Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Leading Change Enablement and Engagement

Change is and will continue to be a constant for all organizations and all leaders must be willing and ready at all times to lead the charge. Harmonic leaders must be change leaders, having the willingness and ability to change that which is currently being done to something that possibly has never been done before. They know they must let go of yesterday’s successes and abandon the past in search of a better tomorrow. We have been taught to see the outside world as the source of creation for anything new but the truth is the outside world that we see and experience first begins as a thought from within. Before we can begin to change any situation or any thing, we have to first “imagine” that change within our minds, and then and only then can we begin to move forward towards creating a changed reality. Harmonic leaders know that’s where the true power for change comes from. They also know that the ideas and thinking that created the current states that exist are not the same ones needed to create a better tomorrow. Therefore, harmonic leaders know how important it is to encourage and reward “new thinking” and “new thoughts” in order to move an organization to a new place. The harmonic leader welcomes and encourages innovation while encouraging others to develop new and innovative concepts for solving tomorrow’s problems and delivering world-class solutions. They embrace the idea that everyone should have an “imagination journal” because they know that’s the only way we can not only imagine a better tomorrow but actually begin to create it.

To aid the harmonic leader in managing change I defined the following five guidelines to aid in enabling the change effort:

1. Have a "vision" and then "talk and walk it up" - It is essential that the harmonic leader create a vision that links the present with the future for others when implementing change. They must not only create a vision but become the vision in the eyes of those that follow them. People must have a way to see a glimpse of a better future, a better tomorrow that is attractive and reachable that compels them to move in that direction. When developing the vision, the leader should identify who the key stakeholders are and engage them in helping to develop and bring the vision to life. Beginning with the senior leadership team is a great place to start because they should have the broadest perspective and knowledge necessary to understand the need for change. The harmonic leader must also take time to understand the values, hopes and dreams of others effected by the change and know how to engage them. They also know it is not just about engaging a few individuals but more importantly, engaging the "masses" from the beginning of the change journey. With a vision, the harmonic leader can convey an image to all of what can be accomplished and the benefits and values to be realized when the change is achieved. However, it is important that the harmonic leader neither over promise nor under sell the opportunity when developing the vision.

2. Build a broad coalition of support and use them to help sell the change - Successful change is not easy and usually requires the support and effort of several key people. Therefore, it is essential that the harmonic leader work to build a coalition of supporters and advocates inside and outside the organization. One way to begin is to schedule time with other leaders to sell the value and benefits of the change and engage them in being active advocates and supporters. Ensure they are engaged and prepared to support the implementation of the change. The harmonic leader should continue to sell the vision to all who are impacted. The more advocates and "angels" one has supporting the change initiative the better.

3. Communicate, communicate, then communicate – The need for continuous communications for successful change cannot be emphasized enough. Once the vision and future state is communicated, people will need to know what the expectations are for supporting the change, what steps are being taken, what has been completed and what work still needs to be done, what improvements or impacts have been made and finally, are the objectives being achieved. Communications is also essential to address any anxiety or stress people might go through when faced with major change. To keep people informed on how things are progressing will create more enthusiasm and self-confidence in the ability to achieve the desired results. It is also critical to allow for two-way communications. Not only should people be communicated to, there must be a way of people to communicate to the harmonic leader and other change agents and advocates when needed. The ability to ask questions and get honest answers will go along way in keeping people engaged in the change initiative.

4. Create a sense of urgency – Harmonic leaders must communicate that the need for action is "now" not later. When change is seen as gradual and far off, many people will choose to "wait it out" and "not engage", some with the hope that if they ignore it, it will go away. The harmonic leader must be able to persuade others in the organization that the time needed for change is now versus a gradual slow roll approach. It is important to explain the consequences of waiting versus the benefits of action. Many leaders rely on business cases to communicate the need to act now. Identifying a high return on investing in the change over time can go a long way to engaging and convincing others to "get on board".

5. Decide how you want to "chew the elephant up" then plan for early wins – Large change initiatives can take several months and even years to implement. With a large initiative it is important that the harmonic leader plan a strategy that allows for early and frequent successes along the way. As people experience success they gain more confidence providing them with more energy to continue. That's why it's important that the harmonic leader plan critical milestones of achievements to show progress to the plan and to provide an opportunity for people to stop and celebrate accomplishments. Also, by dividing the elephant into the right "bite sizes" the harmonic leader minimizes the feeling that the change is too large and unachievable.

