Leadership that Excelerates Performance
LEADERSHIP THAT EXCELERATES PERFORMANCE focuses on the critical relationship between leadership, employee engagement and delivering an exceptional customer experience as a competitive advantage.
Bill is recognized as the Performance Excelerator™ because of
his uncanny ability to create profound change and deliver extraordinary results
with the most demanding organizations.
As a senior executive with over 25 years experience, he works with senior leaders to navigate change and influence and inspire higher performing, customer-focused cultures that create long-term, profitable relationships with your customers and excelerate performance and productivity with leaders and employees.
You are damn right it is. Language has the ability to offend or create an unexpected impression. For example, did I offend someone with my use of damn versus darn.
I had the occasion to call a hotel to book a meeting room and accommodation for a 2 day client off-site. I had spoken to a Sales Associate a couple weeks earlier who had provided all the appropriate information and been very helpful. However, when I called back to book the event, I was informed my contact was on vacation for 2 weeks — but the person on the phone would be pleased to help me.
I provided information on dates and requirements to help them find original documentation so we wouldn’t have to repeat the entire discussion. However, I discovered that when planning for vacations, the turn-over to a back-up person was only for executed contracts — not ones that were still in the consideration phase. Fair enough. I actually sent the original email back to the hotel so the new person could have a copy of the interaction thus far.
When I mentioned that it was too bad there wasn’t a process in place to avoid this situation — requiring me to effectively begin the entire transaction again — rather than a response that suggested some empathy to the situation, instead I was told that people had a right to go on vacation.
My Perspective: Wow, that one comment changed my opinion about the customer focus of this particular hotel. In fact, that one comment made me reconsider my decision to book the hotel.
What would happen if another issue arose at the event. Would they be equally defensive about the situation or would they immediately look for ways to address the situation. My reputation is at risk when I work with a hotel on an event and I want to know they are my partners, not looking to cover their backs.
This is what I call an iceberg comment. A comment that gives you insight into the attitude or behaviours that lurk beneath the surface. It may seem like a small comment, but it can often be the first hint of a much bigger issue below the waterline.
Thinking about your own response to customer issues — do you have any language in your vocabulary that hints to a bigger issue under the surface?
You can read about another poor use of language in my post Did I say “no problem”?
The final kicker was the email I received after hanging up the phone — the person I was speaking with was the Director of Sales.
In my experience as a leadership expert and consultant, change is never easy. It is not easy for leaders, managers, or employees. Change poses a threat for most people, especially when it comes to their career or position within their organization.
Even if change is positive and will benefit the organization, it is difficult for people to accept because it represents a disruption to the status quo. People like consistency, and change creates uncertainty that makes people uneasy. Transformative leaders understand how to frame organizational change effectively.
A Leader’s Attitude About Change Sets the Tone
Your attitude as a leader and how you approach change will set the tone of how change will be viewed and accepted internally. Even though there will likely be some resistance from people in your organization, this is lowered when leaders set the tone. It is no secret that employee engagement is an issue in most companies, and setting a positive tone can have an impact on how change is perceived.
For example, if your approach is to mandate change from a position of fear, using it as a way to get people to conform, you can expect a negative reaction. This will make employee engagement and buy-in less likely. On the other hand, approaching change positively and with enthusiasm for the future re-affirms that change is good, which helps to initially engage people when it is announced.
Understanding the Employee Perspective
Even if you know that making change is best for the organization and is beneficial for future success, it needs to be handled carefully and framed properly to get your team to buy in. One of the most important things that leaders need to understand is that other people may not see change in the same way or from the same perspective. Certain benefits of change may be obvious to leaders, but not necessarily to others in the company.
Leaders need to be able to answer “What is in it for me” from the perspective of different people within the organization to properly frame change. As discussed in How Transformational Leaders Make Organizational Change Stick, how you frame change makes a significant difference. When framing change, it is important to understand your teams’ perspective, how they view change, and the emotional factors that are at play. Tapping into people’s emotions and framing change in terms of inspiration, opportunity, while giving people the ability to voice their opinion allows transformational leaders to frame change correctly, and communicate the need for change in a way that can make it stick and become part of your company’s culture.
