Are you grappling with the mammoth task of cultural transformation in your organization? Or are you looking at smaller scale changes, but still not feeling you have found just the right approach?
As you capture the last few days of summer, we thought it might be fun to look at tackling this heavy subject with something on the lighter side. In their Leadership & Organization Blog, McKinsey & Company recently had a post entitled Elephant in the room: making a culture transformation stick with symbolic actions. As you might imagine, they describe the successful use of toy elephants by a leadership team to help employees get comfortable with the candid conversations they felt would be necessary to bring about change.
There is a widely held view, and it is reiterated here, that the leaders within an organization should choose a few symbolic actions to signal that cultural expectations are changing. Putting a rubber elephant on the table is that kind of symbolic action – it lets people know that the difficult topic at hand will be tackled, not left unaddressed.
As you consider the use of symbolic actions in your own organization, McKinsey offers three simple steps for you to follow:
- Define the purpose of and audience for potential symbolic actions.
- Brainstorm symbolic actions,
- Review and prioritize ideas.
This article is fun to read, but it also makes some very valuable points. It might be just what you need to get an elephant or two off your boardroom table.
To read the full article, you can go to https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/elephant-in-the-room-making-a-culture-transformation-stick-with-symbolic-actions
How often would you say you reflect on your effectiveness as a leader or salesperson or boss? When you do, do you find yourself feeling you could achieve much more if you could just reach people at a deeper level?
If you think about it, things that are truly timeless and last through the ages, probably do so for a reason. The art of persuasion is one of those things. Going all the way back to the time of Aristotle, and that’s more than 2,000 years ago, we find that he created a formula for mastering the art of persuasion in his work entitled Rhetoric. Persuasion and influence continue to be studied to this day and, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled The Art of Persuasion Hasn’t Changed in 2,000 Years, some economists believe that persuasion is responsible for generating one-quarter or more of America’s national income.
So, what was Aristotle’s formula for mastering persuasion? It is presented in the following five rhetorical devices:
- Ethos or Character – allow your audience to gain insight into your credibility
- Logos or Reason – make a logical appeal to reason, show why they should care about your idea
- Pathos or Emotion – move people to action through emotions
- Metaphor – clarify your idea by bringing in something familiar
- Brevity – there are limits to what people can absorb, so start with your strongest point!
I highly recommend this article … and don’t think it should take too much persuading to get you to read it.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2019/07/the-art-of-persuasion-hasnt-changed-in-2000-years
Have you noticed the level of uncertainty in the market seems to be increasing? Are you finding more and more reasons to be nervous about the future? Do you question whether or not your organization is ready to meet the challenge?
Over the past six months, we have seen more and more senior leaders begin to seriously question the path their organization is on. It seems as though they have begun to recognize that without major, transformational change, their organization may not be able to seize the emerging opportunities which shifts in the market provide.
Just like you, they have four choices.
- Ignore the need for change
- Hunker down and hope for the best
- Cut back on all costs to conserve cash
- Lean in and drive change deep
The article below from Strategy + Business, entitled The Four Building Blocks of Transformation, speaks to option number four, and the way in which successful transformation can be navigated. Rightfully, they call out just how important driving cultural change is to the success of any change process. In our experience, too many leaders are afraid to address the cultural aspects of change. They try to find a soft, gentle middle path where they don’t have to make the hard calls and difficult choices, and deal head on with the toughest part of the change equation – the people and their mindsets, attitudes and beliefs.
To read the full article, you can go to https://www.strategy-business.com/article/The-Four-Building-Blocks-of-Transformation?gko=5a1aa
Have you noticed how many things are changing all around you? Have you noticed how the pace of change is picking up speed and seems more unpredictable than ever before? Have you ever worried you and your organization are not going to be able to change fast enough to keep up?
