“Change is in the air.” I chuckled at the headline in an airline magazine as I planned this article. That’s a constant, as we repeatedly hear that the pace of change will never be slower than it is today. Still, most people struggle with the reality of yet more change on the horizon.
The best change leaders recognize the individual differences among their team members as they lead change. They approach each person based on his or her unique personality and preferences. This article offers suggestions for guiding common personality types through a change process.
How to Engage Personalities in the Change Process
Invite directive members of your team to discuss potential changes as they emerge. These individuals are more willing to support change efforts when they’ve had a part in shaping them. Once decisions are made, they make strong partners in rolling out change initiatives and executing on them.
Assign creative thinkers to explore new ideas and alternatives to meet the challenges at hand. Provide avenues for brainstorming and collaboration. Establish a framework to capture their best ideas. Leverage their strengths to create a culture of innovation within the organization.
Give introverted team members time and space to think about new initiatives before asking them to respond. As internal processors, they like to think before they talk. They’re also more likely to share ideas when asked questions that draw them into the discussion.
Engage extroverts in conversation throughout the change process. Tap into their natural energy to explore ideas in the discovery and planning phases. Leverage their interpersonal skills to communicate change initiatives and build excitement for them.
Provide detail-oriented team members with enough information to show concern for the practical application of new ideas. These individuals are typically very analytical and can be skeptical about the feasibility of change initiatives. These traits position them to find gaps and weaknesses in plans for implementation. Invite their hard questions and input as you shape these plans.
Lean on your most relationship-oriented individuals to gauge how the rest of the team is doing. They are most concerned about the impact of potential change on the people involved. Their natural intuition for the health and well-being of their colleagues makes them well-suited to monitor morale and recognize when there’s a need to rally the troops.
Get to Know Your Team Members at a Deeper Level
You can’t tap into these unique personality styles and preferences if you don’t recognize them in your team members. Assessment tools offer significant insights to help you get to know your team on an individual basis. I use Path 4 and 6 assessments from RightPath Resources, which focus specifically on workplace behavior. They also generate talking points to help build stronger working relationships within the team.
Now is a great time to invest in your team and start engaging them in your change initiatives for 2019.
I’ve spent at least the last five years trying to achieve a completely paperless office, and you know what?
I don’t think it’s entirely possible.
You see, I’ve come to the realisation that there’s always going to be some form of paper in an office. A note from a colleague, an unexpected letter from a supplier, or the hastily-printed agenda for the next meeting won’t vanish.
With that mindset, I’ve spent time on my own paperless existence, and it’s working really well thanks to five apps I simply couldn’t live without.
I remember once trying to turn around the attitude of an unproductive marketing team. All the signs were there, but convincing everyone to raise their game needed far more than my leadership skills.
Thankfully, back then, I discovered Google Drive; and although it didn’t single-handedly raise the productivity within the team, its ability to all but remove paperwork from people’s desks meant they could finally see the wood for the trees and collaborate effectively.
One reason people still rely on paper files is because they believe they’re more transportable than those contained on a hard disk.
That used to be the case – before cloud storage. Now, every conceivable file (including everything I would once have printed out) resides on Dropbox and syncs across every device I own. It’s transformative.
If you’re still using Post-It notes and big notebooks to keep on top of your various tasks because you don’t think there’s an app out there that can meet your workflow requirements, you haven’t tried Omnifocus.
A bit like Evernote, it can be blindingly simple when I need it to be and fantastically deep and comprehensive when I have a big project on the go.
Your mileage on the above may vary when it comes to creating a paperless office of your own. Just one might do the trick, or a combination thereof. You may even find alternatives that far better suit your way of working.
Whatever you do to remove as much paper from your life as possible, lean on the technology you have with you every day, and you’ll become a more efficient and productive leader than you ever thought possible.
Appreciative practices build resilience for leaders and their organizations and are an intrinsic part of being AI. There are many leadership practices that can be built out of appreciative inquiry, and here we highlight questions.
One leader gave this example of how she has integrated being AI into her work through the power of a simple question:
The question “What’s working well?” is becoming common in my work life and personal life. It really makes a shift in how we look at and interpret our lives. For example, as far as in my day-to-day work, I now build into evaluations “What is working well, and what else can we do? I allow space for process, have faith in people, and trust in the process that it will unfold and allow things to emerge.
