This week, I spent a lot of time with a group of sales leaders for a large industrial manufacturing firm. In the context of a large digitalisation initiative we discussed the role and specific tasks for leaders to drive and motivate sustainable change.
In this post I want to share the essence of the discussion with one of the Senior Leaders in the aftermath of group work with the team.
We discussed using the model below, which is based on Simon Sinek’s hierarchy of Why, How and What, when it comes to leadership:
With this model I tried to visualise, where and how leaders “take action”, when it comes to driving change.
Keep your hands away from the “what”
If you have hired the right people, and if you have managed to put them in the right role, your job is done. If you have to tell people what they are supposed to do, you have got the wrong people on board.
The “operational” level of “how”
Providing guidance for operational work through processes, frameworks or templates still is managerial. Even though some people might be asking for clear instruction and guidance for how they are supposed to apply their skills, I don’t perceive this particular element as “leadership”.
To motivate people and make them believe in the value of applying the standards, might be a leadership aspect of this part of “how”.
The “leadership” level of “how”
This is where real change kicks in. To motivate change and lead by example when it comes to fundamental change for i.e. the ways of working, is what is expected from leaders.
Thinking with the recipient in mind, turning personal experience into corporate knowledge or adopting new digital opportunities isn’t something that can be ordered. It is where leadership meets operations, because leaders will have to show the same attitude and act as a role model.
This applies to ways of working, not giving up on adapting new technologies as well as helping others to feel comfortable in the new world. There is no reason, why a SVP shouldn’t be the key user of a new collaboration environment.
Excellent leadership in this level will have the effect of empowerment. People will be equipped with the right mindset to put their competence and abilities to full play.
The purpose level of “Why”
Well…I’ll let Simon Sinek pick this one up. This entire post is inspired by his TED talk anyway…
I have the feeling, that change and change management have become empty phrases. A lot of people talk about it, but no-one really knows, what it means, and there is nothing tangible following the words…
(SVP Commercial Sales, Industrial Manufacturing)
I have to agree with him, because I have reached the point where I don’t even hear me say the word “change” anymore. That’s probably the destiny of an evangelist: you have to keep saying it, make it tangible and help people to understand what it means.
Otherwise it will actually stay an empty phrase for good.
Why change is so hard.
There is no better way of putting it than the following cartoon strip does:
Whenever it’s time to act, the audience gets thinner and thinner and the line of volunteers and heroes gets shorter and shorter. Because change sounds good, but it comes at a price…
And I am certain, you’ve seen this before:
Triggers to make things stick.
Athletes know the drill: without embedding your physical challenge into your daily life every day, there will be no progress. You don’t become a long distance runner with the occasional jog, you won’t get the beach body from the weights you swing round twice month.
To establish something new, it’s helpful to have a ritual. Something everyone does, every day, for at least 30 days. Then the ritual becomes a habit and it will be hard to give it up again.
Most likely the things to be done will still be there. Not matter if it’s at the work place or anywhere else in life. If you want to introduce “new ways of doing things”, you need to alter existing routines and make room for the new stuff. That “new piece” can be a tool, an approach or simply a way of starting a conversation.
Celebration of Success
We need to be kind to ourselves. It’s not always the won sales deal, the stronger abs or the better time for the mile. We need to celebrate success along the way, the newly established habit or simply the awareness for the new. Celebration is emotional, and positive emotion helps to endure the efforts of change.
But be prepared for setbacks!
There will be days, where your mile feels like eternity. There will be days, where the scales tell you: nah, not even close.
Be prepared for that. Be prepared to be resilient.
In business, this means that you have to accept the fact that it won’t be a smooth ride all the time. If a lot of people are confronted with change, anxiety and fear aren’t strangers to the game.
Embrace frustration & fear
New stuff can be scary and people usually don’t embrace change naturally. We need to develop a “we help each other along the way” mindset. We have to tune our radar to capture the little signs of discomfort and intercept early to not even let the bad feeling establish itself properly.
We need to learn to care for each other more, also at the workplace.
Share the discipline to stick with it
Don’t give up. Don’t fall back to old ways, because you know how to trick and fix them. Share discipline to give it another try. Be in it together to try, fail, try again, fail even harder and then succeed. It will be worth it in the end!
Change is a constant in today’s world.
BCG’s Jim Hemerling takes about 5 ways to lead in an era of constant change. It was one of the TED talks I watched this week over my home office lunch, my 30 minutes of daily inspiration. With that video I want to close today’s post – because essentially it says it all, and I wish I could spend one dinner with Jim to talk about his talk.
After one full year of absence (*shiver) I will be back in Berlin for the 2019 INTRA.NET Reloaded Conference (April 11 & 12). Because I cannot sit still for two full days – and because the WE CONECT folks are super amazing – I will be hosting a little workshop:
To deliver something valuable to the people joining me in the session, I’d like to harvest my network for thoughts, ideas, questions & topics we should discuss. I will create a little survey with a next post, hoping for some feedback and input.
