CHANGE (INNOVATION) IS HARD. RELATIVE TO WHAT?

Screenshot 2017-01-17 19.46.18.png“Change is hard.”

Is it?

What if that’s just an opinion disguised as a fact? What if that is just a socialized complaint/expression that we’ve all been brainwashed into believing and repeating?

“Change is hard” can often be heard as an unconscious declaration of an inevitable, early surrender from the leader to the team that they are responsible for leading.

“Change is hard” often sounds like a veiled equivalent to: “Yes, I’m the boss, but I’m not going to be taking responsibility for implementing/supporting the new strategy or the business results….because change is hard.”

Screenshot 2017-01-17 19.47.06.pngThere are, however, many corporate executives and entrepreneurs alike who get excited about the possibility of change; they are masters at it; it’s easy for them. They would never say, “Change is hard.” So the “hardness” of change might not be an absolute truth. I’m not sure it’s true at all. “Hardness” may be a measure of mineral’s scratch resistance (e.g., Mohs’ scale), but “hard” is not necessarily an attribute of change. Is it?
“Hard” or “easy” (success or failure) is usually a relative comparison of two things: 1) the challenge and 2) our ability/inability to respond to the challenge effectively. Whether the challenge is to squat 300 pounds or to engage in expanding corporate competencies, there’s two ways to approach it: I can say, “300 pounds is too heavy,” or I can say, “300 pounds is too heavy for me. My leg muscles aren’t strong enough to squat 300 pounds.”

HARD is only relative to our ability to respond. HARD is not an attribute of change.

If our muscles aren’t ready for the challenge, then the challenge/change is harder for us. That same challenge may NOT be hard for others. Change (innovation) is not hard for leaders and teams whose muscles are developed/trained and ready to respond effectively.Screenshot 2017-01-23 15.41.25.png

Chief innovation officers (CINOs), transformation experts and executives who have learned from experience will agree that change (innovation) is harder when:

  1. We wait too long to get started or lollygag through the process of starting.
  2. We don’t prioritize it; we don’t have a plan or resources dedicated to it; we haven’t separated the essential from the important.
  3. We treat it like an event versus a lifestyle; we don’t walk the talk.
  4. We don’t use expert tools and processes; we wing it or “amateur-hour” it.
  5. We don’t create the space (culture) for creativity, collaboration, etc.; we try to command and control culture change.
  6. We’re not aware of our default, reactive language and habits; we hang on to old success formulas for too long.

Screenshot 2017-01-17 19.46.55.png

7. We don’t ask for help; we pretend we know what to do when we don’t.

==========================================================================

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.24.56.pngExperienced CINOs, transformation experts and executives will also agree that change (innovation) is easier when:

  • You see more: You’re more conscious (less likely to be driven by default, reactive habits), more awake, more open to learn and more curious to explore multiple perspectives beyond your own (conscious leaders make better innovation leaders).
  • You collaborate better: You’re more skilled at engaging and empowering people to use innovation tools/processes effectively; you’re more skilled at healthy debate, committed action and accountability; your leadership and culture of the organization help diverse groups of people feel powerfully valued and powerfully challenged.
  • You feel stronger: Your energy is sourced from a higher-order purpose — values and guiding principles are unconditional; you are grounded in sources of certainty that help you make decisions and take action in the face of increasing uncertainty.

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.00.40.pngWe might expect to hear “change is hard” from stereotypical leaders/politicians when they shirk accountability and make a career out of saving face and preserving their innocence versus keeping their promises. But it never makes sense when accomplished, successful leaders responsible for change inside of powerful and abundantly resourced organizations say, “Change is hard.” However, we hear it all the time in reference to corporate initiatives that involve: a) doing something new versus doing the usual/status quo and b) letting go of old default habits in favor of more effective habits. You’ll hear it in every innovation/transformation and change management meeting. You’ll hear it in every systems implementation, digital integration and customer experience session when the experience involves a people-centric service or delivery system. When a leader responds to these kinds of challenges regarding learning, complexity and ambiguity (aka innovation/change/growth) with the “change is hard” hedge, the change does in fact get 1,000 times harder. It gives the organization permission (from the top) to lower their standards. It gives everyone permission to resist learning/training — permission not to grow — permission not to be a part of changing because, after all, “change is hard.” The boss even said so! In these contexts, it serves as an early and convenient scapegoat to hide the leaders’ inference that their teams’ muscles might not be ready to follow through and deliver. When the team isn’t ready, that’s the leader’s fault. Don’t blame the team and don’t blame the culture. Your team can do it. They need an innovation leader to lead them. That’s you.

