Category: Change Management

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

My wife and I have adopted two puppies this year, and as I was researching how to potty train our younger dog, I came across the headline, “The Myth of the Alpha Dog.” The article discussed how our belief that dog packs structures are based on an alpha dog or dominant dog is false. And that dogs have a more cooperative approach to pack structure.

This same myth is pervasive throughout our discussions on leadership. In the west, we have mythologized the single person as the saver of the world. The man on the white horse who comes in to save the day. When we talk about great discoveries, we talk about them as if a single person made the discovery. Admiral Peary had over 50 people with him as he tried to reach the North Pole in 1909 but the names of the other people have all been forgotten. We talk about great inventions; we talk as if a single person invented the light bulb. However, Thomas Edison had a team of “young muckers” working with him at Menlo Park. In the world of leadership, we talk of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, both who are famous for the companies they started. However both had strong partners working with them; Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates had Paul Allen. This isn’t to say that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not brilliant men, it is just to say that rarely do we do anything in isolation.

My research and experience have led me to the conclusion that the leadership team is more important than the single leader of an organization. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the importance of having the right people on the bus. This is even more important the closer you get to the top of any organization.

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

 

Why are leadership teams more valuable than a single leader?

  1. They provide a greater level of experience.
  2. They provide balance against a singular strength or limitation
  3. They offer diversity of thought.
  4. They provide the ability to delegate work
  5. They provide increased touch points to an organization

This does not mean that a leader can abdicate her responsibility for the team. It means that she has more resources to make the best decisions, create the best strategic vision and build the best team.

When I work to improve leadership teams, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Are the right individuals on the leadership team?
  • What behavioral changes will make them a better leadership team?
  • What is their level of motivation to improve the working dynamics?
  • How do they discuss different points of views?
  • Are they focused on the same vision of the organization?

Always start with an assessment of the team’s strengths and limitations. This gives a good understanding of what is working well together and what is not. I usually use an assessment tool, followed up with individual interviews. This provides an excellent groundwork to start working with the team to improve their team dynamic. Working with the leader and the team, we create a path to developing the leadership team dynamic. The goal is to understand the strengths and limitations of each member and that of the team. If you can create positive connections and a desire to move the organization forward, the team dynamic will improve.

The goal here is not to remove the leader or to dismiss the leader. The goal here is to provide a team of individuals working together to assist the leader in their challenges of running a large organization.  To create a cooperative approach to the team structure.

 

Together we are stronger than we are alone.

Walter Payton

 

 

How to Succeed at Almost Anything

How to Succeed at Almost Anything

The last thing most of us are thinking about right now is completing our New Year’s resolutions for 2016. It is the mad holiday rush. Shopping, Gift Wrapping, Holiday Concerts, Travel Plans, and Office Parties. Statistically, only eighteen percent of individuals who set New Year’s resolutions will succeed. This figure has preoccupied me over the last two years as I studied and research what makes leaders successful and what doesn’t.

In November, I was asked to put together a workshop on How to be Successful in Business. As I compiled the information what I came to realize is that the actions that make a business leader successful can make us successful as well. The one characteristic that all successful leaders have in common is a drive to be successful.

If you are willing to work towards your goal, you too can be successful. In this newsletter/blog, I provide four ideas when used in concert can provide you guidance toward your destination. These four ideas are from my leadership research and experience working with clients. Like all researchers, I stand on the shoulders of giants and build on the works of others including Marshall Goldsmith, Teresa Amabile, Seth Godin and numerous others who have provided me insights on my journey to success.

I hope that as you read this newsletter, it will inspire you to start your journey to success.

Dream Big:

 

“If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

William Arthur Ward

 

My life’s work is to be a leadership guide; a person who assist others to be successful organizational leaders. Where I cannot help, is when they cannot envision a better future self. My first interaction with any client is understanding what success feels and looks like to them. Only then can we start working together to develop a strategy to get from point A (present self) to Point B (Future Self).

Success does not have to be “Big Change the World Dreams.” Success can be “change your world dreams.” It might be as simple as losing ten pounds, saving for a new car, getting a new job, taking a family trip, better communications with your significant other, or start a business. For my business clients, it usually centers around having a greater impact on the business.

The first step is to put your dream into writing and to follow the rules of SMART Goals by making it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you do this, you have started on your journey to being a success. For some, this is a difficult task because although they can envision it in their mind, translating it to paper so others can understand it. For these individuals, I suggest doing self-brainstorming where you are capturing pieces of your dream and pulling them together in a single place. This process will help you visual what success looks like for you and help you better explain it to others. This process is not a quick process and will take time for you to develop a clear understanding of your definition of success.

