Caution Change Ahead!

6 Ways To Avoid Being Tripped Up When Leading Change In Your Organisation   

Creating change is often difficult, expensive, and prone to failure. And as a leader when you initiative the “pet project of the month” over and over again but nothing really changes guess what? You start to look a little like a politician: all mouth and no trousers.

Change is difficult because it’s about new behaviours. And we all know how difficult it is to alter our own habits (drinking less, exercising more or turning the TV off once in a while!) Imagine how much harder it is when you are trying to modify the attitudes and actions of an entire organisation.

Over the years I’ve been involved in the implementation of major change in a variety of businesses. From my experience – and research into good practice – here are six handy tips to help you to become a successful Change Maker.

1. Start Shouting Fire – Many businesses are too inward looking. They don’t listen enough to their clients or know enough about their competitors. An inward-facing mentality can breed complacency, even arrogance. As a leader you need to show your people that the need for change is urgent. If there is not a pressing commercial or operational “fire” in your business (and there normally is) you might need to start it yourself.

2. Get the right people involved, at the right time, during the process –  change often starts with one or two people, but making it stick is not a solo sport. To get things going you need to get enough people involved with the expertise and credibility required. And ensure they are working as a team. Change Management is like getting a car started when it’s bogged down in the mud. You need a coordinated, sustained push with as many people involved as you can rope in.

3. Develop a Clear Inspirational Purpose – if it’s not there already start with a rigorous and collaborative development process to find this, then add specific objectives. Anything less is a recipe for confusion and apathy.

4. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate again – It is amazing how many businesses do not communicate effectively. Try this as a test: ask six team members what the fundamental purpose of your business is and see how different their replies are. You might be surprised.

5. Empower Your People – Make sure your team can grab the purpose and make it happen. But empowerment is pointless if it’s just a word. Take a look at your systems, structures and skill levels to make sure the sort of behaviour you want is even possible in your business.

6. Plan for some short term wins – Change is painful and difficult at times and it needs a sustained effort; timelines are normally not weeks but months and even years. To show your team the late nights are worth it make sure the changes you are bringing about delivers short term wins along the way.

Copyright © 2011 Greg Orme All Rights Reserved

With thanks to John P. Kotter’s ‘Leading Change’

The Evidence: Leadership and the Bottom Line

Research shows organisations with good leadership perform better than those that don’t

Most people believe in good leadership because as we grow through our careers we all experience the inspiring and empowering effect of good leadership – and the powerfully negative impact of bad leadership (or, more accurately, non-leadership).

When I ask people in my leadership development workshops and seminars to talk about toxic bosses it always provokes smiles of recognition. What follows are usually hair-curling stories of cynicism, short-termism, inconsistency, breath-taking self-centredness, volatile tempers, lack of direction and absence of communication.  The sheer commonality of experience and abundance of colourful anecdotes is striking, if rather dispiriting.

My regular non-scientific straw polls are supported by more rigorous research. The DDl’s* Global Leadership Forecast 2011, which surveyed over 2,000 individuals, shows a real problem with the quality of leaders in organisations. And this is assessed by HR Directors, who are, interestingly, leaders themselves.

It’s a different story when I ask people to relate personal experiences of good leadership. At this point, the room goes very quiet. After some time a few stories and experiences are shared but not nearly as many.  People talk about bosses who are mentors, who listen, who care, who provide direction, resources and commitment. They describe people who act in a way that facilitates the best in those around them.