In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, unskillfully declaring, “change is hard” is nothing more than an expression of the victim — a choice of powerlessness and incompetence hiding behind an external circumstance, portrayed as something out of our control. A creator/player would never say that. It is true that I won’t be able to change/innovate effectively if my muscles (and the organization’s muscles) are not ready. But the hardness is relative to my muscular readiness. If I were more ready (if my organization was more ready), I could do it more effectively. Instead, my mind will go immediately to blaming the change itself for being too hard.

If you’re the leader of your business, department, community or family, stop saying, “change is hard.” Try this instead: “I don’t think I’m ready” or “my team and I aren’t ready for change. We need to be more ready.” Ask, “How can my team and I get more ready?” That’s what a player/creator would do. Then we will see if that helps us focus and find an even more effective response to dealing with change. We might as well choose to change (and stop blaming it for our poor results) since change is going to keep coming, whether we are ready or not.

Being a creator/player does not mean that I/we will magically be able to change everything and anything. Being a creator/player means I need to train because the speed of change/VUCA and the challenges I have in front of me have exceeded my ability to handle them. It is essential for me and my team to develop an expanded capacity for change — or as Argentine Ricardo Gil, Axialent chief culture officer…aka RichiWanKenobi, would say,

“Learn to live at peace with the difficulty and suffering you’ve chosen by not developing (the appropriate growth muscles).”

Don’t be a victim. Victims can’t innovate, and they don’t usually change without creating permanent damage and unnecessary suffering. That can be avoided. Change is easier when you train for it. It’s harder when you don’t. Drop everything and train #d3&t. “Don’t just be a better leader, be an innovation leader.” Train to be a Jedi. See more, collaborate better and feel stronger (build those muscles and you’ll be more Jedi). The world needs more Jedi.

Focus on separating the essential from the important. It is critically important that we get the DOING innovation management stuff right (e.g., process, strategy, metrics). But don’t minimize the innovation essentials (e.g., people, leadership, culture) just because we think the people/change part is “hard.” Prioritize the essential and it becomes easier.

 The important goes on the to-do list.

The essentials go on a to-die-for list.

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.00.19.png

Posted in Article | Leave a comment

Leading Transformation From Within

An organization cannot evolve beyond the level of consciousness of its leaders.

michelle

Most of us are experiencing rapid change in our world. Whether it is career uncertainty, relationship challenges or disruptions and advancements in technology, the result is an undercurrent of overwhelm. In addition, outdated ways of thinking and leading do not address the level of interdependence and complexity we currently face. To address these challenges, our consciousness needs to shift, and we need to be open to managing change in an integral way that focuses on both internal and external transformation.

Organizational change efforts fall short when personal and cultural change are left out of the equation. A solid strategy is not sufficient. To be successful, we must attend to the three dimensions of business:

  • IT — achieving exceptional results
  • WE — embodying the best of the organizational culture
  • I — allowing for full expression of each individual’s gifts and talents

Corporations tend to focus least on the “I” dimension or development of the individual’s inner world. However, cultural transformation begins with personal transformation. For the system to evolve, people have to evolve.

Human consciousness grows through a series of stages. Robert Kegan, author and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Lisa Lahey, advisory board member of Axialent, are the leaders in this research and theory. There are three stages of adult development including the socialized mind, self-authoring mind and self-transforming mind.

  • Socialized mind: The self is defined from the outside in and succeeds by acting within socially prescribed roles. Leaders at this level typically lack the capability of broadly sharing power.
  • Self-authoring mind: The self follows its own path, and action becomes an expression of inner purpose. Leaders at this level begin to share power.
  • Self-transforming mind: The self engages with shadow side and parts that have been ignored or not developed with curiosity and compassion. Leaders at his level become community oriented with a focus on sustainability and common good.

As the leader transforms into a higher version of himself or herself, the system and culture of the organization can transform as well. The evolution of both the leader and system is interdependent. The organization cannot evolve to a higher stage of consciousness than the leadership. Until the system organizes at a new level, it delays the development of people in the system.

What is it that allows us to operate more consistently at a higher stage of development? Practices do. Practices such as mindfulness, self-mastery of body, mind, heart and soul as well as dialogue are key to transformation. Without practices, shifts from stage to stage are less likely to happen.

Mindfulness

Research strongly suggests that practices such as meditation accelerate the stages of development. Meditation is one way to cultivate mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being aware of or bringing our attention to this moment in time, deliberately and without judging the experience. When we are overwhelmed and stressed, the higher order executive functions of our brains literally shut down. Critical decision-making reverts to the more primitive and reactive brain centers, and we go on autopilot to cope.

