Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Change Agents: Your most important credential

Have you ever been fired?

Have you had the personal experience of significant disappointment, setback, and loss?

Can you genuinely relate to what your clients are feeling?

After being "let go" several times in my career, I am convinced that this is the most valuable life experience for anyone calling himself a Change Agent or Change Manager.

When you go over a waterfall in your work or your life, you are thrown into the whitewater of change. You are forced to stop and think: OK. Now what? Where to from here?

I have found that it's very useful is to reclaim your sense of purpose, your inner compass, that you can consult to regain your bearings and decide on your next course of action.

For an organizational change consultant, trying to make sense of the change experience, there are a lot of possible handles for one's purpose. The one I selected is CHANGE:

C = Communicate openly and often

H = Help folks through the transition

A = Align around your core process and your mission in life

N = Navigate from the "as is" to the "to be"

G = Galvanize into movement

E = Empower and engage

In my consulting work with leaders, as well as my coaching work with job hunters, the question often is "Where to from here?"

And the answer is "Change."

If you have gone through this fire yourself, and have come out wiser and stronger for having undergone the trial, you will be able to help others who are journeying through change.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday July 31, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

What Inspires Me? Creative Facilitation Challenges

I love facilitating! When (with the help of Dick Richards' wonderful book Is Your Genius at Work?) I discovered that my calling is to facilitate group wisdom, I realized why I find facilitating so inspiring. It's my core process, as Nick Heap would say.

Back in 2008, I developed ALOHA Facilitation. Here's the story.

I was facilitating a meeting of the pastoral leadership council at my church. While developing my plan, the Hawaiian word Aloha surfaced in my mind. Aloha, in the Hawaiian language, means affection, love, peace, compassion, and mercy. What a great container for some ideas for facilitation:

A = Ask questions

L = Listen to all voices

O = Observe the group energy

H = Help discern the path

A = Activate next steps

It was one of those deeply resonant moments for me as I suddenly realized that this was both my way of facilitating, and my suggested way for the participants to actively play their part in the meeting.

It worked beautifully. Blending Aloha with the shared wisdom model of Sr. Mary Benet McKinney, we followed these four steps of the process:

1. Identification of the pastoral issue

An example of a pastoral issue might be that some parishioners do not feel welcome in our parish. Such issues may come directly from the pastor, may surface from parishioners, from the council, or from other sources.

2. Pondering the issue

This is a period of study, focused on the pastoral issue, usually a mix of:

- reading (e.g. letters to the pastor, articles, books),

- listening (e.g. to parishioners, to invited speakers),

- reflection (e.g. on data gathered on the issue), and

- prayer.

3. Sharing wisdom

Now the council members seek the Spirit’s guidance as they share their perspectives on the issue. This sharing phase can take several meetings. There can be strong feelings in this phase. Even controversy and conflict. Staying with Aloha facilitation is critical.

4. Pursuing action

Once the council has heard the wisdom of all members, they choose a course of action and develop the plan for pursuing it.

The Pastoral Council at my church, St Matthias in Somerset NJ, has been using the Sharing Wisdom process by Sr Mary Benet McKinney for many years now. Her book unfortunately is out of print. While Sr. Mary was writing about developing effective pastoral councils, I believe that her model has broad application wherever an organization's leadership is endeavoring to discern the "right" path or course of action to take.

This discernment process she calls "sharing wisdom." SW is based upon several underlying beliefs including one that says that the people in the organization already possess the wisdom to discern the "right" path. No one individual has all the wisdom (though some may think that they do).

What is needed is respectful facilitation that seeks out everyone's "piece of the wisdom" and puts all the pieces on the table, even if there is conflict and disagreement.

All the wisdom is needed, all the wisdom is honored.

So this is what inspires me. Being the servant of the group who facilitates their journey, sharing wisdom to find the right course of action.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday July 29, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Everything Changes. All the Time.

In response to my last blog post, LinkedIn member Neil Meredith wrote: "...everything changes all the time and effective change is managed."

Let's pursue the question: "What are the implications for Change Managers?"

If everything changes all the time, one might ask, What do we need Change Managers for then? Maybe it's the term 'managers' that we need to replace. What other words could we substitute?

One of my favorite people in the career transition space is Hannah Morgan of careersherpa.net. Her motto is: "Expert in navigating extreme career terrain."

According to wikipedia, the term Sherpa refers to people who are employed as guides for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas. "They are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain."

She says:

"Embarking on a job search is like preparing to climb a mountain. Maybe not Mt. Everest, where sherpas are found, but you will still need a guide to show you the best paths and methods for making the trek. The terrain can be tricky and unfamiliar so you will want someone to show you the way. So if you are ready to prepare for your adventure and you need some help, you’ve come to the right place."