Focus:

 

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Maya Angelou

 

 

When working with my clients, the next step to being successful is understanding what actions or behaviors they need to focus on to be successful. For this, I use a tool called the change triangle which was introduced to me by an executive Vice President I worked with. It is a simple but powerful tool that helps us understand what we need to do to be successful by asking ourselves three questions.

  1. What behaviors or actions do I need to continue to be successful at my goal? This question allows us to keep certain behaviors to be successful. It grounds us in our present day self, reminding us that we do not have to discard who we are to be successful. For example, if it is your goal to lose ten pounds before the next college reunion (Note the SMART goal elements in this goal), there are probably certain behaviors you are presently doing that are helping with that goal. For my wife and I we like to walk our dogs, this is an activity we should continue to help us in our goal of losing weight.
  2. What behaviors or actions do I need to stop doing to be successful at my goal? For most of my clients and participants in my workshops, this question defies logic. For most of our lives, we are told to grab the gold, reach for your dreams, or become all you can be. All forward driven phrases. Except if we do not stop doing certain behaviors our chances of being successful diminish. When I was a teenager, my father would take my siblings and me hiking. One of the things, he always reminded us, was to make sure we kept our pack as light as possible, especially when we were climbing some of the higher mountains. This wisdom is good for our goals as well. What are those behaviors that hold us back, create extra weight on our journey to success? For me when it comes to losing weight, I know that I need to stop sitting on the couch at night. Not only am I not getting any exercise; it tends to be the place I eat subconsciously.
  3. What behaviors or actions do I need to start doing to be successful at my goal? For most people this is straight forward; they understand the activities they will help them be successful in their pursuit of their goals. If not, they can hire life or business coaches like me to help them develop an awareness of what behaviors will make them successful at their goal. As you develop behaviors, it is important that you define them regarding SMART behaviors. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, for losing weight, you might write your response as, “I will do cardio exercise for forty-five minutes three days a week.” This action helps you measure the progress you are making toward success.

Measure Progress:

The next step toward success is measuring our progress so we can see how far we have come. With holiday travels starting soon, I am reminded of those road trips with my family where one road looked like the other, and I could never figure how far we had progressed toward my grandparent’s house, hence the question from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?”

In their book, Progress Principle, Teresa Amiable, and Steven Kramer note the importance of creating small wins to keep moving toward our goals. The challenge for most of us is how we track our progress to make sure we are heading in the right direction. I have two basic methods which I have used with my clients.

The first was introduced to me my Marshall Goldsmith, Executive Coach, and New York Times Best Selling author. He calls it the Daily Questions and wrote about it in his book “Triggers.” In its basic form, it is a spreadsheet with the list of the behaviors/activities we want to focus on in one column and the days a week in the row above.

Each day rate yourself against the behaviors by asking the question “Did I do my best to …” and then the behavior. If you do this for two weeks, a month. You will start seeing trends; those behaviors you are putting effort towards and those you are not. At this point, you have a choice to either work on those behaviors so you can be successful or admit that you are not willing to change certain behaviors. Moreover, if the latter is the case, you have an additional choice to decide whether the goal you are working towards is important to you and if you can succeed in that goal without changing that particular behavior. For instance, if I am trying to lose weight and have chosen not eating potato chips as a behavior but realize that after a month, I have not been as successful as I like at stopping eating potato chips. I know have a choice. Do I allow myself to eat potato chips or do I refocus my energy on not eating potato chips or do I stop trying to lose weight? Hard choice for sure. However, changing our behavior is not easy.

The second way to measure our progress is to use technology. There are numerous coaching apps on our smart phones that we can purchase to help us. And if you have the resources and are going to make a concentrated effort, go for it.

However, I have found an easier way to use technology to help us. All of our smart phones come with a reminder app which we can use to our benefit. Right now open your reminder app and write this question down.

 

“I have I done my best to change my behavior so that I can reach my goal of. . .”

 

Now set this as a daily reminder so that it appears as an appropriate time for you. If you are a morning person, it may be first thing in the morning. If you are an evening person, it may be right after dinner. When it appears, visualize your goal for five minutes and think about your behaviors and if you did your best to succeed. In time, you will be able to create a better focus approach on how you can exceed.

Find your community.

Lastly, find your community or tribe. In his book, Tribe, Seth Godin tells us the importance of having likeminded people in our lives. When you are trying to be successful toward a goal, whether it is losing weight or saving money, running a successful business, it is important to have people who are on the same journey as you.

I always envision the pioneers who crossed our great country in the Conestoga wagons. They were a tribe of like-minded individuals searching for a better life. Together they dealt with all the obstacles and challenges crossing the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountains by sharing information, working together and supporting one another.

Most people will turn to close friends and family to be part of their community, but this is wrong. Although they will be supportive, they are on different journeys and will not be able to understand the challenges and obstacles you face. If you are trying to lose weight, you are not going to look for your community of dieters at your local bar. The best place to look will be in your local gym. So think about who your community is and where you can best find them.

