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change management

Don’t know where your career is going? Join the club.

I sat beside a really great guy on my flight back to Toronto from Santiago, Chile. Raymond is law student who was returning from a one-week school exchange. 

We had brief conversations throughout the first 11 hours of our 12 hour flight–how was your meal, how was the movie, did you get any sleep? Pleasant, but not life altering.

For the last hour we had a great conversation about his career options after law school. It wasn’t clear what his career path should be or the criteria how should use to make this decision.

These are life altering decisions. I have found that most people don’t have the self awareness or information required to make these decisions after school.

I shared with Raymond the following observations and insights I had gained when I held a Global HR role at Cadbury:

  • Many people don’t know what they want to do professionally until they are in their forties (some never do)
  • Career paths are rarely linear
  • People’s stories about their careers sound more planful than they were
  • Most people fall into career opportunities versus plan for them
  • Those who take these opportunities are the most successful and happy
  • Those who help others to be successful have the most career opportunities
  • Most people motivated by status don’t get enough of it to be satisfied—the same goes for money
  • Some choose professions they are good at that they are not passionate about or enjoy
  • Many people build careers that are different from their education major or first job
  • People with the most diverse careers tend to have the broadest perspectives 
  • A career or role choice that didn’t work out can provide the best lessons and compelling story that demonstrates self awareness and capability
  • Many people find meaning in their work—it’s a good criterion for career and role selection
  • It’s never too late to change your career (but most people don’t think so)

I hope my views are helpful for Raymond. I gave him a copy of Change with Confidence as a parting gift. It felt like the right thing to do for someone I know will figure out the best path for him. 

Phil

10 Things I Know About Training

I am writing this post as I change planes at the Santiago, Chile Airport. My trip home to Toronto from Buenos Aires is 20 percent complete.

The workshop I co-facilitated yesterday went well and I am feeling a post-training high. It’s a mixture of fulfilment, satisfaction and exhaustion. 

People were engaged throughout the day, even after spending three 12-hour days at a conference (not including team dinners and evening activities). Also, my co-facilitators were superb. We achieved all of our objectives.

As I was typing the flip chart notes, I wrote down the following training ‘truths’ based on the comments I read:

  • People want to perform better regardless of how   successful they are
  • People intuitively know when new ways of working will help them be more effective
  • Respect for learners’ perspectives is an important requirement for engagement
  • People learn best through dialogue with their peers
  • Retention of new information is increased when facilitators make mistakes that are corrected by their peers–I increased retention twice!
  • Real-life scenarios provide context for new ways of working
  • Game-like activities make learning interesting, which increases engagement and retention
  • People need time to ask questions as they process new concepts
  • Training is only the first step to adoption of new ways of working; people must apply new concepts during their day-to-day routines and tasks for them to stick
  • Asking people what they need to transition to new ways of working is the best way to create a plan to do so 

The next stop on our ‘world tour’ is Dubai. Applying these truths will help us achieve our objectives and give me similar feeling on my flight home.

Phil

What do you do when you run into someone from your past?

This week, I traveled to New York and Dubai. It was a whirlwind trip with most of my time spent in the air. 

As I was waiting for a taxi outside the Movenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, I saw someone I had worked with in England who I hadn’t seen in six years. 

It was one of those times when you know a person’s face but you don’t instantly make the connection because he or she is out of context. Keith was standing in front of a massive marble entryway that was 5,500 kilometres away from where we had worked together. Definitely out of context.

Seconds later we both made the connection and said hello. We laughed at the coincidence of seeing each other in Dubai after so long. What were the chances? We caught up on work and family and agreed to catch up when we got back to our respective homes.

This isn’t the first time I have seen a former colleague or friend in a different location. When I tried to recall other examples I realized it has happens more often than I would have thought. 

They have all been good experiences that have gone by too quickly. Invariably, memories of the time I knew the person flood my mind.  These scenes become distractions to our conversation and before I know it we have said good-bye. Typically, I think of a question I would have liked to ask if I had been prepared for the our meeting.

I have decided that I will be prepared for the next time this happens. I will:

  • Ask them how they are doing – both personally and professionally
  • Share how I am doing
  • Update them on mutual acquaintances
  • Ask if there is anything I can do to help them
  • Ensure we are connected through LinkedIn
  • Honour what I say I will do quickly

I have been thinking of my conversation with Keith since it happened. I am definitely sending him a note this weekend.

Phil

What’s In My Bag?

On Sunday, I am beginning a “world tour” to help launch a big global change. Over the next two months, I will visit New York, Dubai, Buenos Aires, Dubai again, Miami, New Jersey and Singapore. 

I will be on planes a lot. One of my small pleasures will be reading Air Canada’s monthly En Route Magazine. It’s a lifestyle magazine that is both interesting and and educational. 

My favourite article is called In My Bag where frequent flyers are asked what they carry in their luggage. I thought it would be fun to share what I carry. Here is what I am packing in my carry-on luggage.

I am ready for adventure!

