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phil buckley

How it Feels to Launch an Online Course

SoundviewPro Course Library

This week, SoundviewPro launched its massive open online course (MOOCs) program. It’s always exciting to be part of something new, progressive and rapidly expanding. I am honoured to be one of the first twenty instructors to provide leadership coaching in this format.

One of my goals for 2014 is to provide more change support globally. SoundviewPro enables business people from around the world, including people who travel, to access learning wherever and whenever they need it. The thought of someone watching my course on a smart phone 3,000 miles away is as global as it gets. 

I designed the course to enable the flexibility that SoundviewPro provides. I put a lot of thought into the course structure so that people could easily access the content they needed most. Just like managing change, learning is not always linear.

Marshall Goldsmith Explains the Program

My fellow instructors are all highly accomplished and expert in their field.  I was pleased to see that I had connections with a couple of them. Marshall Goldsmith, esteemed leadership coach and best-selling author, was the keynote speaker at the HRANS Conference I presented at in June. Also, I had written a guest blog for Dan Figliuolo’s top-rated thoughtLEADERS blog. I will be introducing myself to all other instructors to learn of their experiences.

It was good to read the course description a few months after the course was filmed. Here are some of the things people will learn:

Course Outline
  • How to understand the connection between people and change
  • Why confidence is an essential change agent
  • The seven keys to lead a successful change initiative
  • Five areas to discover what you will bring to the change project
  • The four phases of any change initiative 
  • How to prevent the post-change return to the “old ways” of working 
The introduction video captures the tone of my session. While filming, I thought of myself as a trusted coach who was sharing practical tips and approaches to manage change well. I wanted to arm the learner with what he or she needed to navigate the uncertainty and ambiguity that comes with change, to be their guide when things were unclear. 


So how does it feel to launch an on-line course? It feels really good. I look forward to reading learners’ review on the site. What did people value most? What insights, how-to activities and watch-outs were most helpful? In this way, it feels similar to when Change with Confidence was published last year; it feels both anticipatory and exciting.

Now it’s time to get the word out. I would appreciate you letting me know what you think of the course and passing it on to anyone who might benefit from building their skill, behaviour and confidence to be their best in times of ambiguity and change.

Thanks for your help,
Phil

Are you a change agent? Are you lucky?

Recently, I noticed a couple of celebrities crediting their successful careers to luck. 

Elton John said that answering an ad for song writers led to a producer giving him Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to write music to. Forty years and 300 million records later, he is still working with him.

Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen’s lead guitarist (and Sopranos actor) said that his mother remarrying and moving from Boston to the Jersey Shore led to him developing his sound and working with “the Boss”. He is going on tour with Bruce next month.

Although both stars consider themselves lucky, they had and important part to play in capitalizing on their golden opportunities; they took them. I wondered what character traits separated them from those who wouldn’t.

I found my answer in a Psychology Today article called Make Your Own Luck by Rebecca Webber. She compiled a list of research-based behavioural traits of people who felt lucky. People who take advantage of serendipity are:

  • Competent
  • Self-confident
  • Risk takers
  • Open to new and different things
  • Flexible in thinking and behaviour (not rigid)
  • Positive 
  • Resilient

These traits seem to describe Elton and Steve. They also describe people who excel during change. The ones who take on new ways of working and realize the benefits they provide. Maybe someone’s view on luck is a good predictor of his success during change. It’s worth a chance.

Phil

Are you a change agent? Are you lucky?

Recently, I noticed a couple of celebrities crediting their successful careers to luck. 

Elton John said that answering an ad for song writers led to a producer giving him Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to write music to. Forty years and 300 million records later, he is still working with him.

Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen’s lead guitarist (and Sopranos actor) said that his mother remarrying and moving from Boston to the Jersey Shore led to him developing his sound and working with “the Boss”. He is going on tour with Bruce next month.

Although both stars consider themselves lucky, they had and important part to play in capitalizing on their golden opportunities; they took them. I wondered what character traits separated them from those who wouldn’t.

