The journey starts

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”    by Machiavelli, The Prince (1532)

Let´s start with a quick refresh: as I was discussing about how to implement change, the most intriguing question I see in this debate is  “What prevents us from making it happen?”

The list that follows is not a complete one, but there I present the top suspects I see and which most literature talks about. Three seems to be a good number. So here are the top 3 reasons that prevent us from being successful when managing change:

  1. Wrong diagnosis: we often underestimate the change and do not understand how big it can actually be. We treat the change as a “technical” problem when it may be an “adaptive one”;
  2. Immunity to change: we are humans and are built to resist change because of the perceived dangers and risks. It is a natural reaction. The problem is that we fail to tackle this resistance the right way;
  3. Lack of true leader´s sponsorship: our leaders are not fully equipped to take on their role in a transformational process.

On top of those, there are so many other “classical” mistakes that can take place. A typical one is when the change is not perceived as important and urgent. This lack of a clear need for change makes it difficult from the beginning. It is not possible to imagine how anyone could devote their time and energy to a change project that has no clear reason for existing in the first place. In fact, creating the sense of need and urgency is the first step of Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change, which is a very comprehensive model about how to manage change.

All the 3 issues I mentioned above in my list are not easy ones to solve, because they are the least rational parts of managing change. Take for example Kotter´s first step or the first step of Prosci methodology (“build awareness of the change”). It may be a lot of work but we can come up with a communication plan to build awareness. The process is quite simple: we map the impacted stakeholders, understand their main concerns and develop the messages that have to be delivered, stating when, how and by whom. It looks very rational and logical. But do we truly understand how this change will impact the people? Do we know our people well enough to comprehend their resistance? Do our leaders have their peoples´s best interest as a priority? Or are they prepared to deal with the change by themselves? This is where it becomes really problematic.

Rational may be a tough and complicated task and may require efficiency, intelligence and other attributes for one to succeed. But when we are dealing with non-rational, when emotions are involved, we are at a whole different playing field.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Will you join me in this journey?

We all know that change is hard, but we don’t know enough about why it is so hard and what we can do about it

From the book “Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good)” by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey

In my last post, I posed a question that has been bothering me in the last years: why do we fail? We often know what to do, instead we fail to do it. Take as an example implementing a change in an organization. We all know how communication is a key success factor, and yet we often do not communicate enough or we do not craft the messages in the right way (or so many other communication mistakes we make…). SAP implementation is another great example. Even when you stumble into what is considered a good success case, you will find it has had many problems. Most cases, however, are not successful stories. They are horror stories! And people have done it many times, over and over. Or a more common example of our lives: despite knowing what it takes to lose weight, we all agree how difficult it is to actually lose weight, right?

Let´s take this back to the business world. If you are a leader or aspires to be one, I bet you probably read books on leadership. Most business people do. It´s a way of knowing the big discussions out there, provoke thoughts and help you identify ways of becoming a better leader. Not to mention that you want to have what to discuss with your peers in the meetings and seminars where you meet (that is, if not for the best reasons, at least you read these books because you want to look smart, which is fine).

The truth is that these books offer very good insights about what leadership is and how we can all become great leaders. We read them, so we should know about what it takes and what to do, right? Yet, we do not find these great leaders in abundance out there. Answer with honesty: are companies full of great leaders or “not so great” leaders (to avoid saying “bad leaders”)?

Therefore, the question persists: What prevents us from making it happen?

I will devote my next posts to explore this question. It is not a simple one and I do not intend to fully solve it. It just happens that I find this discussion more helpful than just bringing new insights about theories and things we all seem to know. I hope you find this debate interesting too and decide to stick with me in this journey, for weekly discussions. See you in my next post.

Simple, yet frustrating

Gremlins

A new article by McKinsey, just published, informed:

Transformational change is still hard, according to a new survey. But a focus on communicating, leading by example, engaging employees, and continuously improving can triple the odds of success.

Read the McKinsey article here

In this same article, they emphasize:

Focus on people, not the project. Transformations are about the people in the organization as much as they’re about the initiatives.

