Being a Change Conductor

change quote

When leading a change, we tend to focus on the change management skills and experiences needed – the what. But I would contend that how a leader conducts change  is the most critical element for success. A traditional code of conduct outlines expectations on how to act in alignment with the organization’s values and culture. So what code should a leader follow to conduct organizational change? Changes have stages and change leaders need to conduct themselves differently at different times. At first as a train conductor, then as an orchestra conductor, and finally as an energy conductor.

All Aboard: Conducting the Change Train. The first step of change is creating awareness of our need to change. This often requires the leader to be out in front, looking down the tracks at the external and internal business factors that can help or hinder our success. The leader also needs to engage others to create movement. At this phases of change, thinking about change as a train conductor makes sense. A train conductor is responsible for directing the train’s movement. For coupling or uncoupling cars that are needed at different parts of the journey. He or she also ensures that any cargo is assesses, reviewed, and consciously taken on or off the train.  Planning and execution are critical parts of change, and leaders should engage the energy of the early adopters.

Moving in Harmony: Conducting the Change Symphony.  A common, often fatal flaw, of a change initiative is failing to pivot on how the change is conducted. Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch were iconic change conductors. But they were so busy driving the train they forgot to ensure the organization was moving in time with them. In the Senn Delany change model they talk about  unfreezing to create change. We all have patterns, habits, and beliefs frozen in our minds. For true change to happen all leaders need to unfreeze and  bring their perspectives and experiences together to create a new organizational rhythm. Once the change has movement, it is critical for the leaders to shift to helping people know how to change and giving them the ability to change. This is when the change leader needs become a symphony conductor.  This type of conductor focuses on interpretation of the work and real-time communication of those interpretations. He or she is accountable for looking at the entire score, rather just individual parts. The conductor is ultimately responsible for having knowledge of every instrument and demonstrating how to get the best out of each part when working together.

Be Electric: Conducting Energy.

Both the train conductor and symphony conductor have a unique role standing in front of the change.  As we move to the implementation and reinforcement stage of change, the change leader now needs to act as an energy conductor – helping to carry the change current and spark energy across the organization. Andy Hargrove say change is easy to propose, hard to implement, and especially hard to sustain. That is because we need to ensure we have a complete circuit across the organization to move and maintain energy. In science, a conductor is a material which permits a flow of energy.  A substance’s  conductivity depends on how easily electrons can move through it. Most materials are neither good conductors, nor good insulators. They don’t readily conduct, but if enough energy is supplied, the electrons will move. It’s important to realize that we all have different energy currents and not all of us readily move.  It’s also true that with enough energy we can be spurred into motion. It’s critical for the change leader to remember that resistance and heat also impact conductivity — and to strike the right balance between enough and too much energy so that we don’t cause an explosion.

Change is both a noun and a verb. It is the act of becoming different, and the action of becoming different. We tend to focus on change nouns  -plans, projects, and timelines. But the verb – our action- is the only way to actually conduct change.  Change leaders need to conduct change – and themselves -differently at different times during the change process. Successful change leaders know how to think and act like train conductors, orchestra conductors, and energy conductors.

 

 

Connect the Dots

Connect the dots

For many of us it’s budget season. Time to look at what we want for 2018, realizing what we’ll likely get, and figuring out what we can eliminate and prioritize. Too often in this exercise we cut and copy our current projects, just changing the year and tweaking our plans. This year I encourage you to think about how you can not cut, not copy, but connect the dots in your strategy. Commit to a new kind of new year by creating alignment, setting your focus, and pivoting your team.

Creating alignment. Instead of making functional budget or talent decisions, step back and look at your company’s strategy. What are the big opportunities in your line of business? What is your competition doing? What’s out there that no one is doing? What are your leaders always talking about? Ask them what keeps them up at night. Bring the slides from the last business review and talk to them about the real story you should be telling. Help them by recreating simpler slides that connect the dots for all levels of the organization. Looking in is a great place to start- then don’t forget to look out.  Double the business and industry sites/blogs you follow. Meet with some former leaders who moved into new roles.  Block time on your calendar every day (at least every week!) to stay current on your markets and customers. Knowledge IS power so use your power to create alignment across the organization. Help tell the story. Connect priorities across the business.  Ensure everyone is marching in the same direction.

