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
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.
Last week I gave a presentation on our research into positive outliers to a group of public sector project managers. It included the finding that all these high-performing project managers had this leaning to people. I explained how this lead me on the journey first to write my book Practical People Engagement and then to develop the online coaching programme Exploring People Engagement.
During the Q&A, one manager asked me how many of the high performers were extroverts, and whether the Positive Outliers all had the advantage of their personality style. Well, we didn't actually test for extroversion in our research. But there are some reasons why I would not agree with the general assumption that extroverts are better equipped to engage with stakeholders, and so would be distinguished by a leaning to people.
The positive outliers, high performing project managers, are #learners
First, the positive outliers were all learners. They demonstrated in their language and by their explanations that they were self-aware, self-reflective, and to some extent experimented with different approaches. They had learned that spending a significant amount of their discretionary time moving towards key stakeholders around their projects and programmes paid off, seemed to pay off handsomely.
It turns out extroverts do not necessarily make the best sales people.
Then I quoted another research study from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania which looked at introversion-extraversion in a sales environment, specifically a call centre where they made outgoing sales calls. The people who were the most successful, as measured in terms of revenue generated, were those who were neither extreme extroverts nor extreme introverts. What emerged was that these ambiverts, people who score somewhere towards the middle of the range between introvert and extrovert, performed better. It seemed that they were better placed to Influence people, in this case to buy.
Graph from paper by Adam M. Grant, Wharton School
Also it is clear that there are certain aspects in this call centre workflow where the extroverts have a clear advantage: the decision to make a cold call, for example, is something perhaps that is easier for an extrovert to make than an introvert. That much is obvious. The introvert would need to establish this as a learned behaviour, say by establishing a routine habit or discipline, whereas it might be seen as energising and attractive to the extrovert.
But then, during the sales conversation itself, a key part of influencing is the paradox of being a good listener. And it's here with introverts tend to have an advantage. It seems that the ability to reflect and match the person you're speaking with, to adjust to their style, their tempo, their language, is a skill that is very persuasive. Whereas the extroverts might tend to ignore these clues.
In some areas of #stakeholderengagement, introverts have an advantage
I explore in both my book and the online coaching programme this whole idea that engaging with people is a multifaceted skill. When we engage with people, when we identify the stakeholders, when we study them, when we talk with them, when we make our pitch to them, there's all different aspects of social skill in operation, but really across the whole spectrum of introversion and extraversion.
So is it a disadvantage to be an introvert? Well no. I would plead that in my own case, I have consistently scored as an introvert in MBTI assessments.
So is there something deeper at stake in this? It is possible whether or not people bring a growth mindset to this whole subject, or whether they bring self-limiting beliefs such as, “I could never do this people thing as I’m an Introvert.” In my short e-Book, the 7 Keys to Exceptional Performance, I identify the growth mindset, as set out by Carol Dweck, as a key attribute of the Positive Outliers.
Whether introvert, extrovert or ambivert, the Positive Outlier will bring a growth mindset to the challenge of leading and influencing people, will reflect, learn, and expect to grow in effectiveness. And it seems they do.
Featured Image Copyright: maxmitzu / 123RF Stock Photo
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.
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
In this video, I’m in my garden in Oxfordshire. It’s spring and so much new life is coming up. I love this time of year. There is a riot of noise each morning from birds that have recently migrated to Northern Europe. And new plants are beginning to emerge.
But this post is about another kind of new life that is beginning to emerge.
For over a year now, I’ve been writing and working on what is that ‘X Factor’ in high performers, particularly in the arena of change. How do these high performers get their extraordinary results?
In the early part of this year, I was really encouraged by the Leading Yourself online workshop. Over about six weeks, we worked through some core material in my recent book, meeting weekly online to explore what the implications were for each of the group.
By the end of that time we had bonded as a group. The class didn’t want it to end and asked to keep a monthly webinar going.
So I did some research and sought your opinions. If you are a subscriber to this site , you will know about the survey I have been running.
