Earthquake or Fog – Leading When You’re Lost

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Change, Problem Solving, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Too many leaders today are trying to solve the new challenges they face with the old thinking that served them in the past.  They’re using the wrong map, so no wonder they’re lost.   Lessons from survival research shows that’s a flawed place to start. I was working with the leader of a decades old  business that has always had high levels of individual customer service.  But now they have a problem with the economy and new competition forcing them to figure out how to provide the high service they are known for with far fewer staff, and manage the seasonal swings of their needs. As we talked she kept saying “we have to…” or “we’ve always…”  She was using her old mental map, her old paradigm.  It made me think of some research I read recently on who ends up surviving when they are lost in the wilderness and it turns out that the key factor is accepting that you are, in fact, lost! I have friends who are active hikers.  Last year they climbed Mount Washington, not high by Rockies standards, but the highest peak in New England, and known for the most extreme weather.  While they were hiking a thick fog rolled in.  They had to react.  They stayed very close together.  They stopped often to be sure they were on the right path, and verified the terrain against their maps. But what if, instead of a fog – a temporary condition, there had been an earthquake, and the paths had actually shifted?  That’s what some leaders are facing today.  The old maps don’t work. So this leader and I talked about whether she was dealing with a fog bank or an earthquake?  Was the ground the same and the conditions temporary or was it different permanently?  Could she accept that it was different?  She rejected the idea and wanted to just pull out the same old spreadsheets but then she began to see how that might not be the place to start. I asked how could she look at a new service paradigm?  What other industries offered ideas?  What about the service did the customer really appreciate and what could be dispensed with?  Could she replace staff all trained the same with different levels of skills, a bit like doctors with physician assistants, nurses, and receptionists. She couldn’t begin to even think about these questions, however, until she was willing to admit that the conditions had shifted enough to leave her lost in the wilderness.  Only, a bit like the stages of grief, after she could accept that fact,  could she start to assess and think creatively how to do things differently.  It’s true with hikers in extreme situations – those that continue to press on without acceptance are often those who don’t make it out, because they are fighting too hard against reality and not taking stock of what’s possible. If you are a leader facing trying times, really begin to assess whether you’re...

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Transitions are Messy – 3 Lessons from Nature

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Change, Self-awareness, Teams | 0 comments

Transitions are messy – they don’t necessarily feel good or look good, in the yard or at work.  But maybe we can learn three lessons from the weather.  I came back after a weekend away in New Hampshire full of cold weather and snow, but at home it had been warm.   The lawn that had been snow covered for months was now bare, showing all the detritus and damage of winter.  What a mess!  I was seeing nature’s transition – the awkward  time between winter and spring. It got me thinking about other transitions that feel so awkward.  New roles at work, new processes, new people on teams.  The past, just like the winter, contained lots of good – lots of beauty.  The snow softened our landscape, reflected more light, and accentuated the details of tree branches.  The past work role, old process, or former team often were just fine, special in their own way, and perhaps even better in retrospect. Then along comes the new change – raw at first.  It’s not smooth, or pretty right from the start.  It’s awkward and there are ups and downs – just like the temperature spikes up and down in the transition from winter to spring.  There is lots of work to do to usher in the new season, just as there is lots of work to do to create a new team, or step into a new role. At times it seems like the transition won’t ever occur.   On Cape Cod where the ocean surrounds us and the winter cold water extends the chill of winter longer, it frequently feels as if spring will never come!  The transition drags on and on… and we can’t do anything about it. Lesson 1:  In life, you may have more control of how long your transition period lasts.  First of all, enter it knowingly, with awareness.  Pay attention to the impact of the transition on everyone it touches, even peripherally. Expect bumps.   The new team member gets impacted, but so does the whole team. Lesson 2: Next, do the work that’s part of the transition, whatever that might be.  With a new team, for example, address whatever needs to be changed up front – deciding on new rules, new roles, ways to resolve conflict, joint expectations. Lesson 3:  Last, remember to have hope.  A rough transition, just like a rough end of winter, doesn’t mean that the future will be awful.  Spring just may be beautiful....

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Think little! Micro changes for process improvements or personal habits

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Change, Influence, Innovation, Meetings | 1 comment