Setting your focus. I once worked for a leader who set 64 annual priorities for us. That is more than one a week! When I raised my concern I was told we didn’t have a choice- this was the work that needed to be done. It may be what needs to gets done, but it won’t be able to be done.  Without guidance we leave it up to chance which of those 64 items get done. One of my favorite phrases is, what’s the order of events? If one of our goals is to expand our military hiring strategy, the first order of events may be to roll out interview training. Or maybe given other business priorities, they both need to wait until 2019. Take a step back and look at how you can sequence your goals. Less is more – and a more likely path to success.

Pivoting your team. To do things differently we must do things differently.  A powerful pivot can be the question, “How will we do things differently in 2018?” Test it first in HR. What will you and your team need to stop and start doing to achieve your top business opportunity? What skills will you need to add to or develop in your team to win in this space? What is the change agility of your team? How customer centric is your team? What do internal and external customers say about you? Questions like these can help unlock new discussions and generate momentum for a pivot. It can change what roles and skills you hire for. It can drive you to move work around – or off your team. It can break down silos and create a new mindset of shared outcomes. Starting with why creates buy-in and focus – and keeps us focused on the big dots.

HR is uniquely positioned to help the organization connect the dots. We understand both the business strategy and the people strategy for the organization.  In 2018, I encourage you to use the end of the year to look at what you want to achieve this year. Don’t cut and copy your current projects – be bold, be focused, and help your organization connect the dots by creating alignment, setting your focus, and pivoting your team.

 

 

 

https://hrtrendinstitute.com/2016/11/23/hr_trends_2017/

 

 

Do Less More Often

Do less More

It may be early to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions but as 2017 is winding down, I find myself reflecting on the number of lessons I learned this year. 2017 was a quite year for me. I was laid off from a great job working for a great boss, John Vegas. I also got a great opportunity to shift from designing learning and development content to delivering change management training across the country. I sat on the other side of the “here is your package” table and got to feel firsthand what good and bad acquisition practices look like. I learned to introduce myself as “in transition” at networking events, and to get comfortable with not having a work identity. I gave myself the best gift of all – taking the summer off to spend time with my family, seeing every concert that we could, and taking some fantastic vacations. So what’s my big hairy goal for 2018? I am planning to do less more often. This means embracing JOMO, canceling subscriptions, and better balancing .

Embracing JOMO. I just read this article about embracing the joy of missing out (JOMO). Instead of stressing out that you can’t get it all done or can’t get to both meetings you were invited to, try a new approach. Admit that there is a problem, and acknowledge that the problem is not you. You can’t do it all and that’s ok. So embrace it. Find joy in training someone else to help with your projects. See the joy in your team when you say, I trust you. You can cover this meeting and fill me in. This mindset can allow you to focus on what really matters and do a few things really well, instead of spreading yourself too thin. This will be a challenge for my extroverted, execution-oriented personality but I am convinced it will help me to stay focused and to be more productive.

Cancelling subscriptions.  I volunteered to co-lead my daughter’s brownie troop when she was in first grade. It appears to have an auto-renewal policy until she graduates. I started a list of all the things I find myself still doing just because I started doing them, and am starting to cancel my subscriptions to these commitments. That means prioritizing my networking groups and cancelling some subscriptions so I can focus on others. It means asking myself if there is a different way for me to subscribe my time at work so I can stay focused on my top priorities. It even means stepping down as the troop leader so I can decide if there is a new subscription my daughter and I want to explore.

Better Balancing. Doing less still allows for doing. I also want to increase my workout goals and to read more next year. I want to work on our learning strategy and be available to create on demand training for leaders.  My goal is to have clear priorities and commit to my priorities. Investing time in my family, my health, and my hobbies are my priorities for next year. So now they will be my filter for making decisions. Stephen Covey has a great quote: “Instead of prioritizing our schedule we need to schedule our priorities.” I am learning that one of the priorities I need to include on that list is white space. White space for thinking and planning at work and for unwinding at home is one of the best commitments of time we can make. Finding the balance of doing and being is my biggest challenge- and one I will prioritize working on in 2018.

