You walk into a bank. There are 50 customers inside. Suddenly a robber runs in and fires off one shot. The bullet hits you in the right arm. Quick: What will you tell your friends later about this? Were you lucky or unlucky?
Harvard’s Shawn Achor poses this dilemma in his book The Happiness Advantage. Your interpretation of this experience could go in several directions. There are understandable reasons why you might explain this in a negative way, as the majority of people do—the research shows that the approximate distribution of responses to this incident is 70 percent negative, 30 percent positive.
The problem is that your interpretation of this experience will directly shape how you deal with it and what the future looks like for you and the people around you. In short, you have every right to be depressed, discouraged, and down for an extended time. But why do you do this to yourself? Snap out of it, Eeyore!
I define resilience as the capacity to carry on—to withstand, persevere, or recover from challenging circumstances. Here’s a model I offer clients who are struggling through interesting times. It applies to individuals, teams, and organizations.
- Get a Grip. When you’ve had to deal with significant issues, it’s important to keep your head on straight. People often obsess over why things aren’t perfect. Don’t allow yourself to do that. The sun will rise tomorrow.
- Stay in the Game. Life goes on. No matter where you are, be there. It’s easy to lose your focus on what you’re working on right now. Don’t let yourself get emotional and scattered. We know that when people are under stress they tend to be somewhat distant or even downright aloof. Be cue-sensitive to what’s going on. Staying connected is therapeutic.
- Deal With It. Get in there. Mix it up. Throw yourself at what you’re working on. Don’t use the situation as an excuse to procrastinate making decisions in the here and now. The world has no time for mere thinkers; it wants action.
- Get Over It. All right, something happened. Don’t dwell on what could have been or what should have been. Don’t go there. Move on to the next challenge. It’s all about getting things done, not second-guessing yourself after the fact.
Resilience involves acting as though it is impossible for you to fail. This may sound counter-intuitive, but dealing with challenge may be the best opportunity to tilt the game in your favor. Don’t look at crisis as something to survive. It’s actually an opportunity to thrive.
About the author
Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read his posts here on LeaderChat the fourth Saturday of each month.
During the next couple of weeks, executives at hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world will be getting together to review their past year’s performance and to make plans for the coming year. Many will make a common mistake during the planning process that will greatly reduce the amount of alignment and buy-in they receive from employees within their respective companies. Instead of including employees in the planning process, they will decide to discuss planning behind closed doors and “announce” the new direction at the next all-hands meeting.
The result will be an excited group of executives leading a detached group of employees according to corporate visioning expert Jesse Stoner. In a new article entitled Creating A Vision Statement That Works Stoner explains, “If you want the entire organization to be as excited about the vision as the senior leaders, you have to involve them, allow them to put their thumbprint on it, and have shared ownership. The people who create the vision understand it and own it because it is in their hearts and minds.”
According to Stoner, anytime a leader—or a group of leaders—develops a vision independently and then announces it to the organization, it almost always ends badly. Yet it happens more often than not because leaders think they are expected to have the answers and to set direction. For leaders looking to create a compelling vision, Stoner recommends using a collaborative, involving process that engages people in real dialogue about the vision and provides an opportunity to give feedback.
Some questions Stoner suggests leaders use include:
- What do you think about our vision?
- What is exciting about it to you?
- What would make it more exciting?
- What could we do differently going forward?
“The best way to get people to buy into something is to give them an opportunity to participate in its creation,” says Stoner. “You will always end up with something better than if you did it yourself.”
Get everyone involved for best results
When people have an opportunity to share their hopes and dreams, are involved in the discussions shaping the vision, and are included in making decisions, they have a clearer understanding of the vision, are more deeply committed to it, and move quickly to implement it.
Don’t miss the opportunity to include everyone in the process. Remember, it’s not the words that will stick in people’s minds—it’s the experience.