Neuroplasticity is a process by which we train our minds and change our brains. What this means is that we can cultivate qualities and states of mind through mindless habit or intentional discipline. Through repeated practice, we can measurably reshape and rewire our brains. In as little as two weeks of a disciplined mindfulness practice, there are measurable changes in the number of connections between neurons and the thickness of portions of the brain related to increased self-awareness, greater self-mastery and higher mental processing. These potentials are only realized if we have the discipline to engage in the inner work to develop the neural connectivity.

4D Self-mastery: Body + Mind + Heart + Soul

Our human potential includes a range of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capabilities. As we move through the stages of development, each of these aspects are developed and ultimately brought into balance. When we are young, our primary focus is body intelligence. In adolescence, emotional intelligence emerges. As we move into the socialized mind, we tend to focus less on our bodily and emotional intelligence and begin to favor rational capacities. Developing higher stages requires we reclaim our bodily and emotional intelligence valuing gut and heart.

So what is spiritual intelligence? It is a way of seeing and acting that focuses on doing the tough work of transforming body, heart, mind and soul. It is the practice of transformation itself.

If you are interested in assessing yourself in each dimension, download the 4D self-mastery assessment. This will give you an idea of what you are doing well and where you could focus your attention: 4d-self-mastery-assessment

Dialogue

While individual transformation is essential for organizational transformation, we still need to find ways to work together so we can create higher order systems. Dialogue is a key tool for being in higher order relationships and accessing the deep wisdom that is in the collective. It is a means for both personal and collective transformation.

Dialogue practice involves suspending judgment, listening deeply, and balancing advocacy and inquiry. These are skills we teach as authentic communication. These can be practiced in 1:1 coaching, mentoring and team conversations. People share their truth and listen to the experience of others. Through dialogue, assumptions and beliefs have a chance of being exposed and reexamined in service of creating a higher order system.

Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Our task as leaders is raising consciousness. Choice follows awareness, and your choice has the power to transform. Through practices such as mindfulness, self-mastery and dialogue, we can lead transformation from within.

What is your current development goal?

Posted in Article | 2 Comments

Empowerment – What are We Afraid Of?

 

Why Do It?

Empowerment seems to have become an over-used term, often regarded as too vague or fluffy. So what is the real meaning of empowerment and why do it? According to dictionary definitions, there are two sides to the empowerment coin. One is to invest someone with power or authority; in other words, to delegate. The other meaning is to equip them with the ability to use that power and authority.

Proponents of empowerment have hard-edged economic outcomes in mind, going beyond the goals of increasing happiness and satisfaction of individuals. They’re also seeking the practical and strategic goals of organizational innovation, customer problem solving and lifting productivity. They see empowerment as a path to increase pro-activity, autonomy and a sense of ownership throughout the company.

In today’s business world, the demand for agility and fast learning within teams and across organizations is even higher. In the face of the VUCA world (it’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), the ability to gain and discard knowledge, and to act without certainty or pre-established rules, is essential for survival and makes ‘empowerment’ a no-brainer.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” –Steve Jobs

Why Not ‘Just Do It’? (or, what leaders are afraid of)

If the benefits of empowerment are so clear, why don’t we all ‘just do it’? What stops us from building a culture of empowerment? Maybe it’s the fear of what could go wrong – what if I empower people and they go too far and make a mess of things? After all, as a leader, you’re the one responsible for making sure that things run well. However, that fear of what might go wrong can lead to too much control, often called micromanaging, and that’s disempowering to others, who end up feeling their contribution is unimportant.

People need to have confidence that they have the resources to act and solve a problem. For that reason, the leadership mindset of ‘how do I set them up for success’ (rather than telling them how to do it), is at the heart of the matter. We must face our own fear of what might happen when we relinquish control, and do it anyway. As the economist, Friedrich August von Hayec, said, “Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances, but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad…. Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom.”

Forgotten Power (or, what we’re all afraid of)

It’s not only hesitation to relinquishing control in management that hampers the road to empowerment. Many people in organizational life at all levels have simply forgotten their own power. They have learnt to buckle under, to stick to the known  and many live in fear. They fear their boss, fear losing their job, fear not getting on with their colleagues, fear failure… and this leads to a learnt helplessness and a lack of self-empowerment, often based on rational choices. You, as a manager, might begin to provide a culture of empowerment and find that your employees don’t take the initiative. This is because of learnt helplessness that has developed over the years. Employees with this challenge can be likened to the Thai elephants who were tethered with an 18-foot lead from the time they were young and didn’t discover they could break the tether as they grew stronger; even as adults without the tether, they won’t go further than 18 feet. Like this, in the context of organisations , we can fail to see how much choice and how much strength we actually possess.