I found my answer in a Psychology Today article called Make Your Own Luck by Rebecca Webber. She compiled a list of research-based behavioural traits of people who felt lucky. People who take advantage of serendipity are:

  • Competent
  • Self-confident
  • Risk takers
  • Open to new and different things
  • Flexible in thinking and behaviour (not rigid)
  • Positive 
  • Resilient

These traits seem to describe Elton and Steve. They also describe people who excel during change. The ones who take on new ways of working and realize the benefits they provide. Maybe someone’s view on luck is a good predictor of his success during change. It’s worth a chance.

Phil

What 3 Words Will Keep You Focused in 2014?

Like many people, I have taken time over the holidays to reflect on 2013 achievements and 2014 goals.

I read a newsletter from Chris Brogan about his approach to 2014 planning. He invited his readers to choose three guiding words that sum up what you want to work on in the year. He included a link to the words he had used over the last seven years with tips on what words were most effective.  

After checking them out, I scribbled a few words down in my planning notes but moved onto other things. It wasn’t until I described the exercise to a friend that I became excited by its possibilities. What a simple and effective way to remind you of your priorities and keep you on track. 

The following day, I read a post from another leadership guru, Dan Rockwell’s, called Don’t Make a Resolution; Find a Word. He advocates a one-word approach to focus your actions over the coming year. 

I am definitely a three word person. Here are mine for 2014:

Everything I do must connect to my purpose of helping people and organizations be more successful by working in new ways. My watch-out is becoming absorbed in interesting side projects that are not aligned with my overarching goal. Time is a luxury I cannot afford. 

I am at my best when I am out of my comfort zone. I need to focus on developing new change support offerings and different ways of providing them. More on this in a couple of weeks. 

I wrote Change with Confidence from a global perspective based on my experiences and researched international examples—change is universal. My business also needs to be global, including my writing, speaking engagements and clients. 

Of the three words, only “global” remains from the words I scribbled down last week; better words emerged with time. What this tells me is that I wasn’t clear about my areas of focus until I went through the exercise a few times. 

Maybe this will be true for you. What are your three words for 2014?

Phil

The Importance of Holiday Traditions, Old and New


I had a flashback of my childhood when I was exchanging Christmas gifts with my friend. As he unwrapped his gift he said, “Save the bow.” 


My mom said “save the bows” every year on Christmas morning.  Every time she said it we laughed and replied “save the bows, save the bows” as if our lives depended on it. A related tradition was feigning surprise when we opened a gift that didn’t have a reused bow on it attached with scotch tape. 

A few days later, my brother, Steve, laughed when I instructed him to save the bow on his gift. It recalled memories of our family tradition and good times.  

I realized how important these traditions are to people’s behaviour when I co-facilitated an innovation workshop on candy canes in 2003. It was a fascinating project where Mel and I explored Christmas traditions with a cross-functional North American team to develop new products ideas. 

As participants shared their family traditions, someone said that his uncle always carved the turkey before their Christmas dinner. Mel asked who would carve the turkey if his uncle couldn’t. He immediately turned red, tensed his body and shouted out, “My uncle will always be there and he will always carve the turkey! That’s just the way it is.”

There are strong parallels between how holiday traditions and organizational cultures work. People act and behave according to pre-established, accepted patterns. They are likely to respond similarly to things in the future based on how they acted in the past, unless something changes that motivates them to change their behaviour. 

An effective way to positively change people’s behaviour is to offer new behaviours that give something better than what the old one provided. As long as the new behaviour make sense, the benefits are clear, and it is easy to do, most people will try it. If not, they won’t. 

It explains why that guy’s uncle most likely is still carving the turkey‒nobody does it better. It also explains why my family has stopped saving bows‒the scotch tape on used bows wasn’t strong enough to keep them attached and a package of twenty-five new bows only costs two dollars.

Our ‘save the bow’ tradition is now a memory of how things used to be and that’s for the better.
Phil

12 Ways You Know that a Team is Ready to Take On Change

A must-answer question before people take on a change is “Are they ready to do so?” It may seem like simple logic but I have witnessed many teams who haven’t asked the question,who aren’t ready and whose initial outcomes are poor.

