Archive | Leadership

How to Mobilize a Weary Workforce

We are challenged to keep employees engaged, innovative, and productive. Yet, they often come across as weary, tenacious survivors. Many of them are tired, stressed, and worried about the future.

Employees know enough not to talk about the challenges of keeping up amidst the tumult of organization life, the rapid change, the threats of layoffs, and the continuous “raising the bar.” But in quiet, off-line conversations, they talk about being tired, unengaged, and simply surviving.

The costs of non-engagement are high. We live in a world of increasing competition, pressure to lower costs, and demand for ongoing innovation and productivity gains.

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How to Help Managers Lead Change

Image: Lindsay Phillips on clker.com.

We’re undergoing significant change and I can’t be everywhere. What can I do to help my managers lead change?

Always Do This

Make sure your managers always know what’s going on. That significant change is just one item on their very full plates. As soon as a client hollers, the change will get placed on the back burner unless you help keep your managers focused. Information updates should be on every staff meeting agenda. Be sure to cover what’s new and different since the last staff meeting, what’s on the schedule for the coming month and how that will affect their staff, and what milestones are planned for the next six months.

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Change Leadership Challenge 5: Use Networks for Change

Networks and Performance. Image from wikimedia.com.
This is the fifth in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership, building a compelling business case, embedding change, and meaningful employee participation. “I’ll tell you how communication really works around here,” the data architect told me over coffee. “Jeff, Susan, and Ramesh make a decision. I play video games with Jeff during lunch and get the scoop. I tell the other architects.” Jeff successfully found the key to getting information in this organization: work through the network, not through the hierarchy. Unfortunately, too many organizations assume that formal communication processes work, when in reality people use networks to get information. Make sure your next change initiative isn’t undermined by tapping proactively into your company’s hidden human networks.
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Collaborating Across Borders: Five Keys to Creating Powerful Partnerships

Collaborating across borders. If this dog and cat can do it, so can we. Image by Hannah W on flickr.

Several weeks ago, a distraught vice president called. His organization had just been restructured and he had just received ownership for two new divisions. He needed to integrate the new divisions quickly and help them collaborate with his existing organization.

The problem was that he had inherited a group of people who didn’t understand why the change had happened. They were struggling to comprehend why they should redesign their processes to accommodate the new organization chart. In addition, they were used to working alone and saw no reason to collaborate with their new peers. The VP had to help them find the way while continuing to raise the performance bar.

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Change Leadership Challenge 4: Meaningful Employee Participation

Meaningful employee participation is important during change. Image by SandiaLabs on flickr.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership, building a compelling business case, and embedding change. Remember when you first learned to ride a two-wheeled bike? It took some work to find your balance. You wiped out a few times and scraped some knees. But you did it: You figured out how to steer, brake and fly like the wind down a hill. When you did, you felt exhilarated, proud of yourself and pleased with your accomplishment. Now compare that experience with how change often works in organizations...
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Change Leadership Challenge 3: Embedding Change

Embed your change in to the fabric of your organization. Image: Johntrathome on flickr.
This is the third in a series of posts about change leadership. Previous posts covered active, committed leadership and building a compelling business case.

Everyone has a story about a flavor-of-the-month management fad that was abandoned before completion. Going through fire drills for some business trend the CEO read in an airline magazine is frustrating and draining for employees. Unfortunately, employees have enough negative experiences with aborted initiatives to be cautious when leaders hype a new change.

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Four Rules of Leadership for Tough Times

Thank You Cards

The leaders knew bad news was coming as early as 2002. As with many other companies, First Allmerica Financial had been damaged by the post-9/11 stock market plunge. After much consideration, the company decided to stop writing new life insurance policies, which caused the first round of layoffs.

In 2005, the inevitable occurred—the company sold its life policies. This created a unique challenge: The 250-plus remaining employees had to service existing business while transferring knowledge to the acquiring company. Managers needed to motivate and retain staff members, even though they had been given tentative lay-off dates up to 12 months into the future.

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Change Leadership Challenge 2: Compelling Business Case

What motivates you to change? I'm pretty easy; cake does the trick. Image by YvonneL on flickr.

This is the second in a series of posts about change leadership. The previous post covered active, committed leadership.

Here’s a hypothetical question: Which of the following would better motivate you to rearrange your entire schedule for the day?

(A) Your boss says, “Our most important client is coming in from France and we need your product expertise at the meeting,” or

(B) your boss says, “Would you to look into software as a service? It may help improve our bottom line.”

You’re probably drawn to A. It’s clear, precise, significant and immediate.

Too often, leaders introduce the rationale for their change efforts in murky terms like, “It will help improve our bottom line” and then expect employees to jump to action.

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Change Leadership Challenge 1: Active, Committed Leadership

Image from the Boston Public Library

This is the first in a series of posts about change leadership.

Today’s executives have a great responsibility to enact change. Staying competitive in business requires implementing new technologies, improving processes, reducing costs, and enabling innovation. Yet these activities – all of which have significant change-management components to them – can be dogged with challenges.

If you want to lead your organization to achieve its goals, you need to learn how to lead change effectively. The success of your organization, and your career as an executive, depends on it.

Successful change initiatives rely on five key factors. Today we focus on the first factor: active, committed leadership.

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