Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Real Leading

There is so much written every day about leaders and leadership that you can't keep up with it. It's overwhelming at times.

Then something good appears in the feed. Here is a blog post featuring some leadership wisdom from Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher was a real leader. He did things that a real leader does such as paying attention to people, engaging them, trusting them, getting out of their way, striving always to improve, and building more leaders.

You could build a leadership course around the example of Herb Kelleher.

But we have to be careful when we start looking at examples like Kelleher. When we look at leaders, we tend to stay focused on CEOs and others at the top. The truth is, there are leaders at all levels and in all corners of organizations.

In fact, leadership is not about level. It's about leading. And leading is the courageous choice to identify a problem or a challenge and say "I will take a stand. I will take action. I will lead others by my example."

The other day, the newsletter from my church came in the mail, featuring a story about teams of clean-up volunteers from my parish who have made several trips to towns at the Jersey shore that were devastated by hurricane Sandy. This is leadership in action. And it's going on all the time. Everywhere. Ordinary leaders in communities and organizations the world over. Men and women who may not make big salaries or garner big headlines.

Nevertheless they are leaders: people who see a crying need and they step up to it. They are making a difference.

That's real leadership.

Leadership is not a position. It's a choice. As Warren Bennis said so well, Leadership is the capacity to turn vision into reality.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday January 29, 2013. For more on real leading, check out my latest book, Lead the Way, a leadership book for real leaders.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Conversation with "The OD Guy" Robin Cook

Robin Cook is a distinguished Organization Development professional based in Arlington, Virginia. The creator of the Organization Diagnostic Molecular Model, he is a George Land World Class Innovator Award recipient and an Innovation University Fellow. Robin is trained and highly skilled at implementing Dee Hock’s Chaordic Theory (one of few OD consultants in the world with this distinction).

I've known Robin for years, mostly through the Organization Development Network, and am happy to feature him on my blog.

In this interview, Robin talks about his work in helping organizations through challenging and often complex change.

Q Robin, Please give the readers a thumbnail description of your background.

As you know, Terry, I am a seasoned organizational development practitioner and change agent.

I'm proud to have been a key player on teams that developed and led processes that included complex change initiatives operating on many levels. I have led large and small scale turnaround and culture change initiatives as both an internal and an external OD practitioner. I am one of very few people trained in implementing Dee Hock's Chaordic Theory, and I have developed a new organizational diagnostic tool, the "Molecular" Model.

Q Who were the major influences that shaped your approach to OD work?

I have always been a change agent, Terry, from my earliest years. At the age of 8, I petitioned the City of San Diego to place a traffic light on a hazardous corner in my neighborhood. I was given the Key to the City of San Diego as an award.

Initially, my graduate program was in Human Relations, which was almost totally experiential. My knowledge of actual theory and theoreticians has come from various sources including ODNet. I've increasingly learned that everything I do is, in fact, grounded in OD theory!

In graduate school, our primary resource was the various University Associates handbooks. Of course, I've accumulated many of the "standard" tools over the years. Many of the structures that I led at the Chicago Ys were originally developed by the Dennisons. I further modified them as we went along.

I've developed a couple of "proprietary" tools of my own. In the past 15 years I've been heavily influenced by Dee Hock and by Doug Hall's Eureka Process for innovation. In addition to Dee's books, I've also been recommending Ray C. Anderson's "Confessions of a Radical Industrialist" and Cmdr. (Ret.) Michael D. Abrashoff's "It's Your Ship: Management Secrets from the Best Damned Ship in the Navy".

Q - You've been fascinated by cultures of innovation? What do organizations need to do to change their cultures?

As with everything OD, there's no "one size fits all" answer to this. However, I have identified nine characteristics shared by some of the most innovative organizations in the world. I believe that these are a good starting point, and many of them are quite easy to implement.

First and foremost, find bottom up solutions that fit your organization. If you create the right culture, process will follow (or, often, be unnecessary). People's natural creativity and innovation will come to the fore.

Q - Organizations are under severe stress these days, making it hard to effect positive change. What would you recommend?

That this is precisely the time to begin such initiatives. Positive, effective change is more likely happen when the pain is the greatest. It is precisely during such times that the opportunity is greatest for those wiling to take the risk.

Q Following up on the nine characteristics, what do you recommend to an organization that wants to continue to promote innovation?

Focus on culture. Once you've created the right culture, the rest will follow. If you feel that you must have a formal innovation process, create one that is fully supported every step of the way by the culture.

I like to cite the story told to me by the head of the Chicago office of Ideo. He told me that at one point, so many of their clients were clamoring to learn their process that they created a small consulting group to do such training. What they quickly learned was that the reason Ideo's process is so effective is that their entire organizational culture is built around it. They could teach their process until they were blue in the face, but the client organizations' cultures didn't support the process & so nothing happened.

