Sunday, December 27, 2015

Four Lessons of Change

In a LinkedIn post the other day, consultant Jeffrey Deckman wrote:
"The only way to build a better company is to invest in building a more capable workforce." 
To which I said, Amen!
Here are four things to think about if you are planning to strengthen your organization in 2016.
First a true story.
I was the Training Manager supporting the R&D unit in NJ of a global pharma-chemicals company based in Germany. The business unit head from Frankfurt had flown to NJ for a management meeting and, to my great surprise, asked to see me.
In a meeting that lasted only a few seconds, he shook my hand and 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, the business units in North Carolina and Texas, had grown 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 out-of-touch ivory tower, disconnected from the real needs of the revenue generating business units. The truth is, the R&D community had stopped engaging with their customers, had stopped listening to them.
The moment of truth came at a town hall meeting. The head of the R&D unit put it plainly: Unless we start generating commercially viable new product ideas that the business units want, this R&D location will be closed.
What did we do? Working in concert with R&D 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. An important feature of this program was the new product idea presentation where the research teams presented their pitch to management (including business unit managers) and got direct and unvarnished feedback. Some ideas were killed on the spot, while others were sent back to the drawing board for more work. From this iterative process, the strongest ideas were given the green light for further development.
As well received as this training program 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. Conceived by one of my clients, a young researcher, these brainstorming meetings produced many innovative ideas that excited the business units, and helped shift their perception of the NJ R&D unit. As the meeting facilitator, I had the thrilling opportunity to see a bunch of great minds interacting and coming up with so many possibilities.
Through this experience, I learned some important lessons about changing an organization:
Team: No one person could have done this alone. But as Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Engagement: To shift such deeply entrenched negative perceptions, the parties have to re-engage, start interacting again, start listening again, and start trusting again.
Reason: What one thing will turn around an organization that was headed for the chopping block? A very clear, unambiguous view of what some call “the burning platform.” The compelling reason to change. And a clear alternative vision of a brighter future.
Acceptance: For an organization to change, the members must accept it. If they understand the need, they are more likely to embrace the change. And in accepting it, they will be open to learning (about themselves, about others), open to influence, and open to growth.
Yes, there will be some loss and pain associated with organizational change. But, as the old saying “No pain, no gain” points out, there will be a new beginning.
Terrence Seamon builds leadership and team capability. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Caution to Today's Young Managers

I was in conversation with a 25 year old freshly-minted manager. The new manager was beaming with pride and excitement about his job with a company in the mid-Atlantic region.
When I asked him about the job and what he does, he said with all sincerity, 
“And now I have people under me. Now I give the orders. And they have to listen to me for a change.”
I nearly choked. Here was a fresh-faced young person, only out of college a few short years, who has already internalized the wrong image of what a manager does.
Look at the worn-out paradigm that is reflected in the words he uttered with such joy:
Under me – The old concept of manager is that of Boss where the starting point is fear. The manager has the power. And the manager distrusts people. As a result, he must control them, keep them down and under his thumb. With the workers “under” him, the Boss holds the power and “wields the stick” of authority to run the gang.
Give orders – In the old concept, managers decide what needs to be done and tell the workers to do it. The assumption is that the workers have checked their brains at the door. That they are just sitting around, and that they wouldn’t know what to do unless the manager told them.
Listen to me – Since it’s the managers that know all and decide all in the old concept, it follows then that they do most (if not all) of the talking. Why would a manager ever listen to the workers?
Mull that over for a few moments. What kind of organization flows from this concept of managing? If you want one that is top-down, fear-based, stressed out, and disengaged, be my guest. But don’t be surprised by the side-effects including weak performance, saggy productivity, and employee relations issues to keep your HR department running in circles.
Where do these mental models come from? Is it learned at home? In school? On the job? The answer is, It could be any or all of the above. Regardless of where the concepts came from, the challenge before us to to shift such thinking into a whole different mode.
What mode, you ask? Consider this instead. What if the young manager were to say: 
“And now I have a team to support. I get to develop and empower them. And I will be listening to their ideas every chance I get!”
Let’s break it down:
Support the team - Success is about what the team does, what the team achieves. Today's managers do whatever it takes, whatever is in their power, to help the team to win.
Develop and empower the team - Skills and confidence are the fuels the team needs to succeed. Today's managers are coaches who "guide, energize, and excite."
Communicate with and listen to them and to their ideas - Since the team is closest to the work, it makes sense that they will have ideas on ways to improve. Today's managers promote initiative, improvement, and innovation by stoking the engine of ideas from the team.
Do you notice the difference? 
Former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch once said, “We have to undo a 100 year old concept and convince our managers that their job is not to control people and stay on top of things but rather to guide, energize, and excite.” 
Welch was ahead of his time.
Recently, India-based CEO Vineet Nayar asked, “What should the business of managers and management be? The answer to that question is to enthuse and encourage employees…..enhance employees first and customers second.” He also said: “Employees have the power to find innovative solutions to the problems we face. Employees are at the core of every game-changing idea.”
This, in a nutshell, is the New Management Paradigm. I like to call it Management 3.0. Embracing it is scary, I’ll grant. It will lead to very different organizations and outcomes, to be sure.
Terrence Seamon develops future leaders. Follow him on twitter @tseamon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Limits of Change