Communicate and Create Incentives and Motivation
For change to be accepted, leaders need to clearly communicate the purpose of change and outline incentives and motivations for people if you want them to accept it. Outline:
- Company growth, goals, and objectives
- How change ties into organizational vision and values
- New opportunities internally
- The training and coaching that will support change
- Short term and long term benefits
- How change directly affects people at all levels of the company
- How people will be held accountable
The key is for leadership to regularly and openly communicate with people across the organization. Organizational change must be handled with care so that people do not become fearful of the future. Failure to communicate why change is needed, how it will impact people individually, and when it will occur will negatively impact buy-in.
This is the first in our leadership consulting series of articles that looks at creating transformative change in your organization. The full series will be available for download as a white paper once it is completed.
Change is not easy, but it is necessary if leaders want to achieve their strategic goals and objectives. It is inevitably much easier to maintain the status quo, rather than make the tough decisions needed to sustain growth over time.
People are inherently resistant to change, even positive changes that are beneficial to team members and the organization as a whole. One of the most difficult components of change, and an area that many people have difficulty understanding, is that change is necessary.
Understanding the need for change is the first key component to making transformative organizational change.
4 Questions to Ask When Assessing the Need for Change
There are 4 core questions that leaders need to consider when assessing the need for transformative change. These questions help leaders understand why change is needed in order to determine whether to begin the journey in the first place.
If you and your executive team are not committed to seeing this change through — then don’t start. It is hard work, and the downside of stopping part way through is a culture that becomes demoralized and not receptive to change the next time you make the suggestion.
Consider these questions before moving forward:
- Why is change necessary? Identify the competitive advantage that you are trying to leverage.
- What will the organization look like after change is completed? Identify the future vision for the organization that will result after the proposed changes. This provides the North Star for the organization.
- Which area of the organization requires change? Identify the specific area of the organization (not usually a department, but overall working methodology and processes) that requires focus.
- What are the implications of change? Identify what impact the changes will have in the short term (probably hard) and long term (probably beneficial).
Answering these questions provides clarity on why leaders should undertake the difficult journey to create change. Understanding the real benefits that change presents allows you to start assessing the need for change at a deeper level and designing a plan to begin the change process.
Send me an email if you would like a copy of my simple assessment tool to help you identify which areas of your organization need change.
Answering why change is necessary also reaffirms there are very specific and valid reasons that benefit the organization, rather than just changing because everyone else is doing it.
Creating Transformative Change in your Organization
Creating and managing change is a key to creating a higher performing environment. One of the most important things about transformative leaders is they know how to assess their organization, realize when change is needed, and act upon change realization.
Transformative leaders assess the organization’s need for change in stages:
- Change realization: Leaders understand that change is necessary and it is vital that they understand the reasons why change is needed and the end game benefit of change. If this is not clear, there is no reason to start the change process. They create an argument for the need for change, outline the outcome of the changes to be made, and establish guidelines and principles that will be used to manage and implement change.
- Share the vision: Initially, leaders need to share their vision with their executive team. They need to outline the scope of change, the vision for change, how it impacts the organization and when it will be implemented. Executive buy-in is essential and cannot be mandated.
- Create a change management plan: Work with other senior leaders to create a plan that will outline the scope, vision, benefit and impact of change.
- Define components of change: Leaders assign roles and responsibilities, establish metrics to track change, and outline how the initiative will impact organizational culture.
- Communicate with the organization: Share the vision with the organization and help them understand why the changes are being made (the benefits) and where they can play a meaningful role in the change process.
- Involve the organization: Once leaders define why change is necessary and outline change elements, the next step is to establish internal advocates and champions to engage employees and get them onboard.
- Implement change: Begin to implement the change in your organization and assess the impact of the changes from multiple perspectives. Examine employee engagement and acceptance, assess risk, monitor change metrics, make adjustments, and recognize progression.
- Assess and adjust: The change process takes time to implement and embed, so you must monitor and assess progress regularly to ensure that focus isn’t lost after the initial excitement of change. Most change initiatives flounder and fail at this stage because the leadership has been focused on the project for a longer period and feel that once initiatives are launched, they are “done.” They need to recognize that for the majority of the organization, the change initiatives are still new and need to be consistently reinforced if they are to stick.
Transformative Change: How to Approach Organizational Change
How you approach change will be the determining factor in your ability as a leader to effectively communicate the need for change in a way that it will be met with a positive reaction and accepted internally.
As outlined in How Transformational Leaders Make Organizational Change Stick, it is important that you frame change in a way that will tap into peoples’ emotions by providing inspiration, opportunity and allowing employees to have input.
There is a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done before you inform the broader organization about impending changes. There is also a considerable amount of work that will be required as you involve the organization in planning before you actually start to change. The reasons for change and the beneficial outcomes need to be clearly communicated, otherwise people will start the journey of change without thinking about the implications.