Phil

Personal Qualities and Skills that Help You Lead Change

This week, I received a request for an interview for an industry website. I was asked to write answers to five questions on my change experience and practices.

One question made me pause: “What personal qualities and skills have helped you to lead a change management  effort?” I speak about the importance of people taking stock of their strengths before they work through a change. It reminds them how to show up and what they can lean on if times get tough. 

Here is my master list of qualities and capabilities. I wrote about the first four in my article.

Empathy: Putting yourself in other people’s shoes, being aware of how people are perceiving a change and why they feel this way.

Interpersonal Skills: Creating quality relationships and connections. Solid relationships lead to trust, which lead to collaboration and partnership.

Perspective: Seeing the forest and the trees, seeing the big picture and focusing on small details at the same time.

Priority Setting: Identifying the important activities and issues in a sea of urgent ones.

Action Orientation: Getting things done versus just talking about them or being paralyzed by information overload.

Tenacity: Pushing through challenges, like resistance to a change, until they are overcome.

Focus: Concentrating on goals and performing your role without getting distracted by the dynamics around you.

Communication: Getting across your ideas to diverse groups of people.

Planning: Mapping how you get from ‘here’ to ‘there’ including who needs to do what, when.

Agility: Responding quickly to new opportunities and challenges.

Personal Learning: Identifying what works and what doesn’t and being able to apply knowledge to different environments.

What I learned from writing the article is that taking stock of my strengths is just as beneficial in the middle of a change initiative as it is at the beginning. It resets you to where you need to be.

It’s a good reminder of how to show up and what I can lean on if times get tough.

Phil

The Best Presentation is the One the Audience Gives

Courtesy of Linda Kennyhertz
I gave a great presentation at the 2015 Global Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) conference in Las Vegas this week. Actually, the participants gave it to themselves.
It was called Leadership, Process and Culture: How to Build Change Agility into Your Organization. My premise was that we must build flexibility into our organizations so that people can quickly and easily respond to change because today’s pace of change is faster than change practices can support.
For large audiences like this one (200), I would typically speak on topics that would build to an overall recommendation. Each one would include a question and participants would be asked to share their answers to the group. This usually results in me talking 80 percent of the time.
This time, I flipped the ratio: I talked for 20 percent of the time and participants talked either in their groups or presented to the entire group for 80.
Here are the questions they discussed:
  • Describe a change agile environment in which you have worked?
  • What is the biggest risk to change agility? Why?
  • How do you ensure that the right conversations are being had?
  • Share one highly effective practice related to embedding new ways of working into normal operations
The atmosphere was engaging. It was also noisy. People were learning from each other and the examples they shared demonstrated the topics perfectly. 
I have learned that the best presentation is the one the audience gives because it is the most relevant, interesting and educational. It’s also the most memorable, which helps learning.
I didn’t give a great presentation this week. I facilitated one.
Phil

When was the last time you took a minute to celebrate?

I have been working long hours lately, often past 1:00 am, including weekends. Balancing consulting assignments and staying ahead of my commitments has been more than a full time job. 

Two nights ago, I finished writing a training program that was a ‘must do’ task before I could sleep. It was 12:30 am and I only had one more thing to do before I could go to bed.
As I scanned the document, I realized that not only had I finished a learning module, I had completed the suite of support materials I had been working on for six months. People would soon be using these tools to help them navigate their change. My work was done.
I quickly closed the file and called up my next one. Then I paused. I felt I had missed something: I had skipped paying tribute to my accomplishment. I didn’t feel like celebrating (I felt like sleeping), but I knew that not taking a moment to acknowledge my work would set a bad precedent. 
I wanted to avoid the trap you can fall into when in constant production mode: getting work done becomes more important than the benefit from doing it. I needed to stop and acknowledge this milestone. I needed to celebrate it.
I closed my new file and opened the one I had just finished. I scanned through the over 100 pages of guidance and tools, imagining how people would benefit from them. I noted the design changes I had made to overcome challenges and the input I had received to make it better. I was celebrating the experience as much as the outcome.
Here are some of the benefits of taking time to celebrate your accomplishments:
Marks the end of a piece of work―you did it!
Gives meaning to the work you do―this is why you chose your profession
Acknowledges lessons learned―both what to do and not do
– Honours a commitment ―as promised
Demonstrates what you are capable of doing―to a client, manager or your team
Marks the beginning of a new chapter―what’s next?
It only takes a minute to celebrate and the benefit lasts much longer. Next time I will plan for my celebration.
Phil

How to Manage Yourself When You Are Unprepared

Last Sunday, Barb and I ran the oldest road race in North America, the 30K Around the Bay

This is a popular warm up race for those who are running a Spring marathon. It’s not popular for those who are not in shape.

The Grim Reaper at 27 k who I avoided

I was not close to being prepared for this 18.6 mile endurance test. For the past 6 weeks I have had to prioritize work over running. 

As Oprah Winfrey says, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it.” Since I hadn’t prepared, I knew that I would not achieve a personal best performance. 

