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Is Your Project a Self-Eating Watermelon?

self-eaten watermelon

What is a self-eating watermelon? Definition : A project that contains enough seeds of success right within its own boundaries.

How many of you work for or in a self-eating watermelon project or organization?

self-eaten watermelon

I doubt many would say yes. You see I hear a lot of excuses why a project fails.

Outside influences get a big part of the blame. Low budgets, poor facilities, bad technology, broken tools, weak ideas… the list goes on and on.

What about bad leadership, or no leadership? Any organization that suffers a leadership gap is destined to miss the self-eating watermelon kind of success.

Great leaders can overcome basic obstacles. OK the tools may be dull, the budget may have gotten cut back, the building is second rate. Many great world changing events have happened with far less in terms of physical resources to do the work.

An Old Story

Leadership made the difference. I’m old enough to have been a student of the great war, WWII. Leaders like Dwight Eisenhower or Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill looked at the mess the world was in and saw a vision. They dug deep into core principles both human and domestic to design the way out.

Leaders like these inspired thousands to stand up and fight. Troops fought with second rate gear sometimes. Warm clothes and rations were scarce. Yet the forces that were mustered heard the call and forged ahead, securing victory for a free world.

If you get a chance, go tour Churchill’s bunker underneath the streets of London. By today’s standards, you just cannot imagine suffering years of isolation running the war effort from there. But his team and the plans they made were a true self-eating watermelon project. The seeds of success were grown right there.

Those who helped the effort saw a clear picture of the need. Churchill had his detractors. He was a classic modern day politician with a large percentage of the country not voting for him, yet his leadership shined brightest when the country needed it the most.

He rallied the support when it was needed. His influence on the situation was undeniable.

The Newer Story

A seldom told tale comes from banking. In the 1980’s, the automated teller machine was blazing its trail into our lives. The hardware was operating before the software. While each bank could purchase their own machines for use by their customers, there was no access sharing between banks.

I worked for a large regional bank called Texas Commerce. We had 71 locations spread across Texas. We were one of the three largest banks of our kind at the time. You have to realize we did not yet have interstate banking laws, so each state had its own banks; leave the state without cash, and you might be stuck for a while.

I was sitting at the table when our Chairman, a banking legend named Ben Love, was presented a plan to operate these ATM machines. Again, understand this was the very early days of the idea. Ben heard all of the pros and cons, saw the numbers, but decided to pass on the opportunity. In his mind, there were far too many variables, yet unknown.

In the case of the self-eating watermelon, no one knew what the seeds of success needed to include. Ben took a pass, but specifically told the team to stay vigilant, watch the other guys try, then, when the time was right, we’d jump in.

It was almost two years later that we took our dive. And dive we did. Not only did we enter the market, but we crushed it, becoming the founding members of the PULSE Switch. You see the network required to connect all of these machines needed to be built. We needed a technological super highway to carry the transaction data from one machine to the next, regardless of which bank sponsored the machine. PULSE solved that.

As a founding member of PULSE, we also captured a large share of the transaction fees that went with each swipe of a card. It was a huge play for the bank and banking in general. Yes, I know ATM’s are a given these days. No one thinks about this card or that, which network it runs on, or who gets what, when. The old model blazed the trail to create a new normal.

Ben Love had other historical accolades too. He championed branch banking and interstate banking, exerting a strong influence in the Texas legislature to pass the laws needed to open the borders for eventual e-commerce. His ties to New York banking led to the eventual merger of our bank with what is now JP Morgan Chase.

Ben Love

The seeds of this monumental success were sown into the very fabric of who and what we were as a bank. That, my friends, is leadership. Now, let it be said, Ben Love had his detractors too, just like Churchill. Not everyone who ever worked for Ben left with a positive appreciation for Ben’s ways. But you cannot deny the influence he had at so many levels.

Leadership Is the Key

In summary, there are no self-eating watermelon projects or organizations that exists without strong, capable leadership. It is the presence of leadership that steers the course, musters the resources, and wins the day.

You can be a manager, flipping switches, making a few things happen. But leadership takes the venture much further than mere management can.

If your project needs a few self-eating seeds implanted, call me for some ideas on ways to grow your team into this self-actualizing champion of your industry. You can grow your leadership ability, let me show you how.