Q - What is the leader's role in making culture change work?

Clearly define the "what" (including what's negotiable & what isn't); clearly explain the "why"; and then be willing to step back and say, "OK, now YOU tell me how."

My belief is that mission and values alignment are the most critical pieces. However, it's also very important to maintain understanding and gain insight into the organic dynamic whole - the way everything interacts. My "Molecular" Model diagnostic tool can help to foster such understanding. It graphically shows how all the elements (for example, Mission, Values, Culture, Systems, Environment, etc.) influence and interact with each other.

Q Regarding the pain that organizations often have, how do you help them see the positive opportunity in change?

It's all in the facilitation, as is virtually always the case in OD. It's going to be different in every case, but perhaps the most critical piece is in the data collection. If you collect the right data, that's what usually "makes the light bulb go on."

Q Can you describe one example of the way you help clients with change?

I served as Director of Local Planning for the YMCA (Y) of Metropolitan Chicago where I spearheaded a successful culture change. At the Y, the underlying issue was that they were a "legacy organization" - everyone came up through the ranks & learned to do it "the Y way". That worked beautifully for 120 years, until the 70s and 80s when they were faced with massive competition in health & fitness from the new commercial fitness centers. That was only one of their core businesses, but it was the one that generated most of their revenue.

They not only didn't respond to it, they didn't even recognize it was happening. What we had to do there was change the thinking - get them to the point where they could both recognize & respond to market changes. & that takes time, especially for an organization that size (34 sites, and 5,000+ employees). We had to facilitate a long, complex process that enabled them to see just how out of sync their perception was with reality. & we had to facilitate changing a mindset that was created by 20 years of running in the red which had put them into pure "putting out the next fire" mode.

As a result of this work, the Y received the 1998 George Land World Class Innovator Award. The organization’s budget doubled, and its numbers of people served more than tripled.

I also co-designed and facilitated innovation, creativity, and visioning workshops at that time, which led to the establishment of a permanent "Imagineering" function within the Y.

Q - Robin, As this new year is getting underway, I'm wondering what OD resolutions you are thinking about?

I don't really believe in resolutions, Terry. I strive constantly, every day, to be the best me I'm capable of being, to grow, learn, & evolve. That said, there are 3 things I might wish for:

First, for leaders to begin to understand that the biggest piece of OD is about changing thinking. That's not something that is empirically measurable, but clearly has an impact on the bottom line.

Second, for leaders to understand that times like these, when organizations & markets are undergoing massive dislocation, are when OD is needed most (& when we can generate the greatest opportunities) even if it may be difficult to justify the expense.

And third, for someone with influence to convince organizations that changing an HR or training job title to OD does nothing but degrade the reputation & effectiveness of OD. It does not make the HR or training person into an OD practitioner or an effective change agent.

To contact Robin and learn more about what he can do to help your organization reach a new level of performance, he can be reached at OrgDevGuy@comcast.net

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday January 27, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nick Heap on Core Process

To start off the New Year, I am happy to feature UK-based coach and facilitator Nick Heap, one of the leading proponents of a personal growth methodology called Core Process, a powerful way to discover your unique talents and purpose in life.

In this interview, Nick will share insights into Core Process, what it is and how it works.

Q - Welcome, Nick. Please tell us a little about how you came to this coaching work.

Originally, I was trained as a research chemist and worked at ICI, a multinational chemical company based in Britain. ICI was at the cutting edge of organisation and personal development. In 1970, I participated in a T-Group, through work, for a week and it was a life-changing experience. (In a T-Group you “examine your behaviour as it happens.) I learned some things about myself, and that we have all the resources we need to solve our problems, but we need to listen to each other to solve them.

Soon after the T-group, I decided to devote my life to helping people listen to each other. Since ICI was such a good and flexible employer, I didn't want to leave there. I wanted to find a new job at ICI, and to do this I needed to prove to them that I was serious.

While still working full time at ICI, I spent a year as a volunteer with the Samaritans, listening to suicidal people. Then I become a marriage relationship counsellor with what is now “Relate”, also as a volunteer. It was incredible training where I learned a lot about myself and gained some great skills. Then, after 4 years of learning and asking for feedback, I got a job as internal consultant with ICI. For 6 years, I had a free hand to help managers and facilitate teams.

I was made redundant after a major reorganization, and I decided to work for myself as an external consultant, doing one-on-one work listening to senior people and helping them think deeply about anything that bothered them. I also trained people in influencing skills and built teams where people listened to each other. I've been doing this ever since

Q - Speaking of helping people to think more deeply, let's turn to Core Process. In a nutshell, what is Core Process?

Core Process starts from the idea that, when we are made, we have a job to do, a unique and specific job that fits you, that you were designed to do. When you do it, it goes astonishingly well, you are happy and energized, and you feel the most alive.

