Sunday, March 28, 2010

Losing a Loved One

"Loss of a loved one" is pretty high on the Holmes and Rahe scale of stressful life events. It's in the top five.

My family is dealing with this one right now. We are going through a painful period due to the sudden death of my 24 year old niece Kate who was killed in a hiking accident in Oregon a couple weeks ago.

Kate, God bless her, was a handful in her teen years. But in her early twenties, she left New Jersey, first to Vermont, then to the Northwest, to find herself and create a new life. We often wondered when the phone would ring with the call that she was hurt or hospitalized. But to our surprise, the calls were quite positive: she was happy, healthy, working, and going back to school for a degree in Environmental Studies.

She loved the outdoors and died while doing what she most enjoyed.

We, the family in NJ, have heard that her friends in Portland have made a cross in Kate's memory and have placed it on the trail near the point where she fell.

So how do you cope with the sudden loss of a loved one like Kate?

You grieve. You pray. You cry. You laugh remembering stories about her life. You hold her in your heart and try to imagine her face, her voice, her presence.

The other day, I came across a blog entry on Dick Richards' site about finding peace of mind, where he provided a link to Debbie Call's blog where she outlined the 3 Breaths:

1) Let Go

2) Be Here

3) Now What?

First, a breath to let go of whatever is in the way. Then a breath to center oneself in the moment. Third, the breath of possibility.

I'm trying a blend of the three breaths with prayer and meditation as a way to navigate the painful loss of a loved one.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 28, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mending the Rip in the Corporate Soul

Recently on LinkedIn, Swiss business philosopher Dieter Langenecker asked, "The purpose of a company is . . ."

I replied that the word "company" derives from com (with) + pane (bread) and can be translated as "sharing bread together." (Hat tip to Kenny Moore for this etymological realization.)

So, I would say that the purpose of a company is to attract a group of people who share in a joint undertaking that serves a market and nourishes the community and world in some way.

I had the good fortune of meeting the business philosopher Charles Handy a couple years ago.

He told me the story (that he has often told) of gently provoking his MBA students to think beyond results, growth, and profit. He challenged them to ask themselves, What are we, the Company, building? Are we making this world a better place for our employees (and their families), our customers, our investors, and our communities and neighbors?

In his own words:

"The companies that survive longest are the one's that work out what they uniquely can give to the world, not just growth or money, but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul."

A soul. A corporate soul.

By coincidence, business guru Gary Hamel recently published a piece on fixing the hole in the corporate soul where he said:

"A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance. In so doing, it transforms great talent into exceptional accomplishment. That’s a fact—and it leaves me wondering: Why are words like “love,” “devotion” and “honor” so seldom heard within the halls of corporate-dom? Why are the ideals that matter most to human beings the ones that are most notably absent in managerial discourse? ...why is the language of business so sterile, so uninspiring and so relentlessly banal? Is it because business is the province of engineers and economists rather than artists and theologians? Is it because the emphasis on rationality and pragmatism squashes idealism?"

An important key to mending this rift in the corporate soul is leadership.

What is the essence (essence = the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing; the inward nature; the substance, spirit, lifeblood, heart, principle, soul, core) of leadership? I'd point to these seven aspects:

Purpose - A leader is here for a reason, a mission, and pursues it with intention and determination.

Commitment - A leader can be counted on to make and keep commitments.

Presence - A leader will show up and stand up for what's important.

Listening - A leader wants to know what others are thinking and feeling and pays close heed.

Engagement - A leader connects with others, communicates with others, challenges others, is considerate of others, and coaches others.

Vision - A leader is going somewhere good.

Stewardship - A leader accepts responsibility and understands the saying "Take care of yourself; take care of each other; take care of this place."

And leadership requires the Whole Person:

- The heart for loving others.
- The stomach for courage to face adversity.
- The head for critical thinking.
- The eye for looking ahead.
- The tongue for telling truth.
- The ears for listening to others.
- The hands for applauding the work of others.
- The arms for embracing others.
- The back for lifting others up.
- The knees for bending in service to others.
- The feet for the journey.
- The soul for going down deep in search of meaning.
- The spirit for soaring to the heights of higher purpose.

Where in an organization would you find such leaders? Everywhere. In any function. At any level.

As Warren Bennis said, leaders have the ability to turn vision into reality. From that we can distill some of the key elements:

- Vision: Leaders can see something that others aren't seeing yet. They see a solution. Or a new product. Or a customer need. Or new possibilities on a new horizon. They convey what they are seeing to others so that they can see it too. Leaders ask: How can we break through to a new level? What are we capable of? What are we called to become?

