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How to Enroll Your Leadership Team

“We are too busy now…”

I have heard this so many times in the last couple of weeks. And rightly so. This pandemic has thrown almost every organization and its leaders into new and uncharted territories. In times like these, perhaps more than any other, it is important to ensure your leaders are enrolled and aligned.

This video outlines five simple steps you can follow to ensure your team is aligned and marching forward. Especially now as you might need to adjust your purpose and your plans, these steps can make the difference between an aligned team and one that is disjointed and cross-functionally dysfunctional.

Please share your thoughts on LinkedIn.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

My Predictions – #1 Continuous Transformation

My Predictions – #1 Continuous Transformation

When I entered the corporate world over 40 years ago, change wasn’t something you did much of, and you certainly didn’t talk about it. Organizations existed to execute work, and most pretty much did the same thing day after day. When there was change, employees normally accepted it without question.

Fast forward to today. The marketplace demands more and faster innovation and vastly improved customer experiences. Therefore, organizations must reinvent themselves regularly. Organizations must also enroll employees more fully to satisfy the talent pool’s insatiable desire to make a difference.

This leads to my prediction that more organizations will develop a culture of continuous transformation – a culture that continuously evaluates and rapidly implements change.

The implications of this on organizational design and leadership behavior are significant. In his book Team of Teams, Stanley McChrystal tells us that one key reason we had so much trouble in the Middle East in the mid-2000s was because our military had a historically hierarchical structure. Staff in one area were artificially constrained from fast, open communications with staff in other areas. This created a situation where it took too much time to regroup as ISIS popped up here and there. McChrystal’s team learned the enemy’s organizational structure was spatial. There were no specific reporting relationships. Everyone had complete open access to everyone else.

The other factor is that as the iGeneration matures and enters the workforce, they will identify, accept, embrace, and execute change faster and more proficiently. Senior leaders must prepare for this by hiring and encouraging bright young people who can help them transform – and accept that they may not do it the way they might prefer.

This all means that leaders must give up the old command and control management techniques. Yes, you still need some form of control since there are goals to obtain and finances to manage. As we move to continuous transformation, leaders become coaches, and guide rather than control the work going forward.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

 

How to Build a Team

How to Build a Team

I recently had the opportunity to speak with my friend and colleague, Jim Burda. Jim is the Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer for GF Sports in New York. We discussed the transformation he is currently leading as GF Sports moves from owning sporting events to purchasing and operating a sports team. That team is the professional lacrosse team, the New York Riptide. Their opening night is December 28 at NYCB Live, home of Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

Steve: What does it mean to you to be a transformational leader?

Jim: There are several elements to this. You must recognize that you do this with your team both individually and collectively. You are taking your team on a guided discussion to create a new culture. You help them move out of their respective comfort zones by sharing the why’s and then the how’s. Listening skills are critical. It’s also critical to keep a positive attitude.

Steve: Tell me how acquiring and integrating Riptide was particularly challenging or rewarding for you.

Jim: As with any transformational change, it begins with having a clear vision of success. In this case, we wanted to create an organization to support the Riptide and help it be hugely successful. There were setbacks such as temporary poor office space, marketing challenges, and technology issues. I instituted a program from a previous role dubbed “PS2” – “problem spot / problem solve.” We created a problem-solving culture, as only problem spotting creates complaining without solutions.

Steve: How did you clarify purpose?

Jim: I’m a fan of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, particularly “begin with the end in mind.” We collectively defined that the goal for 12/28 was not just to have a financially successful first event, but to have a collaborative culture in the organization. We discussed why this was critical to our success, and then we identified how we would achieve this. By doing this collectively I was able to engage the entire team.

Steve: In what ways did you experience cross-functional dysfunction, and how did you address it?

Jim: I had an advantage since I was building the organization from the ground up. When I hired new team members, I looked for basic technical capabilities, but more importantly I looked for key traits. Did they demonstrate a willingness to work collectively? Were they humble in their approach?

I also meet one on one with every team member. I listen non-judgmentally which in turn allows people to express themselves and feel confident about their work. This supports the notion of enrolling each employee individually. This also allows me to address issues that I don’t even know exist.

Steve: Were there cultural attributes that made the transformation easier or more difficult?

Jim: The parent company, GF Capital, has been highly successful for 20 years. In creating this new division, we perceived their expectations that we resolve issues faster since they had a long-established team. This was not the case at all. They helped with problem-solving. They demonstrated a human side suggesting we are all in this together. Sometimes our perceptions prevent us from seeing and acting on reality more quickly.