Organizations around the world have been forced to change the way they do business. The worldwide recession, downsized workforces, and value-conscious customers have created a new set of expectations. A just-released white paper from The Ken Blanchard Companies identifies key strategies for leaders. Here are four of my favorites to get you started on positioning your company for success.
- Change the organizational mindset. In many companies people have been hunkered down and focused on the short term for almost two years. The emphasis has been on cutting costs, holding down expenses, and weathering the storm. Now that the worst is over, how do you let people know that it’s okay to lift your head, look around a little bit, and cautiously make new plans for the future? One thing that leaders can do is share a vision for the road ahead, indicate that growth is a goal again, and let people know that they can try new things that have some risk involved. You want people to start thinking about stepping out again, but they have to feel safe in order to make that leap.
- Give people behavioral examples. What does “try new things that have some risk involved” really mean? The best organizations define the values, attitudes, and practices they desire in clear behavioral terms. People have gotten pretty clear about what they shouldn’t be doing over the past 18 months; make sure they are just as clear about what they should be doing now. The more specific and granular the examples are the better.
- Stay open to change. Constant adaptation is a key for thriving in the new business reality. Pay attention to customers’ expectations and competitors’ innovations. Especially after an extended time of downsizing it’s important for organizations to embrace new ways of thinking to breathe new life into old practices and generate innovative new ideas.
- Involve everyone. Smart leaders look for good ideas everywhere. This means checking in with people who are informal leaders in the organization as well as the people who are in formal positions. By listening to everyone—including people with divergent points of view, you increase the odds that the organization will be more responsive, adaptive, and successful in the face of change.
By sharing power and expanding influence, leaders can create an organization with a strong overall capacity to change and succeed. The new business reality demands that organizations find new ways to address old problems. To learn more ways to increase your organization’s ability to succeed, be sure to check out the complete white paper, Thriving in the New Business Reality from the Blanchard website.
Making the bottom line your top priority may not be the best way to improve profitability. That’s the conclusion of recent research conducted by Mary Sully de Luque and Nathan T. Washburn of Thunderbird School of Global Management; David A. Waldman, of Arizona State University West; and Robert J. House, of the University of Pennsylvania, that underscores the risk of single-mindedly pursuing profit.
This finding is based on survey data gathered from 520 business organizations in 17 countries designed to test if a CEO’s primary focus on profit maximization resulted in employees developing negative feelings toward the organization. The result? Employees in these companies tend to perceive the CEO as autocratic and focused on the short term, and they report being somewhat less willing to sacrifice for the company. Corporate performance is poorer as a result.
But when the CEO makes it a priority to balance the concerns of customers, employees, and the community while also taking environmental impact into account, employees perceive him or her as visionary and participatory. And they report being more willing to exert extra effort, and corporate results improve.
These results aren’t surprising. When the definition of leadership focuses only on profit what tends to fall by the wayside is the condition of the human organization. Leaders wrongly believe that they can’t focus on both at the same time.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As this research points out, organizations perform best when they balance financial goals with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of everyone involved.
The Four Keys to Better Leadership
In looking at all of the great organizations that The Ken Blanchard Companies has worked with over the years, we have found one thing that sets these organizations apart from average organizations. The defining characteristic is leaders who maintain an equal focus on both results and people. In these organizations, leaders measure their success with people (customers and employees) as much as they measure their financial performance.
In these organizations, leaders do four things well.
- They set their sights on the right target and vision. Great organizations focus on three bottom lines instead of just one. In addition to financial success, leaders at great organizations know that measuring their success with people–both customers and employees–is just as important as measuring the success of their financial bottom line. In these organizations, developing loyal customers and engaged employees are considered equal to good financial performance. Leaders at these companies know that in order to succeed they must create a motivating environment for employees, which results in better customer service, which leads to higher profits.
- They treat their customers right. To keep your customers today, you can’t be content just to satisfy them. Instead, you have to create raving fans–customers who are so excited about the way you treat them that they want to tell everyone about you. Companies that create raving fans routinely do the unexpected on behalf of their customers, and then enjoy the growth generated by customers bragging about them to prospective clients.
