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Monday, June 28, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element #4

Accelerating change through performance communities. Based on the pioneering work of Etienne Wenger about building communities of practice, Kahan has come up with what he calls “performance communities” or groups of people (stakeholders) who gather regularly and share their knowledge and skills to accomplish results no one of them could ever accomplish. Whether it’s a group of computer repair technicians working on new solutions or high level executives in news media determining new directions in the marketplace, such communities can help solve even the most difficult problems. To thrive such performance communities must have business benefits, address community concerns and have a payoff for each participant. Such communities require requires to look at employees as problem solvers (whom must be enabled to respond to needs) not merely be the implementers of corporate planning. Building a performance community is covered in much detail (starting on pp. 122). Here are just a few steps in building: Share the idea with key stakeholders, identify a social architect, find resident experts, invite people to participate, and much more. Pay attention to this chapter when it comes to real change that people will actually buy into.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element #3

Understanding the territory of change. In the Marine Corps, we were always taught to “recon the forward slope.” The author calls it scouting, reconnaissance and the avant-guard. Essentially he warns organizational change seekers to look forward to see possible risks, get feedback, uncover taboos or traps, identify high-value wins and so own. One technique he raises is “storylistening” which serious communications students could label as “active listening.” The key point he makes about actively listening to others’ stories, is that you get two important results: information and trust. And both are critical to your success. Kahan suggest writing up your interviews into a reconnaissance report—acting like a reporter, he even suggests tape recording with permission and genuine interest that you want to gather the facts. I particularly like his 5 gems to gather in storylistening: red lights (showstoppers), yellow lights (cautions), themes (convergence), educational deficits (gaps), and high-value nuggets (major wins). Don’t forget to read about the role of the interviewer before you set out to start your interviews.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element #2

Energizing your most valuable players. Your MVPs are your key stakeholders. In essence, they are the people—both internally and externally—who can make or break your bold initiative. Key employees, leaders, and colleagues as well as policy makers, partners and clients (just to name a few) can directly affect the success of your change movement. Kahan offers a couple of groups that can lead to high impact: Champions and Ambassadors—who can spread the word internally and externally respectively and make a huge difference in accelerating change by the buzz they create. He also offers two great sections focused on techniques for engaging difficult people and options for working with toxic and unredeemable people! For example, when working with difficult people, he suggests telling them that you want to understand their point of view; making an attempt to hear them out, asking them how you can work together; and being honest about where there is genuine disagreement.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting Change Right: Element #1

Communicating so people get it and spread it. Most entrepreneurs learn what their 30-second elevator pitch is, just in case they meet someone rushing to work who asks them, “What do you do?” I’ve heard so many of these that they annoy me “We strive to optimize customer experience and be best in class a providing an overall experience of excellence in three core areas….” Say what? Better, says the author, to have “engaged” conversations where you ask others questions, like what is their interest in business development or what issue or problem are they facing. Every good sales person knows that the more the client talks, the more you learn and adapt your knowledge, skills and ability. Amazing how many of us decide on change and try to push it down the organization, thinking that’s the way to get buy-in. Kahan, himself a, studied storyteller, teaches the reader how to tell a great springboard story to help engage an audience. Like a mini-case study, it identifies an incident of change, where some measure of success achieved and invites the audience to imagine what it might be like if this kind of change were to happen in their own company. Thus, another way to get an engaged conversation started.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Change Right: Introduction

Getting Change Right (Jossey-Bass, 2010) by Seth Kahan

(This is the first of several posts this week on this book)
“Adapt or Fail” should be the title of this neat book. I had the pleasure of meeting Seth Kahan and listening to him address a roomful of coaches at an International Coach Federation conference. And after reading his book, I can say it accurately reflects his energy and enthusiasm. The core principle of the book is that change doesn’t happen in a smoke-filled room when a bunch of executives decide on a new course and then shove it down the throats of the masses in the trenches. Rather, bold change happens when there is engagement and conversation at every level about the new direction. It’s surely not a top-down, nor even bottom-up process.

Rather, the change process that the author presents is more like a swirl of engagement and communication that builds like a revolution from within—when all the right people, at all levels, begin to connect and share their responses and ideas around a particular issue. Composed of seven important lessons—Seth offers some clues to what I will call ‘revolutionary change.” The lessons are:

1)Communicate so people get it and spread it; 2) Energize your most valuable players; 3) Understand the territory of change; 4) Accelerate change through communities that perform; 5) Generate dramatic surges in progress; 6) Break through logjams; 7) WorkLifeSuccess to sustain high performance in the midst of change.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Whole New Mind: The Six Senses (Meaning)

