Monday, February 23, 2015

Change Leader, Beware These Pitfalls

Reacting Is Not Resisting

To improve your effectiveness at leading change remember one mantra, “reaction does not equal resistance.”  When you are satisfied or at least comfortable in a situation and you have to change it’s natural to react.  Our reactions can range from surprise, to shock, to disbelief.  But expressing our surprise and asking questions for better understanding is not the same as resisting the change.  Failure to turn cartwheels in celebration is not the same as resisting.  Resisting is purposefully impeding the change, either passively or actively. 

So what drives someone from their natural reaction to a change to subversive resistance?  At the heart of the answer is the feeling that the expression of their surprise, shock or disbelief cannot be voiced and honored.  We cannot change the way people feel about a change, but we can intensify those feelings by ignoring, discounting or demeaning them.

Some leaders seem to believe that listening to angsts and concerns conveys agreement with the feelings.  It doesn't.  You cannot change the way another person feels about something, they have to change it.  You can assist their change by acknowledging and honoring their feelings.  This requires purposeful listening.  What you can do is help to drive them into resistance.  The moment you tell me I shouldn't or don’t feel the way I am feeling, the path to resistance is paved.

The Emotions That Lead to Resistance

Let’s be honest and state the obvious.  Change is messy and it’s likely to stay that way.  Even with our best efforts to “manage change”, it’s still messy.  People react emotionally to change and the emotions are usually more negative than positive.  So why not accept this as a predictable part of any change and focus on how to best work with these emotions rather than ignoring them or sweeping them under the proverbial carpet. 

The first step in this effort is to understand that reacting to change is not the same as resisting change.  The emotions typically associated with reacting to change include anxiety, confusion and vulnerability.  When these emotions are not acknowledged they tend to morph into frustration, distrust and fatigue which are the emotions that lead to resistance.  Resistance is the by-product of poorly managing the emotions that naturally accompany change.  When you tell me I shouldn't be confused, I become frustrated.  When you tell me I should be anxious, I become distrustful. 

Leaders can learn to work with these emotions and help others with the resolution of negative emotions into purpose, trust, honesty and compassion.  But the first step is acknowledging and accepting our own negative emotions.  Once we've put our own oxygen mask on then we can try to help the person next to us.    

The Emotions That Lead to Resiliency

We know the emotions that lead to resistance include anxiety, confusion, frustration and fatigue.  We also know which emotions increase our resiliency – purpose, enthusiasm, optimism and confidence.  If we expect people to give up something that is familiar but arguably ineffective then they want to see how the change improves their world for the better.  What’s the purpose?  The purpose needs to generate enthusiasm.  Leaders should be optimistic about the changes, even if they are negatively impacted by the change.  And finally, they need to express confidence that this change is possible. 
So if a leader cannot articulate a purpose for change that extends benefit beyond his/her own interest, doesn't show enthusiasm for the change, isn't optimistic and cannot communicate confidence that the change can be successful, then why should anyone follow.

When a change is ill-conceived and poorly executed, not only is the current change initiative damaged but the success of all future changes are jeopardized.  When leaders approach change with clear purpose, enthusiasm, optimism and confidence, the outcomes are more likely to be successful and the organization is a step closer to a culture of resiliency.

For 25 years Discovery Learning, Inc. has been designing programs to help organizations develop better change leaders. Check out our latest research on Change Leaders!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Preparing Leaders to be Change Navigators

Tammie Plouffe is an early adopter and co-creator of Change Navigator, DlI’s latest professional resource for change leaders. I had the opportunity to speak with Tammie about her experience using the new resource and get some early feedback on best applications, target audiences, key takeaways and participant impact.

What types of client situations have you found the Change Navigator most helpful for? – NM

Change Navigator provides a solid framework for understanding the stages that are common to people undergoing significant change. It offers a new way of approaching transitions, by focusing on the emotions of people, whose buy in and support are critical to success.  I have found this tool to be very helpful for complex change situations involving leaders who are in the process or getting ready to lead a large transformation i.e. restructuring, merger, acquisition.  

Leadership development programs where content is focused on leading change is a good way to use the Change Navigator. Also, another great application is in team meetings or planned team development sessions where dealing with change is a relevant topic.

Executive coaching is another way to use this tool to assist leaders experiencing a significant change either personally or organizationally to get clarity on what they can do to effectively navigate the emotional terrain and lead a more successful change initiative.

What is the talk track you are hearing from leaders about their challenges in leading others through change?

Some of the biggest challenges I am hearing from leaders include:

Managing in an environment that is defined by uncertainty, ambiguity and change fatigue. This includes managing teams in a context of fear due to the lack of information and uncertainty. Leaders are finding themselves with the challenge of managing through an environment of rumors and speculation which can be a major distractor to the progress of change initiatives and can exacerbate existing challenges. Leaders are asking questions like “What can I do to keep the team motivated and focused through all of this ambiguity?”

Maintaining the focus of both the team and the leader. A common question I hear from leaders, “What support can I provide the team to stay team focused on being productive during this period of change? “ Leaders are challenged to keep their teams priorities and attention on factors that they can control. Too often leaders watch the productivity and moral of their teams erode as people spend emotional capital and resource distracted by the things that are out of their control.  