Transformative leaders understand that change is not easy, but it is necessary. Change sticks when leaders understand their organizational culture so they can frame change in a way whereby it is viewed as an opportunity as opposed to a threat. Framing change in the right way can be the difference between success and failure. Leaders need to focus on the positive outcomes of change so that people are willing to endure the pain of making change. Tie change to your company value statements, find internal advocates, provide coaching and training, and hold people accountable by tracking the change process.
The next article in our leadership consulting series will examine a leader’s need to change first before an organization can change.
Consistently developing leadership capacity within your organization needs to be a prime objective. Failure to develop leaders internally will hurt your organization’s ability to be successful in both the short term and the long term. When people grow internally they need to be prepared for the challenge of a new position and increased responsibilities, and leadership skills play a large role in a person’s ability to transition effectively.
While the leadership style and organizational culture will be different from organization to organization based on factors such as personal leadership styles, defined goals and objectives, and the make-up of your organizational structure, there are four leadership skills that need to be developed on a consistent basis to help current and future leaders develop professionally.
Leadership Skills Every Leader Needs
Leaders need to have the skills and ability to lead people. This starts with the ability to motivate, mentor and effectively communicate in a way that is engaging and will inspire the desired results from people. Leaders must be able to effectively assign work, identify ways to maximize the use of an individual’s skill set, provide feedback and discipline when necessary, and also hire people that are the right fit for your organizational culture.
How might you improve these skills?
- Assess leaders based on their skills and actions
- Provide mentorship and training programs
- Effectively communicate the skills and actions that are expected of people in leadership roles
- Create discussion groups to discuss best practices related to leading people
Effective leaders understand how to successfully frame and implement change within their organization so it will stick. To manage change effectively you need to have the ability to develop and implement a change management plan, know how to manage resistance when it occurs, and understand the important role that collaboration and open dialogue play in the transition to change.
How might you improve these skills?
- Provide access to change management classes, seminars, discussions, or training
- Communicate the importance of collaboration during organizational change
- Help leaders and future leaders develop strategies to deal with people who are resistant to change
Strategic planning is a vital skill that all leaders need to possess. They need to understand how to take an initiative from a concept — and successfully turn it into a viable workable implementation. Leaders need to be able to think through both short term and long term implications of strategies and understand the importance of updating plans based on an environment of continuous change.
How might you improve these skills?
- Encourage sharing of strategies with other leaders in the organization. Open collaboration can lead to greater efficiency in terms of planning and execution of strategy
- Set up training for strategy development and other related skills such as risk management and mitigation
- Create professional coaching and mentoring opportunities for leaders
- Include more people in the strategic planning process and involve up and coming leaders in strategy discussions
A leader’s ability to get the most out of their team is important when it comes to the long term goals of the organization. Leaders need to be skilled in effectively coaching and communicating with people in order to help them improve their skills, understand their role within the context of the organization, and grow internally.
How might you improve these skills?
- Establish one on one coaching sessions with leaders and individuals
- Encourage leaders to work with employees and assist with the development of their career goals
- Communicate the importance of leaders promoting employee development through discussions, events, and meetings
There is always room for improvement and focusing on these leadership skills will help your organization’s current and future leaders to continue to grow and develop the skills that are vital for success.
Great leaders are always looking to improve, but getting feedback that can really make a difference in your personal growth can often be a challenge. Colleagues are often uncomfortable providing feedback they perceive as being unkind or critical (vs. constructive), preferring instead to sugar coat their comments to avoid the possibility of hurting your feelings — and potentially your relationship. But kindness doesn’t really help us break through to the next level in our personal development.
One technique for getting more constructive feedback is to phrase the question differently. Whether it be a presentation you are working on, or how you have handled a situation, instead of asking “how was that that?” try asking “what could I have done differently to make it even better?”
This type of question lets them know that regardless of how good (or bad) you are — you are looking to get better. By asking for 1 or 2 specific actions/tips you might use to improve, you are sending a clear indication you want honest feedback. Then when they provide input, receive it as a gracious gift with a thankful attitude.
My Perspective: This approach will significantly increase the chance that you will get actionable input that you can use to improve. Showing a sincere desire to hear honest feedback gives you a tremendous advantage over those less comfortable hearing the truth. When someone provides you with the gift of honest feedback, it provides an opportunity for you to grow to the next level of your leadership development.