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organizational change

How to Lead Yourself Through Change


Constant change has become a day-to-day reality for most organizations. They must adapt to the changing needs and requirements of their stakeholders, often reshaping their portfolio of change initiatives before they are implemented.

The ability to be your best while accommodating a moving change agenda is a must-have skill for leaders, managers and their team members. People must work through their own reactions to disruption before they can effectively manage it. Those who respond with their initial mindset, feelings and behaviours tend to show their worst and accomplish the least.

Here are some tips to help you manage through continual redefinition of change:

Take time to reflect on the change
Everyone goes through an emotional cycle when faced with change. Before reacting, invest time in thinking through the change including the reasons behind it, how it will impact your organization and you and how to best accommodate it.

Talk through your feelings about changes with someone you trust
Gaining perspective is essential to managing change well. Confidants act as sounding boards to test and broaden perspectives and provide more options to consider. Two or three heads are better than one.

Choose your attitude, actions and behaviours

Ask yourself, “What attitude will make the best of this change?” Next, identify the actions and behaviours that demonstrate your attitude. Often, we don’t consider the impact we have on our co-workers’ ability to navigate change. Planning how to be your best will provide a positive example for others to follow.

Focus on what you know
It is common for people to speculate about the implications of a change, especially when little information is available. These conversations can quickly turn negative. To stay productive, focus on fulfilling your role based on what you know; not on what other people think they know.

Ask questions if you are unclear
Lack of clarity is one of the most cited challenges of dealing with change. Seeking clarity avoids incorrect assumptions and wasted effort. Your questions are most likely shared by others and asking them early contributes to a common understanding of what will and won’t change.

Be patient with yourself and others
Change can be difficult and it is normal for people to feel anxious when their environment changes. Giving people (including yourself) permission to be human will reduce stress and minimize relationship tensions.

Be confident in your capabilities and accomplishments

Often, people react to a change without taking stock of what they can bring to it. Thinking of the capabilities that will help make you successful—past experiences, knowledge, skills and relationships—will focus your energy and build your confidence. 

People remember how you behave and act during change far more than the tasks you complete. How you react to ongoing change—attitude, actions and behaviours—will last longer than the details of the changes you face.

Phil

Where’s the Better Future?

Last week, I heard that Ontario Place, a recreational park started in 1971, was closing. This saddens me because two eras of my life were closely linked to this attraction. I worked there for two summers while in university and visited every summer as our boys were growing up.

1981 – I’m second from the right

I worked with 10 guys in the boutiques department, pricing and delivering merchandise to the stores on site. The warehouse was the first ‘man cave’ I had seen. It was located in the maintenance compound away from the public so we were free to talk, laugh, and play music all day long. The grounds included an open-air forum where musical acts played nightly. As a staff member, I got to see many diverse bands for free, including Blondie, The Spinners and Gato Barbieri. With 500 young people on staff, the parties were great, too. 

One winter I also worked in the Cinesphere, which was the first permanent Imax theatre. My first paid public speaking job was welcoming people to the show and proclaiming the benefits of Imax technology – my first sales pitch. I remember the lights were so bright that I couldn’t see the audience.

Nostalgia for Ontario Place came early. In my late twenties my friend Dan, a fellow OP warehouse worker, and I planted a time capsule on site that we buried under a pine tree we bought for the occasion. It was our toast to a great place that sparked our great friendship. 

2004 – Charlie and Sam

As soon as our boys could walk we took them to Ontario Place. They loved the water park and rides just like the kids I saw while working there. I also smiled at staff members, knowing the fun summers they were having.   

My most recent memory of Ontario Place was last week when I ran by the front entrance. It still looked great. 

So what does this have to do with writing a book on change management? First, there is loss with change and you have to acknowledge it. Second, usually there are good reasons for making big organizational changes. Ontario Place has been operated with a 20 million dollar deficit for years and the provincial government could no longer justify the cost, which I support.Third, a picture of a better future is important to help people deal with their losses. A task force has been set up to look at options for the site. Without a clear picture of the future, the only thing known is the loss.  This I do not support.

Phil

Diegogarcity – I’ve got it and I want to keep it!

Have you ever been exposed to something new, say a word or a product, and then you see it everywhere? You buy a car and then see the same model on the road. “I didn’t know they were so popular,” you might say.