These preconceptions of our own power can mean good intentioned “giving”  of empowerment results in cynicism and even panic in the team. People might not see the benefits of empowerment, and only see unguided and unresourced work,  which will cause them to feel panicked and unprepared. Human beings exist in three states: the comfort zone, where we function automatically, comfortably and often without even thinking; the stretch zone, which is the learning zone where we are consciously thinking about what we’re doing and applying effort to it; and finally, the panic zone, where things are overwhelming and happening too quickly and we are unable to think clearly.

What Motivates People?

A leader’s responsibility is to help people to expand their stretch zone: where they can learn, grow and be empowered. In the stretch zone, we’re curious, open, engaged, pro-active and present; we listen, experiment, learn and practice. This is a level of consciousness beyond the auto-pilot of sleep-walking through our workday.

The good news is that people want this level of consciousness for themselves. We all yearn for work that engages us this way. Take the work of Shawn Achor and Dan Pink . They notice people being productive in happinessand motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose.

But there is a hurdle to overcome, as we each must tackle the fear of failure that dominates so many of our organizational cultures. While most human beings want to do nothing but the right thing, our organizations hold fear as a driver, and in that context, people fear the eye of criticism far more constantly than they feel a hand of support at their back.

In the words of Benjamin Zander, who believes in giving his students an “A” at the beginning of class and then letting them live up to it —  practicing the art of possibility in the very words we use to encourage and teach others (https://youtu.be/qTKEBygQic0). That’s an environment where empowerment can thrive.

High Delegation + High Support

It’s important to make sure that employees don’t feel that they’re being “empowered”  to do more work without having the capability, resources and support for it. Like the metaphor of driving, if we want people to take high responsibility for how they drive their car, for the safety of their car and for their passengers, as we all do? for others on the road, then agreed upon rules and support for learning are also required. We call this ‘freedom within a framework’.

What does this high delegation and high support require in the context of your leadership and your teaming?

If you want to empower others, you should ask yourself how you can serve the happiness and empowerment of your colleagues and your teams. How can you make a difference? Consider the impact your own behavior has on others. Each of your conversations can bring increased power to the other person. Increasing both the authority given to the other person and your support will increase that person’s self-responsibility and sense of ‘I can do it’. Increased self-responsibility increases a person’s capability to live in the stretch zone.

One Conversation at a Time

By tacking  this “One Conversation At a Time ” you cannot go wrong. You can change the culture of an organization step by step, one conversation at a time. You control yourself and your actions. If you don’t get it right the first time around, you can come back at it again and again. There is no  a ‘wrong thing’ to do, there is only learning.

Three types of mutually empowering conversations are  :

  1. More Authentic Appreciation                                                                                              There are many times we think something positive about a member of our team, but we never actually voice it. The key to authentic appreciation is to be specific. Instead of saying, “Thank you for your work on this,” consider saying, “Meghan, last week when you offered to help me with my project, I felt really supported and relieved, whereas before I had felt stressed and overwhelmed. You have helped me a lot.Thank you.”                                                                                                                                                             cathy-pic-1
  2. More Inquiry                                                                                                                                  Put yourself in the shoes of the other person and ask that person to explain whatever you need to understand their. Be curious about what is happening for them  especially when something goes wrong. Discover their perspective and listen to them with patience.                                                                                                                                             cathy-pic-2
  3. Mutual Learning Conversations                                                                                                        These are conversations that are set up to solve a problem together, while always empowering and supporting the other person. Use phrases like: “What would you like to have happen?” “Given that, what is under your control?” “What could you do?” and “What help can I offer to help you achieve that outcome?” You can also ask questions that empower them to be part of the solution, putting themselves in the picture. That’s empowering.                                                                                                                cathy-pic-3

 

And, in summary, these tips…

  • Listen, be curious, ask people what they think
  • Give honest and appreciative feedback as a way of life; catch people doing good
  • Freedom within a framework, be highly transparent about boundaries and expectations (not about the details)
  • Magnify courageous actions, expand confidence that risk taking is learning, is worthwhile
  • Encourage what is under their control, rather than focusing on them and theirs, look at me and mine, we and ours
  • Be available for mutual learning conversations
  • Put your “red pen” away

As a leader, asking yourself, “What will I do to serve the happiness and engagement of my colleagues and my team today?” – that’s empowerment.

 

 

Posted in Article | Leave a comment