 We often go for big change and end up disappointed.  Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution to get fit or the initiative to improve customer satisfaction.  We start with a bang and end with a whimper.  Instead, I’m getting interested in micro-changes as a more successful approach. I’m including an idea below for a micro-change for meeting productivity. Minimum Key Behavior:  Several months ago I heard a podcast on using technology to change behavior.  BJ Fogg, head of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, talked about finding the minimum key behavior for something you want to change.  It has to be extremely narrow focused, relatively easy, familiar and triggered or cued (by technology, in his case).   For example, he was hired to begin to build a culture of wellness to combat stress in a healthcare organization – a really big abstract goal.  So he narrowed it and looked at the single behavior that people already knew how to do, were willing to do, that would contribute to lowering stress.  He chose 20 seconds of stretching, triggered by a message to people’s cell phones (which they always carried.)  Click to read an article about it:  Rules of Persuasion  Simplicity:  He says simplicity is a key, but also takes courage because it seems too minimal.  In teaching a class on designing Facebook apps he instills the rule of simplicity for success  – it has to be very easy to adopt at first.  When it’s a truly simple app, the designer makes money.  Rules for Success:  This past weekend I read the book  Small Move, Big Change; Using Microresolutions to Tranform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold.  She successfully applies the idea of tiny key behaviors to changing her personal & work life, and offers up seven rules of success in making micro change: ·      It has to be easy.  ·      It has to be explicit and measurable. ·      It has to offer up a quick win – the benefit comes right away and each time. ·      It’s sticky – it resonates with you. ·      It is cued by something in your environment. ·      You make no more than two at a time.  Getting Organized:  Her first win was a way to get more organized. Instead of instituting a complex system she looked for a key behavior by examining what was driving her crazy about her disorganization and getting in her way.She made lots of notes but was frustrated to be always hunting for details like phone numbers, wasting time and energy, because she used such an assortment of books and loose papers to scribble on.   Her one simple microresolution was to put all her notes in one notebook.  Easy, right?  After all, she already wrote things down.  However, she struggled with just remembering to bring that notebook with her, or even where she’d put it.  But she gave herself zero-tolerance and kept at it. Before long it became a behavior on auto-pilot.  She felt far more in control.   Success comes from...

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Major Changes at a Hospital Occur from Walking in Their Shoes

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Change, Competence, Problem Solving | 0 comments

If you are a company of more than one person, do you really know how customers, clients or patients have to navigate through doing business with you?  That goes for internal customers as well – getting IT help for example? Extraordinary benefits resulted from a careful examination in a hospital reported in this Harvard Business Review blog on leading healthcare innovattion. They called it “discovery.”  Though each department knew how the patient navigated their area, no one seemed to know the whole process.  They created a cross-functional team, took off their white coats and walked the walked – from the time the patient walked in.  It was an eye opener for them, and subsequently drove major improvements, patient outcomes, staff satisfaction, etc..  It could be for you if you try it in your company.  Read more here: How Micro-Moves Can Drive Health Care...

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Getting a wider perspective; big picture seeing

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in Change, Mindfulness, Problem Solving | 1 comment

Leaders need to think big picture.  Have wide angle vision.  See the curves in the road up ahead.  Clients ask me, ‘how do you do that when you’re caught in the day to day?’  Shift your focus to looking at the background, not just the foreground of what’s in front of you. Because we can’t possible take in everything around us all the time, we develop selective filters.  Those filters start to become habit.  Think about how you don’t notice the background noise of your refrigerator until it stops during a power outage.  We shut out what our brains decide is irrelevant.  We do the same with our business as we get focused on producing results. Watch the following video to see what I mean: We develop selective vision as we focus and may miss out on important cues.  I think this is partly why businesses miss signs of changes in their environment and hold their course too long, then find themselves out of touch with their market. So take time to soften your eyes and just see what there is to see.  Scan the “background” of your business.  See what’s going on outside of your day to day work.  Do things like look at what’s happening in completely different industries.  Find someone from a different generation – older or younger.  Look inward into your company and imagine seeing it from someone else’s point of view.   This is particularly important in the early stages of problem solving, and in strategic planning. Don’t look for anything in particular, because then your attention starts to select and some data is in and some data is out – just like in the video.   Just stay open to what might be there.      ...

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Tiny Acts that Matter Big

Posted by on Jan 18, 2013 in Change, Mindfulness, Self-awareness | 1 comment

Don’t overwhelm yourself with big steps.  A continual aggregation of tiny acts can be all you need to achieve something important.  A Swedish client once told me ‘you can only eat a potato one bite at a time.’ I have a goal I’ve set for myself this year, but I don’t have hours to devote to it.  If I set out to take big steps, I’d quit right away. So my plan is once a day to do something.  It’s manageable to commit myself to just one little action every day, whether a phone call, a piece of research, or just a few minutes to think.  Although each act may not be much, the accumulation will build momentum. Here’s a metaphor that better expresses this idea: “Not long ago, I heard on the radio a description of a new form of propulsion for a probe that had just been launched into deep space.  The spacecraft was powered by a newly developed ion motor, where sub-atomic particles were propelled out the back of the probe and provided its acceleration.  The scientist describing the new motor said that the amazing thing about the motor was that although the electrons were pushed out the back of the probe at an incredible speed, the electrons were so small that the acceleration on the craft was actually only the equivalent of the weight of a piece of paper.  But because that slight weight acted every moment and it occurred in a basically friction-free environment, the craft could reach speeds of hundreds of thousands of miles per hour. It is a profound metaphor for a poet, of course:  just the weight of a piece of paper, a blank piece of paper, every moment, or even to begin with just once a day, every day.  But it is a metaphor for any work and any person.  A steadily building field of activity, laid down almost imperceptibly, layer upon layer, which creates a world and at the same time prepares us for our appearance in that world.” David Whyte , Crossing the Unknown Sea; Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity It doesn’t even have to be every day to matter.  Maybe you have a quick idea, a seemingly inconsequential idea.  Try it anyway.  It might make a bigger difference than you think.  If you doubt, watch this video of a young man’s simple idea called Making a City Smile I found on Daniel Pink’s website.  My son stopped by the other day in a prickly mood.  I told him to watch the video and it made him smile.  I hope it makes you smile, too, and gets you to take one little act that starts to take you far.    ...

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