Monday, February 10, 2014

Free Webinar for Leaders: Managing Transitions to Change - Feb. 18 at 2 pm EST

I will be the featured guest for a free webinar next week!

Managing Transitions to Change: Wisdom for Leaders on Life in the Transition Zone - In today’s competitive business world, an organization’s success depends largely upon its ability to respond to change. How we manage change and lead people through transitions has a tremendous impact on productivity, and thereby business success. Failure to recognize and respond to the needs of people in transition can cause slowdowns, roadblocks, bottlenecks, and negative attitudes, ultimately defeating the change process. This 45 minute leadership webinar touches on the Change Formula, the Change Game Plan, and three proven Approaches to Change that will lead to business success.

When: February 18, 2014

Time: 2:00 PM EST

Please register at:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7733724353010997761

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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Webinars Made Easy®

Friday, February 07, 2014

On starting Facilitation Solutions

A few years ago, I was interviewed by a site called Maestro about why I started Facilitation Solutions.

Q. What inspired you to start your own company?

The idea of having my own company has been in my heart and on my mind for most of my 30+ year career. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. Call my own shots. Have a broad portfolio of clients. Variety. Diversity.

And one more thing: I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place. As an external consultant, you can touch a wide range of organizations. Steve Jobs said, “Make a dent in the universe.” That’s what I want to do.

So the mission of my company is to facilitate learning so that individuals, teams, and organizations can improve, grow, and achieve success.

*Q. Tell us about a training experience that was particularly memorable. *

I was the Training Manager supporting a R&D unit in NJ of a global pharma-chemicals company based out of Germany. The business unit head flew to NJ for a management meeting and, to my great surprise, asked to see me. He said, “Please help them to change.”

He was talking about my client group, a community of research scientists and technicians. The change he was referring to was the need to become more customer focused. The customers were the business units in North Carolina and Texas, both of which were fed up with the lack of commercially viable new product ideas from the NJ R&D unit.

Over a number of years, the perception had formed that the R&D unit in NJ was an ivory tower, disconnected from the real needs of the revenue generating business units. What did I do?

Working in concert with local management, HR, and Quality, I developed several initiatives, including an intra-preneuring course that showed the scientists how to frame their new ideas as business proposals. As well received as this was, the real breakthrough was a series of new idea brainstorming sessions, comprised of max-mix groups where researchers met with reps from the business units.

A young researcher, during these brainstorming meetings produced many innovative ideas that excited the business units, and helped shift their perception of the NJ R&D unit. It was an experience where I learned some important lessons about changing deeply entrenched perceptions and what it takes to turn around an organization that was headed for the chopping block.

Q. If you could make a list with the top 5 things that it takes to turn an organization around, what would they be?

1. A sense of urgency

2. A vision for the change (i.e. the desired end state)

3. A roadmap to get there, with clear roles, resources, and metrics

4. Lots of opportunities for involvement so that those affected by the change have a voice into the process

5. Unrelenting drum-beat and high visibility_

Q. What is the most challenging thing about creating cultural change in an organization?

Making it real and lasting.

By real, I mean more than just a fad, a slogan, or a new set of motivational posters. Real cultural change is behavioral. At the end of the day, the question is: Are we doing things differently?

By lasting, I mean institutionalizing the change, anchoring it (as John Kotter says) so that you can “hold the gains” and not slip back to the way we used to do things.

Q. What is the first question you ask the leaders of the business that requested your help?

Often the first question is “How can I help you?” which brings out their thinking on what the need(s) may be in their organization.

At some point, I will ask about the problems they are trying to solve; the skills they are trying to build in their people; the changes they are trying to drive in their business; and the results they hope to achieve with my help.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday February 7, 2014

Thursday, February 06, 2014

What does OD mean to you?

A couple years ago, Rowena Morais, the editor of HR Matters, asked me for my input on the field of Organization Development. She was conducting a global survey of OD practitioners on the state of OD.

I was asked, What is OD? What does OD mean to you – what are the things that you believe the person tasked with this role should look to manage and resolve?

Here's what I said.

At its essence, OD is about change. The person tasked with an OD role is an agent of change. The intent of organisational change is to improve the operating effectiveness of some part of the organisational system (or the whole system), improve the results, and improve the capabilities of the organisation.

Whether the projects address such diverse topics as leadership development, succession planning, merger integration, diversity, culture change, strategic planning, or performance management, the common denominator is change. Therefore, the effective OD practitioner is ever mindful of the change goal, understands the nature of organisational change, and utilises change models.