Footnote: I was introduced to the “self-eating watermelon” terminology by Kent Cummins of Magic Hotline. Kent is a renown speaker and author.

Leading Change: An Old Model Reveals New Ideas

Overcoming change

Business leaders know the challenge it can be to lead change. When there is a new announcement about something changing, you can often hear the groans that arise.

Overcoming change

Work teams of all kinds resist change. Understanding ways to overcome the resistance can be a leader’ s best answer in times of change.

As I’ve mentioned before, managing change can be very darn difficult. Within the body of change management that is so readily available, much has been written about overcoming resistance to change. I have found one particular explanation for ways to overcome the resistance, that makes things crystal clear.

In the 1960’s David Gleicher put forth a comprehensive explanation of the theory of change. Others after him altered his work slightly but gave credit to him as the creator of this view. Here’s what Gleicher said.

Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. A formula for overcoming resistance to change looks like this:

D x V x F > R

These factors are:

D= Dissatisfaction with how things are now;

V= Vision of what is possible

F= The First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;

By multiplying these three factors, if the product is greater than Resistance, then change is possible.

Because D, V, and F are multiplied, if any one of the factors is absent (zero) or low, then the product will be zero or low and therefore not capable of overcoming the resistance.

To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create a vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.

Let’s Unpack the Factors

Dissatisfaction –  When dissatisfaction with the current state is present, change can be easier. We deal with these kinds of change every day. If the temperature is too cold, we turn on the heat. If it’s too hot, we turn on a fan or an air conditioner to cool us. In these simple examples, resistance to change is practically zero because the dissatisfaction is so high.

In a job setting the dissatisfaction is harder to identify and measure. If your team’s computers are getting old and outdated, they perform poorly. Sometimes they freeze. The need for change can be obvious. So you offer a chance to upgrade technology. Resistance might be low.

However, when you change a computer system seeking some other goal, the work team may resist that change. When the perception is things are working well, a change can see a greater resistance because dissatisfaction is low.

Vision –  The leader’s ability to paint the best vision picture can be one of the greatest strengths. People can and do rally around a good vision for the future; a look at what could be. You can be operating with very little dissatisfaction, but have a vision for something greater and still overcome resistance to the change.

Mergers and reorganizations come to mind. The leadership sees an opportunity for something much greater so an announcement is made about reorganizing or merging entities. The natural response from the staff is resistance. Yet when the vision is presented well, with great conviction and quantifiable gains for everyone, the resistance can be overcome.

Forgetting to add the proper vision when driving change can create the zero value in this DVF>R equation, thus making resistance too great to overcome.

First Steps – Being able to reduce resistance can actually be easier than we think. Taking solid, specific first steps toward the change can create the momentum you need to break through the resistance and effect change.

The first steps are often forgotten as critical to successful change. The big transformation project gets mapped out, but the first steps are merely buried in the details with little if any focus and intention.

Successfully managing change requires focused effort to get the first steps right. Again, having zero impact with first steps could negate the whole equation, keeping resistance high, keeping change from happening.

Conclusion

When you are faced with a leadership challenge for change, think about this simple formula. Review the three elements present in your own situation. Do what you can to enhance and control the factors so that your ability to eliminate resistance is effective.

Once the resistance goes way or at least gets minimized, you have a much greater chance of making change happen.

Think about your own experience managing change. Test this theory and review where the gaps occurred. I think you will find the model holds true. Focus on the three components described here and you will greatly increase your own effectiveness leading change.

What do you do to overcome any resistance to change? Share, leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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Leaders: Do You Have a YES Face?

Yes face picture

There is a story about Thomas Jefferson when he was President. He and a group of close advisors rode horseback across the countryside. They came upon a river swollen by recent rains.

On the bank was a man without a horse. He gazed at the river not knowing how he would get across. One by one the men on horseback started across. Each making it to the other side.

Finally, it was Jefferson’s turn. The man asked if he could jump on with Jefferson and ride across. Jefferson obliged.

Once everyone was across, one of the other riders asked the man why he chose Jefferson; asking if he knew Jefferson was the President.

