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Leading Effective Change: A 10-Point Checklist for the Busy Leader

Change management, or change leadership, as I like to call it, is a big subject. So many books have been written on the subject, and there are more every year. I know this because I was a contributing author to The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook, the standard reference of the global Change Management Institute.

And we live in a VUCA world: a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. We are learning new ways of navigating this new world all the time.

Most likely, most of us will be thrown into leading some sort of change before we have had any kind of change management training. Even if you have had such training, it may be difficult to recall the essentials when you find yourself launched into the thick of it.

There will be pressure to get started. That change won’t wait until you’ve learned everything. So taking all this into account, how would you prevent yourself getting lost in the weeds?

It is possible to distill the complexity of change leadership down into a short checklist

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It is possible to get the essence of change leadership down into a short checklist, something we can carry with us into the VUCA of change. Something like the Pareto Principle is operating here. Despite a huge and complex body of knowledge, it is possible to have a short checklist you can return to again and again that will serve you well.

So I've distilled for you the essentials of leading change down to a 10-point checklist, that you can download below. It’s not exhaustive and if you rely on the checklist alone, you are likely to get into trouble, or miss something. But it is a start. Follow this and it will take you a long way.

How is Your Leadership Trust Fund?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

According to Professor Bruce Lloyd of London's South Bank University, “The critical issue is not change but trust.” 

This is consistent with research by Patrick Lencioni’s Table Group, San Francisco. In his, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Lencioni illustrates how in an executive team trust is a fundamental platform for a co-ordinated effort forward.

The critical issue is not #change but #trust. Professor Bruce Lloyd

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It is interesting how little attention is given to the matter of trust in so much of the literature and training about Leadership and Change Management. Perhaps this is because academics and methodologists look for clues in the wrong places, in ‘objectives’ and other less ‘emotional’ areas. Perhaps it is because many in senior management still subscribe to situational ethics in dealing with people, and look to quick, expedient remedies.

However, evidence has been there for some time now that trust is necessary for leading change, and it is built up over a period of time. I believe that trust is the oxygen of change. Where there is no trust, you might see change through, but as one of my American friends would say, "You leave a lot of blood on the trail."

Trust is the oxygen of change

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The Relational Bank Account

One of the most powerful relational metaphors is the relational bank account, the idea that in any relationship we have, there is a kind of bank account. We can do things to top up that account - such as serving people, going out of our way to be kind to them - as well as do things that make withdrawals. Once the account is empty, you can't make any further withdrawals. You can't ask favours that will be looked upon kindly. Trust is similar, but damage someone's trust and the account can be emptied quite suddenly. On the other hand, always delivering on your promises, for example, builds trust.

Relational Boundaries

Danny Silk, in his book, Keep Your Love On, explains this in terms of boundaries. Healthy relationships are created, grow and are maintained with clear boundaries. We all have these boundaries. These might be illustrated thus:

Relational Boundaries

We don't allow most of the world into our intimate spaces, nor should we. By the same token, we should not expect the people we are trying to influence, our stakeholders, to allow us in all the way. Just because I'm interested in your product doesn't make us best buddies. Healthy relationships are built on these graduated boundaries in our lives. These boundaries are not walls, but are permeable. Most us are scanning the people around us to decide whether we let people through into the next level. Managing these boundaries is not uncaring but is healthy social behaviour.


So, we may want to consider an influencing strategy with some key stakeholders that take us at least from the outside of the circles, where they regard us a one of their tribe. 

If you have a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, is there any measure of how you are doing in terms of trust from your key stakeholders?

Are you measuring trust among your stakeholders? If so, how are you doing this? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Keys to How People will Respond to Your Change

If you have ever led a change, you will be familiar with this experience:

You make your pitch to someone affected. You pitch your change proposition with passion and enthusiasm.

However, as you talk, the other person does not mirror your enthusiasm. In fact, you feel a huge yebbut coming ("Yeah, but..."). Your enthusiasm begins oozing out of your feet as you listen to them explain why it won't or shouldn't work.

I thought I'd share the video below. It forms part of our new Exploring People Engagement online coaching programme. In this video, I rehearse the 5 TONIC ​responses that cover most of the sources of objection to our change.

So, what's the point? Simply this: the TONIC list helps me prepare before I present a change proposition. If I'm giving a formal presentation to a larger group, I might include some of these objections in my presentation, such as the organisation's recent history and the type of change I'm proposing, and deal with those concerns as part of my presentation.

Most responses to change can be explained from five core areas.

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If I'm meeting a key individual, one-to-one, I might sensitively study how they might react from what I know about them, their role, their style of working and what I know they hold as their operating values. This helps me avoid causing unnecessary anxiety or offence.

Finally, I'd like to attribute the original list to the work of Esther Cameron and Mike Green, as it appears in their Making Sense of Change Management. MSCM, as it was known, was for a number of years the core reference for APMG's qualification in Change Management. 'TONIC' was the acronym one of the pearcemayfield delegates on the  Change Management Practitioner course came up with and it stuck for John Edmonds and me.

Then APMG moved to The Effective Change Manager's Handbook as the core reference for this qualification, a tome which I had a hand in writing one of the chapters. And, sadly, TONIC didn't make the transition to the new curriculum, which I think is a shame.

So I've kept it in my writing and training. I hope you agree it's a valuable framework.

Copyright: racorn / 123RF Stock Photo

Change or Die!

If you were told that unless you made a lifestyle change you would die, would you change?

Would you, though?

Research shows that you're probably wrong.​

In this video, I report on some fascinating research first made known by Alan Deutschmann. The results are surprising but hopeful.​

What emerges is an unlikely but compelling story of how we are influenced much more effectively through our hearts than our heads.

One of my favourite quotes comes out of this research:

"Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." Dr Dean Ornish

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Check out the video.