The effective OD practitioner is a consultant who manages OD projects by managing expectations with sponsors and clients, as well as those affected by the change, and other key stakeholders such as Human Resources. Because change causes uncertainty, stress, and even conflict in the organisation, the effective OD practitioner is ready to help facilitate the conversations needed to help people navigate their transitions to change.

As Principal and Senior Consultant with Facilitation Solutions, Terrence Seamon brings more than 25 years of extensive experience. His main practice areas are leadership development coaching and training and organisational development facilitation.

Terrence designs and delivers customised solutions to diverse clients in sectors such as Insurance, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Food, IT, Retail, Consumer, Non-Profit and Executive Education. Terrence works with executives, professionals and teams, coaching them on all aspects of organisational effectiveness, including leadership, culture, communication, and employee engagement. Terrence is a highly creative business leader with signature strengths in client-focused design and facilitation. His clients have praised him for his attentive focus on needs, as well as his ability to custom tailor an intervention that drives results for the business.

Posted on Thursday February 6, 2014

Monday, February 03, 2014

Be A Small Leader

U.S. President John Quincy Adams once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

Now there is a model of leadership that is well within reach of the ordinary person.

American folk music legend Pete Seeger died a few days ago at age 94. Not only had he helped pioneer the folk music movement of the 1960's, he was a social activist as well, whose efforts helped clean up the Hudson River.

In an interview, Seeger was asked how he feels about America's future. He said that he was optimistic.

But he added "Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many, many small leaders."

In his sermon this morning, my pastor Fr. Doug spoke about this point that Seeger made. We often put our faith in Great Leaders only to end up disappointed and demotivated by their lack of real change. We pin our hopes on them...and then they let us down.

Instead of hoping that Great Leaders will do things for us, we should become Small Leaders. Small Leaders, like my friend John Fugazzie, the founder and director of Neighbors Helping Neighbors in northern New Jersey, are ordinary citizens who see a need and decide to get involved. They step up and do something about it.

Small Leaders are not in it for the glory. They are in it for the positive effect that they want to have in people's lives.

Small Leaders act locally while thinking globally. They look at the big intractable problems that we face and, rather than being paralyzed, they take action.

Where can you be a Small leader this year? What can you do in your town or community to help others? What can you do to lift up someone who is struggling?

Are there people who are out of work in your area? Do you have a chapter of Neighbors Helping Neighbors in your local public library? Why not start one?

Posted on Terrence Seamon on Monday February 3, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

Leadership Lessons...from the Transition Zone

Today in Ridgewood, New Jersey, I was a guest speaker at the 3 year anniversary conference of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, an organization focused on helping the unemployed find work. The founder of NhN, John Fugazzie, invited me to speak about leadership.

Here in essence is my message. Job hunters have to recognize a huge blind spot and eliminate it. By getting rid of this unconscious obstruction, the unemployed can recognize and communicate to employers a strength that they possess that is very much in demand today.

What is it? Job hunters know something that is very valuable about leadership and change. Let me explain.

The great leadership expert Warren Bennis once defined leadership as the capacity to turn vision into reality.

Leading therefore is essentially about change. About making change happen.

Change is a difficult thing for many of us. Change expert William Bridges taught us about the distinction between change and transition. He once said: "So many change initiatives seem to cost too much, take too long, and fail to meet their objectives because they do only half the job. They are change-heavy and transition-light. Change and transition are different, and both are necessary for any significant change to work."

Job hunters know a great deal about transition. They are referred to as "transitioners." I even like to say that they are "transitionists," people who become quite adept at riding the waves of change.

So job hunters, whether they realize it or not, are learning very valuable lessons about what it takes to lead change. If I were to drill in and identify three of the skills, I would take a page from the U.S. Marines:

Adapt - Adapting means learning and changing constantly in the face of volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and ambiguity. Learning about oneself is especially important to job hunters so that they are always growing, getting feedback, and challenging themselves to keep moving.

Improvise - To improvise is to creatively generate alternate options. Sometimes on the spot! To innovate and come up with new ways to address the challenges one faces.

Overcome - Job hunters know about overcoming obstacles. Including overcoming fear. The great First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Organizational change expert Roland Sullivan once wrote in a note to me, "The leaders that have a successful way to transform their organizations will win the game."

Every organization that I know is looking to improve, and some even want to transform themselves into a high performance organization. Who better to help with this than someone who is a living, breathing veteran of transformation and change?