The 6th of Pink's Six Senses: Meaning

Meaning. Pink ends on this point, which naturally leads him to his newest book Drive! As it turns out, I read Drive before this book…backwards, which sometimes explains my life. Fittingly, Pink opens with one of my favorite guys in history, psychiatrist and former Holocaust survivor, Vicktor Frankl, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. For Frankl the fundamental motivator in life is not money or possessions, but finding meaning and purpose. One quote from Frankl’s book that Pink quotes: “’People have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning (p. 218).’” Pink rightfully spends a portion of this chapter talking about happiness and Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who founded the positive psychology movement. For years, psychology studied depression and not happiness. So Seligman decided to study mirth! Seligman found that happiness stem from your own biology (kind of a happiness set point), engaging work, avoiding negative emotions, being married (go figure!), having a strong social network, being grateful, being forgiving, and having optimism. People with such an outlook don’t have a job—they have a calling—perhaps a life with less money, but a life with spirit, happiness and above all meaning. Again, many thanks for Dan Pink for writing this book, which will no doubt change many people’s lives.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Whole New Mind: The Six Senses (Empathy)

The 4th of Pink's Six Senses: Empathy

Being able, in a given situation, to feel what another person feels…walk a mile in their moccasins—that’s empathy. Pink distinguishes empathy from sympathy—feeling bad for someone else. Rather it’s getting in sync with another person’s way of thinking and feeling. Often shrugged off as being too touchy feely, empathy remains the core of the Conceptual Age. Pink borrows from the work of another favorite author of mine, Dan Goleman, who has written extensively how empathy makes us more socially and personally aware—much more critical than intelligence as executives climb the corporate ladder. Again, Pink (like me) has a fascination for doctors. He notes that high scores in clinical practice had much more to do with scores on empathy than on MCAT (the admissions test for med school). His discussion about men and women and empathy is not new but again underscores his point about androgyny.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Whole New Mind: The Six Senses (Symphony)

The 3rd of Pink's Six Senses: Symphony.

Dan Pink talks about taking a drawing course—drawing on the right side of the brain, which I also took (see I told you we were somehow related). He defines symphony as an ability to synthesize or create new wholes from pieces. He calls it symphony because musical conductors are masters at creating symphony or synthesis…getting a herd of musicians to hit the right note at the right time. He notes that the real value in symphonic thinking is being able to see relationships and putting two, seemingly disparate things together. In fact, he uses Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as an example—exactly the same example I’ve used for many years to explain how iNtuitive thinkers process information (big picture, connectedness). The power of metaphor, he notes, is the heart of creation and understand and any good executive coach will tell you that’s how s/he helps clients re-see their realities. My favorite quote is from one of my favorite comedians of all time, Sid Caesar, “’The guy who invented the wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius. (p.142).’” Hope you read this to see the final page of this chapter as Pink makes his point in a unique way.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Whole New Mind: The Six Senses

The 2nd of Pink's Six Senses: Story

All of us grew up with parents, aunts and uncles telling us stories. Pink argues that we never lose this thirst—to make sense of facts. In a world flooded with facts and data, making sense in a narrative story is what makes those facts available and useful. I know this power directly. As one who’s written academic studies and reviews for years and is now writing leadership fables, I can attest to Pink’s (and others’) endorsement of story. People remember facts well when they’re tied to a strong narrative. He also mentions one of my all time favorite writers and teachers—Joseph Campbell who outlined definitively for us the journey of the hero in story, and, thus, how to present a compelling narrative. Screenwriters study this form. Think about Star Wars (good vs evil) or Jaws (man vs. shark). Pink sees story/narrative as a way that entrepreneurs can clearly distinguish themselves in a heavily populated marketplace. He uses excellent examples that are wonderful to make his point. Be sure to read the one about 2 Brothers Big Tattoo wines And, as a way of diagnosing better, even doctors are getting smarter by not interrupting patients as they tell their health/illness stories.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Whole New Mind: Design

Design. “Design is a classic whole-minded aptitude. It is, to borrow from John Heskett (a scholar of design), a ‘combination of utility and significance (p.70)’” In essence, design is a vehicle toward creative differentiation—especially in a world of replicated knock-offs and commoditized goods and services. The way to stay ahead is to attack the world like a designer. Pink tells the story of a Charter High School focused on design in Philadelphia, where the kids engage and the effect it has on graduation rates, college entrants and much more. He quotes Richard Koshalek, president of the Art Center College of Design, “’I think designers are the alchemists of the future (p.70).’” His analysis of the bad design of the “chad” that lost his old boss, Al Gore, the election is fascinating and a bit scary. Finally, he argues that such creativity is hard to outsource and thus, competitive advantage.