The man said, “President? I didn’t know that. I just knew his face said YES while all you other guys’ face said NO.”

If you’re in a leadership position, do you have a YES face?

Think About It

Think about the times a senior executive presented a new plan or a new vision but had a stern, perhaps sour face; a NO face. How hard was it to believe in the plan?

Look at the picture below. Which people could you relate to the best?

Photo courtesy Unsplash.com

Executive leaders need to think about their face when they make announcements, hold discussions, and conduct meetings. The look you have says much more than the words you speak.

Tell Your Face

I had a coaching client who was sharing with me the great excitement of the new job he just got promoted into. He was gushing about the team and the opportunity. He was assuring me he had great admiration for the people and the purpose. Yet he shared this whole story with a stoic face; no grin, no emotion, just power words about the positive aspects of the opportunity.

When he was finished talking, I asked if he really believed all the things he just told me. He assured me YES!

I said, “Then tell your face.” He was stunned. He wasn’t sure what I meant. I explained.

His content was positive, but his context was wrong. The look on his face lied about the message.

Think about this the next time you need to talk with your team or your crew. Get your face in line with the message.

Box for scheduling coaching call

If this makes sense, leave a comment. Tell us about a time when you had to get your “Yes face” on.

Being an Authentic Leader Does Not Always Come Naturally

Authentic leadership

One of the highest valued attributes of great leaders is their authenticity. Being authentic does not always come naturally. The good news is, you can develop a more authentic leadership style.

On one hand, being authentic requires having a sense of “true north.”

True North

Ask a room full of people to close their eyes and point North. When everyone opens their eyes, fingers are pointing all over the place. (Try this some time; it’s a great ice breaker).

The message is that “north”, can conjure various meanings depending on one’s perception. Yet, true north is available for specific identification and location using the right equipment. It doesn’t change.

Your leadership should have this same kind certainty about it. You have to decide on your definition of true north, then stick to it.

When issues swirl around you and your team, you should have a reputation for responding to certain things in certain ways. If your people know this about you, then there will be a confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Accepting Feedback

Being truly open to feedback helps build the sense of leadership authenticity. By accepting input from others, you demonstrate a desire to learn and grow.

We all have tendencies to fall into a kind of rut. We find a rhythm to our life and we put things on cruise control. However, if that path takes you away from the authenticity you seek, you need a nudge to get back on the better path.

Here’s what to do. Say to those around you “Here’s my vision and my plan for how I intend to operate. If you see me doing something to the contrary, I invite you to say so.”

The other benefit of soliciting feedback is that you come across as genuinely engaged with the people you count on. Rather than constantly demanding something from them in terms of performance and accomplishment, you give them a chance to “shoot back”.

A healthy exchange of ideas can add great value to your relationships at work and everywhere else. You’ll become a more authentic leader.

One Caution

One word of caution though. Don’t “over-share”. Your people don’t need your burdens, but they will appreciate knowing you too have life outside the office.

As an example, you can casually say something about your daughter’s birthday party coming up, but you don’t need to share all the details and drama that might be going with the event.

Take Inventory

If you aren’t sure how authentic you might be, ask. Get some feedback.

Huddle with a circle of trusted advisors and ask them to provide you with a description of how they grade your authenticity. You might also ask them about ways they could see you improving.

If all of this is still a puzzle to you, I’d be happy to book a short call to help you learn more. Click the link below to schedule a call.

Click box to schedule a call with Doug Thorpe

Managers Being a Friend at Work or Just Friendly?

Friends at work

Anyone who has ever become a supervisor or manager knows the strain of drawing fine lines around relationships at work. Some companies have very explicit fraternization policies. Others are far more relaxed.

Friends at work

The size of the company can also dictate the level of relationships people are permitted to have. On one hand, smaller, more entrepreneurial start-up or emerging businesses rely upon close internal relationships to grow and thrive. Bigger, perhaps publicly traded, companies often get far more formal in their administration of HR policy because they need consistency to protect themselves from higher risks and defend themselves from an employee complaint.

The Manager’s Seat

Sitting in the manager’s seat is where all of this comes to a very personal focal point. Can you or should you become friends with any of your employees?