This is called ‘diegogarcity,’ which sounds more like a destination than an affliction. I have been experiencing diegogarcity since I started researching book proposal writing. Books are everywhere – no kidding – and the publishing industry is extremely prominent, too. It seems that every newspaper, magazine or T.V. news program is covering some aspect of this business. 

Diegogarcity isn’t always positive. The publishing industry is going through hyper-change and the printed book is being challenged by cheaper media alternatives, industry consolidation, and shrinking distribution channels. This wave of discouraging news can dampen spirits. It can also awaken the warrior within.

Knowledge is power and the more I learn about this fascinating industry, the better I am positioned to be a part of it. Perhaps I should start thinking more about victory.

Phil

All feedback is good, but could you include these things?

As I was preparing my book excerpt to be reviewed by a few peers, I realized I needed to give guidance on the feedback I wanted to receive. All feedback is good, however, I don’t want to miss certain aspects.

Overall, I’m looking for feedback from a reader’s perspective versus a content expert’s. The content is built from my experiences of ‘making change,’ so I expect others will have different experiences and views – no issue. What is far more helpful is feedback on how people take in the book. Specifically, its utility and style: “Is it valuable?” and “Is it interesting?” I am also looking for feedback on how the book is constructed. Finally, I’m curious about what I should call the creation. What title will speak to the reader when looking for a practical change management book? 

Here are the questions I included with my book excerpt:


Introduction

  • Does it effectively convey the reader’s challenge?
  • Does it effectively outline the format of the book?
  • Does it make you want to read on?
Table of Contents (each question  is a chapter)
  • Does the order of the questions look right?
  • Have I missed any essential questions? If so, which ones?
  • Too much, too little, just right?
Six sample Questions
  • How useful is the information?
  • Is the style engaging, boring, etc.?
  • Does the format help or hinder the time-starved reader in finding the information needed?

Possible Title Options

  • Rank order the top three options, including any you can suggest
  • How much do you like your top choice?
Possible Sub-title/Tag Line Options
  • Rank order the top three options, including any you can suggest
  • How much do you like your top choice?

You may be thinking what I am thinking: I am hugely indebted to my feedback providers for taking the time to review my material and give me this feedback. I will appreciate every comment. 

Hmmm, maybe I should have asked one more question: “What do you think about the number of feedback questions – too much, too little, just right?

Phil

I’ve Never Met A Deadline I Didn’t Like


I’ve been focusing on editing the first draft of my book. It’s detailed, painstaking work that can’t be rushed. I tried rushing at one point, and like the novice speed reader, accomplished the task and achieved little. 


I resigned myself to putting in the hours and slowly made progress. However, no matter how optimistic I am, finishing 8 questions out of 55 still left 43 questions unfinished at the end of last week.  I told a friend that I was getting concerned about the time it would take until I could send an excerpt of my book to some esteemed colleagues for feedback (my next step). He pointed out that since I was only sending the introduction and 6 sample questions, I could send it off before editing the rest.  Why didn’t I think of that?

The clouds parted and I could see sunlight. I had a short-term goal and all I needed was a deadline. Due dates that are close enough to touch always have been the most motivating for me, so I picked the following Friday — today!

I am not like Douglas Adams who said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound as they fly by.” I take them seriously and tap into them for energy. They put me into action mode and drive me to make a plan based on the resources and time available. They also keep me focused on the most important activities.

Once I had set my deadline I accomplished the following:

  • Broke down the work into a plan
  • Defined the feedback I was looking for – reader versus editor based
  • Created a prototype review package including instructions, content and feedback questions
  • Selected the six questions for review that are representative of the entire book
  • Tested the logic of my selections with a friend and advisor
  • Edited the introduction and sample questions
  • Chewed many packs of Trident gum
By Wednesday night, time was running out. Editing was taking as long as usual and one of my questions needed to be rewritten. I stayed up until 2am to get back on track, which felt both tiring and invigorating. At 10pm on Thursday night, I completed my package. After a quick review with the same friend this morning, I’ll send it out to the people who have generously agreed to read my work. 
It will feel good once the last package has been sent. Then it’s back to the 43 remaining unedited questions. Time to select a new deadline.