- Turning: Leaders can "turn," a word that has ancient roots: "to cross over, pass through, overcome." They help others to cross over (the turning) from the "as is" to the "to be." Leaders ask, How can we get started and get moving? What will we need for the trip? How will we support one another?

- Reality: Leaders can realize (make real). They enlist others in making the new reality materialize. Leaders ask: How do we make this work? How do we hold the gains? How do we keep improving?

Consultant Dr. Anne Perschel (aka @bizshrink on twitter) has decided to start a movement around mending the hole in the corporate soul. I have volunteered to join in.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 12, 2010

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Baby and the Bath Water

There are some old sayings that are worth their weight in gold. Such as:

~ Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

This is one that should be taught to anyone studying to become a Change Agent. During my education in change management, I had the good fortune of being taught by David Hanna, author of Designing Organizations for High Performance (1988). He had lots of good maxims, perhaps the most famous being: "All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are getting."

Another one, related to the baby and the bathwater, has really stayed with me over the years:

~ When setting out to change (and improve) an organization or process, be careful not to lose what's working well right now.

Recently, at LinkedIn, someone asked about ways to improve the annual process of performance review. As one who advocates "blowing up" (or "throwing out," or whatever destructive metaphor works for you) the annual performance appraisal, I couldn't resist jumping in.

As a change agent who understands the wisdom in the old adage, "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water," I responded: Where is the baby?

In other words, before pressing the detonator on the process of performance review, step back and ask, What's right about this? What could be great about this? How can we re-think and re-imagine this tired old practice so that it actually engages people and improves our organization's performance?

With that frame of mind, here are the babies I'd rescue from the bathwater:

- Goals: Everyone in the organizations needs to know the goals and objectives of the business and their team. This way, everyone can align their thinking and their efforts toward the performance and results the organization needs.

- Coaching and Feedback: Look at the Olympics. Every high performing player and team has a coach. Coaches continuously provide specific and helpful feedback intended to bring out the best performance in each player.

- Development: The best performers are never satisfied, are always working on their performance, and are always looking for ways to improve themselves. Development plans are key to building a high performance organization.

- Recognition and Reward: When someone turns in an extraordinary performance, or brings home a win for the team, why would you wait until the end of the year to praise it or reward it? If you want more of something from an employee, you've got to recognize it, reinforce it, and reward it there and then. Timing is everything, as they say, and in the case of great performance, it's essential.

And one more:

- Self-appraisal: Great performers are often their own toughest critics. A structured self-appraisal, guided by a coach, can be a healthy and effective way to identify strengths and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 5, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Leading Organizational Change

Transformation change agent Roland Sullivan asked this question of the OD Community on LinkedIn: Does "positive leadership" provide a better guide to change in organizations?

Let's look at what it takes to lead organizational change.

As Warren Bennis said so well, Leadership is the ability to turn vision into reality.

From that we can distill some of the key elements:

- Vision: Leaders can see something that others aren't seeing yet. They see a solution. Or a new product. Or a customer need. Or new possibilities on a new horizon.

- Turning: Leaders can "turn," a word that has ancient roots: "to cross over, pass through, overcome."

- Reality: Leaders can realize (make real).

But a true leader does not do any of the above alone. She conveys what she is seeing (her vision) to others so that they can see it too. She helps others to cross over (the turning) from the "as is" to the "to be." And she enlists others in making the new reality materialize.

Where does "positive" come in? At every point in the journey:

- Vision: Leaders ask, How can we break through to a new level? What are we capable of? What are we called to become?

- Turning: Leaders ask, How can we get started and get moving? What will we need for the trip? How will we support one another?

- Reality: Leaders ask, How do we make this work? How do we hold the gains? How do we keep improving?

During change, it can get confusing at times. People will look to leaders for guidance on the way to go. Leaders, therefore, must be very CLEAR:

- Communicate
- Listen
- Engage
- Align
- Renew

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hunting Companies - Part 2

In yesterday's blog post on Hunting Companies, Not Jobs, I offered another approach to the job search, based on a model I learned years ago in the book What Color Is Your Parachute?, and later reinforced by HR Guy Dick Stone, one of my job search coaches.

Richard Nelson Bolles identified a key ingredient: You must identify the decision maker, the "Person-who-has-the-power-to-hire-you," as Bolles puts it.

Dick Stone added an important element: Have an insider walk your resume to the decision maker.

I can still remember my reaction when I first heard him say this many years ago: How in heaven's name could I ever get someone to do that for me?

I have since learned that it is doable. So let's break it down in the following guide to Hunting Companies.