In a recent post, I presented a six-step framework for building high performing teams by elevating the level of trust within the team. To build trust, business leaders must provide special empathy towards their employees. The right kind of empathetic conduct may easily slip into the friend zone.

Friends

First, let’s deal with the exact context of the word “friend”. In my experience, it represents a genuine bond; some extra level of trust you don’t share with just anyone. Yet there are consequences for a manager who creates a true friendship with an employee.  Here are just a few of the possible risks:

  • Your judgment toward the individual can become biased
  • Evaluation and compensation can be compromised
  • Resentment from other employees

Genuine friendships that may have developed at work while you were in other roles may now need to be adjusted if that friend becomes a direct report.

Showing Empathy

As a leader, keeping your friend list in check doesn’t mean you need to stop being friendly. The traits that make someone friendly usually center around the whole ability to show empathy. 

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner. Although there may be a genetic basis to empathy, research suggests it is possible to boost your capacity for empathic understanding. [from Psychology Today]

empathy at work

Managers and leaders who increase their empathetic listening skills will rapidly improve their connection to their employees.

Question: How do you handle friendships at work? Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailinglist.

Click here to subscribe right now!

Leadership: It’s in the Bag, Part II

When coaching an executive or business owner about leadership, there is a word picture that tells so much more than all the other metaphors. That word picture is golf. Those of you might ‘hate golf’ or don’t know much about it, please stay with me.

The game of golf is a collection of challenges intentionally designed to test your skills. In a standard round of golf, there are 18 holes, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Some of the holes are longer than others. Some have water obstacles, others have sand. Often you have both. Elevations change, grass changes, shapes, and cuts give every hole a special personality.

43607996_s

You tee off on each hole, hoping to reach the green in as few strokes as possible. Once you have reached the green, all that remains are a few shorter touches to sink the ball into the cup, but oh how hard those last strokes can be. The turns and twists of the surface of the green make some hard uphill runs while others are slippery downhill slopes. Here, even the length and density of the grass can influence your effectiveness at putting.

There is a target score called “par” which means you have successfully navigated the designed hazards and achieved a positive outcome.

To conquer these challenges, we buy a “full set of clubs”. The rules of golf allow you to carry 14 clubs in your bag. You get to choose what the 14 sticks include. These clubs become your tools for mastering the course.  The shafts vary in length as will the club heads vary in angle and density. Each one has a designed purpose so that you control both the length and trajectory of the flight of the ball.

People who achieve the best skills at golf can “shape a shot”; making the flight of the ball bend left or right depending on the angle they need to compensate for topography or wind direction.  The best golfers do this “shot shaping” at will; whenever a shot is needed.

Golf shot shapes

So how does all of this apply to management and leadership?

The Parallels 

The golf course can represent the work in front of you; the people, the tasks, the goals, and objectives. Each aspect of your work will have a different dimension, shape, or trait. This applies to the people who work for you as well as the business of the company. New projects take on new shapes. The list can be long and the complexities very diverse.

In management and leadership, you have to plot the course and make plans to achieve the desired outcome. With golf, beating “par” is the goal.

In leadership, having the equivalent of the lowest score (beating par) would mean getting the best results as quickly as possible, mastering the uniqueness of the situation, making good selections, and executing on those selections.

The approach and methods you choose for each situation mimic the need for various golf clubs. Even once a club is selected, the way you swing determines the shape of the shot. Leadership requires a variety of approaches and techniques. There is no one answer that fits all situations.

Leaders who use one style and a “my way or the highway” mindset can be effective for a little while. However, using variations on your leadership approach will allow you to fit the situation and achieve far greater results.

Managing the Course

In golf, we talk a lot about course management. This means knowing the twists and turns and adding to that information the data you have each day about the weather, wind, and overall playing conditions.

When a course gets hot and dry, the ball cannot be controlled as well. If a shot is hit too far or too hard, the hardened surface will allow the ball to run away from the target. On the other hand, a course that has had a lot of rain will play softer. Even when you want a ball to run, it may not due to the wet conditions.