Steve: Please comment on any organizational challenges you faced, both structural and behavioral.

Jim: By having one on one discussions balanced with team discussions, I demonstrated that I was going to be as open as possible. We made decisions quickly and encouraged everyone to be entrepreneurial. While all of this was positive, it caused some disbelief among new team members, so it took some time to convince them that this openness was real.

Steve: How did you become more of a coach?

Jim: In the areas we were struggling I needed to ensure I am going through the same challenges. For example, we were struggling with ticket sales, especially with a late launch to our marketing, so I started making phone calls to sell tickets to experience the same obstacles. We had morning huddles with the group to discuss feedback we received from our calls. As we discussed these struggles together, it gave me a great deal of insight and it increased my credibility.

Steve: What is advice you would give to aspiring transformational leaders?

Jim: Trust your people yet verify their results. Don’t assume that no news is good news. Conversely, don’t assume that when you hear something that it means you have an issue. Listening and giving feedback shows that you care.

Steve: Jim, thank you so much for sharing your insight on transformational leadership, and best wishes for great success at your opening night, December 28.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

How Transformational Leadership and OCM Work Together to Help you Succeed

You need both transformational leadership and strong change management to lead your transformation to success. Transformational leadership includes things you must do yourself to prepare you, your leadership and the organization to begin the work. Change management includes the day-to-day work your team will execute to drive the change forward. This includes communication, education, training, resistance assessments, risk evaluation and a myriad of other items focused on execution.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

How culture impacts your ability to drive successful transformation, Part 2

Last week I described how your culture can predict your transformation success, and broke culture into two components – behavioral and structural. Today we’ll take a closer look at behavior.

The Behavior Trifecta shown above separates leader behavior from that of their leadership team, and that of employees generally. When all three parties exhibit productive behavior for their role, the probability of your transformation’s success goes way up. Here is a summary of the behaviors I look for in each of the groups:

Senior Leader Senior Leader’s Team Employees
– Communicates clear vision or purpose in measurable terms.

– Listens actively (more than talks).

– Coaches individual members of their team.

– Holds their team accountable for results.

– Cultivates an environment of trust and healthy conflict.

– Seeks to understand challenges and opportunities of their team mates.

– Understands that their leader’s team must be successful before their team can be.

– Willing to accept coaching and learn new ways to approach work.

– Frequently (but not always) comes to work early and stays late demonstrating an eagerness to succeed.

– Understand how to work with other people; is emotionally intelligent.

You can argue that all three groups should share all three sets of behaviors. Those listed are critical behaviors for the role.

Here are the signs to look out for if you only have two of the three:

  • Wrong Team: If you lack productivity from your employees, you likely need to upgrade the staff. Look for the three employee traits outlined above when hiring new team members.
  • Cross-Functional Dysfunction: Your leadership team doesn’t work well with each other. It may appear so in your team meetings, but how well are they otherwise working together? Look for withholding behavior, destructive conflict, over advocacy or low investment in their own teams as a sign that you might need to act.
  • Kumbaya: The team appears to lack direction or focus. The path forward is not clear, and employees are not held accountable for results.

Encouraging proper behaviors, particularly during large scale transformation, can be a daunting task. Properly equipped with the right tools, though, you can change your organization and drive greater productivity, yielding much greater bottom line value.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

How clear purpose drives performance

I’m not a big fan of mission statements because all too often they are filled with flowery language that communicates nothing. I prefer purpose statements that describe outcomes. Lower- level managers rarely develop purpose statements, leaving it to the senior leadership team. Yet clearly articulating the purpose of their organization unifies the team and helps them and their stakeholders hold each other accountable for results. This is true whether you are running a day-to-day operation or going through a major transformation.

One of my client’s accounts payable department did this, which included standards of behavior. I can report to you that this team is great to work with;  employees are fully enrolled in the outcomes of the team and pull together to create remarkable results. Impressive.

Here is their purpose statement (adjusted to preserve anonymity), and a few of their behavioral standards. More departments would benefit from these kinds of efforts. As would your entire company.

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE CULTURE CREDO: Working together to process payments in an accurate and timely manner, while providing excellent customer service to the members and staff we support.