Day in and day out, job hunters are selling their brand to potential employers with the aim of producing a job offer. Turning a vision into reality.

Leaders make change happen. Job hunters can do that for their next employer.

Added Note: My LinkedIn connection Tim Soden shared this quote recently which captures the message in this blog post:

Think of managing change as an adventure. It tests your skills and abilities. It brings forth talent that may have been dormant. Change is also a training ground for leadership. When we think of leaders, we remember times of change, innovation and conflict. Leadership is often about shaping a new way of life. To do that, you must advance change, take risks and accept responsibility for making change happen.” ~ Charles E Rice.

Posted on Terrence Seamon Monday January 27, 2014

Sunday, December 29, 2013

People vs Results? There is no choice

Effective leaders use the skills of high engagement to create the conditions for people to perform with excellence.

Today’s overworked managers want to know what it takes to be successful. In my view, the key is to stay laser-focused on the two most important things, Results & People. Why? Because there is a vital connection between the two:

~ Your people deliver the results you desire. ~

If there is a secret to effective management, this is it!

Let’s dissect this formula into three component parts, People, Deliver, and Results.

People

The most effective managers develop their leadership capability. Leadership, by definition, requires Followers. You can’t be a leader alone. Your people are the means, the strategic channels, by which your organization reaches its goals. Therefore, your job is to do everything in your power to help your people succeed. At a high level, do what John Maxwell advises when he says: “A leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” And sometimes the leader gets out of the way.

Deliver

The verb “deliver” in this secret means “to do or carry out as promised; to give birth to.” Results don’t happen unless someone makes them happen. Interestingly, the origin of the word deliver means “to set free.” Effective leaders unshackle their people and do everything in their power to remove obstacles and facilitate successful performance.

Results

Every organization has a definition of success. When President John F. Kennedy said that America would put a man on the moon, he set in motion a great engine of success that unleashed tremendous creative energy…and changed the world. As General George S. Patton once famously said: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and why, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the origin of the term “deliver.” It stems from the Latin dēlīberāre, meaning to set free, to liberate. You can’t deliver by fettering your people. Paradoxically, to deliver, one must let go.

This concept of liberation is the breakthrough idea in Jack Welch’s legendary pronouncement that “What we are looking for are leaders at every level who can energize, excite and inspire rather than enervate, depress and control.”

The “old school” of managing said: Control people. Stay on top of them. Now we know that the most effective leaders set their people free to do what they do best so that they can deliver the desired results.

Recent organizational effectiveness research is pointing very consistently toward the key to this liberation. In a word, engagement. Gallup and other similar workplace research organizations are saying that the more engaged a workforce, the higher the productivity –and the profitability– of the company.

The research is also saying that there is one variable, among all the factors that influence employee engagement, that has the biggest influence: the quality and effectiveness of the company’s managers. As the saying goes, “Employees don’t leave their company. They leave their manager.”

So here’s the question: What must a manager do to become an Engaging Leader?

In my work with diverse organizations since the late 1990’s, I’ve identified ten practices that I have combined into an acronym that I call ALICE:

Align & Appreciate

These two practices are about High Focus. By Aligning, the Engaging Leader gets everyone focused on where the company is going (Goals, Objectives and Plans) and how each person can play a part in getting it there. By Appreciating, the Engaging Leader gets to know each person on his or her team, especially their talents, their strengths, their aspirations, and their life concerns.

Listen & Learn

These two practices illustrate the Leading By Example principle. By Listening, the Engaging Leader adopts an open posture, receptive to all points of view, even those that are different from his or her own. By Learning, the Engaging Leader continues to grow, replenishing and revitalizing his or her own sources of creativity.

Involve & Improve

These two practices tap into the human yearning for Purpose and the desire to Participate. By Involving, the Engaging Leader treats each person like a partner in the business and asks “What do you think?” By Improving, the Engaging Leader uses collaboration and teamwork to find better ways to do things, solutions to operating problems, and even innovations that can lead to breakthroughs for the company.

Communicate & Coach

These two practices, along with the next two, are the key to High Performance. By Communicating, the Engaging Leader establishes a clear channel of dialogue with each member of the team so that information and ideas flow back and forth continuously, resulting in Understanding and Commitment. By Coaching, the Engaging Leader gives on-going performance feedback to each of his or her players, supporting and encouraging them to do their very best.