In any change project, there is pressure to be ‘on track’ according to the implementation plan. Not being on plan triggers greater scrutiny and reporting. If they can’t get back on track, then their abilities come into question too. People learn quickly that life is better when they are on plan and may say they are on track when they aren’t.

This dynamic intensifies just before taking on new ways of working because that’s when risks are the greatest – will the systems work, will people know what to do, will performance drop, will the business run? Scrutiny, reporting and concern about abilities are the greatest when there is little time solve problems.

At this time, is important to conduct an independent assessment of readiness to minimize personal biases. In change management lingo, a ‘readiness assessment’ needs to be conducted to validate that things will work properly and people are able to operate effectively in the new environment. 

One way to assess readiness is to hold department or team-based question and answer sessions for leaders to address outstanding questions people have before taking on new ways of working. This helps determine how prepared they are and reduces confusion about their roles and how they interact with others. 

There are many indicators of readiness at these sessions:

  • Tone: Is there a positive or negative orientation to the questions?
  • Number of unknowns: Is there a long list of questions?
  • Level of awareness: Should people already know the answers?
  • Breadth of knowledge: Are there answers for all of the questions (or do people know where they can be found)?
  • Confidence: Are the leaders confident in their answers?
  • Attendance: Is there good attendance at the sessions – do people show up?
  • Participation: Are the sessions one-way monologues or two-way conversations?
  • Creation mindset: Do people support and expand on the answers that leaders give?
  • Visual cues: Is body language open and positive?
  • Humour: Are people smiling and/or are jokes being shared?
  • Realistic expectations: Do leaders set fair expectations for post-change performance – is there permission to learn by doing or is ‘perfect’ mandated?
  • Acknowledgement: Do leaders thank people for their efforts – is anything being celebrated?

I facilitated a readiness Q&A session this week. It was one of the best I have seen. It was a good conversation about how the team will work together and all indicators confirmed their ability to do so. They are ready to go.

Perhaps the most telling indicator is if people ask you why you are asking if they are ready to take on change – why wouldn’t they be ready?

Phil

The First Time is for Learning, the Second is for Success

“There’s nothing better than being embraced by your peers. People who know what it takes to do that, who said, ‘We think that you deserve to be nominated.’ I mean, it doesn’t get better than that’.” That’s what Oprah Winfrey said this week when she learned of her Screen Actors Guild supporting-actress nomination for The Butler.

I didn’t think such noble thoughts when I found out that my blog was nominated for a Canadian Weblog Award. I thought, ‘Wow, I got nominated!”

The Canadian Weblog Awards are judged by a volunteer jury that rates blogs according to: 

  • Usability and accessibility 
  • Functionality
  • Interactivity
  • Aesthetics
  • Originality
  • Intelligibility and clarity
  • Currency (is the content timely)
  • Transparency and authenticity
  • Attention to detail
  • Engagingness

Making Change was nominated in the Business & Career category  that had twenty-one  nominations. The competition was steep.


I didn’t make the top five shortlist. This didn’t discourage me; it ignited a challenge for next year. Throughout my Change with Confidence journey, I have learned that trying something for the first time is about learning how it works. Taking action on these learnings is how you succeed. 

Here is what I will do to prepare for next year’s competition:

  • Review the winning blogs – what can I learn from their layout, content and style?
  • Learn about the jurors – this a dedicated group of volunteers – are they bloggers?
  • Speak with the creator of the Weblog Awards, Elan Morgan – he is a fountain of knowledge on the awards and past winners
  • Investigate other blog awards – what does good look like?
  • Study statistics on my blog – what posts are most popular, who reads them, etc.?
  • Survey my readers – what do people like and what could be improved?

Until then, congratulations to the shortlisted and top-three winners of each Weblog category. I am look forward to reading their blogs.

Phil

Are you still searching for your dream job?

