Saturday, July 30, 2016

Leaders, You Teach in Everything You Do

So much is written about leadership! Qualities of leaders. Traits of leaders. It's all interesting, to be sure. But, at the end of the day, you may be thinking: If you want to be a leader, what should you do?

Here is an important principle of leadership for starters:

Everything you do teaches.

This leadership principle says, Teaching is more than just words. Your actions speak just as loudly. If you want to "lead by your example," then watch what you do.

In view of this principle, an effective leader is highly mindful of his or her own behavior, actions, and choices.

Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a manager, everything you do, everything you say, has the potential for leaving an impression on a child, on a student, on an employee. These impressions will influence what people do as a result.

If a manager wants improved communication, he needs to communicate effectively.

If a manager wants improved engagement, she needs to be engaged in her work.

Whatever you do (or don't do) speaks volumes . . . and teaches.

So here are three things that leaders do...that you can start doing today.

Ask for input - Leaders know that power is not in position. Rather, power is in posture. And the most powerful posture is humility. An open and receptive posture that invites and welcomes many voices and perspectives. "What are your thoughts?" is a positive power play with real potential. So, leaders actively seek the ideas of their team members. "What do you guys think we should do?" is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader. Quite the contrary. It's brilliance. Leaders ask for help. Leaders listen. And, in so doing, they engage and empower others.

Seek wisdom before taking action - Leaders take action based on what they believe is wise, that is, the right course for the right reasons. Where do they find this wisdom? While leaders often have good ideas, even the smartest know that they don't have all the ideas. There may be even better ideas out there among their constituents. The leader that seeks the wisdom of the people in the system is indeed a wise one.

Learn and change - Leaders are agents of change. And all change starts with the man or woman in the mirror. The Self. In the face of today's complex workplace challenges, the wise leader would take a long and honest look in the mirror. And resolve to make the necessary changes in himself.

Terrence Seamon helps managers become leaders. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's Not About You

Good ideas come from the margins.
I think I first encountered the concept of marginality in Organization Development a long time ago (early 70's) in discussions about collusion.

In 1988, in a strong critique of the state of OD, Margulies and Raia commented that OD consultants are "in bed with" their clients. They wrote:

"It is our belief that OD practitioners have become an integral part of this collusion. Many practitioners have succumbed to management pressure for the quick fix, the emphasis on the bottom line, and the cure-all mentality; they have failed to maintain "marginality" in their roles as consultants and helpers to management- they are for all intents and purposes "in bed" with their client-systems; and more important perhaps, they seem to have lost sight of the core values of the field..."

From what I have learned, marginality is a choice that we make. A relational stance toward our clients. A way to provide clients with outsider perspective, professional distance, neutrality, and honesty.

The marginality of a change agent gives the best vantage point for assessing the system and determining the changes that will bring about the needed improvement. Such marginality is an intentional space that the consultant chooses to operate from. He or she can be deep inside of the organization yet maintain marginality.

Marginality helps to keep the relationship professional.

And, if blogger Paul Graham is right about the powers in the marginal...

for example, Graham points out that new ideas often come from the margins and that outsider status brings different opportunities than those available to insiders

...there could be a whole new vista on marginality for OD practitioners.

Is it time for OD to reclaim the powers of marginality?
I think so.
A starting point is how we view ourselves. For example...
"It's not about You."
Rather, it is about the Client.

You, the consultant (or facilitator or coach), are not center stage. You are the neutral servant. Your job is to be of some help. The spotlight belongs to the Client.
The Client owns the goal. The Client is accountable for the outcome.

Your job is to work yourself out of a job...but to leave the Client and her System better off than they were at the start of the engagement.
Where are you on the topic of marginality?
Terrence Seamon has been cultivating marginality for decades. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Do I Contradict Myself?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

This excerpt, from the poem Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, opens up a vast thought for me about potential, about possibility.

For instance, we are taught that contradiction is bad. "Don't contradict me, young man." Or "You are contradicting yourself."
So what?

What if both positions are possible? What if both positions are right?
What if ambiguity is a path to wisdom?

I'm coming to the thought that we contain so much more than we know. It's a thought that runs counter to our socialization. We are taught to think of ourselves as units. We break things down, diagram things, and put things into boxes.
We are taught binary thinking.  On or Off. Black or White. In or Out.
We tend to think in terms of limits, in terms of scarcity.

What if we actually had no limit, no edges, no top, no bottom, no sides?