Energize & Empower

These two practices replace the old “Command and Control” model of leadership with a new model based on motivation and trust. By Energizing, the Engaging Leader activates the excitement of Mission, tapping into the human desire for autonomy, for self-determination, and for self-mastery. By Empowering, the Engaging leader galvanizes and authorizes the team to Execute, to decide how best to get to where its going, trusting that a well-trained team will use its resources wisely to reach a high quality decision.

By doing these ten practices consistently and continuously, a good manager will become an Engaging Leader. And she will be able to move the needle on engagement, on morale, on productivity, and even on profitability.

So if you want to become a more effective manager, there are two things you must focus on, Results and People. And make the critical connection between them that Your People Deliver Results.

Now you know the secret. That’s what the Engaging Leader does.


Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday December 29, 2013

Much of the above post originally appeared as a blog entry on the Rutgers Center for Management Development blog on January 27, 2012.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gewisto - a consulting fable

A plant manager was beside himself with worry because one of his machines was broken. As a result, the entire plant was idled. Several of his operators had labored in vain for hours to get the machine going again. Finally one of the plant manager's advisors whispered to him, "Better call Gewisto." Gewisto was an old retiree who used to work there and knew the machines inside and out.

Exasperated, the plant manager called Gewisto at the old folks home and explained what was going on. "I really need your help," the plant manager said.

In a short time, Gewisto's old beat-up car sputtered into the plant parking lot and out he came. Not looking like much, old Gewisto walked over to the machine, pulled up a stool, and leaned his head against the side of the apparatus and listened for a while.

Then he reached into his baggy pants pocket and pulled out a small piece of chalk. With the chalk, he made a little "X" on the machine at a certain place. He then motioned to one of the operators to come over. Gewisto whispered something to the operator who then attacked the problem again only this time at the site with the X on it.

Gewisto stood up and produced a small pad of paper from his shirt pocket. With a stubby pencil, he wrote out his bill and handed it to the plant manager.

The plant manager's eyes opened very wide when he saw that Gewisto had charged him $10,000.

"What do you mean by this!" the plant manager boomed.

Gewisto took the pad back and wrote an itemized bill:

$1.00 for the repair that the operator was now making at the X
$9,999.00 for knowing where to look

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday December 28, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

LearningVoyager's Year-End Blog Round-Up for 2013

As we approach the end of another year, it's time to take a look back at some of the highlights of this writer's output.

At this my main blog, Here We Are. Now What? there were a number of posts that resonated with audiences, including:

The Six Success Factors model which I am thinking of expanding into my next book.

This synthesis of two conference talks on Service Excellence and Leadership

A piece on Fearless Leadership

My 3-part series on Transformation and Change: Part 1, 2, and 3.

My 4-part series on a spirituality of business, service, and change: Breaking Bread, Love Made Visible, Only Serve, and Surf the Change.

My interview with Nick Heap where we talked about Core Process.

My interview with Robin Cook where we talked about Organization Development and innovation.

And a couple posts from December of 2012 that I want to sneak in because they are well worth another look...

My interview with Marcella Bremer where we talked about culture change.

My interview with Art Worster where we talked about business transformation through large scale change in organizations.

And of course my third book, Change for the Better, was released in October, both in paper and on Kindle.

To all my readers, thank you for stopping by. Especially those of you who left comments and tweeted my stuff to others, my gratitude.

Here's to more content on change, leadership, learning, and success in 2014!

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday December 16, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Gifts of Mandela

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, many writers have posted columns about his life, his struggle to defeat apartheid, and the significance of his accomplishments.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the fact that he spent 27 years in prison. How did he do that? Could I survive such an ordeal? In a Dickensian work of fiction, such an incredible injustice would warp and twist a man.

I think that in Mandela's case, it did change him. But it changed him for the better. He once said: "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

There is so much to learn from his life. Here are a few quotes from Nelson Mandela that show what he was made of.

On courage: "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

On being formidable: "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

On leading others: "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."

On being free: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

On the impossible: "It always seems impossible until its done."

On transforming one's enemy: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

On love and hate: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Mandela is a case study in perseverance. In faith. And in transformation, going from being demonized as a terrorist to a beloved leader. He gives us an example of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation

Like Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and others who endured the horrors of hatred, his life is a testament to our ability to survive even the harshest conditions. He shows us what it takes to pass the toughest of tests.

