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When is Loyalty a Disadvantage for Change Leaders?

When is Loyalty a Disadvantage for Change Leaders? 
by Edith Onderick-Harvey & James Harvey 

 

When it’s the wrong type of loyalty.

We’ve talked in the past about the importance of building trust in leading change efforts.  Change creates discomfort and disruption to the way people do things and how they interact with others – sometimes in profound ways.  In short, it puts a strain on relationships, and therefore, on loyalty. And what does a leader under pressure to manage a significant change often do, almost reflexively?  They try to leverage the loyalty of others.

There’s good news and bad news in this.   Here’s the good news.  The right kind of loyalty provides a solid foundation for the trust and leadership people are looking for from others during challenging situations.  It makes it easier for a leader to convey the value of the change and enlist others in making it happen.

The bad news?  It’s all too easy to misunderstand the nature of loyalty or to disregard the consequences of “fake loyalty.”  You risk building a house of cards that falls apart under the high stakes and duress that change often brings.

You want to build the kind of solid relationships that allow you and your management team to build long-term change agility into your organization’s DNA.  You want to avoid:

  • Blind loyalty.  This is based on the premise that an idea or argument is right simply because it comes from someone who is in a position of leadership or iinfluence. But great ideas come from robust conversation and differing perspectives.  Blind loyalty doesn’t question. And blind loyalists simply execute the plan.  Don’t count on them to take a lot of initiative to uncover or find solutions to problems that inevitably pop up.
  • Forced loyalty. If someone is demanding loyalty, it is given out of compliance and fear. Forced loyalty may look like engagement to an outsider but it’s not. Underneath the surface is resentment and anxiety.
  • Favor-seeking loyalty. This individual laughs at even your worst jokes and is often way too eager to support your ideas – even the ones you’re not too sure of yourself.  It isn’t about the team or the larger vision. It’s about being rewarded for being a favorite. This type of loyalty is toxic to the team. People recognize what’s happening.  It often creates distrust, jealousy and behaviors that undermine rather than elevate.
  • Conflict-avoidant loyalty. Some people go along to get along.  They always do what’s asked (i.e., they’re loyal) because even modest amounts of conflict make them very uncomfortable.
Loyalty naturally feels good.  Even “fake loyalty” does.  And in the short run, it can have its uses.  But in the long run, it erodes the very relationships you need in order to thrive in a changing environment.   At the very least you can end up surrounded by “yes men.”  There’s an old business adage: if two people always agree, one of you is unnecessary.

When you are a leader implementing change, ask yourself: how do I create buy-in and enhance loyalty? Have you and the organization helped people move through the change curve or have you tried to go from awareness to commitment in one giant step?  We work with leaders every day to create loyalty and move people through the change curve. Read about one of our client’s results.

Creating a Leadership Philosophy

Leadership PhilosophyWe often talk about leadership styles and leadership behaviors but don’t often talk about our leadership philosophy. However, it is a critical part of understanding ourselves as a leader.  It is this underlying philosophy that has broad impact on our actions as leaders.  Leadership philosophy is a concept I’ve learned from my colleague Michael Maccoby.

We all have a life philosophy.  Our life philosophy is a way of putting our values together to guide how we behave.  We knowingly or unknowingly live our lives in accordance with this philosophy.  A leadership philosophy integrates our organizational purpose with the practical values and moral reasoning which you believe are essential to achieving that purpose.  It also includes how we define and measure results. Effective leaders are very aware of their leadership philosophy.  They not only communicate their philosophy, they can be trusted to act in accordance with that philosophy.

Think about your leadership philosophy.  What is it and what impact does it have on you, your team and your organization.  Ask the following questions:

1. What is the purpose of our organization?
2. What is my purpose as a leader?
3. Which organizational values support that purpose?
4. How do my personal values align with these organizational values?
5. What ethical and moral reasoning do I expect from myself and my people?  Do we work simply to avoid punishment and gain rewards? Do we operate in terms of what is good for my organization and myself without regard for my impact on others?  Do we function in a way that benefits or does not harm all those who may be impacted by our actions?
6. How do we define results?  Is this consistent with my leadership philosophy?

Once you’ve crafted your philosophy, validate that it is meaningful to you. Read it several times over the next two weeks.  Does it resonate with you?  If someone asked you, would you stand behind its representation of you to others?

 

Let’s Lead Change, Not Just Manage It

lead change

Change is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart.  It’s been at the core of what I do for over 25 years.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about the topic of leading change.  We’ve talked for years about managing change but not leading change.

Leading change is different from change management.  Change management is a well thought out set of approaches and tools that supports change, often at a project level.  For example, there is a change management component to installing a new system, transitioning how you do performance management, or introducing a new project. It happens in parallel to the project to make sure the business solution is implemented and that people adopt the new behaviors associated with it. It focuses on understanding the difference between the current state and future state, creating communication and training plans, identifying early adopters and resisters and paving the way for the business outcome to be reached. It is a very important toolkit and competence that should be part of projects that introduce change.

