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How to Help Someone Who is Lost

Yesterday, we headed off on a family skiing vacation at Mont Tremblant, 130 kilometres north of Montreal.

The drive went well, especially using GPS. Other than a few twists and turns through Montreal, travel was smooth and on time.

We eagerly watched satellite navigator click down the kilometres to our checkered flag destination marker. “You have arrived at your destination, the route guidance is now finished,” it confidently exclaimed. The problem was that we were still on an unlit, two lane highway with only trees on both sides to welcome us.

We kept driving until we reached the Mont Tremblant Village. There were no passersby to ask at 11:00 pm in -25 degrees Celsius weather so we kept going.

After confirming we were lost by driving in all directions, we headed to the only resort we could see. We asked the the person at the front desk if this was where we check in to the place we were staying, he said, “no.” We then asked how we could get to where we were going. He gave us a map of the area, drew a line to our destination and then pointed out our mistake, which sounded like the old Bugs Bunny line, “You should have taken a left at Albuquerque.” 

We headed off again but realized that where we were to check-in was not where we were staying. We called the registration office and the woman said that our mistake was using GPS: “You shouldn’t have used GPS. It doesn’t work here.” When we mentioned a restaurant that was in sight, she confirmed we were lost. “No, that’s not where you should be.” 

Our guide directed us to go past the golf course heading toward to mountain. Since it was completely dark and being our first visit to the area, we didn’t know where either of them were. It now seems amusing exchanging comments in the care like, “Do you see the mountain…I don’t see the mountain…could it be over there…is that a golf course under the snow?” 

The good news is that we were only a minute away. The bad news is that we continued driving in the wrong directions for ten. The only remaining option was to backtrack the way we originally came past the invisible GPS checkered flag point. In minutes, we arrived at our destination an hour after estimated arrival time.

Travel stories are excellent metaphors for working through change. There are clear start and end points, landmarks define the path and usually there are people available to help them to get to where they are going.

Here are some tips to help travelers of any kind:

  • Be clear on where people need to go, including landmarks they will see along the way
  • Tell people multiple times where they are going―repetition and accuracy are connected
  • Check in with people to make sure they are on track
  • Put yourself in their shoes―no one tries to get lost and they can’t always see the mountain to show them where they are
  • Inform people that they are not the first to get lost―confidence and success are connected
  • Assure people they will get to where they are going
  • Confirm that people get back on track when they are lost
These may seem like simple tips, but many change initiatives focus on the destination without checking in to make sure people are progressing toward it. The destination becomes the focus over how people are getting there. 
Mont Tremblant is beautiful, especially when you can see it. We have reached the checkered flag and it feels good.

When a Step Back is the Way Forward

Organizations going through big changes often fall prey to their original change plan because following it suggests that leaders and their project teams have everything worked out. The longer the team stays on track, the greater the confidence that it is the right plan. Conversely, adjusting the plan can make it look flawed and raises doubts about the path forward.

In an environment where changes are seen as mistakes, people focus their efforts on delivering the plan versus testing it to make sure it will still deliver results. This behaviour is reinforced when rewards are tied to plan completion instead of what it delivers.

This is not how change initiatives work; the plan often needs to be modified as new information becomes known. Making real-time adjustments can mitigate risks and focus resources where they will have the greatest impact. 

You need to take a step back when new information becomes known to see if it has any bearing on the change plan. I do this by asking these questions:

1) Why is it important?
This helps me differentiate between important and urgent information. Sometimes things can seem important based on how it is delivered. If it is important, what are the implications of this data? How does it impact the plan, if at all?

2) What do I need to know?
New information requires investigation, which usually creates additional information needs. Asking this question helps me determine what I already know and what I need to source. It also demonstrates to stakeholders that action is being taken. 

3) What experiences can I learn from?
Similar circumstances have most likely occurred in this organization. This question often leads to hypotheses or options to consider. Similar experiences also help identify risks associated with different courses of action.

4) What works and doesn’t work?

In any organization, culture and current business realities influence what leaders and their teams will support or reject. For example, a very hierarchical organization will most likely reject a course of action that requires employee empowerment and decision making. Looking at options through these filters help identify changes that will be effective.