For this leader, the idea of the practice of appreciative inquiry becoming common is at the heart of being AI. The questions leaders are asking in their daily work matter for themselves and for others.
The Power of Using Questions
As a practice, developing and using appreciative questions not only changes the resulting conversations but also begins to cultivate a practice of seeking the appreciative within a situation; deeply residing with what is, no matter how hard; and reframing. In our interviews, leaders talked about how questions can change lives and organizational direction.
Questions seem simple, yet the crafting of a powerful question can open the door to new directions, innovation, and thought in ways nothing else can. When leaders seek the appreciative within a situation, the focus automatically shifts from looking down into the chasm to lifting up one’s eyes to the horizon.
Integrating these principles is about intention: the intention to ask the kinds of questions of self and others that prompt the principles into action:
How is my worldview influencing the social construction of our experience, culture, or outcomes?
What am I choosing to focus on?
What kinds of questions am I asking of my team, my colleagues, or myself?
How are these questions prompting change?
Integrating the principles is about practicing questions like these in times of hope, which are for the most part easier leadership times, so that these questions and actions are readily available to you as a leader in the times of despair and forgiveness.
Dr. Jeanie Cockell, co-president of Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting and co-author of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry, is a dynamic facilitator known for her ability to get diverse groups to work collaboratively together. For twenty years, Jeanie has served as an educational and organizational consultant helping people, organizations, and communities build positive futures and respond effectively to change.
I discovered something early on in my career—bosses are notorious for catching employees off-guard. They show up at unpredictable times and ask unexpected questions. I never knew what to say when they stopped by. It didn’t matter if they asked “How’s your day?” or “What’s the latest and greatest about our big project?” All they got from me were blank stares and bumbling responses.
As much as I wanted to put my best foot forward, I ended up stuffing not one but both feet in my mouth around “higher-ups” for too long. The result? My freezing up caused confidence levels to plummet and second-guessing to skyrocket in more than just me. If only I had known then what I know now: while employees dread seeming stupid when the boss rolls in, bosses get just as scared when they have to interpret their employees’ blank stares. And if only I had developed solutions then that I have now to stop scaring them!
Do you go silent when your boss (or your boss’ boss) is around, or just start babbling in hopes you’ll say something smart? In either case, you know he or she will stop by again soon, so why not find a way to keep from responding like it’s a big surprise?
A Tool to Try—My 3 Short Lists
What’s below is a simple way to stop scaring your boss with blank stares. It’s a note-keeping tool on three key topics that I’ve found helpful for years—
Blue Sky Dreams,
Down-to-Earth Hurdles, and
Stories from the Field.
By having your thoughts on these ready in bullet point form, you’ll be able to cast vision, tackle challenges, and breed encouragement in ways that build rapport with your boss. Remember, he or she didn’t pop in to connect about everything you do or care about, and you don’t need to panic as if your job is on the line. This technique will allow you to give your boss a taste of what you’re thinking “on the spot,” but in a way that’s prepared, clear, succinct, and meaningful (without dragging them into your day-to-day weeds).
Pro Tip: I prefer to use a pocket-sized notebook or a 3×5 card, but apps like Evernote and Google Keep work great too. The goal is to quickly and discreetly access your prepared thoughts using three short lists.
Short List #1: Blue Sky Dreams
Good-hearted employers aren’t trying to trick you when they ask what’s exciting about your work, or what keeps you up at night. They hope you have winsome ideas for the future that will help your organization, teams, and individuals soar. In fact, some companies even encourage what they call “FedEx Days” to inspire innovation under quick turnaround conditions. These kinds of experiences help take the corporate lid off so leaders can tap into and discover new “sky is the limit” dreams. It would serve you well to brainstorm a running list of three to five ideas and initiatives that will serve your organization well. Keep it handy so you can talk about it when your boss asks.