Everywhere we look, leaders seem to be struggling with what to do about change (not to mention its bigger, badder, bolder brother called transformation). In many cases, leaders don’t seem to understand there is a progressive playbook they could have been using all along to help them succeed. Instead, far too many are trying to put the brakes on change in a desperate effort to slow it down or even worse, covering their eyes and hoping it all just goes away.
We get it. Change is a challenge but the fact of the matter is, all progress comes from change.
In our view, successful change begins with a change in mindset. It starts between the ears and there are four things we believe are the keys to leading change.
- The ability to think in the future tense
- The capacity to connect the dots and paint a vivid picture of the future
- The courage to confront the cynics, victims and bystanders and not them highjack the organization
- The willingness to identify and harness the change ambassadors and put them to work in the trenches
Frankly – we need leaders fit for the times and so we have created an online Change Leadership Course, just click here.
Do you worry about how many people in your organization care enough to tell the truth? Are you worried about people who should be speaking up, and aren’t doing just that when it really matters?
As part of our philosophy and approach to leadership, we have always believed the worst truth is better than the best lie. We also understand not all people have the courage to speak up when they should, especially to their boss and other senior leaders.
When several people are thinking the same thing and no one speaks up, that is what is called an open secret, and open secrets can be toxic and are almost always damaging. The truth is, right now within your company open secrets exist, and not dealing with them could put your entire organization in jeopardy.
This was the topic of an excellent piece in HBR back in January 2019, and it seems to become ever more important as time goes along. In fact, the many valuable points raised in this article should be reviewed by senior leaders on an ongoing basis.
Leaders should understand the reasons people:
- Choose to be bystanders,
- Expect others to stand up, or
- Diffuse responsibility.
You might want to pause and try to figure out exactly why your people, especially those on the front lines, are opting out of the communication, action and accountability loop, and becoming silent co-conspirators in the plot to hide valuable insights from senior leaders.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2019/01/why-open-secrets-exist-in-organizations
As a leader, are you willing to really explore the tensions and dynamics impacting team performance within your organization? Are you hooked on finding team harmony, or are you willing to consider something more complicated, but ultimately much more productive?
We have written before on the value of embracing constructive conflict, and continue to believe it is a core competence of successful teams. We now have an opportunity to look at it again, in a slightly different light, thanks to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled The Best Senior Teams Thrive on Disagreement.
In this article, the authors are presenting some convincing research showing that the greatest predictor of top-team performance at the enterprise level is not cohesion, but rather the ability to manage conflicting tensions. Trust and positive team dynamics are critical foundational elements of course, but appreciating and managing these tensions will elevate the senior team performance.
Delving a little deeper, you will find these conflicting tensions are identified as:
- Risk vs. Results – creating circumstances where both risk and day-to-day delivery can peacefully coexist.
- External vs. Internal Pull – consistently scanning the external environment for consumer, competitor and industry knowledge, and using that knowledge to adapt internally.
- Top-down vs. Bottom-up Innovation – managing the tension between leading and directing innovation, while also engaging and empowering the broader organization.
High performing senior teams navigate these tensions well, recognizing they represent a spectrum of behaviours and processes to be managed, rather than isolated problems to be solved. We believe you will find great value in exploring these concepts, understanding how they are at play in your own organization and learning how to manage the tensions.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2017/09/the-best-senior-teams-thrive-on-disagreement
Do you ever find yourself in the lobby of another organization, staring at your own core values framed on their wall? Have you attempted to make a unique statement, only to discover that it is not so very different from everyone else’s?
To quote a little research from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Ban These 5 Words from Your Corporate Values Statement, 90% of companies reference ethical behaviour or use the word integrity, 88% mention commitment to customers, and 76% cite teamwork and trust. A core values document is supposed to inspire your employees in a way that is unique to your organization, but it seems the language is often not unique at all.
So, here are the five words you should never use in your core values statement:
- Ethical (or integrity)
- Teamwork (or collaboration)
Chances are you might recognize a few words from the list above. The problem with them is twofold according to this Harvard article – in the first place, they are really just table stakes for any business that wants to be competitive and, secondly, they don’t define what is distinctive about the organization.
