Friday, August 24, 2012

Re-Thinking the Formula for Change

Over the weekend, a colleague sent me a link to a cute little video about the way to change the world. In sum, the makers said that you need three ingredients: an idea, a team, and action. I like it. Simple and clear.

But not enough.

I was reminded of Gleicher and Beckhard's Change Formula, D + V + F > RtC, where:

D = Dissatisfaction with the current situation, plus

V = Vision for improvement, plus

F = First Steps, must outweigh

Rtc = Resistance to Change

Recently, due to some reading and conversations, I've been thinking of some additional variables to further enrich this model. Perhaps the Change Formula could go something like this...

D + V + F + R + P > ItC

D = Desire to change or Drive to change, plus

V = Vision for the possibilities in change, plus

F = First concrete steps in the direction of the change, plus

R = Resilience, plus

P = Participation, must outweigh

ItC = Immunity to Change

A few comments on the tweaks above, in reverse order:

Immunity to Change - This is the title of psychologists Robert Kagan and Lisa Lahey's book on our built-in defenses against change. Their thesis, in a nutshell, is that we will do almost anything to avoid changing, even when it is for the better...and for our own good.

"Better the devil you know" may actually reflect a deep psychological truth.

If Kagan and Lahey are right (and I think they are), it appears that we are so change-averse that we will do our utmost to rationalize our way out of changing.

This may be the reason for the extraordinarily high rate of failure of change initiatives.

So what is the answer? I believe that the next three tweaks to the Change Formula may hold the key.

Desire - While dissatisfaction with the status quo may drive some change efforts, it may not be enough. Change expert John Adams taught us this years ago. One person's sense of dissatisfaction may be the next person's "so what?" Unless we are feeling a strong inner drive to change (a "sense of urgency" as John Kotter would say), not much will happen.

Do your people feel the need to change?

Resilience - Change guru Daryl Conner describes resilience as the human capacity to absorb high levels of change without cracking up. We can absorb a lot, even when we don't like it, which is most of the time. If we are so resilient, what's the problem? The problem with resilience is change exhaustion: the unrelenting "white water" rate of organizational change that produces cynicism, stress, and burnout.

Are your people ready for more change?

Participation - The great Meg Wheatley once said, "People support what they help to create." In a word, inclusion.

Many have wondered, How do you get 'buy-in?' The answer is, as Wheatley says, bring people into the process.

Have you designed involvement into your change strategy?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Customer Service with HEART

Serving customers is one of the most challenging jobs out there. You need to be a good listener, an effective communicator, a calm conflict mediator, and an analytical problem solver all rolled into one. You must be very organized and have infinite patience. Plus you need to wear a sunny disposition even on days when you don't feel like it.

Many have endeavored to capture the key ingredients in customer service, so I have decided to throw my hat into the ring as well.

I call my approach Customer Service With HEART:

H = Help and Hear - You are there to Help the customer. Plain and simple. And the first (and most important) thing you do is listen. Hear the customer fully before responding. This may be the toughest part of listening. We have to make the choice to listen, especially when we are busy, preoccupied, stressed, and distracted. When you focus on the Other, pay attention to What is being said, as well as What is not being said. This includes the non-verbal signs the person is displaying, plus their feelings and tone of voice.

E = Empathy - The customer has come to you with a need, a question, a problem. Empathize with their feelings and point of view. Empathy doesn't mean agreement. It means trying to see (and feel) what the Other Person is going through.

A = Assess the situation - Analyze what the customer is saying. Ask questions to find out: What is the problem? What does he/she need from me? Apologize as necessary.

R = Respond - Once you get what the customer needs, Respond so they know the action you are going to take. Let them know what to expect next.

T = Take action - Do what you said you would do. Then, if the situation calls for it, follow up later to see where things stand.

Serving others well is hard work. It's stressful. It's tiring. After a full shift of serving customers, you will need to relax and recharge afterward.

The great thinker Albert Einstein once said, "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

When you think about it, your work in customer service is vital to your organization. To the customer, You Are the Company. You can make (or break) their day, in seconds.

Often, what the customer is after is an answer, or a solution, or a sense of direction. You could be the answer to their prayers.

Truly, serving others is one of the most important jobs there is.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday August 22, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

Did you have the opportunity to watch the recent Summer Olympics on TV? The games were thrilling as always. And so many great athletes stood out such as gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, volleyballers Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and runners Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius.

While watching the track competition, I took note of the runners just before their races started. The TV cameras zoomed right in for the close-up shots of their faces. You could see that they were getting into the zone of high performance.

Then came the three commands we are all so familiar with, On Your Marks, Get Set, and Go. It occurred to me that these three steps form a part of the leadership process.

On Your Marks - This first command says to the runner, Get in your lane. Get on your starting spot. This in essence is the leadership property of alignment. Getting into the right place to perform.

Watching the high diving competition, especially the synchronized divers, inspired this blog post. The synchronized pairs were extraordinary. Not only is the high board 3 stories above the pool, but the teams must dive in unison with the utmost precision. Talk about alignment!

Get Set - The second command tells the runner to assume the starting position. This is the leadership property of focus. You can see the intense focus in their bodies and in their faces.

After many of the races, the sportscaster on the scene would interview some of the athletes. I remember one such interview with swimmer Missy Franklin where she was asked how she transforms from the chatty and fun loving girl we see before the races to the intense competitor who wins the gold. Her answer: she focuses.

Go - Then the third command signals the take off. This is the leadership property of execution. Like an arrow shot from a bow, the runners dash from their starting spots, legs, arms, and hearts pumping round the track.

But there is a fourth step, a step that precedes the three above. It's the step that prepared these men and women physically, mentally, and emotionally to compete on the world stage. It's the step I would call Design and it represents the leadership property of planning & preparation. Planning and Preparation includes a great deal, such as goal setting, communicating, training, and building a team. It also includes commitment and perseverance.

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious, one of the most notable competitors of the 2012 games, is a great example of this fourth leadership property. He runs on artificial legs. Born with a severe deformity in both limbs, he had to undergo surgery at a young age which left him without lower legs and feet. Despite this disability, he demonstrated his ability to run! Now known as "the Blade Runner," Pistorius runs on carbon fiber prosthetic legs. And he is among the fastest people on Earth. What an extraordinary example of the human spirit's determination to overcome adversity. And the importance of commitment and perseverance.

It occurred to me that organizational leaders can take a page from these top performers.

Like the high divers, when you ascend the ladder to that diving board, you had better be sure that that is where you want to go. You had better be sure that you have a Plan and have Prepared yourself. That you and your team are well Aligned with a clear goal that all understand. That you are able to Focus when the time comes to bring your "A" game. And that you Execute with excellence for the sake of your customers and your company.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday August 15, 2012