Friday, 27 February 2015

Intelligent change.

You have heard it said that '...a change is as good as a rest...'  And if things have truly become stale, then this adage holds true.

But change, simply for the sake of change, can have a disquieting impact on the workplace.  This is especially true when the change becomes too frequent. Let me explain.

Often leaders have strokes of genius that they are convinced will enhance the workplace performance.  They set about to implement these ideas without due process and in so doing they ignore the emotional investment that their staff have in the status quo.  Like it or not, routine appeals to most people and there is a sense of safety and comfort in always doing things the same way each day.  So much of life is unpredictable, thus the consistency that the workplace typically affords provides that stability that people seek. 

In times of crisis - such as those that we have experienced over the past several years - there is clearly a need for change.  Budgets are adjusted, often the workforce is reduced, and a general sense of uneasiness pervades the work environment.  As the leader, a critical responsibility is to create order from the chaos and to maintain that safe haven in which your staff are able to perform to their best.

If staff reductions will be necessary, then make them wisely but quickly.  And try to do them all at once.  This will provide several benefits to all:
  1. It allows for the re-structuring and re-distribution of responsibilities to take place only one time.  This saves time and emotional distress as you move to the new normal.
  2. As painful as it is for all concerned, those who remain can adjust with a certainty that they are safe from further re-structuring and therefore they make a deeper and more thankful commitment to the job.
  3. Your external stakeholders - suppliers and clients - can adjust to the new structure with like confidence and commitment.  Too often we neglect to consider the impact to these partners because we view our changes to be internal only.
  4. Finally it reinforces your credibility and that of the company.  It demonstrates that you have prudently evaluated your options and that you have done the right thing for the company and the right thing by the employees.  If you have not done your due diligence and require frequent changes, your credibility will have been sacrificed.  There is a reason that carpenters measure twice and cut once!
Understand that I am not against change.  It is the hallmark of progressive and innovative companies.  But ensure that you have properly anticipated the wide ranging impact that any change has and be prepared to be accountable for your decisions.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Choose this day...

For much of the past year I have focused on only one side of the leadership duality.  That focus has been on the skills that leaders must master over time to be ensure that they maximize the potential of their group.

Today I want to return to the real touchstone of inspirational leadership. It has nothing to do with skills; but it is the ground from which all the skills must take root.

I speak of character.  The word itself connotes something positive.  When we speak of someone as a `person of character`, it immediately brings to mind the qualities that we admire. Honesty, integrity, accountability, passion, patience, transparency, humility...and more.

Character is built as it is learned.  Most often it has been tested and tried over time before it becomes a core value of the individual.  But once there, it is almost impossible to move. 

A great teacher and coach, John Wooden, said "...reputation is what others think of you; character is what you really are..."

You know from personal experience, that you are much more likely to respect the person of character over the person of superior skills.  In my experience I have often not even noticed a lack of skill in a leader of character.  But I have most definitely noticed the lack of character in a skillful leader.

While both character and skill are found in the most successful inspirational leaders, if you must aspire to one or the other first, always choose character.  Character moves with you regardless of your vocation; regardless of your level of responsibility; regardless of anything, because it is who you are.  Skills may not be nearly as transferable and must be continually upgraded to keep current.

In today's vernacular we hear the terminology, 'emotional intelligence'. It speaks to the need of a leader to have empathy and to respond to another's emotional state in providing leadership.  But that comes up far short of our expectations...empathy being only one of the traits of a mature leader of character.

This is not rocket science.  Unfortunately we continue to have too many in positions of responsibility who choose the 'commander-in-chief' model as a cover for a lack of character. 

First take a look around...then take a look in the mirror.  Now choose the type of leader you will be.