I asked about what you want, your challenges, and so on. Although results are still coming in, what is emerging is really interesting…
First, you are a wide-ranging group. Not many of you have job titles like ‘project manager’ or ‘change leader’. We have journalists and cyber-security experts, church workers and government officials. It seems that the secrets of great change leaders are applicable to us all.
Also, very few people have a single full-time job. Most of us have a portfolio of jobs. The 21st century is upon us. This is the new normal.
Nearly everyone has a portfolio of jobs. The 21st century is upon us. It's the new normal.
However, what you want from me is fascinating, and caused me a little concern. It seems that you want two things:
Now, how to I do this?
After researching into this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should offer you a private site, a place where people can access member’s only discussions and forums, as well as exclusive content.
This is not something I set out to do. I was happy with writing, producing learning solutions and coaching one-to-one. But I am committed to your success, and offering you what you want.
So, I’ve been busy building the site. I'm not yet ready to launch it.
If you would like early notice of this launch, then please click the link below and I will put you on a waiting list.
I’m excited. You are taking me an unexpected direction, and I’m already forming a vision of what this community will look like. I think it will be very powerful for us all.
As always, leave your comments below, or complete my online survey.
Better still, join the waiting list for the launch of this exciting new community.
One of the areas I explore when working with my clients is what they see in the landscape of their work. Reality is so multifaceted that we have to be selective about what we see. For example, when driving on a busy road, we are scanning for the main pieces of evidence and may be unaware of the beauty of the scenery through which we are driving.
I've found that when engaging with a new project, most project managers 'see' documents, tasks, and process.
For example, when you look at the picture below, what do you see?
Some see one thing, others another. Some people see a young woman looking away; others see an old hag looking down.
If you saw this picture before, maybe someone had explained it to you. You can shift between seeing one image and another.
If you don't know what I'm talking about then look at the almost-horizontal line at the bottom: it's the neck-band of the young woman and the mouth of the hag.
Got it?... OK...
Gestalt psychology demonstrates with images such as this that the human brain makes sense of reality more by interpreting whole patterns than individual elements.
This ability for the brain to make selective conclusions from reality has a consequence in our performance. We tend to focus on certain matters in the foreground of our consciousness while filtering out a lot of other detail. Such detail may not fit the structure we recognize, so we put it into the background. In this way, we all approach reality with certain frames of reference.
Our research tends to confirm, for example, that not all project managers have the same frame of reference.
Some see data, see evidence, see indicators that others do not see.
This kind of selection is not merely a product of personality or taste. It is more to do with our theories of what matters, that we bring to reality. For this reason, our frames of reference are vital. It seems that some of us have been blind to some quite critical data.
Because of our frame of reference, some of us are blind to quite important information.
The data our brains notice seems to matter to our performance. In our research, we began to see a clear frame of reference for the few high-performing project managers, what I am now calling the positive outliers, that is different from the rest. The positive outliers get extraordinary results because they focus on and prioritize different things.
Much of that critical information is largely in the area of people and relationships, of stakeholders and communication.
For all too many project managers, people, relationships and conversation are all just a distraction; such things just slow them down.
And yet the evidence is there: higher performers have a leaning to relationships: a focus on exploring people and relationships.
I think I first came across this concept in the writings of Stephen Covey about twenty years ago. It struck me then as a powerful metaphor. I've used it many times since. It changed the way I looked at requesting people to change for me and my reasons. It is still as powerful as ever.
The Relational Bank Account is thinking about the relationship with another person, a stakeholder, as the equivalent of a bank account. You 'deposit' into the account by acts of helpfulness and so on.
You make withdrawals, positively by asking that stakeholder to do something for you, something they wouldn't do otherwise.And you should only attempt to make a positive withdrawal if you know there is something in that account.
You can make more negative, rapid withdrawals by disappointing them or not meeting their expectations of you. You can even make withdrawals by neglecting them. Relational bank accounts leak.
I've found this to be a powerful concept. It makes me take stock of the relational capital with key stakeholders before I proceed with making a request or any kind of demand on them.
