Issue 207 - June 2020
Justin heard that large doses of cod-liver oil were good for his Rottweiler. Each morning he'd put the dog in a headlock, force his jaw open, and pour the oil down his throat. It was always a big fight. One day the dog broke loose, and the oil spilled on the floor. Justin went to get a cloth to clean up the mess. When he got back, he found his dog licking up the puddle of spilled oil.
"Resistance to change" frustrates many managers. Change management programs aim to overcome that resistance. But most of us enjoy change -- especially for the better. We often read new books, look for new movies or shows to watch, seek out new experiences, and explore new places.
Like the Rottweiler, embracing or resisting change has a lot to do with how much control we have. We're often not resisting change; we're resisting being changed. We hate having things done to us.
"Change management" often involves the "changer" pushing, cajoling, and even forcing top-down change on "changees." Doing it to them. Leading change means pulling, engaging, and involving changees in a partnership. Doing it with them.
In his book, A Great Place to Work for All: Better for Business, Better for People, Better for the World Michael Bush reports on how his research and consulting firm used their Trust Index Employee Survey to create an index they called the Innovation Experience. He writes, "It measures the extent to which all employees participate in activities related to innovation, experience leadership behaviors that foster experimentation, and feel inspired to move the organization forward. The results are striking. When we examined several hundred Great Place to Work–Certified companies, those in the top quartile on the Innovation Experience index had revenue growth more than three times the revenue growth of those in the bottom quartile."
This is consistent with other studies on workplace happiness and well-being, such as the National Study of the Changing Workforce. In The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor reports the study found, "greater feelings of control at work predicted greater satisfaction in nearly every aspect of life: family, job, relationships, and so on. People who felt in control at work also had lower levels of stress, work-family conflict, and job turnover."
This issue focuses on leading change through working together. Decades of research continually shows that leaders working collaboratively with their teams and organizations have higher and longer-lasting success. In these crazy times, truly being in this together is even more critical. Cost reduction approaches such as lay-offs are -- once again -- a vital test of leadership rhetoric or reality. History shows that lay-offs rarely pay-off. And partnering means working together -- leading change by doing it with everyone, not patronizing or antagonizing by doing it for, or to everyone.
Change, innovation, and transformation are keys to surviving and even thriving today. May you find ways to partner for long term personal, team, and organizational health and prosperity.
Over the years, many managers turned, "people are our most important resource" into an empty cliché. Their behavior treated people as "assets with skin" or "human capital." As one executive put it, "I'd really enjoy my job if I didn't have to deal with people."
"We're in this together" is the latest phrase ringing hollow from the lips of many managers. Human beings are treated as human resources. But we want to be treated as a living and breathing person, not as just another resource.
Highly effective leaders lead with heart. They see people as partners. Partnerships flourish with trust, mutual respect, two-way communication, and win/win collaboration. These leaders do it with their partners, rather than doing it to or for them. That's vital if we're going to get through these turbulent times together successfully.
Here are five ways leaders partner with people:
Despite all their pious declarations about the importance of people, leadership, and values, far too many managers treat people in their organizations like numbers on a balance sheet, inventory, real estate, or equipment. They're just one more set of assets to be managed.
Do the people in your organization feel that you're in this together?
Your values are showing. Tough times are when the tide goes out to sea and exposes the jewels or junk that's been under the surface. Words like, "our people are our most important resource" now prove to be empty rhetoric or compassionate reality.
Leaders who care about people and building long-term trust, treat lay-offs as the very last, desperate step. These leaders operate from core values of partnership and participation.
None of us have ever been through a global pandemic like this before. However, we have been through economic shocks before. We can look back to those experiences for leadership lessons on navigating through the financial crisis many companies now face.
A major lesson of the 2008 financial crisis and the following recession revealed that downsizing was often dumbsizing. Many research reports showed that lay-offs sometimes provided short-term relief but hurt most companies in the long-term:
As Yogi Berra might say, it sure ain't rocket surgery. Downsizing crushes morale and productivity. Leaders who see people as "assets wrapped in skin" quickly jump to downsizing and lay-offs without fully exploring the myriad of alternatives that are much more inclusive and treat people as valued partners.
Emotionally intelligent, people-focused leaders find ways to reduce costs rather than chucking people overboard like useless ballast during the storm. This might include:
Doing it with, not doing it to, people in your organization is to partner rather than to patronize. That's a true reflection of "we're all in this together." Many of the above options should be explored in forums, discussions, or surveys to involve everyone. This could include exercises like "work out," "dumbest things we do," or "moose hunting." Through surveys, meetings, e-mail polling, "town halls," (or video conferencing), and the like, managers facilitate brainstorming, get input, set priorities, and make joint decisions and action plans. An experienced external facilitator can be a big help.
These times also accentuate the power of decentralized decision making. A study by Harvard Business School professor, Raffaella Sadun found that companies delegating decision making further down the organization did much better in adjusting to local conditions or in their functional areas.
Dealing with these extremely emotional and difficult issues demands lots of personal communication to balance electronic and human connections.
Great leaders have long practiced; we're all in this together. On a rainy day in 1943, a battalion was lined up, waiting for an inspection by Lord Mountbatten. The officers wore raincoats, but the troops had none. They were soaked. Mountbatten's car pulled up, and he emerged wearing a raincoat. After taking a few steps, he turned around and went back to the car to shed his raincoat. He then turned to make the inspection. The troops cheered.
Sam Walton built Bentonville, Arkansas based Wal-Mart into the world's largest retailer through treating staff as respected partners. One of his legacies was to "treat them as partners and they will treat you as a partner and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations."
A scout leader was trying to lift a fallen tree from the path. His pack gathered around to watch him struggle. "Are you using all your strength?" one of the scouts asked.
Leaders bring hope, optimism, and positive action. That's really tough to do while social distancing and facing an uncertain future. We multiply misery if we allow the pessimism plague to infect us as well.
To counter Headline Stress Disorder and strengthen resilience, I actively scan a list of resources for research, articles, and tips on leading ourselves and others through these turbulent times. I post those articles every day.
Let's shorten our social media distancing. Follow or connect with me:
Together we can Learn, Laugh, Love, and Lead -- just for the L of it!
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my weekly blog during the previous month.
If you read each blog post (or issue of The Leader Letter) as it's published over twelve months, you'll have read the equivalent of a leadership book. And you'll pick up a few practical leadership tips that help you use time more strategically and tame your E-Beast!
I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or my blog!
Let's leverage our leadership strengths to work together and get through this challenging time.
In this Issue:
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©2020 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group