Can we take a page from her? What if we said:

Embarking on a change project in your organization? It's like preparing to climb a mountain. You may encounter extreme terrain and conditions. You will need a guide. A sherpa will show you the best path and methods for making the trek successfully. Why? The terrain can be tricky and unfamiliar. The weather can shift dramatically in an instant. You can easily get lost. So you will want to have someone you can rely upon to show you The Way.

For me, this role description feels right. When I have been a change facilitator, I have definitely felt more like a sherpa than a Manager.

"Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer."

~ Shunryu Suzuki

Posted by Terrence Seamon on July 16, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

We may have change all wrong...

On LinkedIn, a lot of recent threads, in the ODNET group and other similar groups that I participate in actively, are focused on the problem of change.

Maybe we have change all wrong?

Maybe change is totally natural and ordinary. Look at your fingernails. Do they need to be clipped again? Soon perhaps?

Look at a photo of yourself as a child. Have you stayed the same? In my case, I won the prize (a bottle of wine) at my 40th high school reunion for being "The Most Changed."

Or more to the point, look at your organization when it was first founded. Is it different today? Of course it is!

Change is Life!

It is the air that we breath. It is the blood in our veins.

One of my favorite texts in college was a slim paperback called "Living With Change" by Dr. Wendell Johnson. He wrote:

"You have to start out with something you are rather fundamentally thinking about your problem, something that begins with the demonstrated fact that you are changing all the time and so is everyone else. But once you have established that framework, in harmony with that reality, you can begin to observe, to see what stares you in the face, to find out what your problem really is, what you can change, how you can change it, what you cannot change, and so on. Then you can proceed to work to change what you can change. The number of people I have seen who can do this sort of thing is, to me, amazing. And the degree to which they can do it, the things they can do, astonishing."

Maybe we just need to provide enough water or the right sunlight. Or simply to get out of the way.

What we call "resistance to change" may be a misnomer. Maybe what it truly is, if we are honest, is resistance to a bad idea. Or resistance to poor management. Or resistance to being coerced. Or to "too much, too fast."

Maybe "resistance to change" is sometimes a very good thing.

Your thoughts?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday July 15, 2013

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Seven Elements in Organizational Culture

Often I am asked by my clients to help strengthen or even change the culture of their company. Where do you start?

While there are many entry points for such an effort, it helps to have a model of organizational culture in mind. Such as this.

C = Customer, Commercial, Commitment, Conflict, Creativity, & Communication: The letter "C" carries the most weight in this model of organizational culture. Is there a clear bias toward the customer in all that you do? Do members have a high level of commercial awareness including how the Company makes money? Is there a high level of commitment to core values? Are conflicts resolved in a healthy way? Do members feel free to bring creative ideas to the table? Is there open and honest communication across all boundaries in the organization?

U = Unified Effort: Every organization, from a "mom and pop" to a huge multi-national, is a team. And we know that a strong team has unified effort. Meaning that everyone is pulling in the same direction with a strong sense of purpose. What is the vision? What are the values? What is the strategy? Is there alignment throughout the organization?

L = Learning, Leadership & Listening: The letter "L" also carries a lot of weight. Is this a learning organization that continuously inquires, asking "How are we doing?" Are leaders coming from all corners of the organization? Are members taking the time to listen and learn from each other and from customers?

T = Trust: Trust is a huge factor in an organization's culture and in its success. Is there a high level of integrity? Do people keep their commitments to one another? Do the members trust one another? their bosses? the company? Why or why not?

U = Understanding Differences: Every organization is a coming together of people and that means, by definition, differences of all kinds. Diversity therefore is a challenge! If the members hope to succeed, they must constantly work on relationships, building filaments of understanding that will comprise a sturdy interpersonal web.

R = Respect: Like trust, respect is a huge factor. Organizations are human endeavors that rise or fall based on the links between and among the members. Is there a high level of caring and mutual support? Just as trust helps ensure success, so too does respect. Do the members feel respected? Do they respect each other?

E = Empowerment and Engagement
: Lastly the letter "E" points us to two powerful strategies for high performance. Empowerment means that the members are equipped, authorized, and supported to take initiative and do whatever it takes to serve customers and reach goals of the organization. And Engagement means that the members are energized with a sense of ownership toward the organization.

Thinking about assessing your company's culture? Wondering where to start? Go ahead. Use this model.

Better yet, call me at 732-246-3014 and I'll help you.

Posted on Tuesday July 2, 2013 by Terrence Seamon.