Phil

You Can Quote Me On That


Fourteen years ago, I began forwarding a weekly packaged goods news summary to fellow colleagues. It was called the Grocery Digest and was novel for its time. A sales teammate and I purchased the service as a way for our company to become more externally focused.

Within a few weeks, I started adding motivational quotes to make it more engaging. After a few months, I started looking for quotes that captured the essence of what our company was going through at the time. If we were behind our financial goals, I would select a quote about adversity; if we were winning in the marketplace, I would select a quote about success. The search for the ‘right’ quote was fun and became a Sunday afternoon activity for the next 14 years. 

Initially, I found quotes in famous quotation books or on internet sites.They were plentiful and well indexed. Over the years, I realized that often the best quotes were found in real time, both at work or in my personal life. I started recording and including these quotes when they fit our business circumstances. I even humbly added a quote of my own: “When you know the answer, why not put up your hand?”

As I was structuring my book a couple of months ago, I was looking for a way to concisely capture insights around the questions that leaders must answer to successful lead a big change project.  The format needed to be succinct and to the point. I realized that the quotation construct did just that. It communicates a single point of knowledge in the fewest amount of words. My “Words of Wisdom” subsections will list quotes that have been publicly documented or ones I have noted over the years. 

I am looking forward to speaking with some friends and past colleagues to ask for permission to include their words. Some may not be famous, but they sure are wise and sure are quotable.

Phil

10 Things I Know About Self-editing

In undergrad, I took a few courses on film theory and criticism. They were welcome breaths of fresh air from the more mundane courses on finance, economics and statistical analysis. Writing, and specifically grammar, was not my strong point. I remember getting a C- for style on my first film paper. I was devastated and went to see my prof for advice. He said, the best way to improve your writing is to keep editing, over and over again. I clearly hadn’t done so and it took me a few years to appreciate his guidance. I finally realized that anything committed to writing, from proposals to emails, was a representation of me, either positive or negative. Once distributed, it was forever.


As I approach the editing phase of my book, I’ll edit the heck out of my draft. There’s comfort in knowing my draft also will be reviewed by friends and colleagues for content, and a professional copy editor for grammar.

Before then, I must do the first edit to the best of my ability (better than a C- for sure!). To orient me to the task, I did some research on how to self-edit. Here are the guidelines I am planning to use:

  1. First, read the entire document for the big picture. Does it make sense?
  2. Proofread a hard copy as well as editing on the screen
  3. Read the work aloud for flow and tone
  4. Keep sentences of varying lengths
  5. Blend shorter and longer paragraphs
  6. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs
  7. Get rid of words I don’t need
  8. Remove or change favourite words – the ones I really like and use too often
  9. Expect editing to take longer than I want it to, but know the extra time is worth it 
  10. Remember I cannot be fully objective about what I have written

I still have a week of content writing before I start editing. I think it will be more fun than writing, but I thought writing would be more fun than research. We shall see. Fun or not, it will allow me to test my writing style to ensure it’s right for the book I want to write. As a friend counselled recently, the voice is as important as the content. That makes 11 things I know about self-editing.

Phil

Create the Plan, Work the Plan, Change the Plan – Part 2

As I was rereading my old notebooks, I discovered that the ‘Change the plan, work the plan, change the plan’ quote is actually ‘Get a plan, argue a plan, get a better plan.’ It’s fascinating how time affects your memory. Both seem true but my version feels more like an ongoing way of working versus a one-off task.

It’s been 15 weeks since I shared my first plan. Some steps have been added and others have been modified. Here is a list of the changes:

  • I chose to write the first draft of my book direct to the page and then enhance it based on notes recorded throughout the many change projects I have been a part of
  • Extending my blog’s distribution is a new step based on advice from some gifted and experienced authors
  • I will be requesting feedback from trusted friends and peers on content, structure and title. This step precedes my original one of holding a focus group of potential readers. This and the ‘consider illustrations’ steps will come after I secure interest in my book
  • All my research recommends hiring a professional editor to sharpen my draft before promoting it. The old adage, ‘You only have one chance to make a first impression,’ comes to mind
  • Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means I will need to secure an agent to represent me and my book
  • Further steps I will leave open for now. One author wisely said, “Be flexible with your work if you want to be published.” It’s good to have an open mind.

It’s exciting to see my plan change over time. Completing each step gives me a more informed perspective. I’m sure my plan will change again, which is a good thing.

Phil

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