- They treat their people right. Without committed and empowered employees, you can never provide good service. You can’t treat your people poorly and expect them to treat your customers well. Treating your people right begins with good performance planning that gets things going in the right direction by letting direct reports know what they will be held accountable for–goals–and what good behavior looks like–performance standards. It continues with managers who provide the right amount of direction and support that each individual employee needs in order to achieve those goals and performance standards.
- They turn the organizational chart upside down. The most effective leaders realize that leadership is not about them and that they are only as good as the people they lead. These leaders seek to be serving leaders instead of self-serving leaders. In this model, once a vision has been set, leaders move themselves to the bottom of the hierarchy, acting as a cheerleader, supporter, and encourager to the people who report to them.
The way to maximize your results as a leader is to have high expectations for both results and relationships. If leaders take care of the people who take care of their customers, profits and financial strength will follow. The result is an organization where people and profits both grow and thrive.
In an article for Strategy + Business entitled The Promise (and Perils) of Open Collaboration, author Andrea Gabor identifies the challenges organizations face when they choose to adopt a collaborative work environment. According to Gabor, the biggest obstacle for an organization is the deep change required in the way knowledge is controlled and shared — changes that have the potential to alter relationships both within the company and with its outside constituents. Anything short of total commitment, Gabor warns, is likely to lead to short-lived improvements and eventual failure.
For organizations considering open collaboration, Gabor recommends a clear-headed look at the challenges associated with the change and she identifies seven essential strategies to making it work including:
- Creating a clear leadership message
- Collaborating with customers
- Building a culture of trust and open communication
- Cultivating continuous improvement
- Building a flexible innovation infrastructure
- Preparing your organization for new skill sets
- Aligning evaluations and rewards
The article points out that “open collaboration is a complex, all-embracing process, requiring genuine commitment from corporate leaders, a willingness to abandon many venerable corporate customs, and an appetite for unleashing and managing disruptive change across the organization.” But Gabor also encourages organizations to move forward and continue to develop their approach to open collaboration, because for those that do there are great benefits as well.
Sometime today or tomorrow, be sure to read—or save, this article—it’s one of the best on collaboration that we’ve seen.
And if you are looking for a little additional inspiration and insight on the subject, check out the on-demand webcast of Pass the Ball: The Power of Collaboration. This is a presentation Ken Blanchard did together with Cisco WebEx in June as a part of their Pass the Ball initiative. Ken shares his thoughts on getting others involved, how a philosophy of “none of us is as smart as all of us” helps everyone accomplish more, and the difference between serving and self-serving behavior.
One of the primary reasons why change efforts fail is because leaders do not consider change from an employee’s perspective. If you’re considering a change initiative in your organization, make sure that you take into account the six predictable concerns that people have when they are asked to change. By addressing these concerns early, you can reduce resistance and build momentum for moving ahead.
1. Information Concerns—What is the change and why is it needed? Make sure that you’re telling instead of selling at this early stage. People want direct, honest answers instead of being “sold” on the change and why they should accept it.
2. Personal Concerns—How will the change impact me personally? Leaders need to create an atmosphere of trust and genuine concern for how the change will impact people personally.
3. Implementation Concerns—Once their first two concerns are out of the way (and not before) people are ready to hear about the details of the change process.
4. Impact Concerns—At this stage people want to know about the impact that the change is having.
5. Collaboration Concerns—Once people understand the benefits of the change, they are ready to spread the word and encourage others. At this stage, leaders need to shift roles and allow others to run with the ball.
6. Refinement Concerns—With the first stage of change successfully implemented, your role at this point is to encourage refinement and support further innovation.
Change happens one person at a time. By taking the time to address the concerns that people naturally have when they are asked to change, leaders can surface these issues before they occur. Is your organization ready for change? Take our Change Readiness Quiz and find out where you stand. (Please note that one-time registration at The Ken Blanchard Companies web site is required to see results.)