So my question for you is: how complicated is this? It sounds obvious and simple and it appears to be quite easy, right? If an organization is going to change something big, communicating it right (to mention one of the basics) seems so important and easy to do.

But we all fail.

I have failed myself. I was the change management leader of a major transformational project, and despite all the methodology I knew, we failed; I failed. The implementation was just like most other system implementations, where most people are not really prepared, the system presents lots of problems and bugs, it took longer and cost more, and people do not understand why “on Earth” they went through all this headache. Eventually things become better and the benefits to the business show, but the change process was painful and lasted longer than needed. I could not say it was what we promised.

Why is it so difficult then to put into practice what we read in the books? I remember reading so many good tips about how to handle a change management process. I was even certified! But I must admit t is frustrating to see that the real world is so different.

Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory) once said he doesn´t like to watch Gremlins (the film), because the rules are so simple (e.g. do not feed them after midnight) and yet at the end there are lots of Gremlins all over terrifying the village. “How difficult is that?” he says with great frustration.

Most people will say it is difficult because we are talking about people. Others will say it is difficult because it requires everyone in the organization to share the same intention. But at the end of the day, we are all these same people, aren´t we?

Simple, yet frustrating.

I do not think we have reached the real root causes.

All I know is that I don´t know. What about you? What do you think?

I will stop here, and leave it as food for thought.

Book review: To sell is human

to sell is humanToday we get more opportunities to get our our message than Elisha Otis ever imagined. But our recipients have far more distractions than those conventioneers in 1853 who assembled to watch Otis not fall to his death.

writes Daniel Pink about Otis elevator´s pitch in 1853.

 

I have read another very interesting book from Daniel Pink: To sell is human. Once again, he surprises us with great concepts, ideas and references.

This book is not only about traditional sales but, even more important, about non-sales selling. As he explains it, non-sales selling means “persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don´t involve anyone making a purchase.” He cites as examples: teaching, coaching or instructing others, serving clients or customers. Educators for instance. But the best definition in my point of view, the one he uses that caught my attention and appears in the cover of the book, was that selling is about “moving others”.

Take the business leaders for instance. We are moving people absolutely all the time. Moving them to make their best effort; to be committed to their work; to produce results; at least, to keep working for our company. To come up with innovative ideas, to champion the changes we need to implement. Moving others is what we do all the time in our offices! Not to mention in our personal lives: convince the kid to study harder for the exams, the husband to spend more time with the kids, the grandparents to stop buying expensive gifts for their grandsons, and yourself – to keep up with the diet and the exercise.

Daniel Pink defines the ABC of moving others as:

A – Attunement (Getting out of your own head and taking someone else’s perspective)

B – Buoyancy (Staying afloat on what one salesman called “an ocean of rejection.”)

C – Clarity (Shifting from accessing information to curating it and from solving existing problems to identifying hidden ones.)

As in his other books, he illustrates with great case examples and brings exercises, activities and references to help put the concepts into practice. His book is actually just the starting point, because you jump from one reference to the other and it looks endless. It is a delight to learn so much. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

For further references, visit his web page here (Daniel Pink):

 

 

 

 

Thought of the day/Pensamento do Dia

The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark  Michelangelo

It´s what they say: be careful with what you want, because you might just get it!

How would the world be so much better if all of us just did our best? If we were not satisfied with bad performance? If we put our mind and heart to what we are doing?

In the business world, employee´ willingness to “aim high” – depends on himself- but will also depend on how the organization he works for provides him the right incentives to do so.

So here is the reflection: are the companies creating a work environment that promotes this sort of engagement?

How can they do it?

==============

O maior perigo para a maioria de nós reside não em mirar alto e acertar baixo mas em mirar muito baixo e acertar nosso alvo  Michelangelo

É o que dizem: tenha cuidado com o que deseja, pois você pode conseguir exatamente o que quer!

Como o mundo seria tão melhor se todos nós fizéssemos o nosso máximo? Se não nos satisfizéssemos com baixa performance? Se colocássemos nossos corações e mentes naquilo que estamos fazendo?