Short List #2: Down-to-Earth Hurdles
Unless your boss is living in la-la land, he or she knows you’re facing challenges in the leadership trenches on a regular basis. A big part of your role is to cut off problems at the pass so your boss doesn’t have to deal with them personally. Still, when he or she stops by to chat, trust that they honestly want to know what kinds of issues you’re facing and solving. Jot down the top three to five projects and/or challenges you’re currently navigating. Your boss doesn’t want to hear your long list of complaints, but they are curious how they can help you handle key hurdles you’re facing as a leader.
Short List #3: Stories from the Field
Upper management typically hears way more about organizational brush-fires and the bottom line than stories of success from employees. Bosses need affirmation that everyone’s hard work matters and is making a difference. A great way to foster a culture of positivity is to carry three to five encouraging stories with you at all times and be ready to share them. Talk about what good is coming from working together and serving clients. Your boss will be all ears, and you won’t get stuck scaring him or her with a blank stare!
Welcome to the December Leadership Development Carnival. We’re excited to share our leadership experts’ favorite posts from 2018 on the topics of communication, creativity/inspiration, development, engagement, productivity, and more.
Randy Conley of Leading with Trust provided How to Tell Someone You Don’t Trust Them Without Destroying the Relationship. “Addressing low trust in a relationship is a challenging issue. As soon as the “T” word—trust—is mentioned, people begin to feel uneasy about where the conversation is headed. The key is to not focus on trust itself, but on the behaviors causing low trust. In this post, Randy Conley shares three steps to talk about low trust without damaging the relationship.” In this post, Randy Conley shares the five causes of psychological safety and why it’s important for you to be a safe leader. Follow Randy on Twitter at @RandyConley.
David Grossman of The Grossman Group shared Drive Business Results with Communication Planning. David writes: “Planning communications is often the key to employees having the information and context they need to help an organization or team achieve its vision and goals. Follow these four simple steps to drive business performance through your communications with this simple communication planning model.” Discover David on Twitter at @thoughtpartner.
Art Petty of Art Petty provided Leadership Power-Up: Make Time to Think Deeply. Art recaps: “Unfortunately, most of us work in and contribute to a perpetual tornado of activities in our daily lives. It’s imperative for your well-being and effectiveness to find opportunities to simply pause and think deeply. ” Find Art on Twitter at @artpetty.
Laura Schroeder of Working Girl provided Design Thinking for Leaders and Innovators. Laura states: “Design thinking is a useful practice for leaders who want to deliver a more successful product or service. This post offers several techniques for unlocking creativity, focusing on what matters most to your customers, and moving forward quickly as you bring your idea to life.” Connect with Laura on Twitter at @workgal.
Jane Perdue of The Jane Group provided 5 ways to tame bias. Jane tells: “We all occasionally go on autopilot, especially when under pressure or experiencing something new, and rely on the mental pairings we make when we fold things into our memory. Being an effective leader. though, depends on whether or not we tame our biases or let them control what we do.“ Follow Jane on Twitter at @thehrgoddess.
Justin Setzer of Plan to Lead provided Accomplish More by Focusing on Less. Justin summarizes: “There can be a myriad of things trying to get our attention, and consequently pulling us away from the things we want to accomplish. Learn how to accomplish more by changing your focus.“ Find Justin on Twitter at @plantolead.
Joel Garfinkle of the Career Advancement Blog submitted Self-Defeating Behavior. Joel shares: “Self-defeating behavior holds all of us back at some point. For some, it can sabotage promotions or careers. To overcome your self-defeating behavior, or to help your employees overcome theirs, first pinpoint what’s going on.” Follow Joel on Twitter at @JoelGarfinkle.
Mary Schaefer of The Pro-Human Workplace submitted What Your Employee Probably Isn’t Telling You. In this post, Mary shares: “I want to believe in the best of each of us. I want to believe there is a core in us as human beings at work that wants to be unleashed and fully express our own unique contribution, or feel the simple satisfaction of a good day’s work. That is where these thoughts that follow come from — the essence of the best of us as humble, noble human beings at work.” Discover Mary on Twitter at @MarySchaefer.
Thank you to everyone who submitted articles for this month’s carnival! If you would like to be on the distribution list for submission calls, please fill out this form and we’ll be happy to add you to the list.