Leading change is about creating and communicating a vision for change and is not directly tied to a project or initiative. It is what drives the business solution, not what implements it. It is transformational. It creates a mindset across the organization that focuses on what could or should be different rather than asking them to simply adopt an already determined solution.  It removes the shackles of how we do things and asks people to truly engage in the change, to become part of creating a solution. It enables others to think differently.  It moves change along more rapidly and more efficiently, even while it creates a sense of upheaval. It is what makes people say “I HAVE to be part of this.” It creates momentum and a desire to continually move to the next phase or next level.

Most executives I talk to and organizations I work with are hungry for change leadership.  What about yours? Do you only manage change or do you truly lead it?

The Leadership Multiplier Effect

A third of all CEO’s surveyed by The Conference Board say the most pressing issue they have is attracting, developing and retaining the right talent. Two of the biggest factors in engagement and retention are trust in senior leadership and the relationship people have with their managers. With 75% of employees in a recent Gallup Organization survey reporting that they are unengaged or actively disengaged at work, leadership is not successfully addressing this issue.

Leadership excellence has a multiplier effect on organizations. Investing in developing leaders, increasing the leadership multiplier effect, is a short-term and long-term strategy that allows your organization to adapt and thrive in various economic circumstances by attracting, retaining and engaging your human capital.

What is the Leadership Multiplier Effect?

Resources spent on leadership development have a cascading effect throughout the organization. The effective leader creates exponential value for the organization through his or her influence on the strategy, people and processes in the organization. One leader’s effective decisions and actions has a ripple effect that can impact dozens or hundreds of employees, positively changing business performance for the entire department or business unit. Likewise, the impact of poor leadership decisions and actions can lead to the decreased ability to attract, develop and retain the right talent.

In addition, effective senior leaders model behaviors and skills for other leaders in the organization. They set the tone for the leadership practices that define the organization and its culture. They demonstrate the business skills that address business issues and create innovation. They define and operationalize high performance through their interactions with each other and the entire organization.

As others mature in their leadership roles, their effectiveness is increased for having been effectively developed and for the role-models presented by senior leadership. A cascade is created. With more effective leadership focused on the right things at all levels in the organization, factors impacting business performance improve. Groups led by effective leaders are more engaged resulting in higher productivity rates, increased willingness to give extra effort, and greater acceptance of change. In other words, effective leadership creates an environment that attracts and retains high quality talent.

Ensuring the effectiveness of your leaders is critical whether your business is expanding or contracting. When your business is expanding, bringing on new people, introducing new products, serving new customers, leaders need to integrate and assimilate the growth. They need to plan strategically for growth, effectively develop their teams, establish business practices and maintain the engagement people feel in those initial few months on the job.

When business is contracting, leaders need to manage the change brought on by staff reductions, reduced revenue streams and increased cost constraints. They need to maintain the remaining staff’s focus and morale. Need to maintain customer service levels, identify how to do more with less.

Optimizing the Leadership Multiplier Effect

For the leadership multiplier effect have its maximum impact, leaders must be developed effectively. Effective development includes:

1.  Identifying the core of effective leadership. What makes leaders effective? One way to start thinking about leadership effectiveness is to identify what results you want the leader to achieve and use this to identify behaviors that are effective in achieving those results.

2.   Communicating what is expected of a leader. This communication is not always in words. It’s important to understand that how you select, how you assign resources, what people are held accountable for and how you recognize and reward say a great deal about your expectations of leaders.

3.   Assessing your leaders against your model of effectiveness. If some are less effective than you need, identify a strategy for addressing it. It may be development, assignment changes, or an exit strategy. No matter what strategy seems most appropriate, it should start with a frank conversation with the leader.

4.   Identifying potential leaders within your organization and outside your organization. Do you have the bench strength you need? Also remember that leaders aren’t just those with formal titles but also those in roles that are pivotal to business success.

5.   Developing leadership effectively. Formal learning experiences, business-driven assignments and projects, coaching, mentoring and other leadership development experiences need to align with the business strategy and the expectations you’ve communicated about leadership within your organization. Utilize a suite of development activities that build leaders throughout their careers. Developing leaders is process not an event. You must take a planned approach to leadership development, not one that only addresses obvious flash points that may be ignoring underlying causes.

By taking advantage of the Leadership Multiplier Effect, you will optimize talent and create competitive advantage.