Working with a course management mindset helps to set-up the rest of the game for shot selection (club selection) and approach.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]At work, we must course manage every day. As circumstances change, so must our choices for solutions. [/perfectpullquote]

While we might have made a tactical decision early on i.e. a way we are planning to handle a customer, a supplier, or an employee, the situation with that relationship may change day by day. This requires us to alter our decisions about the way we need to handle things.

Knowing Your Equipment

Today, golf manufacturers introduce new and improved equipment almost weekly. Keeping up with the latest technological improvements for feel, control, and response with the clubs can be a full-time endeavor. Yet, the need to become proficient with what you own can only happen with repetition through practice. Constantly changing equipment creates the need for adapting to the new tool.

It can be this way too with management and leadership tools and training. Attending seminars and buying programs to teach new techniques for leadership will not work without full adoption and practice. Giving in to the temptation to be buying every new idea is just like the weekend golfer who buys every new club in hopes that this latest tweak will be the magic bullet to solve the problems in his game. Instead, it would be more beneficial for him to use what he owns to practice making each of the shots he might need one day.

Practice and Feedback

Leadership is a solitary endeavor. Just like golf, a person can labor quietly to improve their game. Constant practice is the best way to figure out how you can hit each club. Then rendition helps to lock in muscle memory to aid in the execution of a shot when the time comes. In golf, feedback is pretty instant. The ball either goes where you want it to or not.

In leadership, feedback can be this quick too, but more likely is not. You don’t always know how well your selection of club and shot (your approach) worked out. This is especially true with leading people. Though you may get pretty good at knowing how to handle certain people, to be a better leader you must become well versed in inspiring all people.

Good Days and Bad Days

Anyone who has been a golfer knows there are good days and bad days. You might be able to play a number of rounds and shoot really good scores. Then all of a sudden, you go out one day, and BANG! Everything goes wrong.

Management and leadership have those days too. Things happen. You must let the bad days pass. Stay true to what you know about yourself and your team. Don’t start making major adjustments to your leadership methods before you can resolve whether big changes are truly needed.

If all that is needed is a cooling off period, tearing into your whole method and approach for leadership can be damaging.

Summary

Effective leadership has never been a one size fits all solution. Great leaders know how to adapt, change, and adjust their tools and methods depending on the situation.

Just like making a golf club selection when you are facing a dogleg left with a slight breeze in your face, there are many different details to measure and include in leadership decision making.

Be flexible, be willing to shape your shot. Hey, it’s in the bag!

Author’s note: This topic first appeared in 2016 and was highly regarded as a popular post. So with a few updates and edits, I present it again as a reminder to leaders everywhere.

Living in the Meantime

There are times when nothing particularly big is happening. You’re in between assignments, projects, or deadlines. You have work to do and places to be, but the sense of purpose goes on autopilot. The time between one occurrence and another; an interval is the meantime.

Should that bother you? I say not necessarily unless it lingers too long.

I call this “living in the meantime.” You just finished something and are waiting for the next thing to arrive or start. Yet life is going on. You must wait or endure in the meantime.

Meantime can be a good time if you choose to use it wisely. We all need recovery times after running a fast pace, high energy cycle. See my prior article on this very important aspect of stress management. But we can also use the meantime for growth and learning.

Leaders need to wisely use the meantime. You can use the time both personally and professionally.

Team

What might otherwise feel like a lull can be a powerful way to reconnect with the team. Running at a fast pace has a way of distancing your more personal relationships at work. I am talking about those interactions one on one with your team. I’ll guess that when the projects are flying at a wild pace, you likely do less of your one on one meetings. Typically you let those slide in favor of group sessions.

When the meantime comes, take time to rebuild the one on one.

Personally

Leaders need to recalibrate. You too can get off track with personal disciplines when the workload is bigger than you are used to. Again, you likely forego your routines like eating right and going to the gym when the daily schedule is packed too tight.

Use the meantime to reset. Focus your daily planner on the things that work well for you. Get back to the right routines.

Professionally

Living in the meantime can have other benefits too. Stephen Covey talks about “sharpening the saw.” This is finding books or other sources of inspiration and learning to keep moving forward. If the last big push at work revealed some opportunities for you to grow, then use the meantime to do it. Perhaps your last review showed areas for improvement. Meantime is the time to invest in improving where you need to so that you can be the best YOU you need to be.