You have been trying hard for the past three years to help one of your key leaders to improve his performance in a very pivotal role in your organization. You have given him several doses of specific feedback, sent him to external seminars, hired a coach, provided him with a very capable assistant, and even assigned a mentor. Unfortunately, after all this effort, the employee is still underwhelming you and others with his performance.
The hapless employee is well aware that you are dissatisfied. He knows that he needs to change. He understands the feedback. He wants to do better. He has tried and tried. But at the end of the day, he is still fumbling the same old things as before.
And you are still fuming with disappointment.
After so much effort and investment, what else can You do?
At this point, you may be torn between the following two choices:
Let the employee go – You’ve done everything, to effect a change, but to no avail. Maybe it’s time to cut your losses?
Move the employee – Perhaps the employee is in “over his head.” Maybe you should consider another role in some other capacity which would play better to his strengths?
There is a third option.
Start with this thought:  When it comes to performance improvement, there are limits to change. One of the most widely known change management models is ADKAR which reminds us that change depends upon awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. Most organizational changes fail because they don’t go far enough into these five components. Change takes time and requires a lot of thoughtful work.
Now consider this idea:  What if this employee were your spouse or your child? Whenever you have found yourself at your wit’s end with a loved one such as your spouse or one of your children, what has worked? You have probably opened up your heart and found a way to accept. In a word, you have loved.
When you look at another person with love, your view widens like a camera lens that is pulled back for a broader perspective. This is who he is. Yes, there are things he does that drive you crazy. But what else is there to see? Can you spot his good points, his strengths?
With a loving frame, you are then better able to see what the other person is trying to do. You become more forgiving of their shortcomings and failures. And you even notice their gifts.
The truth is, we cannot change another person. We can only change ourselves.
Terrence Seamon is an executive coach. Follow him on twitter @tseamon.

A Seat At the Table

For decades, many in the field of Human Resources have been seeking the proverbial “seat at the table,” a place in the esteem of those in the C-suite and participation in the strategic decision making process of the organization.
Has anyone ever asked:  If you had a seat at the table, what would you do with it?
To me, the answer is quite clear: HR needs to add value.
But what does that oft-used phrase, added value, really mean?  The key to grasping what “added value” means is to recognize that it is always in the eyes of the customer.
So, as many (such as David Ulrich) have said, HR has to re-think itself, indeed must transform itself.  Here are some questions to start the HR transformation:
* Who are HR’s customers?
* What do they want from HR?
* What does “value” mean to them?
To learn more about adding value, HR would do well to study marketing.  Marketing blogger Eric Tsai offers eight ideas for creating brand value. His first tip is: Stay on top of your customer’s needs. Tsai also says:  Try new ideas and Improve experience.
With Tsai’s post as a starting point, I’d suggest this acronym, WCBS, as a way to keep a few key things in mind throughout the process of working with your customers:
W = Why – Ask the question “Why?” as often as you need to. This question will delve into the reasons behind a customer’s request and clarify the purpose toward which they aspire.  The importance of Why cannot be overstressed. ( Consultant Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, argues well for engaging others around purpose, values, and beliefs.)
C = Customer – Be as customer-focused as you can at every step in a project, including the Customer in the work wherever possible.
B = Business – Stay mindful of the business and how it will benefit by the policy, program, or change. Think like an owner of the business as you do your work. Ask yourself, If I owned this business, what would I do? Also, be easy to do business with.
S = Stakeholders, System, and Sustainability – The “S” has several critical meanings:  Be mindful of all the stakeholders who have an interest in the change. Be mindful of the system and remember that everything and everyone is interconnected. Think beyond the initiative itself, beyond the goal and the deliverable, to the question of sustaining the change into the future.
If HR did a good job on really getting to know their customers, built a trusted relationship, and understood the customer’s needs and problems– chances are the key stakeholders, including the C-Suite, would have a favorable perception of HR. And would even want HR sitting at the table.
This article was written by Terrence Seamon. For more on consulting, leadership, purpose, and engagement, check out Terry’s facebook page, Facilitation Solutions,  and his blog Here We Are. Now What?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Moving the Organization to A Coaching Culture

