to receive what you believe is due? Even though no one may be willing to pay your price, you hold on to what has potential.

Both approaches have merit given different circumstances. The key is to know which path you are following before you hang out your shingle.