1. Identify the target company (see prior blog post for questions to ask yourself)

2. Research (using LinkedIn) the company, and identify (using LinkedIn) who you know that works there, used to work there, or is connected to someone who works there

3. Contact those individuals and make a connection, letting them know of your interest in working at Company X

4. If your contact works there, ask her two questions: Does she know who the decision maker is for the area(s) where your skills would fit best? --and-- Would she be willing to walk your resume over there and personally deliver it to the decision maker, with a positive verbal endorsement?

For those of you reading this right now, who are scratching your head and doubting that the above process could work, let me illustrate with a true life story.

After a downsizing, I sent a note to my network, letting them know that I was on the market again and looking for learning, coaching, and OD opportunities in the New York area. My phone rang shortly thereafter from a contact in San Francisco. She asked me if I'd be interested in outplacement work. I had always wanted to do that type of work! So I said yes. She then offered to connect me with someone she knew in a firm in New York. She made some calls on my behalf, praising me to them, and forwarding my resume. This led to a round of interviews. And an offer.

So what are the key ingredients?

Visibility to Your Network - You can drop off other people's radar screens very easily and quickly in today's economy. If you are on the market, stay visible to your contacts.

Update Your Contacts - In staying visible, be informative. Let your contacts know what you are looking for. This will equip them with the info they need to look out for you.

Asking Your Contacts to Help You - Your contact wants to help you! If they can, they will, in most cases. But you have to ask them. While you may hesitate, thinking that asking them to walk (or convey) your resume to a decision maker is an imposition, the truth is that your contact would be pleased and proud to be your advocate.

There is one more thing that helps: chutzpah, a Yiddish term that means nerve or audacity. Remember the Pixley Formula:

Believe in yourself.
Improve yourself.
Put yourself out there.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hunt Companies, Not Jobs

It has been months since the downsizing. You have sent out countless resumes and your job search has been dragging on and on. You have been dutifully following all the recommendations you've learned about what goes into an effective job search. And you are feeling so low that you are contemplating "throwing in the towel."

Is there a better way?

Stop job hunting. Start Company Hunting.

In job hunting, we look for job openings. In company hunting, we ask ourselves questions such as:

- Where would we like to work?
- What organizations do we most admire?
- What organizations could use my skills the most?
- Where could I work where I could really make a difference?

Make a list of the companies that bubble up in this thought process. Sift and sort the list for the ones that most attract you. Identify your target employers and pursue them.

This is NOT a new idea.

The job hunting guru himself, Richard Nelson Bolles, advocates this in his classic book What Color Is Your Parachute. Contrarian headhunter Nick Corcodilos also advocates it.

Why is this approach better than job hunting? There are three main reasons:

1. Everybody else who, like you, is unemployed is doing it. The sheer numbers work against you. However, in Company Hunting, you are one of the few. You will stand out like a star.

2. You've heard of the "hidden job market," right? That is, the vast number of unadvertized jobs and needs that exist inside companies. Traditional job hunting via job boards misses this job market completely. In Company Hunting, you by-pass the job boards and go after the company itself where the "hidden" jobs await.

3. Employers are in business to serve customers and to make money. Therefore, they are always interested in talking with someone who can help them do those things or solve problems related to those things. In traditional job hunting, you urgently need a job, but the employer may not feel the same sense of urgency. Company Hunting, by contrast, is more like consulting since you have already thought about the employer's goals and needs, and how the employer could use your skills.

So, how do you operationalize this approach? More to come in the next blog post.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 2, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010

Change Management, OD, and Project Management

There's a lot of conversation lately about the term "change management." For instance, at LinkedIn, consultant Ehren Hollander asked:

"What do you feel is the difference between Organizational Change, Organizational Development and Change Management? With the growing need for businesses to make significant changes to continue competing in these economic times, professional services firms are touting expertise and service offerings in Organizational Change, Organizational Development and Change Managment. Are they truly different methodologies? Is it just semantics? Is one an "umbrella term" for the others?"

Here's my take.

- Organizational Change happens whether we know it or not, whether we initiate it or not. Organizational Change can be a choice, however, if we are proactive rather than reactive.

- Organization Development is a field of professional practice undertaken to change and improve organizational alignment, strength, resilience, and health. OD improves organizational communication, builds capability, and enhances effectiveness.

- As for Change Management, managing change and improvement of an organization is the sine qua non of doing Organization Development. Others, such as IT Project Managers, lay claim to the phrase "Change management" but their field of practice deals with introducing technology change into an organization.

Re the last point, one might ask, Can IT and OD get along, and partner in the introduction of technology across an organization? The answer is a resounding Yes!

In my personal experience, I have had a number of successful collaborations with IT and project managers around introducing new technology. In one, where we were introducing field force automation, the IT Project Manager and his team focused on the system changes, while OD (headed up by yours truly) focused on the "people issues" such as resistance, coaching, communication, training, reinforcement, and labor relations.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 1, 2010