Inspiration & food for thought
In a couple of recent posts, I’ve shared some of my angles on digitalisation and modern leadership. Maybe they can help to spark some conversation:
In almost two decades in various industries and types of business, I’ve come across a pretty consistent pattern of challenges for digitalisation projects. There have been some differences from client to client, but more often than not, the same root cause had prevented previous success or was getting in the way of the newly initiated project.
This checklist is basically the deep dive into my previous article on “wittingly cutting corners”, that I published on Simply Communicate in 2018. It’s what I was referring to as the framework that puts an agile initiative (project or program) on a strong foundation.
Sharing this will hopefully get me some insight into what people think about my point of view and how my experience compares to that of others out there.
I’m always excited about feedback & exchange
What I’m sharing is my subjective experience. The best way to make sure that I’m on the right track is to find people who are willing to challenge my thoughts or complement them with their own. Through this, I want to add a little more objectivity to my point of view and increase the value that I can add to my client’s endeavours.
To everyone’s surprise, I’m keen on winning new clients
First of all, it still humbles me how many people have decided to support my new freelance adventure. They have put their personal trust in me, and for that I am very grateful.
After one year, I’ve decided to investigate the options of building entirely new relationships and “actively market” the Sherpa. So this is my first step in that direction.
If you like what I’ve shared today, and especially if you think I might have hit a nerve in your organisation, please get in touch. Put me to the test and see if I can bring something to your team, something that makes the climb to the digital summit more pleasant.
A couple of weeks ago, I’ve worked on an executive briefing on my experience with internal digitalisation in large corporations. Based on my work in industrial manufacturing, insurance, pharmaceutical and professional services environments, this is my collection of
Motivation for internal digitalisation
Challenges that companies experience along the way
The role leadership & management has to place in digital transformation
It’s important to say, that not all aspects apply to each company but it’s quite striking how many aspects of motivation & challenges a lot of companies have in common…
One year in the business of being a freelance coach, it’s about time that I provide some insight into my actual work as well. So for a start I am sharing the “cloud of emotions” after 2.5 days of intense workshops with over 20 people…
Frankly, there isn’t a better reward than positivity.
A little case study on this will follow quite soon. So stay tuned…
As a coach my goal is to work not just for but with people. A genuine interest in the emotional state of others is an essential part of what I do. To sharpen my empathy radar and to improve my ability to observe how others feel in a particular situation, I’ve started my journey into mimic resonance training (in German Mimikresonanz).
Identifying an emotion in someone’s face should not be confused with mind reading, trickery or lie detection. The TV series “Lie to Me”, while highly entertaining to watch if you’ve started to train Facial Action Coding yourself, has undoubtedly contributed to some such confusion on the subject.
The deeper purpose of mimic resonance as a methodology for acting on empathy however, goes way beyond unveiling a lie.
Communication for the benefit of the relationship
In business – and undoubtedly in private lives – communication is too often a one way street, the sending of a message. But if the effectiveness of communication is your objective, simply “getting it out there” isn’t enough. How a message is perceived, what recipients have understood and how the words resonate with the audience are key to ensuring a communication goal is really achieved.
The ambition to formulate a message with little room for interpretation is certainly a good start. Conveying a message face to face theoretically allows us to actually see how the content resonates with the other person.
In the age of digital communications, the face to face option is often missing, leaving our empathy radar more or less blind. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to develop a way to create feedback loops for the digital world – perhaps with emoticons. But for the moment, this form of improving communication and ultimately relationships rests firmly on the premise that we do not replace personal interactions completely with digital ones but rather the two complement each other.
Sharpening the radar for visual feedback, before taking action
I’m thoroughly convinced that it’s essential to remove guessing games from interpersonal communication and to do whatever we can to sharpen our observations of non verbal feedback in any face to face situation.
Mimic is built into us as humans. It’s there from birth and it is scientifically proven that expressions in our mimic are universal across all cultures. It’s a truly reliable indicator for our emotional state as human beings.
But the real challenge is in learning to resonate on what you observe in someones mimic. As opposed to the “mind reading” (I know what you’re thinking) angle, observing a particular mimic, identifying it, and matching it to the respective emotion is essential. But questioning that emotion, its origin and cause is paramount to real understanding. Any sort of unfounded interpretation can easily lead you down the wrong path.
Remove obstacles in times of change
The training I’ve started will improve my ability to observe what’s happening right before my eyes and how to react to it. My goal is to sharpen my sense of people’s emotions and my skills to find the right words for the situation at hand.
Equipped with that, I will be even better positioned to help companies answer key questions in change and digital transformation scenarios:
Have people understood the WHY to our journey ahead?
How do people feel about the changes affecting themselves and their teams?
Are our teams confident and committed to their role in the process?
Is our leadership model authentic and does it resonate with the organisation?
Will our work deliver value for the people, employees and customers alike?