Even experts need to learn. So says Atul Gawande, MD, author of Personal Best and the TED talk, “Want to get great as something? Get a coach.” Here, Gawande describes his experience seeking a coach to continually improve his surgical techniques. He delivers two clear messages: professionals are not done learning when they finish school, and we can benefit from others’ help. Still, Gawande captures the tension that any expert in medicine, science, technology, engineering, law, or academia acknowledges. An expert’s success hinges on certainty in knowing, not necessarily with curiosity in learning. Those who depend upon experts such as Gawande flinch when they consider he might be practicing instead of achieving or delivering the best.
If you are an expert, you have spent most of your life learning, Consider that anyone who has completed a college degree has probably spent approximately 35,000 hours in school, let alone the additional time required studying. Even so, has anyone ever shown you an ideal process of learning or illustrated how you approach it? The answer is typically no.
Improving the Process
Everyone can benefit from coaching. When you are on your own, without a coach to guide, there is a process that will prompt you to hone in on your process and improve it: the ideal process of learning. The process involves a four-step model of experiencing (feeling), reflecting, thinking, and acting. Most people find they have preferences for some parts of the process and avoid or underutilize others. Are you focusing on feelings or facts, reflecting or acting? Compare your own process to the ideal, holistic process of learning from experience.
Experts who are able to step back to examine how learning occurs and master the process find that they can coach themselves to be more effective in any situation. Take Tanya, an electrical engineer, who favored thinking and acting. She had honed her skills in her expertise to a tee, yet she discovered that her approach to learning left her skipping the feeling and reflecting part of the learning cycle that would spark new ideas, innovation, and collaboration. While she could follow checklists on current practices, she was not focusing on what was missing on the checklist. The steps that could take her outcomes to new heights, or how she was relating to others on her team. When in familiar situations, Tanya reminded herself of the ideal process and included feeling and reflecting in her approach.
If you are an expert feeling the tension of “knowing” and “learning,” consider upping your game by coaching yourself. Pay attention to the process of learning and witness your approach to using it. If you are a coach working with experts, share the process of learning and empower them long after your engagement ends.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why don’t they get it?” I can feel my own exasperation and desperation, and I’ve heard it from a number of leaders.
The most-likely short answer to this question is “You.” If you’re the positional leader, head of a team, manager, etc. then this is probably the best answer also. If you’re a peer, a member of the team, but you ask that question of your peers, then something outside of you may be the key, but you can still make a difference.
I’ve heard people tell me that communication was a key factor in leadership. But I know many who communicate well and say little and I’ve known even more who communicate confusion. Clarity is a key factor in our leadership. When we’re clear and consistent, team members can come to understand and appreciate the direction and the objectives. When team members understand and appreciate both the teams goals, roles and methods, they can freely act on behalf of the team and the leader.
We make similar choices to the degree we share the same knowledge, values and beliefs.
Shared Mental Model
You will find several papers and even a post on this blog about shared mental models online. Referring to a shared mental model “the idea is that team performance improves if team members have a shared understanding of the task that is to be performed and of the involved team work.” I like to say we need to share knowledge, values and beliefs. Often the belief we share is that if we each do our portion of the shared mental model, we can succeed in our goals.
I first heard about shared mental models from an Air Force flight instructor. He said pilots who faced severe challenges in an aircraft and who succeeded often did so because the entire crew had a shared mental model. Each person knew their situation, what needed to be done, and who was supposed to do what.
Communication is not the Key
But if I understand the knowledge, values or beliefs my team mates need to succeed, and my team mates fail to understand and appreciate them, maybe I’m the problem. How clearly do you communicate? Do you communicate knowledge with the same commitment that you communicate values or beliefs? Often, we communicate knowledge, and maybe values, but drop the ball on beliefs. My belief that someone else should be doing a particular thing may not line up with their belief. They may think someone else should do it.
Other times ambiguous goals may contribute to the problem. Many business leaders seem to want different, even conflicting things, at different times. Are your values clear? Maybe you lack clarity yourself. Or the executive team lacks unity. Any crack in the top of the org chart becomes a chasm further down the line. A seemingly-small disagreement between two VP’s may result in massive frustration for people in the organization and wasted effort or money.
What can you do to lift the fog? Maybe your people “don’t get it.” But if you continue to have team member after team member who fails to understand, or who leaves the company, maybe the problem isn’t “them” at all.