Mindful Leadership

mindfulness

In a recent Huffington Post article, Harvard’s Bill George discusses the power of mindful leadership.  Mindfulness, according to George, is the practice of self-observation without judgment with a focus on our minds and inner voices. It allows you to center yourself, step away from the distractions of technology, deadlines, daily demands and become more fully present in your daily interactions. Mindful practices include meditation, journaling, jogging alone, and prayer. They are practices that allow you to become focused, more self-aware, and intentional in your actions.

One of my premises in Getting Real is that to be effective in this increasingly more complex world where leadership occurs, you need to be aware of who you are, why you are a leader and to work to understand who your people are and why they are doing what they do. Leaders need to be intentional about their actions and interactions and understand their impact on relationships and results.

About this time last year, I began integrating mindfulness practices into my life. It is an ongoing journey. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is being disciplined and integrating it into my life every day. It’s the same with being a mindful leader. We usually have the best of intentions. We plan on being present. We plan on being intentional with our actions and interactions. Still, we’re not always very good at it. However, if we keep working at it, results are significant. Click here to read about the impact of mindfulness.

If I Were Advising Presidential Candidates

2016 ElectionThe 2016 Primary Elections are well under way. We’ve been inundated with speeches, sound bites, photo ops, small town conversations and big city rallies. Every four years, candidates encourage us to make a change. Unfortunately, many of them go about it the wrong way. If I were advising these candidates, here is the first thing I would tell them. Quit talking about how you are going to stop what the other candidate is doing. Stop telling us how we’re going in the wrong direction. Instead, tell us where you want to help us go. To steal a line from a 1990’s campaign, it’s the vision, stupid.

Whether you’re a politician, executive, nonprofit leader or a leader by action and not title, Rule #1 for leading change is to create a compelling vision. For people to want to make change, they need to fight the brain’s natural inclination to recoil from change. If you want people to accept your challenge, you need to not just talk to their heads. You need to speak to their hearts.

Visions inspire and engage people to take a journey with you to a place that invites them to be something greater than themselves. It’s about taking action, not having a reaction. It engages them to achieve something they cannot do alone but can achieve when they act in concert with you and others. It talks to those things that they value. It is vivid, aspirational and a stretch.

If you’d like a tip sheet on creating a compelling vision for change, email me and type ‘change vision tips’ in the subject line.

Push and Pull

Push and Pull

Over the past year, I’ve been working with an amazing business coach who has been helping me take my thinking to the next level. One of the biggest take-aways for me has been thinking about the balance of push and pull energy.

Push energy is what you do when you are advocating, telling, putting your opinion or expertise out there first. Pull energy is about asking, inquiring, allowing the other person to bring what they need to into the conversation.

Often, the leaders I work with struggle with this balance. Too often, they rely on push energy — focusing on telling others what needs to be done, building and selling a business case, pushing to get a change accepted. Don’t get me wrong. These are things that all need to be done and should be a part of what leaders do. It’s what people look for at certain times from their leaders. But, when we rely too heavily on the push, we are often met with indifference, resistance and compliance rather than engagement, enthusiasm and interest. When we rely too heavily on pull, people can sometimes feel like they don’t get our input or perspective. They are sometimes thinking, ‘just tell me what you want!’

Over the next several days, notice how often you are relying on your push energy to get things done and how often you are using pull energy. Take notice of the balance. If the balance is too much in one direction or the other, how can you shift your behavior to reset the balance?

The Journey to Excellence

Tom PetersBack in 1982, Tom Peters went In Search of Excellence and profiled 40+ companies who were examples of excellence.  If we look back at that book some of the companies are gone now or are not what we would hold up as examples of excellence.  That’s because excellence is not an end state.  It’s an organizational state of being that’s characterized by continuous movement in pursuit of ever-higher achievement.  In a culture of excellence, you are never done or…you never quite arrive.

The drive for excellence — for continually improving on even our most outstanding achievement —  when paired with the compelling clarity I spoke about in my last newsletter sets the stage for achieving or even exceeding the goals defined in the strategy.  The question is how do you create a culture of excellence and performance?

Excellence is about self reflection:  Without knowing who and where you are in your journey, it is difficult to continually pursue ever higher levels of personal or organizational achievement.  What values are of core importance to me?  How do I add value? What values are core to the organization?  How do we add value for our customers? Am I clear where I am taking my organization?  Am I communicating a standard of excellence?

Excellence is about continual, personal growth: Without professional growth, our performance, and that of our organization, will not be characterized by excellence.  Leaders need to be a role model for their teams.  They should ask “how can I use my strengths more fully to achieve the results we need to be successful?” It’s equally important to ask yourself and others,  “what do I, as a leader, not know and need to learn?  What skill do I need to develop and how should I apply them?”

Excellence is about setting the expectation for excellence: In environments that achieve excellence, the standard for it is communicated broadly throughout the organization.  The communication isn’t just verbal.  It’s communicated in goals and objectives.  It’s communicated in everyday actions.  It’s communicated in the quality of anything that’s produced, from emails and meeting agendas to products and services. It’s communicated in processes that focus on continual improvement.