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.’
Alan Cohen

I just love this quote.....:)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harmonic Leaders Allow the Impossible to Become Possible

I am a firm believer in the notion that thought is creative. If you can’t think it, you can’t be or achieve it. The Harmonic Leader knows the importance of creating a place where it is safe for everyone to think about that which is not normally considered in the realm of all potential possibilities. In other words, it’s okay to dream out loud!! Creating an environment and the opportunity in which everyone feels free and safe to “super size their dreams and aspirations” as well as the vision and goals of the organization, is the only way you can achieve the impossible. The Harmonic Leader knows that the only reason anything is impossible is because someone hasn’t yet dreamed it up. However, before one can understand what it means to create the opportunity for people to live in and even thrive in this “space of impossibility”, one must first understand what a leader must do to evoke in others the desire to dream.

In one of the books I read, “Coaching for Leaders,” (Goldsmith, Lyons, Freas, 2000) it states that the ultimate judgment of a leader is not about how they acquire and use power but how they relinquish it. In other words, a leader must be willing to give power away in order to be successful. By giving away power to the organization and its people, the leader enables them to use that power to create the impossible. The paradox implied is that as a leader gives power away; they actually become more powerful because when power is given away to others it actually energizes and mobilizes them to act. With an understanding of the paradox of power, the possibility exists for the leader to achieve breakthrough thinking, to think of the possible within the impossible. That means, for the leader, they must be willing to say farewell to being the “superstar” and the “one with all the answers” and hello to creating and leveraging the “dream team” made of impossibility thinkers and doers ready to create breakthrough success.  There is no question that when a leader trusts and gives his or her power and energy away to an organization, they in turn empower their organization to seek and achieve greater success.   It is through this relinquish of power that the opportunity for breakthrough thinking and the achievement of the impossible exists.  When one knows they not only have the responsibility to achieve a certain outcome but the power to make it happen, they have all the right ingredients for creating the impossible.

In the absence of giving the gift of power, leaders may find themselves in a struggle to lead effectively. They soon then realize that the opposite is true as well. For example, I once worked for a leader that people would say “sucked the energy out of the room” every time they engaged with their team and the organization. It was their show; they gave the orders and people where expected to perform as told. To no ones surprise, over time the organization was drained, morale was at an all time low and overall organizational performance took a turn for the worse.

One must also be careful because old leadership patterns have a tendency to play over and over and over again until there is disruption. Therefore, it is important for leaders to identify ways to interrupt old patterns while continuing to open up new ways of thinking as a leader . Key to being able to break old patterns is understanding that as a leader, they possess within themselves, everything they need to break old patterns, resolve their conflicts and chart a new path. It was John P. Morgan who stated that “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” Becoming a Harmonic Leader means understanding the need to let go of old patterns and embrace new ways of leading. They know they don’t have to accept the fate traditional leadership has imposed upon them but instead they have the opportunity to create their own fate, their own new reality about leadership going forward. All they need to do is decide.

As I prepared to write this blog, I ran across some new and old quotes that I found spoke to the “art of making the impossible possible”. I hope you enjoy them!!

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our belief about who we are.” - Anthony Robbins

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” - Walt Disney

“I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist.” – Max Lerner

“Let your imagination release your imprisoned possibilities.” – Robert Schuller

Monday, March 2, 2009

Authentic Leadership Begins with Self-Leadership

Effective leaders need to purposefully inspire and energize people to act in a direction towards a goal they have helped them understand is worthy and meaningful.  Effective leadership is not simply about “something leaders do”, I believe it is much more about “honestly expressing who they are when they lead”.