McKinsey & Company just published the results of a series of interviews with 14 CEOs and chairmen of major companies (including 3M, Cardinal Health, Travelers Insurance, Pepsi Bottling Group, Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, Sysco, and Northrop Grumman) asking them to reflect on the current recession and previous challenges they had faced in a turnaround or a crisis. What emerged from the interviews are six principles that all leaders can reflect on to guide their behavior in the executive suite and the boardroom, as well as interactions with employees, customers, and investors.
- Confront reality
- At board meetings, put strategy center stage
- Be transparent with employees
- Be transparent with investors
- Build and protect the culture
- Keep faith with the future
You can access the complete McKinsey article here. (It’s free, but registration is required.) While you’re there be sure to check out the McKinsey archives and also sign up to begin receiving the free McKinsey Quarterly, a great business strategy resource.
For more information on leading in the new business reality, also be sure to check out Blanchard’s recent articles on Making the Shift from Survival to Growth and Creating a Change-Ready Organization. Both are available at no charge at the Blanchard website.
Join Dr. Pat Zigarmi, co-author of the new book, Who Killed Change? right here on LeaderChat beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time for a 30-minute Q&A session.
Pat will be stopping by right after she finishes her WebEx sponsored webinar on Leading People Through Change. This is a special government-focused webinar that looks at the unique challenges encountered when leading change in a government setting. Over 200 people will be participating in the webinar and most will be gathering here to ask follow-up questions.
If you have a question that you would like to ask Pat, just enter this thread or click on the COMMENTS hyperlink near the title of this post. Type in your question in the space provided and hit SUBMIT COMMENT. Pat will answer as many questions as possible until she has to leave at 10:30 a.m. Pacific.
And if you can’t stay, be sure to stop by later and see all the questions that were asked. Or better yet, hit the RSS FEED button on the right-hand column and receive updates on a weekly basis.
70% of change efforts fail according to Pat Zigarmi, coauthor with Ken Blanchard, John Britt, and Judd Hoekstra of the new book Who Killed Change? out in bookstores now.
In Zigarmi’s experience of working with clients on organizational change initiatives over the past 20 years, a couple of common mistakes keep popping up when organizations go about launching large scale change in their organizations.
What causes change to fail in most organizations? Here are three that Zigarmi recommends keeping an eye on:
- People leading the change think that announcing the change is the same as implementing it. So much energy in organizations is spent preparing to communicate the change and the reasons behind it, but not nearly the same energy is spent planning for the successful execution and rollout of the change after the announcement.
- People’s concerns with change are not surfaced or addressed. If leaders do not take the time to specifically address individuals’ needs and fears near the beginning of the change process, they will find themselves fighting an uphill battle later on in the process.
- Those being asked to change are not involved in planning the change. Leaders need to gain the buy-in and cooperation of the people who are being asked to change. Without that, resistance smolders. This is because people feel that change is being done to them rather than with them.
Interested in learning more about Zigarmi’s thoughts on leading people through change in your organization? Be sure to check out interviews with Pat in the May 2008 and May 2009 issues of Ignite or Pat’s webinar recordings on implementing change.
To learn more about Who Killed Change? including access to the first chapter, follow this link, Who Killed Change?
The new book Who Killed Change?, co-authored by Ken Blanchard, John Britt, Pat Zigarmi, and Judd Hoekstra, hits bookstore shelves on May 26. Written in a fun, who-done-it murder mystery style, the book follows the investigation of the death of Change in the large ACME organization. Readers follow along as a hard-boiled detective (known only as Agent) questions each of the suspects including Budget, Sponsorship, and Aligned Leadership.
Has a change initiative ever “died” in your organization? Who would you point to as the likely suspects? Take our poll below, and also leave a comment and let us know about the biggest killers of change you’ve experienced.