No mundo de negócios, a disposição de um empregado em “mirar alto” – depende dele – mas também vai depender de como a organização para qual ele trabalha provê os incentivos corretos para que ele o faça.

Então aqui fica minha reflexão: as empresas criam um ambiente de trabalho que promove esse tipo de engajamento?

Como fazer?

Coaching is Not…

Setting expectations upfront about coaching

In this short but very effective post Coaching is Not…, the author brings a very good distinction between coaching and other disciplines such as therapy, mentoring, management and consulting.

In my professional (and personal experience) so far, there is nothing more powerful and important than setting expectations. If you do it right, the path is clearer and better laid out for you and your client. So setting the expectations about what coaching is and is not is one critical step before initiating the coaching sessions per se.

And it is even more important in the current scenario where coaching is increasingly becoming more popular, and so we run the risk of having misconceptions about what it really is.

The coaches already know this but let me reinforce it: it is vital that you spend some time with your client setting the right expectations for the work. Even if your client does not think it is important or does not have the time for it.

If you are a client, make sure your coach addresses the nature of the work and what you can expect upfront. It is a well spent time.

 

 

 

The Coaching Source

Many clients are unclear of what to expect from coaching.  Some of my clients come to their first coaching sessions expecting me to tell them what to do, focus on their past behaviors, or fix them.  I explain coaching focuses on the present, goal setting, and forward movement.  As a coach, I view my clients as naturally, creative, resourceful and whole.  They have the solution.  They may not realize it, but they do!  It is my job to help them uncover the solution and to create action.

A colleague from the local ICF Chapter created the below distinctions between Coaching and other service professions.

What other distinctions stand out for you?

Therapist:  Can deal with past patterns that don’t work and with intense emotions; Analyzes problems to find out “why?”; Often focuses on non-functional behaviors; Model: something is wrong that needs fixing

Coach:  Focuses on present and future…

View original post 208 more words

Book review: The Opposable Mind – how successful leaders win through integrative thinking (Roger Martin)

As the author explains and as most of us may recall from biology classes, human beings have a distinguished feature known as “the opposable thumb”. It is the tension created by opposing the thumb and the fingers that enables us human beings to do extraordinary things that no other creature can do. The same happens with our minds. As pointed out in the book, we were born with an opposable mind – where we can hold two conflicting ideas in a constructive tension. Problem is that most of us do not use it.

The author argues in this book that successful leaders do use their opposable minds; these leaders have the ability to hold two opposing ideas and, without just deciding for one alternative or the other, are able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea. They do not see the world as a binary system of trade-offs or either-or. They are capable of managing conflicting ideas, and without desperation, they build a whole new creative solution that most people do not even see that exists.

How do they do it? How do they view beyond the regular trade-offs?

They have a different way of problem solving. They use what the author calls “integrative thinking”, and take a broader view of what is important. They see complex relationships, multidirectional and non-linear. They keep the entire problem firmly in mind while working on its individual parts. This is in fact a feature of the right-side of the brain: “(…) it is a form of thinking and an attitude to life that is characteristic of the right hemisphere of the brain – simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual and synthetic (…).” (Daniel Pink, in A Whole New Mind)

In general, we are taught to do just the opposite: simplify and specialize so that we can cope with what might be overwhelming complexity! And then we can blame the trade-offs when things do not work as planned.

Successful leaders also use “generative reasoning”: a form of reasoning that inquires into what might be rather than what it is. Again, we were taught the opposite: Western education emphasizes the truth or falsity of a given proposition, through deductive or inductive logic. But it is difficult to create and innovate when we are firmly tied to existing frameworks and models.

The book mentions several interesting cases of CEOs that work with their opposable minds. I would like to leave you with a quote from one of them, A.G. Lafley from P&G:

“We weren´t going to win if it was an “or”. Everybody can do “or”. That´s the way the world works. You trade things off but you are not going to be the best in your industry. You are not going to win if you are in a trade-off game”