He has taught us about being a leader: "A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday December 13, 2013

Terrence H. Seamon is an organization development consultant who provides leadership and team development services to employers in New Jersey. His book Lead the Way explores the challenges of leadership. Additionally, Terry is a job search and career coach whose book To Your Success provides a motivational guide for anyone in transition. His third book, Change for the Better, provides leaders with a guide to initiating, and navigating through, organizational change. An alumnus of PSG, Terry co-founded and co-moderates the St. Matthias Employment Ministry in Somerset, NJ. He can be reached at thseamon@yahoo.com and via his website: http://about.me/terrenceseamon

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Six Success Factors Model

In early 2011, Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson published some of her research on the characteristics of successful people. With the immediate acclaim that her article generated, Dr. Halvorson went on to establish a "science of success" by studying what successful people actually do.

She says that "successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do." Which includes such practices as getting specific about your goals and "knowing exactly what you want to achieve." This, Halvorson says, "keeps you motivated until you get there."

Looking further into Halvorson's fascinating research findings, a few other nuggets gleam, including:

Successful people focus on getting better - Successful people never rest on their laurels. Rather they are constantly pushing themselves to find ways to improve their game.

Successful people are great finishers - They take decisive action. And they stay with it to the end.

Successful people have grit - Successful people are committed to their goals and do not quit. Instead, they persevere, no matter what the challenge or the obstacle they face.

Grit. It's a peculiar word, going back to Olde English, having to do with gravel and pebbles and dirt. But it has a metaphoric sense meaning indomitable courage, toughness, or resolution, pluck and spirit.

People with grit, like the young heroine of the novel True Grit, do not easily give up. Like a dog with a bone, they will stubbornly refuse to yield.

Lawyer and teacher Angela Duckworth has also studied success and agrees that it comes down to grit. She defines it as passion + determination for the long haul. Unshakeable belief in oneself. Perseverance in the face of setbacks, disappointments, and failure.

What else goes into success? With research by success experts as a basis, I have developed a six factor model of success:

Strategize and Prioritize: Where are you going with your life? Are you thinking ahead? Are you envisioning your future? Are you laying out the roadmap that will get you there? Have you identified the obstacles and opportunities ahead?

How are you spending your time? Are you doing what’s most important to you in terms of your vision and goals? Do you know what is most important? Are you making time in your daily and weekly schedule for yourself? for important relationships? for improving things? for lifelong learning? for thinking about the future?

In Stephen Covey's famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people, he has two principles that are reflected in the above: Start with the end in mind, and First Things First.

Communicate and Delegate: Are you connected to people around you? Are you keeping people informed? Are you getting all the key people on the same page? Are you seeking input and listening for good ideas? Are you learning from others?

Do you have a healthy and productive team around you? Are they aligned and enthusiastic? Are you engaging them by sharing the purpose? Are you challenging them? Are you building their capabilities? Are you coaching them?

Manage stress: Are you taking good care of yourself? Are you coping with your own stress, as well as helping others? Are you exercising? eating right? getting enough sleep? enjoying life? replenishing your energy?

Adaptability: How well are you handling change? Are you bouncing back with resilience? Are you setting boundaries to protect and nourish each side of your life? Are you making sure that you have enough energy to give your best both to your job as well as to your life? Are you improving continuously?




These six factors each contribute to your overall effectiveness as a parent, as a teacher, as a manager, as a human being. With all these factors in place, you will be able to get (and keep) your focus in order to get things done and achieve your goals.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday December 9, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Surf the Change

VUCA is a great concept for organizations to adapt from the military. But we may want to adapt it even further.

Change in organizations these days is stressful, unending, relentless, and a fact of life. So how about SURF?

In 2012, I wrote that stress will continue to stay at a heightened level.

Why? According to news reports on the U.S. economy, hiring will be slow in 2012, and many employers are planning further headcount cuts. Workloads, however, are likely to keep going up. "Doing more with less" will continue.

This is the main driver of workplace stress! When you combine workloads, pressure, and time shortages, with uncertainty and chaos, much of it due to organizational change, watch out: stress will increase. As decades of stress research has taught us, the more stress, the greater the negative effects.

Should managers care? In short, Yes. Stress takes a big toll on employee engagement, on performance, and on health. In today's whitewater working environment, managers need to develop leadership capabilities for resilience in themselves and others.

What can managers do? In military schools, leaders are taught about VUCA, an acronym that stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. VUCA environments, like many of today's hyper-stressed workplaces, demand much of those in leadership roles.

With VUCA as a framework, here are four more elements that I believe are key in today's workplaces:

Volatile - The more things change, the more the volatility that people have to deal with. As Holmes and Rahe taught us decades ago, change means stress. The more change, the more stress, the greater the danger. Managers and their teams need to toughen their change readiness capability to withstand such volatility.