As I say at my website, your core process shows you what you are here on the planet to do. Core Process is simply a away of describing what your job is, your purpose, your central and unique talent.

You, the reader of this blog are unique, important and amazing. Core Process helps you discover and describe, your unique magnificence in just two words!

Q - Can you give an example, Nick?

Two words describe your core process. Mine is "creating awareness." Yours is "facilitating wisdom." A woman I know has the core process "touching souls." She has the ability to build trust. She was sent into an angry, hurt-filled factory that was due to close. She met each person, shook her or his hand and said, "I know you are upset and frightened about what is happening to the factory. I will make sure you will find a job." The quality of the connection she made in just a few seconds was such they believed her and their feelings changed. By the end of the year, all but two people had found a job. She touched their souls.

Core process gets to the heart of who you are when you are in touch with your essence, your truth. We are all different. We are all unique, our experience is unique, and so it's logical that we have unique skills and talents. When you are using this unique talent, it's fulfilling, it's rewarding, and it has good effects: it's the way to your happiness and it makes the world a better place.

They are also all lovely! (Yours too)

Q - What was the genesis of Core Process?

I wasn't there for the beginning. It was around 1970; Chris Bull, Robin Coates and Calvin Germain were at a pub having a conversation about business. They agreed that every business must have a core mission. If the mission is unclear, or if you set out to do too many things, you won't be successful.

The next question was: Could this apply to a person as well? They decided to find out.

In 1972, at an ICI course, on life planning run by Chris Bull, I learned about core process, and discovered my own, "creating awareness." I trained to facilitate the course. Together with the T-Group, this was a momentous time in my life.

I brought Core Process into my own practice as a tool to help clients think about and plan their future.

Q – How can the Core Process help a person? a team? an organization?

People can use their core process as a guide if they want to make career or life changes. It also a great help to get you out of a hole. We will only be truly happy if we are able to use what we are uniquely good at, and enjoy, a lot of the time. As people spend a great deal of time at work, a great fit between your core process and your work is highly desirable. When Chris did the original work in ICI, one eighth of the trainees changed their jobs or left the company within six months.

You can use the Core Process technology to help a team think about its vision, and how to meet the challenges they face. For example, I worked with one team that decided that their vision for the future was "Everything Running Smoothly." It worked for them.

I would dearly love to have all the members of a team know their individual core processes. When a challenge arrived, they would quickly be able to find the right person to help. The member with a Core Process like “Inspiring People” would be great working with a department with low morale, for instance.

Q - Nick, Can you outline the steps you take someone through to discover their core process?

I'd be happy to. It usually takes an hour and a half per person. It's really quite simple.

First, I ask you to tell 3 or 4 stories when you felt most alive.
Second, I ask you to pick one of the stories to think about some more.
Third, I ask you to choose some words to describe what was happening: -ing words and nouns. For example "breathing" and "life."
Fourth, I ask you to choose the words that you like the most.
Fifth, I help the client to distill the words into a two-word phrase, like “breathing life” that excites the client. As they formulate their phrase, I ask, How excited about this are you? How well does this phrase fit the stories you shared?

One other thing: You can do Core Process remotely as well as face-to-face, even via Skype.

Q - Tell me about the Core Process conference you are planning.

This conference will be a first. It will be held in June and in or near London. I hope to bring together a mix of people. Some who are practitioners, some who will know their core processes and some who are just interested in the idea. I hope to see some from organizations that might be intrigued by core process as a tool for personal development, for team building, or for developing empathy. I want this to be very participative, not a series of speeches by “experts”. I want people to have conversations and share stories of doing Core Process and the value it has had for them. Some colleagues and I have had two detailed discussions and the ideas are coming together well.

Q - Last question, Nick. What's next for you and Core Process?

I honestly don't know for certain. Next is the conference. There is an extension of Core Process called Core Process 2 that goes more deeply into purpose and how to deliver it to the world. I plan do more coaching to help people live their core process.

To learn more about Nick and the work he does, click here .

You are also welcome to contact him directly via his website www.nickheap.co.uk or by email: nickheap43(at)gmail.com

Posted by Terrence Seamon on January 15, 2013

Friday, January 04, 2013

Your Big Story

It's January 4. The whole new year is stretching out before you. A vast opportunity to do whatever you choose.

The other day, I read a blog post by Chris Brogan where he suggests selecting three words to describe the big story of your year. Not last year. The new year ahead of you.

The three words, whatever they might be, would point toward your vision, your big story, for the year.

Tomorrow I turn 58. Last year I finally published two books. I have one more in mind. The next one will be about change.

So one of my three words for 2013 is change.

The other two words that are surfacing for me right now are create and facilitate.

My big story involves creating something wonderful that will benefit others. Perhaps the book I will birth.

And facilitating with others in some way the wisdom they hold inside.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on January 4, 2013