People will respond differently to change depending on where they are emotionally in the change process.  Change Navigator is really useful for grounding teams and leaders on where they are personally in the change process. For leaders especially it helps to clarify and identify strategies they can use to move their teams forward effectively and successfully.  

Lack of Control. Leaders are expressing frustration that it is challenging to plan or position for the unknown. Often, they are required to lead teams and implement a change that they themselves did not choose and may have their own feelings about.

Building Optimism and Hope for the Future. Leaders are working with the complexity of implementing change initiatives while doing day to day work and dealing with people’s emotions about change. They are tasked with the challenge of rallying people around a compelling vision and helping their teams understand and buy into the benefits of the change.

What is inspiring leaders about leading change in today’s environment?

Some common themes I am hearing from leaders that I work with are:
The opportunity to innovate their organizations to perform better

The opportunity to be part of building something new and exciting in the organizations they serve

Making a positive difference for the people and teams they lead.

Building new skills and capabilities towards future results.

Winning - embracing challenges and the energy (and adrenalin rush!) that can bring when successful.

Why is change leadership important?

It balances change management activities of planning etc. and is a key ingredient to making change stick. Change leadership is the work leaders do to enlist people’s hearts and minds in a change effort and engage them to work in new ways in order to get better, and more meaningful results.

What kinds of impacts does working with the Change Navigator have on people? What value do leaders acknowledge they get from working with the Change Navigator?

A recent client who had his leadership team do the Change Navigator workshop while they were in the midst of splitting up their company into two separate businesses said that the CN helped them understand the emotional part of making transitions and this insight helped build their personal resilience as well as have increased empathy for the people they were leading who were finding the change very challenging.

What do you most admire about leaders who are effective at leading and navigating change? What are you noticing about leaders who are very effective at leading change?  

The thing I admire most is their ability to stay positive and optimistic while acknowledging that change is tough work. I also believe that the most effective change leaders are those that are optimistic and empathic, they create hope and inspire confidence. They stay involved in the change effort and bring people along. So often leaders get through their own response to change and forget that the rest of the organization may be going through it at a different pace than they are or experiencing a different impact.

What advice do you have for other consultants/ trainers working with the Change Navigator?

I have found that as I work with the CN, I continue to learn more about navigating transitions both personally and through others. It has individual, team and organizational application. I would encourage other consultants to continue stay in the learning process and resist the temptation to be the expert. I have also found sharing stories about transitions to be helpful to bring the model to life and resonate.   

What insights and learnings have you had from working with this product?

How to navigate change better and with greater insight. I am able to get clearer faster about what stage of transition I am navigating and what I can do to help myself or be of service to another.  

Learn more about the New Change Navigator

Tammie Plouffe is a professional Organizational Development consultant. She is managing partner of Innovative Pathways and has assisted many large and mid-sized corporations in developing their leadership and organizations to embrace challenges. Plouffe holds a Master of Science, Organizational Development from Pepperdine University, California and a B.A. in Psychology from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two sons.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Avoiding Leadership Development Snake Oil

When designing a leadership development program today’s training and development professionals have more content options than at any other time in history. This can be a tremendous benefit because there are a diverse number of solutions many of which are focused on specific training objectives or competencies. The lack of any consistent governing body to monitor the quality of psychometric assessments means that training and development professionals must use their own insight and experience and conduct thorough research to find an assessment that is safe to deploy to their organization or clients.  There are a lot of fly-by-night assessments and tools out there. At best these types of resources can be ineffectual and at worst can cripple any serious attempts at development.

Any training and development content provider that is worth their salt should be able and happy to provide the research and development information to support their assessment. The best content providers will also support their assessments with frequently updated normative data. As your organization explores content and tools for your next development efforts here are some questions you should be asking to help ensure you are using safe and proven resources:

Is the Assessment Valid?
Is the assessment really measuring what it claims to measure?  Assessments that are not research based will never be able to definitely prove that they are valid. The goal of any development program is to improve competency in certain skills. If you choose an assessment that is invalid at measuring those skills your development efforts can be thwarted.

Is the Assessment Reliable?
Is the assessment dependable? Are you sure that it’s working the same way every time? You would never buy a new car that started on some days but not on others. In the same way, you want to make sure that the assessment you choose for your leadership development program works reliably, every time. If you need an instrument that measures a stable factor in an individual’s personality over time, you don’t want to work with an assessment that gives participants radically different results each time they take it. The only way to ensure an instrument’s reliability is by using a research-based assessment.

Does the Assessment’s Support Materials Provide Context?
Does the assessment you’re working with collect and analyze normative data from previous respondents? Normative data provides a crucial element that helps participants understand their results. Knowing that 1% of the population shares your personality style, or that 23% of people working in the financial industry have a similar response to change, for example, helps participants contextualize and better understand their results. Using a research-based assessment backed by normative data guarantees deeper insights for your participants.

Selecting the right psychometric or leadership assessment can be challenging. That is why finding a partner that is transparent with their R&D is such a benefit for training and development professionals. There are a few high impact assessments in the marketplace that are backed by strong research and normative data but there is also a lot of snake oil. Hopefully these tips and your own good judgment will help you to pick the best assessment for your organization.

Learn More About DLI's Innovative Suite of Research Backed Leadership  Assessments!

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