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” - Bruce Lee

Terrence Seamon helps his clients expand their thinking to move toward their goals. Follow Terry at twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Angel in the Marble

What do you see? Not right in front of you. But what do you see in terms of possibilities?
"I imagined the angel in the marble and I carved it until I set him free" -  Michaelangelo
There is a power within all of us that goes unnoticed and underutilized by most of us, much to our detriment.
I'm speaking of the Imagination.
We all have imagination. It comes with the package, so to speak. As children, we are incredibly imaginative, concocting stories, weaving fantastic voyages, pretending and play-acting like wee little Shakespeares!
What becomes of our imagination as we grow up?
Some hold on to it. Poets, artists, composers, dreamers.
Consider the quote above, attributed to the great artist Michaelangelo. That he could look at a raw hunk of marble, and "see" the potential for an angel within it, is testimony to the faculty we possess called imagination.
Imagination is a power we all possess. It's our ability to see what is not there, but could be.
It is the well-spring of all creativity and innovation. It is the source of all things new.
Terrence Seamon writes from his imagination. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What's Stopping You?

"The first step toward getting somewhere is deciding you are not going to stay where you are."
After thirty years of living at one address, we are moving. As you might imagine, you accumulate a lot of stuff in thirty years.The  house is filled with boxes, holding dishes, photo albums, books, holiday ornaments, and much more, all awaiting the moving men.
So far, it has been a quite a journey. We have made more trips to Good Will than I can count!
Thanks to craigslist and freecycle, we have given away furniture, toys, books, chimes, and all sorts of home goods.
Thanks to family and friends we have stashed artwork in cellars and Christmas decorations in basements. We have entrusted precious family heirlooms, like the Cop Bear, to one of my brothers.
As we have burrowed into our own personal archaeological dig, we have unearthed treasures of our past, such as my father's box of personal effects including a talisman from Italy that he brought home from the war.
As exciting as the prospect of moving to a new place is, this has also been an incredibly stressful time.
Many is the time during these past few months that we have felt exhausted by the daily tasks of sorting, bagging, boxing, and disposing of the stuff of thirty years. There were times when we asked ourselves, Why? Why are we doing this? Why don't we just pull the plug and go back to the way things were?
The more stuff, the harder the move.
This process seems to me to be a good metaphor for personal growth and change.
It can be hard to start. It can be hard to push on and push through. You may feel like you've made a mistake. You may be tempted to throw in the towel.
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
I'm learning some lessons as a result of our decision to move.
Deciding to move is deciding to change.
Terrence Seamon coaches his clients through change. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Monday, July 11, 2016

There is NO substitute for experience

I've noticed that organizational change practitioners really really really want to learn!
That's good. Because managing organizational change is NOT for amateurs.
"When it comes to managing organizational change,  there is no substitute for experiential learning." - Dr. E.J. Sarma
There is much to know about organizational change. There are theories (e.g. Kurt Lewin's force field analysis) and models (e.g. John Kotter's eight steps). There is research (e.g. Argyris) and best practices (e.g. Prosci).
But as good as they are, that is all in the head.
I have said in the past that the most important credential for anyone practicing in this arena is that they MUST have direct and personal experience of organizational change.
Otherwise how could they possibly know what people are going through?
Having gone through a major change in an organization (e.g. a merger, an acquisition, a downsizing), the practitioner will know it in her gut and in her heart.
With such a personalized and internalized knowing, the truly experienced organizational change and development practitioner will be ready and able to guide others through the skerries of change.
Terrence Seamon is a seasoned organizational change and development practitioner. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Way to Build a Better Company

On LinkedIn, 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!  A company is its people.
Deckman's statement leads to a question:  In today's companies, what are the key capabilities needed in the workforce?
One of those key capabilities, in my view, is leadership. Leadership is not about level or title. It's about the capability an organization needs to mobilize energy in the desired direction toward success.
Breaking this capability down into components, here are some of the most vital aspects of leadership.
Character - Many thinkers, from Plato to Stephen Covey, have tried to distill the qualities of a leader. The key qualities, in my mind, are those that are most related to demonstrating leadership in an organization. Qualities like focus, being proactive, vision, commitment, respect, and caring. There are many more, I am sure. Character is vital to leadership because it points to what is inside the person that "shines" out of them in their interactions with others.
Communication - If you are not communicating, you are not leading. It's as simple as that. Communication is the oxygen in an organization. Leaders maintain a lively exchange of information and ideas with others around them in the organization. The communication is open, free flowing, and direct. Leaders are approachable.
Conflict & Creativity - Any time people come together in an organization there will be clashes. Conflict therefore is natural and emerges from our differences. Leaders recognize this and develop ways to handle disagreements in a healthy way. Leaders also develop creative approaches to resolving issues and problems so that the team gets stronger and smarter through the process. 
Collaboration - Leaders facilitate teamwork by bringing people together around common goals. When collaboration and cooperation are established, leaders can unleash the power of diversity and synergy in the organization, where "great minds" can apply their energy to vexing problems and achieve breakthroughs.
Coaching & Change - Leaders build the capabilities of others. That's what coaching means. Strengthening others so they can perform at their best. And during times of organizational change, when people are stressed, this coaching capability is greatly needed to help people navigate the uncertain waters of change.
Culture - Leaders impact the culture of the organization because the culture is a reflection of the choices ("how we do things here") they make each and every day. Mindful of this dynamic, leaders can "lead by example" and take good care of the culture being created for the company.
The way to build a better company?  Build the leadership capability of the workforce.
Terrence Seamon builds leadership and team capability. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Culture Change by Design