I read the book Essentialism in 2016 and it really struck a cord with me. In this crazy world of doing, how can we do less more often? 2017 gave me an opportunity to put those ideas into practice and taught me some invaluable life lessons. I have moved through transition into a new great job, with a great boss, doing some great work. But instead of jumping back on the hamster wheel, this time I am being more intentional about embracing JOMO, cancelling subscriptions, and better balancing.

First Build the Foundation

solid-foundations

It is easy to become enamored with the latest HR or business fad. Every where you look these days teams are getting agile, delivering micro learnings, and investing in crowd funding. You don’t want your team/company to be left in the cold, so you pick the buzzword of the day and propose a project around this idea in a meeting, everyone gets excited, and you dive in to kick it off. Great, right? Wrong. Agile, micro learnings, and crowd funding are great solutions– to the right problems, and with the right readiness. In HR we have lots of annual solutions that may or may not solve the right problem at the right time. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we ought to do it. And just because we have a full box of Jenga blocks, we don’t have to use them all. Good HR solutions are built on strong foundation. We can test that foundation by asking  three questions: Why does this matter? Who does it matter to? What else matters right now?

Why does this matter?  A favorite HR solution is annual HR talent reviews. Not inherently a bad solution, but why does this matter? If your organization’s goal is to increase global sales by 10%, how does your solution advance this goal? Your answer might be we have to know who our high potentials are so we can retain them. If we can retain them and let them know we value them, we will increase employee engagement. I would say that may be an HR goal but not an organizational goal. Take a step back and ask, why does talent review matter?  Maybe– hold on– it doesn’t matter right now. It is important to be able to separate the sacred cows from the milking cows– what we love vs. what fuels our current goals.  Maybe the foundational step is to do an inventory of the current experience of your global sales leaders, then to gain consensus on what experience we want people to have. Once we have this information, then maybe it makes sense to broaden talent review. Or maybe it doesn’t. Breaking down your approach to talent into pieces and asking yourself at each step why this matters will help you build a strong foundation and scalable solutions.

Who does it matter to? Diversity is another popular HR solution. There are lots of  opportunities connected to diversity.  If you break this down and ask why this matters, you likely can come up with a great reason why diversity can drive sales growth. The next question is, who does this matter to? If you have bricks but no masons, it will be hard to build off that foundation. Who is excited about this? Who do you need as champions? Who can they influence? Maybe before you hit go on your new diversity initiative, the foundational step is to assess your champions. Pull them together and ask them to explain why diversity matters to them and to their business goals. Ask for their ideas on how to make it matter to others across the organization. Ask them if they will be be your champions, and what you need to consider before you hit go. By taking the time to ensure you have this foundation set before creating a change, you have a much better chance of having that change stick.

What else matters right now? Context is key when developing a solution. You might be right that recruiting is a critical issue. But your company is working on another corner of the house, go toward that energy first. In my organization creating a great customer experience is a priority.  In order to deliver that great experience we need to ensure a great employee experience. As we got deeper into our data gathering we realized our current company values our words but are not connected to our employees’ experience. So while recruiting was our top priority, values has jumped to the top of the list. As my boss says, the order of events matters. Values are foundational and once we have values we can integrate them into our learning content, recruiting and talent practices, recognition, and communication. So lets do things in the right order. Let’s be part of the business blueprint. It we have the right timing, the right order, and the right alignment we can make sure our solutions matters.

In HR we love to build things. We see all the opportunities and want to help our teams succeed. However we often forget to step back and look at the leaning tower we’ve created. There is another way. We can start by asking why this matters, who does it matter to, and what else matters right now. By being intentional about what you do,  determining who are your champions, and sequencing how you connect the dots you can build a strong talent foundation for your organization.