My running predicament is similar to work challenges that we are not prepared for. In these situations, you usually don’t perform at your best. You can,however, focus on being the best you can be under these circumstances.  

Here is a checklist of things you can do to manage yourself when you are unprepared:

Be realistic–False expectations often leads to big errors: starting the race too fast would have weakened me further and increased the probability of being injured
Confirm what you know–what facts and experiences can you leverage? I had run this race twice before so I knew where the hills were
Ask for help–Barb shared that a final killer hill had been removed from the course so I adjusted my speed accordingly
Call on your strengths–Draw upon your skills and what you do well: I made sure that I perfectly angled my turns that eliminated extra distance I would needlessly run
Adjust your approach if it isn’t working: I usually speed up in the last mile, but this time my legs cramped and I dropped my speed until I could regain my gait
Remind yourself that the situation is temporary–you are managing a moment in time: Counting down the remaining kilometres gave me confidence that I would manage through my challenges and reach the finish line
Document your learnings–documentation is a way of committing knowledge to memory: I captured my reflections and lessons learned about the race in my running log as soon as I could hobbled to my office.

My results were not my best, but they were the best I could have achieved under these circumstances. I ran 30k in 3 hours, 7 minutes and 55 seconds. This time is 8 minutes slower than last year’s race when I was training for a marathon, yet 4 minutes faster than the year before when I wasn’t. 

Sometimes being unprepared is unavoidable in both our personal and work lives. Being the best you can be under the circumstances can be good enough.

Phil

Are you making choices as if your best work is ahead of you?

On Wednesday, I logged into a live-streamed press conference being held at the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin. The members of A-ha were making an important announcement.

A-ha is best known for its 1985 hit single and award-winning video, “Take on Me.” At the time, it filled the summer airwaves around the world and has been rerecorded or sampled by at least 12 artists, most recently Pit Bull and Christina Aguilera in their song Feel this Moment.

Take on Me Video

A-ha is much more than a band to me. This group has exemplified the “best work is ahead of me” mind-set over their 30 year career. They experimented with different styles on each of their nine albums, supported important causes, recorded a James Bond theme song, The Living Daylights, played for the largest audience on record (198,000 in Brazil), and disbanded twice to work on solo pursuits―they confidently followed their united and separate paths.

A-ha’s music has been part of my life’s soundtrack as I followed my path. Their third album, Stay on These Roads, traveled with me when I left my first post-university job to fulfill a personal goal of backpacking through Europe. Also, their eighth, Minor Earth, Major Sky, was my travel companion during my first global change management role when I traveled weekly. The “best work is ahead of me” belief was with me both time.

At the press conference, A-ha announced they were reforming for two-years, releasing a new album, Cast in Steel, and embarking on a major tour.

Morten Harket said, “I knew that this would be a real genuine effort. We have never been ones to look back…all three of us are doing this because we know we can create something new.” It caused me to think if I was making choices as if my best work is in front of me. If not, I would need to make some changes.

How about you? Are you making choices as if your best work is ahead of you? I hope so.

Phil

You’re Only as Good as Your Opportunities

I read an intriguing quote from the actor Ethan Hawke: “One of the most frustrating things about acting is that you’re only ever as good as your opportunities.” This struck me as a profound insight: people are only as good as the environment in which they are in.

I have seen this phenomenon play out during organizational change. People perform at their worst in a poor work environment, regardless of their skill level. On the positive side, people perform at their best in an engaging and supportive environment, regardless of the level of change. 

An important part of Change Management is creating an environment where people can successfully adopt new ways of thinking and behaving. It’s difficult to build because everyone (including senior leaders) are wrestling with their own transition. If done well, however, they choose hope over despair and in so doing remove their own barriers to adoption.

My second reflection was that Ethan was frustrated by his reality, whereas I found it elating. If you are only as good as your opportunities, you need to find the best opportunities so you can thrive. Networking through public speaking, seminars, association meetings, newsletters and this blog has provided me with many opportunities. Most of them have taken me in directions I wouldn’t have thought of or found on my own.

If uncovering opportunities is the goal, how do you find them? Here are some tips on uncovering opportunities that will enable you to be your best:

  • Believe that your best work is ahead of you — some people stop looking because they are in maintain mode
  • Make connecting with others a priority — as Ernest Hemingway said, “You make your own luck”
  • Help others find new opportunities — your generosity will be appreciated and reciprocated
  • Define what a good opportunity means to you — they are easier to spot when you know what they look like
  • Give yourself flex time in your schedule so you can seize them — I am working on this one
  • Evaluate the details before agreeing to an opportunity — it might be a burden in disguise
  • Thank those who connect you to opportunities — gratitude is linked to satisfaction and it will remind you to return the favour 
  • Tell people you are looking for new opportunities — many will become your ambassadors

This week, I had a great call with someone I had been introduced to by email. It turns out we had the same manager at different companies when we worked in Europe. What are the odds? I want to connect him with an opportunity. The odds are very good.

Phil

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