Much is being written these days about culture in organizations...What is culture? Can you change it?  How do you change the culture?
In my view, since the culture is the people, then you certainly can change it.
However, it really helps if you know What the change is and Why it would be a good thing for the organization (and its customers) to make the change.
In a Harvard Business Review piece, titled, “Why HR Really Does Add Value,” Rubbermaid CEO Brian Hults had this to say about HR:
"In order to add significant value to a business, HR must be able to support and enable the execution of strategy through building organizational capability. This is a role that cannot be automated, shared as a service, offshored or outsourced. It comes from an intimate knowledge of a business’s strategy and the existing capabilities of the organization. The great advantage that HR has in this area is that, ultimately, all strategy is executed by people – people who need to be supported, trained and equipped to fulfill the strategic vision. This is the real role of HR."

So in his view, the real value-adding role of HR is to support, train and equip the people who do the work in the organization. When HR does this, it supports and enables the execution of the business strategy.
Though Hults does not say it quite this directly, to me it seems that the critical core competency of HR therefore ought to be coaching.

Coaching = “the process of directing, instructing and training
a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve some goal.”
What does a highly effective coach do?
Let’s look at a team in sports. It could be a soccer team, a basketball team, a baseball team or any other sport you like. Take your pick.
An effective coach supports the team –  Every team needs support. This support takes many forms, from information and tools, to encouragement, recognition, and leadership.
An effective coach trains the team – Every team needs skills. Some of the skills are task related such as passing the ball and running specific plays; some are relationship related such as communication, cooperation, conflict resolution, and customer service.
An effective coach equips and enables the team – Every team needs to be properly equipped (e.g. helmets, pads, cleats), and properly aligned and motivated. The latter are attained via clear goals, a strong mission, a set of guiding values, and a compelling vision.
When a coach attends to these basic needs of their team, and works hard with each player to bring out their very best, what do you get? A winning team.
Now let’s return to a business organization. Lift the hood on any organization and what do you see inside? People working in teams that are interacting with each other to produce some service or product for a customer.
In most organizations, how effective is the teamwork? If we are brutally honest, it could use some help. In today’s over-worked organizations, teams are under a lot of pressure. And the cracks will start to show. The rising levels of workplace stress alone should be setting off alarm bells in HR offices around the world.
Organizational teamwork needs a coach.
And who better to be that coach than HR? Working in concert with senior management and all the leaders in the organization, HR can spread the coaching capability to all the teams across the enterprise.
This should not be a big stretch for most HR professionals, especially those who do a bit of coaching already. In my past experience, working in HR for many years, I saw plenty of examples of HR providing needed just-in-time coaching, often to address, or head off, an employee relations issue.
But to really attain the level that Hults is talking about requires more. What this amounts to is a culture change in the direction of coaching. For any culture change project, the following questions will provide the HR team with a roadmap to success:
What is the culture we desire? Painting a vivid picture of the end-state you envision will help you generate excitement and energy…and overcome the inertia of the present state.What would a coaching culture look like here at Company XYZ?
Why do we want to make this change? Getting very clear on the “why” is critical. Clarifying and communicating the importance of the change will help awaken the engagement you’ll need to get there.
What obstacles will we face in setting out on this journey? Approaching any large scale change is daunting. Going into it with your “eyes wide open” is critical so you are not blind-sided by something that could trip you up.
How do we get everyone on board?   When it comes to change, someone inevitably asks, “How will we get buy-in?” The answer is simply, Invite everyone into the process, from the beginning. Leave no one out. Give a voice to all.
What resources will we need to get there?   Careful planning is the key. Lining up the resources you will need, such as training, communications, and periodic progress checks, is vital. And another resource you’ll need is patience. And determination, unrelenting movement in the desired direction, without hurrying, taking the time to do it right and making sure no one is shut out or left behind.
How can we begin? As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.” The way to get started is to begin. Take that first step. Then another. And so on.
By creating a coaching culture, where coaching capability is found throughout the organization, HR can deliver on its highest calling:  to add value by supporting strategic execution.
A version of this blog post appears as the cover article in the November issue of Accelerate magazine. Click here for a preview. 
Terrence Seamon is a Training and Organization Development consultant, coach, speaker, facilitator, and writer. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.