Uncertain - In uncertain environments, predictability drops, and surprises rise. In such a climate, planning, organizing, and adaptability take on a critical importance for managers and their teams.

Complex - You know you are dealing with complexity when confusion and chaos become the norm. Many of the problems that teams face in today's organizations are truly complex. This means there are no obvious "low hanging fruit" solutions that they can quickly implement. Instead, managers and their teams need to learn new ways to think critically and creatively to solve the dilemmas they face.

Ambiguous - In the midst of chaos, a team needs the mental ability to maintain their "line of sight" toward their objective. Having a clear and compelling sense of purpose ('Where can I do the most good for the business right now?') helps to laser focus on the most pressing priorities.

As I write this, I am anticipating the Thanksgiving holiday later this week, followed by Christmas and the coming of a New Year. I think we need more help.

I think we need more. I think we need SURF:

Stress - What are you doing to manage the stress in your organization? Do you even know how stressed out people are, yourself included?

Unending - There was a time when change projects were "neat," having a beginning, middle, and ending. Forget about that now. These days, change is like a roaring flood.

Relentless - There is no end to it. Some management pundits preach the gospel of change. Jack Welch once said "Change before you have to." That is why we are where we are. Welcome to the new normal.

Fact of Life - If you don't want any part of it, good luck. Are there still monasteries where you can cut yourself odd from the world? If so, go and good luck.

The answer is to become a surfer of change. Surfers of big waves do something that most of us will never do. But there are lessons we can adapt. For example, Dr Elana Miller of Zen Psychiatry offers this wisdom:

"The ocean doesn't care about you. It is a force of nature that existed long before you were born and that will be around long after you. We operate under the illusion of control when so many of the most important things in life aren't even close to the realm of our control. When you release yourself from the illusion of control, you can relax. You can put in your best effort but let things turn out how they'll turn out. You can find moments of joy in the most simple things. So don't fight forces of nature. Ride them."

If you are a Manager right now, consider all of the above as a checklist for 2014. What do you resolve to work on to help your team cope with the stress and thrive in your organization?

Posted on Tuesday November 26, 2013 by Terrence Seamon, surfer of change

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Service Excellence and Leadership

Yesterday I was a guest speaker in Atlantic City at the 30th annual conference of the Association of Community Providers here in New Jersey. Their theme for this year's event was "Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities." The reason for this theme, and the focus of the convention, was Change. A great deal is changing in their industry. Ground-shaking change caused by the transition to "fee for service," as well as the Affordable Care Act.

While many of the other speakers were subject matter experts, I was asked to address leadership and service excellence. Here is a synthesis of the main points I shared.

S = Set the bar high. Customers in all segments, from banking to air travel to community care, are expecting more from their service providers. When customers have a choice of provider, the firms that set their bar higher and strive to raise their standards of quality, will gain the competitive advantage.

E = Establish the customer as the center of your dashboard. The late great Sam Walton once said There is really only one boss, the Customer, and he (or she) can fire every one of us simply by taking their business someplace else. Is your customer at the heart of all that you do?

R = Review your Mission. Everything you do should flow from it. Do all that you do with a sense of purpose. Especially with the customer in mind. Peter Drucker once said that the purpose of business is to create and keep the customer. That's it.

V = Vision & Values. What do you stand for when it comes to your customer? Taking care of your customers, creating solutions, fixing things when they go wrong, and making them feel cared about, noticed, well informed, reassured, and appreciated are the essentials. At British Airways they have this saying: "Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. "

I = Innovate & Improve continually. Remember the ABC of service excellence: Always Be Creating! New programs and new services come from continually seeking new ideas from your team and from other stakeholders.

C = Complaints are a gift. Though complaints are hard to hear at times, the unhappy customer is actually a great resource for service leaders with ingenuity. Bill Gates once said "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning" . . . and improvement.

E = Expect the best from yourself and your team. Utilize the power of positive expectations. "High expectations are the key to everything," Sam Walton once said. With positive expectations in mind and communicated to your team, you create the conditions most conducive to achieving your goals as an organization.

Which brings us squarely to the leader. Leadership is the number one success factor in service excellence and in organizational performance.

What should the service leader do?

L = Listen & Learn. Once the leader has communicated the direction that the team needs, she then must listen to them. Ask questions to get the discussion moving: What are your ideas? What can we do to improve? Then listen. And learn. One of the most powerful leadership skills available is listening. Truly listening, attentively, without distraction. You may hear some good ideas. Occasionally even a brilliant one. Listening is the best way to show respect to another person. And to honor the contributions they can make.