This article goes on to describe a few ways you can differentiate yourself, and really define what is unique about your company through your core values statement. It’s definitely worth reading, and then incorporating in a way that is meaningful to you.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2018/02/ban-these-5-words-from-your-corporate-values-statement
Do you struggle with the fact your well-crafted change initiatives continue to meet with resistance, despite all your best efforts?
Given the volumes of literature on the subject of Change Management, it is clear you are not alone. And, because of those great volumes of information (that require hours of study to digest), we were especially happy to see a very succinct post on the McKinsey Leadership & Organization Blog entitled Change Management Lessons from Japan.
This post describes the approach to change management used by a new CEO at a Japanese consumer products company. It is noted that, in Japan, consensus building is a strong part of the culture and a driving force behind the approach taken. The four practical ways to drive change are described as:
- Define the end state in detail and provide a roadmap much earlier.
- Engage the front line very early and create opportunities to endorse change.
- Map the organizational network and tackle change blockers.
- Expose top management extensively, broadly and directly.
The beauty of blog posts is that they are usually short and to the point, giving you food for thought and often inspiring you to dig a little deeper. The concepts presented here apply equally well in all cultures and all types of organizations – it’s well worth a read.
To read the full blog post, you can go to https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/change-management-lessons-from-japan
Does strategy execution sometimes feel like a tug of war in your organization? Are you constantly juggling the trade-offs between delivering short-term results and making longer term changes?
Managing performance within a team, or in an organization overall, almost always involves finding a balance between opposing ideas or approaches or needs. If you find yourself in this arena, you will most likely enjoy the recent Harvard Business Review article entitled Good Strategy Execution Requires Balancing 4 Tensions.
In this article, the authors expertly identify the four key tensions predictably found in organizations, and bring them to life with relevant examples. The four tensions are:
- Tension #1: An inspiring end-state versus challenging targets – you need to balance a clear picture of what life will look and feel like once change has been successfully implemented with aggressive targets and milestones to be achieved along the way.
- Tension #2: Top-down control versus democratization of change – you need to balance capitalizing on the energy created through empowerment with reigning people in when they get too far off track.
- Tension #3: Capability development versus pressure for results – you need to balance taking the time required to develop the new capabilities you feel are necessary to achieve your goals with making do in order to meet timelines and budgets.
- Tension #4: Creativity versus discipline – you need to balance the insight and excitement of creativity with the realism and necessity of discipline.
This is a short but clever article with some very useful advice, and I think it is well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2017/11/good-strategy-execution-requires-balancing-4-tensions?autocomplete=true
Do you feel your communication style resonates well with all the different people you interact with on a daily basis? Do your messages land the way you intended them to?
To be effective as a leader, you have to react appropriately in a variety of situations, and you have to connect with a variety of people inside and outside your organization. One of the many tools you use for this is your leadership voice, and Harvard Business Review has recently published an article which you might find helpful, it is entitled You Don’t Just Need One Leadership Voice – You Need Many.
Over time, and possibly without really being conscious of it, you will have worked on developing your leadership voice. As pointed out in the article, though, this might leave you feeling as though you are living with imposter’s syndrome or exhausting yourself by wearing a game face all day.
To help you be more genuine is this endeavour, and ultimately more successful, the author defines the different types of leadership voices you can cultivate:
- Your voice of character – the fundamental principles voice.
- Your voice of context – the big picture voice.
- Your voice of clarity – the focussed voice.
- Your voice of curiosity – the asking good questions voice.
- Your voice of connection – the storyteller voice.
Discovering and developing your voice as a leader is work you will do over your entire career – and there is no time better than right now to get started.
To read the full article, you can go to https://hbr.org/2018/01/you-dont-just-need-one-leadership-voice-you-need-many?autocomplete=true