This week, our son Sam and I had one of those philosophical discussions that you never forget. We talked about how to lead a fulfilling and happy life.

Sam saw life as a quest to find activities of higher and higher value. Happiness was achieved by substituting activities of higher value for lesser ones. 

If each activity has a personal value rating between 1 to 10, then he would, for example, substitute a 5 rated activity for a 7 rated activity. We agreed that it gets tricky when you perceive an activity as an 8 that turns out to be a 2 once you do it. That’s life. 

This quest applies to all aspects of life including friends, partners and careers. From a career perspective, people would substitute a higher rated job for a lower rated one until they found their dream job. I wondered how people knew when they had found their dream job, the one that gives them maximum happiness. 

Later this week, I spoke with someone who said that the last Change with Confidence newsletter really helped him  with an issue he was facing. He said he reread it many times and thought about how he could best use it to lead change.

The three concentric circles of a dream job popped into my head: using your personal strengths on something you are passionate about that people value. Getting feedback like this gave me maximum fulfillment and happiness. At that moment I realized I had found my dream job.

Sam would say that the quest never ends; you never know when you will find a higher valued activity. That’s life.

Phil

Are you still searching for your dream job?

This week, our son Sam and I had one of those philosophical discussions that you never forget. We talked about how to lead a fulfilling and happy life.

Sam saw life as a quest to find activities of higher and higher value. Happiness was achieved by substituting activities of higher value for lesser ones. 

If each activity has a personal value rating between 1 to 10, then he would, for example, substitute a 5 rated activity for a 7 rated activity. We agreed that it gets tricky when you perceive an activity as an 8 that turns out to be a 2 once you do it. That’s life. 

This quest applies to all aspects of life including friends, partners and careers. From a career perspective, people would substitute a higher rated job for a lower rated one until they found their dream job. I wondered how people knew when they had found their dream job, the one that gives them maximum happiness. 

Later this week, I spoke with someone who said that the last Change with Confidence newsletter really helped him  with an issue he was facing. He said he reread it many times and thought about how he could best use it to lead change.

The three concentric circles of a dream job popped into my head: using your personal strengths on something you are passionate about that people value. Getting feedback like this gave me maximum fulfillment and happiness. At that moment I realized I had found my dream job.

Sam would say that the quest never ends; you never know when you will find a higher valued activity. That’s life.

Phil

How to Work in a Hostile Environment

I bumped into an old friend whom I hadn’t spoken with in years. It was good to catch up on our families and careers.

She told me that work was not going well. She worked in a hostile environment and although she was working hard, she was not doing her best. There was little to celebrate and she was drained.

The more she described her work culture, the more caustic it appeared: personal interests and agendas guided actions and behaviours; there was little trust for and between executives; and people were focused on covering themselves. Many people had disengaged and, like the 80’s Loverboy song, were “working for the weekend.”

I knew my friend was a team player who thrived on stretch goals and collaboration. Her focus was on finding the best answer no matter who came up with it. Not a success factor for her current environment.

She asked me what I would do. Here are the highlights of what I suggested:

  • Assess your situation. Are the benefits you are getting worth the personal costs of working in this culture? Is the net benefit better than your best available alternative?
  • Quit taking it personally (QTIP). Everyone’s performance is impacted by the environment in which they work. The next person who holds your role will be treated the same way. 
  • Create a sub-culture based on the values and behaviours that make you successful. Who among your peers and team want a better culture? Build it within your areas of influence.
  • Map the key stakeholders and plot what actions trigger their behaviours. You can encourage or limit behaviours by activating or avoiding these actions. 
  • Raise awareness of how the current culture is lowering productivity. This is a long-term strategy but  in time it may limit some behaviours. Money talks.
  • Talk it out with friends. It broadens your perspective, provides advice and reduces stress.
  • Know your limits. Define the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Bad behaviour intensifies over time and your confidence will erode. When will you say “I don’t think that is appropriate? 
  • Create new options to assess. The more options you have, the more empowered you will be.
I am planning to talk it out further with my friend.
Phil


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