It is easy for your plan to become the goal versus the result it is intended to deliver. Taking a step back to ask a few questions will help define the best path forward, even if it is different from the original one.


Where does your confidence come from?

On Monday, our son Sam celebrated his sixteenth birthday by jumping out of a plane. He had been planning it for months and two of his cousins agreed to jump too; it was a family event.

You might wonder, “Why would anyone jump out of a plane?” Sam, Jim, and Sarah’s motivations weren’t clear when they were suiting up. They were guessing how free-falling would feel. Would there be a sinking feeling in their stomachs like a roller coaster or would it feel like they were on a blanket of air? They seemed to be excited by the unknown, unconcerned that they didn’t know what they were about to experience. The only thing they knew for certain was that it would be amazing.

I was struck by their confidence and the similarities between sky diving and leading change. Dan Rockwell said, “Confidence is a product of knowing what to do next.” I like this quote and feel that the main benefit of my book is building people’s confidence to navigate (and lead) change by helping them decide what to do next. The sky diving experience suggests that it is not enough to help leaders find answers: they must also believe they have the ability to do so. Leaders must do far more than “paint by numbers”: they must paint new, powerful paintings. The confidence mindset is essential for long-term success. 

All three jumpers were ecstatic about their experiences. Apparently you don’t get a sinking feeling in your stomach when you free-fall or feel like you are on a blanket of air. They were united in wanting to jump again. Sky diving and leading change can be addictive.

When the  Skydive Toronto videographer asked Sam why he was jumping, he said, “I am looking for the thrill.” The next question was “How do you think it’s going to be?” and Sam replied, “Great.” These answers are similar to a leader of change saying, “I am excited about building a new organization. I am not sure exactly what it will look like but I know it will be great.” Two examples of the confidence mindset.

I will re-read my manuscript to ensure I reinforce a confidence mindset. They can last forever. I will also say to Sam again how proud I am of him and his leadership abilities.


And the Winning Title is…

The most obsessive part of my journey has been choosing a powerful title. Since people judge books by their covers, I know my title has to be a great one. It has to describe what the book is about, communicate an emotional benefit of reading it, and inspire further investigation (i.e. buying it!). After a year of testing over 100 titles I selected one: “Change with Confidence.” My title:

  • Describes what the book is about: Managing change 
  • Communicates an emotional benefit: Confidence in doing so
  • Inspires further investigation: How do you confidently lead change?

I have observed that leaders need the most help when they are faced with a question they can’t answer based on their experience. Many either went with the first information they receive or relied on their gut instincts. Unbeknownst to them, they sent their team charging down a path full of potential landmines. What they needed was practical advice on how to make the best choices based on real-life experience.

Sven-Göran Eriksson, international football coach, has observed
that the “greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure,” and during big
business changes there are many things to fear: not knowing what to do or say, being a poor leader, failing and, of
course, looking stupid. My book provides advice to move beyond these fears to make the right choices. During a big change project, confidence is an antidote to fear. 

My title also includes a sub-title: “A Business Leader’s Guide to Change Management,” which identifies the audience for my book and what they are buying. Both parts of my title have provided focus for my book proposal and final edits. 

I realize my publisher will have the final say on a title, but I am confident that the best title will be chosen. Just to be safe, I purchased the internet domains of changewithconfidence.com and changewithconfidence.ca so that there are no hiccups down the road. It is important to plan for the future. Phil

My Shield of Steel

It’s been years since I thought of Batfink, an animated superhero I watched on T.V. as a kid. He had super-sonic sonar radar and metallic wings. I was mesmerized by his confidence as he tackled villains, proclaiming “Your bullets cannot harm me. My wings are like a shield of steel!” 

You need confidence the most when upholding your values and beliefs or convincing someone to take action. Selling my book to publishers is a good test; they may not like my views or take action.

Just like Batfink, who carried a can of oil to keep his wings polished, the mind-set of confidence needs to be tended and maintained. Whether by positive self-talk or celebrating small wins, you need to keep your engine running on high. For example, I just found out that my “The Adventures of a First-time Author” presentation was selected to be featured on SlideShare’s home page (and received more than 1,000 views). I am pumped because this is my first on-line acknowledgement. 

If confidence is like a shield of steel, then a small win now and again helps keep it shining.

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