Care Enough to Confront and Use Resistance as Course-Correction Data
We found that the most exciting environments, that treated people very well, are also tough as nails. There is no bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo ... Excellent companies provide two things simultaneously: Tough environments and very supportive environments.
– Thomas Peters
Good employees want to be associated with good employees. One way to demoralize great employees is to surround them with people who aren't carrying their load.
– Ken Goldman, CFO of Siebel Systems
No problem is too big or so complicated that it cannot be run away from!
– Charlie Brown
The search for someone to blame is always successful.
– Robert Half
As we look to the future, the most exciting environments expect a lot from their teams and they offer strong support. Change cultures are built on strong accountability and clear, candid communication. Excellence must be rewarded and poor performance must not accepted. Loyalty to an employee should never mean acceptance of consistent poor performance. If you keep all of your people in the midst of significant change, it's a near miracle or bad management. As an executive ready to invent the future, avoid avoidance. Be known as a problem solver, not a problem evader. Build an organizational culture that is open to confront all problems quickly.
A good manager doesn't try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people. If you're the boss and your people fight you openly when they think that you are wrong—that's healthy. If your people fight each other openly in your presence for what they believe in—that's healthy. But keep all the conflict eyeball to eyeball.
– Robert Townsend
Just because people resist change, doesn't mean that they are wrong. Honor resistance and search it for truths. When leaders experience resistance, too many leaders make the other person the problem. Encourage people to speak up quickly, and be ready to listen when they do. As my great uncle, Harvey Swanson, used to say, "When one person calls you a horse's ass, don't worry. When four people do, go out and buy a saddle!" The higher you go in the organization, the more zeroes you may have to add to that number, but make sure you are known as a listening leader. When the heat is on and you're wrong, admit it quickly.
Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.
– General Colin Powell
Increase the value of constructive conflict by building a team filled with diverse members who have a strong commitment to the team and its objectives but who are each capable of challenging each other's points of view and innovative ideas. Well handled conflict helps build clarity of vision and purpose. As you prepare for the future, make sure you honor, support and use disagreements whenever they occur. Encourage everyone to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
The first lesson of philosophy is that we may all be mistaken.
– Will Durant
At an executive level, you are challenged to influence up and across the organization as much as you are to lead your people. The fact remains that the less authority you have the more you are in sales. One of the most difficult challenges is a peer or superior with high ego needs and little background in the areas you need their support. In short, they have to be right and know nothing about what they are talking about. Your challenge is to positively impact their ego needs, feed them information that keeps them informed and find ways to involve them in ways that contribute to the success of a project. Don't avoid them; learn to work with them in support of strategic change.
What are you doing to build a problem solving not a problem avoiding culture? How do you handle influencing peers and superiors who have a high need to be right and know little about the challenges you face?
Bridge Building Strategies to Increase Your Influence Batting Average
Networks are very important, especially for building credibility. We have leaders, but they're not appointed. You're a leader by having followers. People have to be able to trust you, and networking becomes the way you build that trust. Once you have it, you can initiate change.
– David Clarke, W.L. Gore & Associates
We teach collaborative problem-solving. In school, that's called cheating.
– Edward Bales
Our role as leaders is not to catch people doing things wrong but to create an environment in which people can become heroes.
– Newt Hardie, VP at Milliken
Tomorrow's change leaders must be able to confront and be confronted, but must also be known for their encouragement, recognition and support. Unfortunately, change brings increases in tension and demand levels, straining even good relationships. You can't expect to limit your interaction to announcing changes or confronting problems and be appreciated as a leader. Be a master bridge builder who majors in positive influence strategies. As a network-savvy practitioner, work to get results through cross-functional, and where possible, global teams built on trust, collaboration and mutual support.
I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
– Abraham Lincoln
Start by bridging out of your comfortable relationships to form new relationships. Make a conscious effort to nurture bonds with all the key people you must work with externally and internally. Most leaders achieve that only with people they enjoy; to be effective, bridge across lines to make diversity and coalitions work.
Good leaders take more than their share of the blame and less than their share of the credit. Bad leaders take more than their share of the credit and less than their share of the blame and then wonder why no one likes working with them.
– Ernest Archer
Put your calendar where your mouth is; don't just talk support when your calendar and actions can show it. Do your part to create a culture of pride that recognizes the effectiveness of all of the people involved. Take the time to recognize and formally acknowledge the people who are making change work. Build a four-to-one positive to negative contact history within your influence network. Give timely, specific recognition and learn to capitalize on listening by asking questions that will surface input from all of your major stakeholders. Make sure your questions go beyond surfacing problems to allow others to brag about what is working. Be the kind of leader who gives others more than their share of the credit and takes more than his share of the blame.