The Relational Bank Account is a powerful influencing strategy particularly when it is done with the right values.
To some people this can appear at first a little cynical, crude, even somewhat calculated and manipulative. I suppose people could use it that way. However, it all depends on the values you bring to bear on this technique.
If you have a grasping, selfish, self-serving set of values, then it could be used manipulatively. But I very much doubt it would work as well, quite apart of the ethics of the matter.
Whereas, if you approach the relational bank account as a strategy to express your values of generosity, service and empathy, along with an abundance mind set, then you are much more likely to get positive results and the relationships will be enhanced over the long-term as well.
There are at least 10 different ways we can make positive deposits into key relationships around us.
I've published a short 13-page guidance that you can download here. In all, I identify 10 different ways we can make 'deposits' into the relationships around us. You can download it below.
As always, please let me know how you get on. Maybe leave me a comment below, particularly if it helps you achieve some kind of breakthrough in relationships.
Copyright: neyro2008 / 123RF Stock Photo
As I was writing my last book Practical People Engagement, I came across Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human. I’m so glad I did. I find Daniel Pink is one of those communicators who does much of the heavy lifting for us across the social sciences, in particular in the fields of cognitive psychology. He communicates effortlessly whether speaking or writing.
One of the delegates on one of my recent Agile workshops, who came from the Health Sector, spoke of finding one of the most techno-phobic clinicians. She decided to appoint him as her business ambassador(!)
Initially, this seemed to me like asking Basil Fawlty to lead a customer care programme.
She said it was difficult at first, but this stakeholder was much more influential with his peers when he had been won over. Everybody could see the conversion.
I can imagine.
This Road to Damascus' engagement strategy seems to be high risk. And it is risky unless there is a genuine affinity, honesty and trust between the change leader (my client) and the sceptical customer. Often the objections in such a relationship can be much more openly and honestly expressed. At the same time, these objections are discussed with some mutual respect.
This can open the way for a breakthrough. This is far less the case, perhaps, where there is a stakeholder who feels they should or ought to be an advocate of this, but they don't really believe in it or cannot afford the time to engage with the change. In such cases, the objection might not be surfaced early enough.
Shorten the distance between you and them and agreement becomes more likely.
As with my advice recently about dealing with the difficult, this is a case where the aim is for both parties to look together at the objections or difficulties together. The objections are not personalised.
If you can shorten the distance between you and the other person most obstacles can be overcome.
What have been your experiences of winning over sceptics? How is this done? Leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
Earlier this year I was running a Stakeholder Engagement Workshop in the Netherlands. Towards the end of the workshop, I began to reference one of the most popular, but contentious sections in my book Practical People Engagement about 'Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders.' One of the delegates suggested that if I label someone as 'difficult' immediately that label creates a barrier between me and them.
He is, of course, quite right. It is not positioning me to call out the gold in that person if I have already written them off as 'difficult' as part of their essential identity. It adds yet another barrier between us.
Good negotiation shortens the social distance between you and the other party.
It would be more helpful and more accurate to regard the relationship as difficult, and so to work on the relationship. In fact, the strategy I set out in the book does recognise that. Ultimately, good negotiation in difficult contexts is about shortening the social distance between us and them. We aim to look at the problem that creates the difficulty from the perspective of being shoulder-to-shoulder with that person. If we can look at the issue together it paves the way to a probable agreement.
In a previous post, I wrote about calling out the gold in people . How exactly is perceiving someone as 'difficult' helping me to do that?
Well, it isn't. By labelling people 'difficult', I may have created an eye-catching headline, but it is not necessarily honouring their true identity and so creates an unseen barrier for me in moving towards them.
So, thank you to my client. (You know who you are.)
If you would like a more detailed version of a checklist I have developed, please click the link below and I will be glad to send it to you.
Perhaps many of our stakeholder challenges are of our own making, more than we would like to think.
Note About Dealing with Difficult Relationships
I'd like to know what has worked for you in resolving difficult relationships. Leave your tips below in the comments section.
Then check your email inbox.