Living in the meantime is really a great time. Use it wisely.

Question: What have you done lately to redeem the meantime in your life?

 

The Surf is Up Before the Tsunami v2.0

success

 

There is an old Beach Boys song with this lyric. “The surf is up before the tsunami.”

SUrfer

It makes me think of a phenomenon I have seen time and again in business. After almost 20 years in commercial banking, I saw a lot of highs and lows with my business customers. Companies on a good, perhaps even great, growth track are sometimes headed for a big storm. I am not talking about the tide shift when the economic conditions go bad. No, I am talking about having the success of the company outpace the change within.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When the company’s leadership fails to recognize and act upon the things that need to change to sustain growth and prosperity, the company may ultimately fail. I’ve named this condition “The Paradox of Success”.[/perfectpullquote]

All companies will go through various life cycle stages. As they mature from start-up to being a going concern, there are critical changes that the leadership and management must execute. These are things like capital investment in equipment or facilities, people, and process. The thrill of riding a wave of early success can obstruct your view of things to come.

A Sad Tale

I once knew a company owned by a very successful husband and wife team. Their little baby (the business) grew mightily. First, they dominated a local market. Then they branched into statewide operations. That too was very successful. It seemed they had a Midas touch for turning everything they touched into gold. Eventually, they went national with their service offerings. That’s when the trouble started.

At the local level, it was easy to keep the owner’s hands in all things. Even at the state level, it was more difficult to control but relatively easy to expand the support functions by adding a few key people, still keeping the owners involved in virtually every key decision required to run the show.

However, once they launched nationally, the business challenges grew exponentially.

  • There were state regulators with different requirements.
  • Remote operations were needed to expedite the timing of service deliveries.
  • Cash flows were more complex.
  • Worst of all, some of the key staff members who helped build the original business were just not capable of handling the diverse nature of all the new problems the national market created.
  • The business outgrew its team.

The Big So What

Sometimes the leadership team itself needs to grow or change. Founders often fail to see these things coming. Often with entrepreneurs, the business gets bigger than their own management ability. The wise founder will accept advice from consultants, coaches or investors and allow the reins of control to be handed to other, more qualified leadership.

A talent management friend likes to remind owners “If you want to grow your business from $5 million to $10 million, don’t hire more $5MM people to do it. Hire the guy who already operates with a $10MM mindset. Let them bring their system to you.”

It is this kind of change that is most difficult for entrepreneurs to recognize and adjust. Just because things are going well, be ready for the next growth spurt. Embrace the change that is needed, make plans, seek wise counsel, and deal with making the right change.

Question; Is your company on the brink of a growth cycle? Are you really ready for it?

coaching call

Leaders: There’s a New Way to Understand Change

New leadership

At a recent luncheon, I was involved in a discussion that I find becoming more common. The topic was this: Change Management is old news. The argument says the way we once understood change management has been overcome by several new and more complex drivers in business.

New leadership

Here are some of the reasons old-style change management doesn’t work anymore.

First, we are now into Phase Three of technology advancements. Phase One was the development of the Internet; building the superhighway for information exchange. Phase Two was the emergence of power users who understood the opportunities from phase one and launched very disruptive platforms to overhaul the way we operate and live (think Apply, Amazon, Facebook, Google). Phase Three, our current phase, includes IOT (the Internet of Things), nanotechnologies, and other rapid response initiatives in energy, life sciences, and medicine.

The pace at which Phase Three operates has the potential for changing in an instant. Long, drawn out change management plans can’t sustain the rapid change happening required by Phase Three.

Another factor is the whipsaw effect most business leaders find themselves these days. Conflicting interests create massive paradoxes that keep managers and leaders on their heels. These are examples of polar opposites that now exist in businesses of all sizes, and the list goes on.

Be more hands-on with business, but less hands-on with people. Executives stated a need to find new ways to be inclusive and to help others develop. Meanwhile, they’re now more conscious of keeping their eye on the day-to-day business in a way that’s more encompassing.

Do more with less. Drive increased productivity while reducing resources and controlling costs.

Empower the work team but manage risk. Leaders must take chances while safeguarding the business. In a highly
unpredictable market, this balancing act is more difficult than ever before.