Self - leadership and authenticity are critical ingredients for effective leadership and organizational success. The truth is leadership is personal and how leaders “show-up” and the impact and influence they have on others will ultimately have an impact on their ability to be successful. That’s why “self leadership” and being authentic and true to oneself, is so important. It is about having the courage to not only know who you are but being a leader who isn’t afraid to be who you are. This is what I would refer to as being of “authentic character”, at all times. There is a story I have shared over and over with many leaders to make this point come alive for them. It describes a child’s first day in kindergarten in which the teacher asks him to be sure and asks his parents for a copy of his “birth certificate” and bring it in the next day. Well the word certificate was a difficult word for this one kindergartner to remember let alone say. So when he arrived home that afternoon, he went up to his mother and said, “mom, the teacher asked me to bring in my “excuse for being born” tomorrow”. The point of the story is for each leader to first understand their “excuse” for accepting the opportunity to lead others and then get clear about who they are being as leader for their teams.

Authenticity is another essential ingredient for long-term leadership and organizational effectiveness. Authentic leadership is about showing up and being the person you know in your heart you were meant to be. It’s about being willing to “look in the mirror” and acknowledge and accept who and what you see in the person before you. Authenticity is not about developing the “persona” of a leader it is about letting the person that exist inside of you come through. It’s about aligning one’s behaviors, words, actions and commitments with what they truly believe and stand for. It’s about being true to your values 24 hours a day, everyday. For example, I worked with an officer who truly wore her heart on her sleeve as a leader. She was compassionate, caring and supportive and would go out of her way to enable her team to be successful. It was who she was as a person; it was who she was as a leader. It was apparent to all the she didn’t define leadership by the size of her paycheck but instead by being true to who she was as person, on and off the job.

Self-led Authentic Leaders regularly show up with a definite purpose. They are seen to be on a mission to build teams and communities and to make things happen. They live life and lead “on purpose” and strive to be the true person that they are and are often found to show up in the following ways as a leader:
  • They lead with inner strength and outer courage – they have the ability to go within when times are tough and mustard up the right courage when needed against the crowd when necessary because they know in their heart they should. 
  • They know themselves inside out – what they are on the inside is what they are on the outside; they acknowledge and accept their weaknesses and strengths; they know they can always grow and be more than they are at any point in time so they consistently choose growth and development opportunities. 
  • They dream a new dream, think a new thought – they dare and never fear to dream of new possibilities, to have a vision of that which is not yet perceivable by most and are willing to share it and make it happen; they seek answers from the realm of all potential not just known possibilities. 
  • They walk the talk; they “become it” before they “do it” - their actions speak louder than their words, they are of sound character of which people can see and feel a mile away, they are aligned to their inner values; they create and become the vision now; they know how to change while they skillfully play the now or never game. 
  • They create to thrive; they focus on creating “next services and products” – they understand that nothing that we create lasts for ever and that in order to continue to deliver value they must continue to create new services/products that allow others to thrive; they embrace the fact that everything needed to create the next new wave already exists and they need only to figure out how to sequence the right elements in a new way.
  • They desire to leave a legacy; they seek to serve – they embrace the belief that they where born to contribute and make a difference in the world and work to “leave their mark” as a leader, they believe that their life as leader must have a lasting purpose and live on in the hearts of others is to live on forever, giving and serving.
  • They speak the truth; they are honest and authentic – they align their words, actions and behaviors with who they really are on the inside; what you see is what you get; they are clear, honest and authentic in their communications and dealings with others; they don’t control others, instead, they engage and relate to others.
  • They lead from the heart and with sincere appreciation – leadership is about people, without people to follow there is no one to lead, they genuinely care about other people and see themselves as a source of energy for their organizations; they respect the leader in everyone and they are always grateful for the opportunity they have been given and for those they have the honor to serve.
As a leader, it is not only okay to be true to who you are but I believe it is required in order to be an effective leader. Too often I have seen leaders who choose to leave who they really are as a person, as an individual at the door in an effort to try and fit in and live up to the expectations someone else has of them as a leader. I remember one conversation I had with a leader who was struggling with some feedback they had gotten that said they should try to smile less and act more like the other leaders in the group. Their concern was the request to change who and how they showed up as a leader was asking them to change who they were as a person, the essence of their being. Too often I have run into this situation over and over again, in which leaders are asked to show up in an unauthentic way in order for another leader to accept them into their own circle of leadership. What a missed opportunity and the perfect time to declare through the act of self-leadership that who you are as a person is who you are and will be as leader, everyday.