E = Empower your team. The key to your team's success is trust. Take the risk of letting go and giving some of your power to your people. That's essentially what the word 'empowerment' is saying. Yes, it's scary. It means giving up some control. But by making your staff stronger, you strengthen the whole organization.

A = Assist your team. If your resources are constrained and you are "under the gun" to produce results, you will need to get in there, roll up your sleeves, and pitch in. At the same time, however, be sure to make time in your weekly schedule to assess your team members. Acknowledge each on an individual basis. Appreciate the strengths each one brings to your organization and do your best to play to those strengths.

D = Delegate to develop your team. Organizations known for service excellence, like Disney, Southwest Air, and Costco, invest a lot in developing their people. Delegation of assignments and responsibility is a great way to develop others. Plus it empowers them to take on more, growing not only their skills but also their sense of ownership.

E = Equip and Enable your team. Leaders grow and strengthen their people. They do this by teaching and by coaching. Do your people have what they need to do the job and succeed? Do they work well together? Make time on a regular basis to strengthen them as a team by facilitating team building sessions. (Let me know how I can help you with that.)

R = Reinforce & Recognize. In today's change-filled environments, we all need constant reinforcement of knowledge just to keep up and anticipate what is coming next. Anyone who is doing their best in such a situation should be recognized and praised for their accomplishments.

S = Show that you care. The service leader shows that she cares about her people by sharing information and supporting them with flexibility. Bill Marriott once famously clarified the connection between leadership and customer service when he said Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.

So what do you think? Are you a service leader? How well do you measure up?

Remember what Warren Bennis said about leadership: Leadership is the capacity to turn vision into reality.

What does your customer want? Do you know? Have you designed your organization to deliver service excellence?

It's up to you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday November 23, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

On Fearless Leadership

On LinkedIn, someone asked the question, What type of leadership is most needed by HR leaders?

Here's a type to consider: Fearless Leadership. I got the name from my colleague Bettina Neidhardt who used it as the title of her blog for a few years.

Without speaking for her, what I like about the idea of Fearless Leadership, especially for HR, is the idea of guts. How many HR leaders have you known in your career who had the courage to take an unpopular stand?

Here are a few more aspects of Fearless Leadership:

Have chutzpah: An HR leader has to have the chutzpah (Yiddish for insolent audacity) to speak truth to power and tell the emperor he has no clothes on.

Be true to your self: An HR leader has to stand for something. What are the values of the organization? What is HR's role in seeing to it that the values are referenced in all critical business decisions?

Don't let the SOBs get you down: During one's career, you will encounter people who resist change, who test everything, including your patience. Despite the career risk, Fearless Leaders will take the higher road and tell the naysayers where to go.

Have dash: Don't be timid. Take a chance. Be daring. Put yourself out there.

Such leaders know when it's time to shake the place up and even when it's time to give someone a good solid kick in the posterior.

And a Fearless Leader is not afraid to keep on learning. Figure out who you are in this life and develop yourself, your gifts, your skills. Stay in training. Never stop. Keep growing and challenging your self.

While the focus has been on HR, Fearless Leadership is not just for HR alone. It's for anyone in a leadership role who really want to make a difference.

Stephen Covey once said that "Leadership is a choice, not a position." But many choose not to lead. Rather, they look down at their feet and wait for someone else to stick their neck out.

Yes, leadership entails taking a risk. It takes courage.

Once my dad, a tough WW II veteran and a policeman, said to me, "Terry, You've got moxie."

Moxie is the ability to face difficulty with spirit and initiative. That's a key spice in the recipe for Fearless Leadership.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday November 18, 2013

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Transformational Change - Part 3

A talent acquisition pro was recently grilling me over the phone about my background and capabilities. She didn't know it but I was probably blushing as I "tooted my own horn" about my accomplishments in transformational culture change.

For some reason (maybe it's my destiny, or my reason for being), in my 30+ year-long career, I have often been "where the action is" for an Organization Development practitioner: that is, "in the eye of the storm" of Change.

Mergers. Acquisitions. Takeovers. Re-organizations. Turnarounds. Downsizings. And yes "Culture Changes" too.

I have been there and done that.

So, you may ask, What have I learned? Here are a few lessons from the front-lines of change.

Change is rough - Even when it's the sexy stuff, like leadership development, employee engagement, and culture change, change can be rough. Change always generates stress because it destabilizes things and creates uncertainty. You've got to become a sherpa so that you are skilled at navigating difficult terrain.