Seel diverse points of view but drive unified action. A leader must encourage people to share ideas while inspiring them
to embrace the ultimate decision.

Next, conventional leadership approaches involving annual reviews, merit awards, and other older compensation models don’t support the rapid change cycles. People can work multiple, very diverse assignments within a one year review period. Conventional tools like strategic planning and budgeting have time horizons that look like glacier movement when compared to the fast pace of some current change.

Lastly, old mindsets about human behavior in the face of change are becoming less effective for managing and leading work teams. Whether you blame it on the Millennial effect or some other convenient excuse for poor leadership, teams today don’t thrive under old ways of managing.

New Model

To better accommodate the rapid change in the business world today, you must adopt a different view. I have become an evangelist for one that makes much more sense.

core-agility-edge

I call it ACE for Agility, Core, and Edge. Let’s start with the Core.

CORE

The Core is who we are and what we know/believe. It’s the stuff we’re “made of”. Core comes from the composite experiences we have had in life. Your core includes values, beliefs, experience, biases, prejudices (yes we all have them). It also includes the knowledge you have accumulated whether by teaching, training or practical experience.

The Core is not limited to values and beliefs but has much to do with that. Understanding your own core can help define purpose. Core helps to understand the power of harnessing your mind’s attention and your hearts affection. When these two critical elements are running in harmony, you can be an unstoppable force.

Core creates our comfort zones. When you feel you are operating in a comfort zone, you are deep in your core.

EDGE

As you face new challenges or get pushed into unfamiliar circumstances, you are walking on the Edge. The edge is where everything we don’t know lives. New ideas, new technology, new programs, business growth initiatives, all are edge things.

Standing on the edge takes us far away from our core and leaves us uncomfortable. Most of us don’t like the edge. We don’t like it on the edge. For many of us, we don’t even like stepping too far away from our core.

Yet changes happening around us demand that we visit the edge. All the “new” things in your world are likely Edge items, not core ones.

AGILITY

Agility is the special ability to move from core to edge and back again without losing all sense of balance or security. Great leaders develop their agility more than even their core. Having agility as a leader gives you the strength to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. The agiler you might be as a leader, the more you are known as the stabilizing force.

Agility…

  • Requires being fully aware “in the moment” to concentrate intensely on the needs of the situation
  • Allows for behavioral transitions between proven practices and new approaches
  • Is employed in a proactive and intentional way to increase the effectiveness

Have you ever worked for someone who seemed to never get rattled despite some very stressful situations? That person had agility. They could go out to the edge (the stress) and not lose sight of their core. They knew their core was a strength and an ever-present reservoir of wisdom and experience. They knew that going to the edge did not require abandoning the core.

Lee Hecht Harrison conducted a survey of 130 executive level leaders (CEO, COO, CFO or Presidents) from over 92 organizations. FIndings show that the most successful leaders are adept at using a wide range of behaviors strategically matched to produce targeted impact.

Here are some of their top line findings:

  1. In response to dealing with paradoxes and contradictory environments, leaders need to make frequent choices about the way in which they lead. They must draw upon a broad range of behaviors to navigate and lead most effectively.
  2. In order to increase their agility, leaders cannot rely solely on their strengths and preferences. They must learn and practice new behaviors.
  3. Behavior shifts cannot be prescribed; rather, personal capability must be developed to select the right approach “in-the-moment.” This requires the development of self-reflection, which builds the awareness to effectively scan the situation, select the most results-orientated focus, shift to the required behavior and learn from the experience.

The Best Type of Change

Back to the argument about change management. The best change you can pursue is learning to develop your agility. For the moment, your core is finite. It is only just so big.

The edge is arguably infinite. There are moments of all types every day that become edge events in our lives. Do you disagree with infinite? Think of the edge as a circle around your core. Mathematicians tell us there is an infinite number of points along the outer edge of a circle.

The best change you can pursue is learning how to grow your agility. Why? Because better agility gets you out to the edge faster with a more stable ability to respond. Then once the edge is handled, you revert back to the core. This push and pull build a resilience.