As members of the Accounts Payable team, we will:

  • Come to work each day prepared to use our time productively
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Be prompt in our responses to our customers and each other
  • Treat each other and our customers with dignity and respect (the way we want to be treated ourselves)
  • Accept that mistakes may occur as long as we learn from them and try not to repeat them
  • Be willing to listen to each other and try to seek common ground
  • Acknowledge and respect each other’s viewpoints and ideas and recognize that it is okay to respectfully disagree

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

 

Lessons from Lincoln, the ultimate transformationalist

Recently my wife and I traveled downstate to visit Springfield, Illinois. I hadn’t been there in 30 years, and she had never been. Both of us wanted to learn more about one of our national treasures, he who has been called one of the world’s great statesmen, Abraham Lincoln.

There is much we can learn about leading transformational change from this man. During his famed presidency, he accomplished two monumental transformations, seemingly at odds with each other, by directing the Civil War to reunite the union, and passing the emancipation proclamation.

“Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed (1).” As remarkable as it may seem, in 1861 Lincoln spent more time out of the White House than he did in it. And the chances are good that if a Union soldier had enlisted early in the Civil War, he saw the president in person. Lincoln made it a point to personally inspect every state regiment of volunteers that passed through Washington D.C., on their way to the front; and early in the war they all passed through Washington, D.C. (2).

As a result, it is believed that Lincoln met every Union soldier who enlisted early in the Civil War. He knew that people were the best source of information, and he knew that connecting with people built relationships of trust. He spent 75% of his day meeting with people.

This is just one example of how Lincoln was a transformational leader. He worked to enroll the troops to win the war. He worked to enroll congress to pass the 13th amendment (although the vote didn’t happen until after his death).

“Enrolling the Troops.” This is one requirement for successful transformation. As a leader, are you out talking with your employees about the change? Are you assessing how it is affecting them? Are you listening for opportunities to fine tune your purpose and agenda?

One executive I worked with led an organization of several hundred employees. As we were working together through one massive transformation, he took time every week to meet with his people to gather the answers to the questions above. Then he interpreted these back to the project team to ensure on-going success.

Are you a Lincoln transformationalist?

Dedicated to your profitable transformation

Steve

  • Lincoln-Douglas debate at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858
  • Lincoln On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times, Donald T. Phillips, Warner Books, Inc.; Reprint edition (February 1, 1993)

How to Convert Project Failures into Amazing Success

We all want to be positive, embrace an optimistic future, and focus on possibilities. This is especially true in managing projects and introducing change into an organization. We see the possibilities at the other end of the change, it can be exciting . . . however, the shift can’t simply be declared and expected to happen. The journey needs to be lead and managed.

In leading and managing any project or change, it is instructive to take some time to look back. It’s what I call “taking time to leverage failure” so we learn and improve continuously. And, in our years helping lead and manage change we have had a lot of failure to leverage. We want you to be the beneficiary of our learnings.

We have found that there are key behaviors at the Organization, Team and Personal levels that are critical for any change journey.

Organizational Behavior
“Here it comes, another ill-conceived program.” Many communications coming from the leadership team leave employees wondering about priorities, impacts, and expected outcomes. When an organization effectively manages change, the leadership team agrees on the intent of strategy execution, successfully engages employees to adapt to the change and implement decisions, and willingly reaches throughout the organization to help employees handle the implementation.

Team Behavior
Without healthy team behaviors, team members end up pointing fingers at one another, and devolve into counterproductive, time wasting rituals. Effective teams work together quickly to achieve goals. This requires healthy conflict to engage and discuss difficult topics, commitment to the team’s purpose, and a willingness to hold one another accountable for outcomes.

Personal Behavior
We’ve all seen cartoons depicting the disheveled executive. When you look beneath the appearance, you see an ineffective, guarded individual who doesn’t deliver. Conversely, effective executives are open, vulnerable, accept risk, and speak with honest candor with others.

Here are five characteristics of an organization that effectively manages change. How does your organization stack up?
1. The leadership team agrees on the outcomes of decisions.
2. Priorities are clear to the organization.
3. The organizational impacts of decisions are understood by those impacted.
4. Front line employees are involved in implementing the decision.
5. Leaders coach employees through the implementation of the decision.

Looking at every project through this five-pronged lens is key to your success. Thinking about both project structures and behaviors at each of the three levels, organizational, team and individual ensures that you are comprehensively considering every element of your project teams’ make-up to ensure success.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
Steve