Success:

 

“We often miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Thomas A. Edison

 

 

Opportunity and Success are siblings; one leads to the other. The more success you have, the more opportunities are given to you. Above I have provided four ideas to make you successful in reaching your next goal. These tips will be useful as you begin your journey to success. They will provide you touch points to help you keep moving in the right direction.

The Importance of Routine

The Importance of Routine

It was Thursday Afternoon, and I was waiting for a manager I coached to arrive at the local coffee shop. It has been a good year for her. She managed a team of high-performing individuals and had focused on continually improving their performance, creating and changing processes to get better results. I was looking forward to our conversation.

As I waited, I noticed that a good portion of the customers were greeting each other by name, exchanging pleasantries and waving their goodbyes, saying they would see each other tomorrow. It was their afternoon routine.

The Manager arrived sitting heavily in the chair next to me. Apprehension showed on her face and in her body language. This wasn’t going to be the conversation I had imagined.

“I just reviewed the numbers. I wanted to give you an update, show you the improvement.”

A long pause as she gathered herself.

“Productivity is down ten percent from last month. And it’s not a blip; I looked at the previous week, it is down fifteen percent.”

“How is it year to date?”

“Still good we are up overall by twenty-five percent.”

“Good then?”

She smiled. She knew what I was doing, trying to get her to look at the big picture; to see the improvement in her team. What they had accomplished together.

“I am just frustrated that the team is losing their level of commitment to the new changes.”

“How does the team feel?”

“Frustrated, to be honest. They are complaining about the latest change. Too complicated they say.”

“Is it?”

“Not any more than the last few changes.”

“Maybe it’s not the change but the amount of change.”

“Huh?”

“Let me give you an example. Do you remember when they were working on the major interstate and each morning you had to take a different way into work?”

“Ugh. That was terrible. I could never get my rhythm in the morning. I felt out of sorts.”

“Yes. Each day there was a new change. You had to adjust.”

“I did. I had to watch the detour signs. In fact, it was so confusing; I turned off the radio so that I could concentrate on where I was going.”

I sipped my drink.

“Oh no. My employees are feeling confused. They are working harder when I told them they would be working smarter. They aren’t sure where they stand because our expectations are changing with each change.”

“And now what?”

“I need to work with my team to develop a routine so we can smooth things out and get them feeling better about the job they are doing.”

“So how are those numbers?”

She smiled.

With all the push for evolving, changing, progressing and growing our organizations, leaders have forgotten the importance of routine. Humans have a basic need for security and stability, to be able to forecast the possible future when change disrupts this, it makes us uncomfortable.

As a leader, I made touching base with my staff part of my daily routine. Each day, I set aside time to get out of my office and talk with my team. This method allowed me to see what their day was like, what challenges they were facing and how I could support them. Usually, there were little to no, short-term gains, i.e. there wasn’t anything I could do to support them at that particular moment, however in time, I learned who my employees were, saw trends impacting the business and was able to make better management decision based on this routine.

Routines are also beneficial to the productivity of your team as it provides them with a sense of security, a feeling of stability and increases their overall confidence. In a study done by Dinah Avni-Babad (2010), showed that individuals use routines to increase their sense of well-being.

Routine also allows for the automation of thought. The benefit of this can be seen in our average commute to work. As I used in the example with the manager I was coaching, her commute to work was disrupted by the road work. She had to increase her concentration, and she was continually out of sorts, emotionally tired. However, when the road work was done, and she was able to get back to her morning routine, her energy came back, and she was able to plan for her day as she drove into work.

In his book, Daily Rituals: How Artists work Author Mason Currey describes the importance of routines for some of our greatest thinkers. In one instance he talks about Benjamin Franklin, who at the end of each day asked himself “What good have I done today?” used a routine to make sure he was accomplishing all of his goals. His routine provided structure for his day. Like Einstein who wore the same clothes each day, Benjamin Franklin did not have to think about how his time would be spent and was able to focus on the work at hand.

When an individual creates a sense of well-being for themselves through routines, it offers an increase confidence. Allows them to project forward and create a sense of control over the future. It also gives them the platform to take risks, be creative, be innovative, and paradoxically challenge the status quo.

To recap routinely provides the following benefits:

  • Better sense of well-being
  • Increase focus on high priority tasks
  • Daily or weekly structure
  • Reduces distractions
  • Increases overall confidence
  • A platform for challenging the status quo.

When we realize the importance of routine on the individual, we can now appreciate why people are naturally resistant to change. We can also understand the importance of Change Management to help facilitate bringing an individual from their old routine to their new routine. Change Management is the framework that allows the organization to manage the people side of change. Without Change Management there is a greater risk that change initiative will fail.