Post #2 From A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Whole New Mind

A Whole New Mind By Dan Pink (Riverhead Books, 2006)
Reviewed by Steve Gladis June 2010

Just as Picasso was in his “blue period,” I think I’m in my “pink period”…Dan Pink that is. I just read A Whole New Mind, which I should have read years before, and which I think describes me better than my mother would have. In fact, I think Pink and I may have come from the same mother ;). Cherished for years and oft repeated in whole or part: “The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge). In this book, Pink helped me understand once and for all why as a poet masquerading as an FBI agent, I always felt “weird.” A right-brainer living in a world of alpha left-brainers. Perhaps that’s why Dan (a lawyer by education) ended up as a speechwriter for Al Gore, and I ended up writing speeches for several directors of the FBI. Could we have been twins separated at birth?

He argues convincingly that we’re moving from an Information Age to a Conceptual (creative/inventive) Age, because of: Abundance (we’re living at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), Asia (left-brained work is outsourced there because it’s been commoditized, and thus cheaper), and Automation (things that are solved by a strict set of rules—heuristics—are better crunched by microchips). He argues that in the coming age those with more inventive minds will be more valued. And he argues these points well—remember Dan’s a lawyer—at least, a recovering one.

In the rest of the book, Dan describes what he calls the “Six Senses .” 1) Design—making things not only functional but engaging by design; 2) Story—developing a compelling narrative from the data; 3) Symphony—seeing the big picture and gathering seemingly desperate parts into a harmonious whole; 4) Empathy—fostering caring relationships with our family, friends and colleagues at work; 5) Play—the need to have fun at whatever you do; 6) Meaning—seeking purpose and the greater good seems to define us uniquely as humans.

Over the next week, I’ll be reviewing Dan’s book in some depth. I recommend you buy a copy and underline the hell out of it as I did. There’s a ton of useful, important information that I won’t have the space to mention. Thanks to Dan for writing this classic.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fierce Practice #6: FINAL Post in Series

Move From Legislated Optimism to Radical Transparency

Scott talks about telling “ground truth” or what’s really happening in the field as opposed to the official corporate party line. She notes that while it’s necessary for tough truth telling to take place, it’s risky and involves courage. We’ve all been there before, when someone says the truth—something everyone knows but is scared to say—and then there’s this big sucking sound as the air goes out of the room. Following the big gulp in the room, the leader stiffens and says something like—OK, Mary, let’s move on. Suddenly Mary is considering the value of annual or sick leave. And everyone around her is now about as willing to tell the truth as the next guy in line at a hanging. Such deluded leaders try to get “Legislated Optimism.” That is, such leaders want only agreement, discourage honest feedback, and demand affirmation—the opposite of what Mary offered. In such cultures, companies die one heartbeat at a time, they lose their best and brightest, and they keep their sheep! Some “tells” that you’re in such a toxic place: Only the usual suspects are invited to the table; the corporate “nod” is prevalent (the yes-man theory); gaps between “official truths” and “ground truths;” the death of innovation; and the absence of accountability. Finally, let me say that Scott’s a rare bird who sings a valuable song. Listen to her closely.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fierce Practice #5

Fierce Practice #5: From Customer Centricity to Customer Connectivity.

Scott always makes me laugh out loud. Her writing is engaging and spiced with humor. She opens this section with an example of a typical company answering service…press 1 if you want X, press 2 if you want Y, press 3 if you want Z—God forbid you ever actually speak with a real human being! Most companies use well-worn phrases like client focused and client centric that have as much zest and meaning as a tub of butter. She quotes from The Trusted Advisor by Charles Green, that most companies “…have the client focus of a vulture—they pay close attention to what the clients are up to, but only in order to figure out the right time to pounce and tear at their flesh.” Not a pretty metaphor if you’re looking to establish a long-term business relationship with someone. The KEY to client development is EMPATHY for the client…not your product. Here’s a funny conversation that Scott uses: (seller) How are you? (client) I’m dying. (seller) Glad to hear it. How much would you like to spend with us today?

Relationships are built one caring conversation at a time—this would not be one of them!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fierce Practice #4

From Employee Engagement Programs to Actually Engaging Employees.

Scott’s simple but powerful equation for engagement that matters is the following: Inclusion + Engagement = Execution Muscle. Inclusion is the feeling that employees have a seat at the table. Engagement indicates the degree to which their personal goals and values align with the corporate goals and values. If you have both, execution grows stronger. Regarding engagement, the cost of not having it is amazing and calculable. According to Gallup, only 20% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs, which means that 80% are not engaged. The outcome of engaged employees—they outperform un-engaged colleagues by a whopping 20-28%! So, for 80% of all employees we’re getting a return that’s nearly a quarter to a third of what we could be returning to ourselves and our investors. Some “tells” in this area: employee surveys haven’t improved; there’s little diversity around the table; executive compensation is not tied to employee satisfaction; surveys are almost always anonymous.

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