People intuitively believe good leadership is linked to team and organisational success. Again this certainty about the power of leadership is echoed by academic research. Simply put: numerous in-depth studies demonstrate incontrovertibly that organisations with good leadership perform better than those that don’t. Examples include:

  • The Institute for Strategic Change reports that the stock price of companies perceived to be well-led grew 900 per cent over 10 years versus 74 percent for companies perceived to lack good leadership (2008).
  • Hay Group’s Best Companies for Leadership survey demonstrates that the top 20 organisations rated for leadership give over 36 times better shareholder returns than the S&P 500 in a five year period (2010).
  • The Corporate Leadership Council estimates that employees working for good leaders put in 57 per cent more effort and are 87 per cent less likely to leave than those with poor leaders.
  • The Institute of Work estimates that 20 per cent of the variance in productivity and profitability in manufacturing can be attributed to better people management – a stronger driver than strategy, technology, and research and development.
  • The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that workers with good leadership were 40 per cent more likely to be in the highest category of job well-being, with low rates of symptoms like anxiety, depression, and job stress. Good leadership was associated with a 27 per cent reduction in sick leave and a 46 per cent reduction in disability pensions.

So, if you think your organisation needs to focus a little more time and effort on developing great leadership ensure you make a persuasive case around the soft factors of inspiration, values and culture. But don’t forget the evidence, because it’s on your side.

* Development Dimensions International

Copyright © 2011 Greg Orme All Rights Reserved

With thanks to the Hay Group

10 Tips to Inspire Your People to Engage

How creating high-levels of commitment drives success

By Greg Orme

Over many years of working with business leaders trying to figure out how to create winning strategies I have come to realise one thing. For any change in direction to get off the ground you need a magical, intangible ingredient: employee engagement.

Inspiring your people to be bothered to deliver your company vision, pledge themselves to a new strategy or simply improve things is vital. Research shows an engaged employee is 87% less likely to leave a job – and a fully engaged person performs at a 20% higher level* . In business performance is so correlated to staff engagement it is in my view a key success factor for long-term sustainability.

So here is a bit of food for thought on how you can improve engagement in your business. Score your company on the following ten questions:

  1. Are your line manager’s real managers? And, just to be clear, we are not talking about skilled practitioners in any creative, functional or technical specialism. That’s how you get promoted to management in the first place. But being an empathetic and skilled manager of teams and people is not something most people are born with. You and your managers need to be clear about the distinction. We have all experienced bad management (and its toxically demotivating effects).
  2. Do your people really believe in your company direction? And remember, first they have to understand what direction you are going in before they can get to the stage of believing in it!
  3. Are you providing inspiring leadership from the top? This is not easy to do consistently. High-performance leaders provide direction, show respect, inform regularly, live their values, exude energy. In other words, they are role models.
  4. Do you engage people through involvement and consultation? I know this works. I recently facilitated strategy for a large UK business. Over 18 months we involved over 200 staff members (10% of the workforce) directly, and 2,000 indirectly, in an engagement and change management programme. This type of exercise can be time consuming for any business large or small but it pays dividends in the long-run.
  5. Have you got a genuinely “people-centric” culture? We all know the old company mission cliché: “Our people are our biggest asset”. But things become clichés for a reason. And all businesses appear horribly hypocritical if action does not match rhetoric.
  6. Do you have perfect internal communications? Don’t answer that one! However much you communicate right now you know the answer is “no” – at least in the minds of some of your staff! When we diagnose problem issues in businesses this is always in the top five staff complaints – normally because there is insufficient consistency, skill and focus from top management in this vital area.
  7. Do you offer your people genuine influence over how their job is done? This means doing the HR basics rights (e.g. two-way performance reviews) as well as open-minded and empowered line managers who are prepared to innovate to improve.
  8. Do your people get the “Big Picture”? In other words, do you take the time to explain why “things get done the way they do”. This is especially important for unpopular business practices such as time sheets and other forms of management information gathering.
  9. Do you offer opportunities for career development? This is one of the arguments for smaller businesses to grow a little as it avoids losing talented staff who get bored waiting to fill “dead man’s shoes”.
  10. Do you walk the walk? Are your personal values as an owner/manager and leadership team reflected in the organisation’s values? Any disparity between your leadership behaviour and what you project as “what the company is all about” can be potentially damaging.

©Greg Orme Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved

*Corporate Leadership Foundation ‘Driving Performance and Retention through Employee Engagement’, 2004.