Many are thinking about changing their organization's culture to make it more innovative, more customer focused, even more healthy. All good goals, in my view.

But can you really change the culture? Experts on corporate culture have differing views.

Where does culture come from?  The culture of an organization is the way it is due to the history of the company, stretching back into the past. Culture is a reflection of the founders and past leaders, decisions that were made in the face of early obstacles, and practices that became "the way we do things here." 

The way a culture is now is because of the way things have been done. 

To change the culture therefore requires changing the deep structures that underpin the present behaviors. This is a significant undertaking. There is no quick fix. No fast transformation.

I am reminded of a culture change project from 2011 that made headlines in the media.  Back in 2011, Lowell McAdam, the newly named CEO of Verizon Communications, announced: "We will definitely try to bring that entrepreneurial culture from the wireless side into the wireline side." Why? McAdam had come over to Verizon after a highly successful run as the head of Verizon Wireless. He said that Verizon must adopt a more "entrepreneurial culture" in its shrinking land-line business.

That was truly a Big Scale Culture Change Project: How to bring the entrepreneurial culture from the wireless business into the wireline side of Verizon Communications, to counter its shrinking business prospects.

How did he plan to pull this off? Reading further in the news articles, some of McAdam's ideas for changing the culture included...

Spreading the Credo: Like many other companies, Verizon Wireless has a set of values. They call it their Credo (as does Johnson and Johnson). The word Customer is mentioned over and over. And most interesting is the final section about Bigness:

"Bureaucracy is an enemy. We fight every day to stay small and keep bureaucracy out. We are more agile than companies a fraction of our size, because we act fast and take risks every day. We see crisis and change as opportunities, not threats. We run to a crisis, not away. Change energizes us. We work hard, take action and get things done. Our actions produce measurable results."

Impressive words. But the proof is on the front-line.

Working with the Unions: A phone company like Verizon deploys thousands of front-line workers each and every day. The culture change initiative must touch the hearts of these people or it won't take hold.

Developing New Products and Services: With new competitors nibbling away at the old phone business, Verizon must think differently and innovate. The way to think differently is get different people thinking together.

If McAdam had asked me what else he should consider, I'd have offered the following...

Lead the Change: This is now a top priority for all the leaders of the organization. Who are the leaders? Potentially, anyone. Leaders can come from anywhere in an organization. Expand your thinking about leadership and develop leaders at all levels. Leaders are the catalyst for change.

Share the Vision:  What is the change? What do we desire to become? What is possible? What will it take to get there? What will it be like when we have reached the New Beginning? Can we let go of the Old Way?

Clarify the Challenge: Make it abundantly clear that the stakes are high and that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Jack Welch once said it very well: Change before you have to.

Communicate!   Effective communication is open, two-way, and direct. To build trust during times of significant change, communication must be constant.

Engage the Entire Organization: Make it very clear that everyone has a part to play in moving the culture and transforming the way Verizon does business. Invite everyone to contribute. Make it "safe to say" whatever is on their mind. Listen and learn. Implement as much as possible.

Change the Conversations: Get different people involved. Change the conversation by changing who is around the table. Capitalize on diversity.

Engage the Customer: Invite the customer to the table. Seek their input. Listen, learn, and improve.

Changing the culture of an organization is a massive undertaking. But it is possible.

The members of the organization have to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask themselves "Can we change?" 

To change the culture of an organization, you have got to engage everyone. Everyone must be included. Somehow everyone has to have their say...and be heard.

With commitment, communication, coaching, customer-focus, and confidence, it can start tomorrow.

Terrence Seamon is fascinated by culture and culture change. Follow him on twitter @tseamon. Learn more about him on facebook at Facilitation Solutions.