"The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines." - Fr. Richard Rohr

You've got to become a light to those who can't see the way.

Stay focused - Things can really start to swirl when you are in the midst of change. Like a typhoon. So to keep your head on, and your wits about you, you must stay focused. Focus can come from many sources. I've found it helpful to stay focused on the W's: Why are we changing? Where are we headed? What will we get when we arrive? A good set of questions gives you the map and compass you need to find your way.

Take care - As an OD professional, your Number One tool is yourself. So you have to stay sharp. Big change projects that go on for long periods of time can grind you down. So you must stay in good shape, physically yes, but also mentally and emotionally. Consider taking up Tai Chi Chih for instance as a way to maintain your balance and your serenity...and your sanity

Stay open - Additionally, you have to proceed through change "with your eyes wide open" so that you can see what is going on...and what may be coming at you. To that end, you have to keep your lines of communication open with the key people that you are engaging with.

Keep learning - Along the way in a change project, all kinds of you-know-what can happen. Setbacks. Shifts in direction. And fiascoes. The key thing when it comes to mistakes and failures in change projects is to learn! Continuous learning. Honest and open discussions around questions like "What happened? Why? What can we learn?" are critical.

I've often said that the most important credential for anyone in the Change Agent business is first-hand personal experience with it. Like being downsized and losing your job. There is no better way to learn about transition and transformation.

For more on this subject, get my book Change for the Better, available in paper and on Kindle.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday November 5, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Transformation and Change - Part 2

So let's return to this topic of transformation and change.

In the last blog post, I asked, If one is to truly transform one's self and one's life, where would you start? What changes could you begin to make now?

Let's step back and look at this term "transformation." Transformation is a type of change. It's change that moves you "beyond the current form" so to speak. The dictionary puts it this way: to transform is to change form, shape, appearance, structure, or character. Even to metamorphose (as a caterpiller into a butterfly) or to convert (as a believer to an atheist).

So in sum, transformation is a much more fundamental type of change than a new coat of paint or moving the deck chairs around.

Transformation, then, is something like alchemy. Alchemy comes from the Arabic al + kimiya meaning 'the transmutation.' The myth of the alchemist that we learned in Western Civilization class went like this: the alchemist was searching for the secret catalyst that would change lead into gold. Although the medieval alchemist never found this solution, we have been given a great metaphor.

To take a metaphorical leap, today's transformational leaders and change agent often work some alchemy in organizations. The catalyst however is not a secret sauce of some sort. Rather the catalyst is the change agent!

Consider Louis V. Gerstner, who was hired by IBM back in the early 1990's as CEO. IBM's once great prowess was failing and the board was looking for someone to turn the company around. Gerstner was the right choice.

He focused on IBM's people and culture, identifying it's strengths, but also pinpointing where change was needed. He is quoted saying:

"Reorganization to me is shuffling boxes, moving boxes around. Transformation means that you're really fundamentally changing the way the organization thinks, the way it responds, the way it leads. It's a lot more than just playing with boxes."

He didn't change the core business, computers. He went after its culture, the "wiring" of the people of IBM.

This is the job of the change agent, whether you are CEO or a concerned constituent. If the place needs to change, really change, you can't just move the boxes around and expect the result to be any different.

There is a crisis in the church right now. Luckily, the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is a transformational leader. He is not changing the core business, leading people to salvation. But he is going after the culture. The culture of the Vatican bureaucracy, as well as the global culture of the faithful.

I wish him well. The church needs transformation badly. Millions of its members have stopped going to church regularly. Soon our churches will be mostly empty except for the gray-haired remnant. It is time, as Saint Francis once heard, "to repair my house."

What can be done? Gerstner and Pope Francis are showing the way to be effective alchemists of transformation. In particular:

Crisis - The awareness of the pressing need to change creates the sense of urgency and galvanizes the people.

Vision - The positive vision of the better tomorrow gives the people hope that it is possible to improve things.

Pathway - The plan of actions gets people mobilized and moving even if it's just baby steps for starters.

And one more:

Dive Deep - Don't be fooled into "moving the boxes around," as Gerstner warns. Reorganizing is seductive because you tell yourself that you have really changed things. While a fresh coat of paint can make a big difference sometimes, it is still only cosmetic change.

As Gerstner once said, Transformational change means fundamentally changing the way the organization thinks, the way it responds, and the way it leads.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday October 24, 2013