Steps for Increasing Personal Agility

Because self-awareness is the first step, you need to learn to “see” when agility is being used. The person may be aware or unaware that they are behaving with agility. What you will notice is that the person is using a combination of approaches in dealing with a group and has success in getting a broad range participation that leads to focused, productive action. They are curious about
what others have to say and respectful of diverse views, bringing a level of creativity and innovation to addressing complex situations.

Scan

  • Find a leader who demonstrates the ability to select the right behaviors for a range of different situations. Notice when they match their approach to the situation. Ask them to share how they make this determination. Have a discussion about how you both become aware of matching your behavior to the situation.
  • Identify what “clues” you use to determine whether to go for “core” or “edge.”
  • Practice identifying when you are in “core” and “edge” modes. Become aware of how you choose which approach to apply.

Focus

  • Practice becoming aware of yourself when you are distracted and how you can regain focus.
  • Practice concentrating your attention, identify a work or point of attention that you can use to refocus your actions. Use it when you notice yourself getting off track.
  • Identify the environment that gives you the highest level of performance. Notice the results you get when you are in this environment.

Shift

  • Identify how you “know” when it is time to shift and move on. How do you determine your point of diminishing return for an approach? Notice when you have stayed in one mode for too long.
  • Practice using this “signal” to make change earlier.
  • Notice what happens when you release your focus and move
    your attention.

There is an added benefit. Once you more effectively move back and forth between core and edge, you actually grow your core. Your experiences out on the edge become your new truth. The new impact of having completed an edge task adds to your core.

I know I’ll get letters from my change management friends. These I welcome because then we’ll all get to share ideas about new edges and where our core sits. Let’s ACE it!

Author’s Note: This ACE model is shared by permission of Lee Hecht Harrison, a global leader in talent development. It has been my privilege to work with their team across the U.S. coaching senior executives at major corporations.

To see more about this framework, click here.

 

Suit Up, Show Up, and Shut Up

Business leader

Suit Up, Show Up, and Shut Up – Three wise words shared with Mothers of the Groom for wedding planning and etiquette. A friend whose son was getting married recently shared this with me. I had heard it before but had forgotten the teaching. It sounds cruel but it has merit in the situation. After all, weddings are for the Brides, right?

As this triplet rang in my ears, I realized there is a leadership teaching in here too. In a world of complex managerial challenge and voids of bonafide leadership, the ways executives and business owners conduct themselves takes center stage. These three gems just might hold some valuable truth.

Business leader

Suit Up

When you are in a position of authority, you have to suit up every day. I don’t mean dress slacks and ties or dresses, I mean putting on your full wardrobe of talent and experience. You just can’t leave anything behind. Forgetting about the knowledge and experience you bring to the job can be fatal. You have to be prepared.

You must be willing to get ready for each and every day. You owe it to your team to come to the office or the plant as fully decked out in mental clarity, emotional energy, and technical skill as you can.

It can be tiring. It can be boring. You might even be tempted to “call it in” every so often. But if you do, you will have personally taken some air out of the room. Your people will know it.

Show Up

Your team counts on you whether you believe that or not. Consciously or subconsciously they want their leader present. Presence has to be physical and emotional. You have to be connected.

As the moments of the day tick away, you need to be present in each of those moments. The best leadership doesn’t happen at big meetings or forums, it happens in the next minute when someone who works with you needs a question answered or asks for guidance. Great leadership is in those moments.

Shut Up

You don’t need to know it all. Rely on the people who surround you. Ask questions but don’t direct everything. You can guide but don’t dictate. Encourage rather than condemn.

There’s an old saying “it takes ten atta-boys to make up one OH s*&$t!” Your people will respond better to a level-headed discussion rather than harsh critique.

Work to be more of a listener rather than a talker. Use an empathetic ear when your team is talking to you. Either in group settings or one-on-one, be the one who listens more than talks. Measure your words and speak wisely when you do speak.

Find ways to turn issues into learning experiences. Yes, you may have to occasionally take a hard line, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.

coaching call

Three Simple Truths

Suit up, show up and shut up – yes it sounds harsh, especially to Moms who are marrying off their precious sons. At work though, these can be some of the most powerful truths to live by. When you violate any or all of these principles you will find your team or your business operating a level much below your expectation. The problem won’t be your team. It might be YOU.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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