Excellence is about creating a culture that looks at behaviors and results: Cultures that only look at results can become toxic.  It can be too easy to turn a blind eye to unacceptable behavior because “hey, he/she gets results.”  Leaders need to be as concerned with how people achieve results as with the results they are achieving. How do we meet our customer’s expectations, meet our business goals and behave ethically and with excellence? What behavior do we hold up as the gold standard in the pursuit of results?  What behaviors are completely unacceptable?

Excellence is about tapping into each person’s drive for excellence: The neuroscience of excellence tells us that higher and higher performance comes from the need to direct our own lives, to create new things and to improve ourselves and our world.  In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink talks about tapping into the third drive — the drive produced from engagement in the task itself when the task allows us to experience autonomy, mastery and purpose. Too many of our organizations are using what Pink calls the second drive – the carrot and the stick – to try to create higher levels of achievement. What we know is that this only takes achievement to the level of what one needs to do to get a reward and to avoid a negative consequence.  It doesn’t lead us to excellence.

Excellence is about improving those around you and managing performance: As the saying goes, the tide lifts all boats.  In order to instill a culture of excellence, leaders need to manage performance and development proactively by praising excellence and having the difficult discussions that are needed to improve performance.  Too often we short circuit the ability to achieve excellence because we are unable to give the difficult feedback that allows others to build their capacity to contribute.  Unfortunately, many of our performance management practices also drive a trend towards mediocrity by relying too much on the carrot and stick.

As Tom Peters did almost 30 years ago, go in search of excellence in your organization.  Model it, practice it, celebrate it and watch the impact on performance

Compelling Clarity 2016

Compelling Clarity 2012Earlier in my career, I was interviewing with the SVP of HR, the chief people officer, for a senior role in a large organization. He was still fresh to the company, having been there about 6 months. I asked him where the firm was going and what made him get up in the morning and go to work. He looked at me and with a shrug said “Edith, its insurance,” like it was the craziest question in the world. How silly to expect that a senior leader, six months into his job would be able to articulate a compelling picture of the place he worked. He had a golden opportunity to communicate his vision of what this organization was about and where it was going and he came up with nothing.

There was no second interview.

This story is not meant to reflect badly on the insurance company. I know plenty of executives in insurance companies who would answer that question very differently.

This SVP obviously wasn’t able to communicate a vision. Over the past 18 months, many of our organizations have been lacking in “the vision thing.” We’ve been focused on a lot of things that were important but that people perceive as negative — cutting costs, losing sales and revenues, reducing headcount. But as the recovery starts, we need to think about where we want to go from here, because it won’t be where we were before 2008.

Whether you are hiring to rebuild your team, developing employees, or trying to retain or more fully engage your talent, the first step for taking performance to the next level and creating competitive advantage is to develop Compelling Clarity. Compelling Clarity is about creating a vision and expectations that are so clear it is difficult to say ‘where are we going?’ or ‘what should I be doing? ‘and so compelling no one needs to ask ‘why am I doing this?’ Instead, they say ‘I need to be a part of this.’

Ask yourself these questions:

      • Where does my organization (or division or group or…) need to go?
      • Why are we going in that direction?
      • What will we look like a year from now?
      • What top priorities will get us there? 
      • How will we know we’re successful?
      • Why do I want to be part of this? Why should someone else want to be part of this?

If your answer is “I don’t know” to any of these you’re going to be less able to attract or retain top talent as you move forward. You’ll be appealing to people who want a job but not attractive to people who want to make an impact. Without a sense of where they’re going you’re people can’t perform at the high levels you need.

Be ready to talk about your vision and gauge the reactions. After all, you don’t want to find yourself saying, with a shrug, “Edith, it’s…”

What Makes a Great Leader?

great leadersTwo different and interesting takes on leadership jumped out at me recently. They provide completely different views on effective leaderships.

In Praise of the SOB Leader: In this article, Marc Effron discusses research that looks at the impact of execution-related capabilities and people-related capabilities on performance. The execution-related capabilities — things like being persistent, organized, proactive, setting high standards and holding people accountable — have a positive impact. People-related skills like teamwork, listening, etc. do not. My question is, does focusing on the execution-related capabilities really mean that you have to be an SOB or can you display those capabilities in a way that honors the other person.

9 Surprising Traits of Truly Phenomenal Bosses: Inc.’s Jeff Haden shares 9 traits that your boss has that aren’t obvious because of what they do but because of what they don’t do. t’s these traits that he argues are what differentiates a truly terrific boss. The traits include things like forgiving and, more importantly, forgetting and allowing people to learn their own lessons.

Take a look at the articles. think you’ll find a couple of really good nuggets in both of them.