I'm just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down the others, until finally they've got one heartbeat together, a team. There's just three things I'd ever say: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you.
– Bear Bryant
People need leadership to help them maintain their focus on the tough questions. Disciplined attention is the currency of leadership.
– Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers
Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
– Victor Borge
While taking the challenge to invent the new good old days very seriously, don't forget to take a sense of humor along for the ride. Take your change mission seriously, but yourself lightly. Humor and laughter make great daily companions on your team's journey to excellence. Don't go through life with your car or your face in park. In fact, use your sense of humor for fun and profit. It develops good feelings and rapport and develops a positive, lighter atmosphere. Why does it work? People like to do business with people who make them laugh. Never forget that some days you're the bug, and some days you're the windshield. That's a perspective worth remembering in this challenging and changing age.
If you aren't having fun in your work, fix the problem before it becomes serious; ask for help if you need it. If you can't fix it and won't ask for help, please go away before you spoil the fun for the rest of us.
– Russ Walden
Harnessing the all-important tension of caring enough to confront while majoring in support will allow you to be respected, not just liked. The change cultures of the future won't settle for poor performance at any level; accountability in the midst of diversity will remain a driving force. But people will also crave leaders who can evidence a corporate version of tough love—Hold me accountable in support of change but show me how much you care. Make sure your people experience that healthy tension from you.
What works for you as an executive to bridge to your "difficult" people up, down and across your network?
Make Change Work Starting with Yourself ...
Excellence isn't a sometimes thing. You have to earn it and reearn it every single day.
– Vince Lombardi
No leader or organization can rest on past successes and expect to survive. The most important part of any learning experience is what you do with the information learned once you have read it. If excellence must be reearned, start with yourself. You are in for tremendous challenges and equally exciting opportunities. Get your people on board as together you make these the "good old days" you will tell your grandchildren about. Rest assured that you will not be bored! With any luck, you won't just be predicting the future; you and your organization will be inventing it and watching others catch up with you. It's easy to think of other people who ought to be here doing the changing, but the only person you control is yourself.
The most important part of the meeting is immediately after. What are they going to do with it once it is over?
– Walter Hailey
What are the three most important "Keepers" you have learned that you can target for yourself in support of strategic change?
- Bennis, Warren. Managing People Is Like Herding Cats: Warren Bennis on Leadership, Executive Excellence, 1999.
- Benton, D.A. How to Think Like a CEO, Warner Books, NY, NY, 1999.
- Blackard, Kirk and Gibson, James. Capitalizing on Conflict: Strategies And Practices For Turning Conflict To Synergy In Organizations, Davies-Black, 2002.
- Collins, James and Porras, Jerry. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Harper Business, NY, NY, 1994.
- Courtney, Hugh. 20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy In An Uncertain World, Harvard Business School Press, 2000.
- Dauphinais, C. William and Price, Colin, Eds. Straight from the CEO, Fireside, NY, NY, 1999.
- Drucker, Peter. Managerial Challenges for the 21st Century, Harper Business, NY, NY, 1999.
- Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little, Brown and Co., 2000.
- Kaplan, Robert S. and Norton, David. The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment, Harvard Business Press, 2000.
- Kaye, Beverly and Jordan-Evans, Sharon. Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay, Berrett-Koehler, 1999.
- Kelly, Patrick. Faster Company, Wiley, NY, NY, 1997.
- Kotter, John. What Leaders Really Do, Harvard Business School Press, 1999.
- Larkin, T.J. and Larkin, Sandra. Communicating Change: Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals, McGraw-Hill, 1994
- Mathews, Ryan and Wacker, Watts. The Deviant's Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets, Crown Business, 2002.
- Paulson, Terry L. They Shoot Managers Don't They?, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 1991.
- Paulson, Terry L. Making Humor Work, Crisp Publications, Inc., Menlo Park, CA, 1989.
- Paulson, Terry L. The Optimism Advantage, Wiley, New Jersey, 2010.
- Paulson, Terry L. Leadership Truths One Story at a Time, Amber Eagle Press, Agoura Hills, CA, 2009.
- Pfeffer, Jeffrey and Sutton, R. I. The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, Harvard Business School Press, 2000.
- Seligman, Martin. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Pocket Books, 1990.
- Stack, Jack and Burlingham, Bo. A Stake in the Outcome: Building a Culture of Ownership for the Long-Term Success of Your Business, Doubleday Currency, 2002.
- Tucker, Robert. Driving Growth through Innovation, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2002.
- Vincent, Laurence. Legendary Brands: Unleashing the Power of Storytelling to Create a Winning Market Strategy, Dearborn, 2002.
- Womak, James and Jones, Daniel. Lean Thinking, Simon & Schuster, NY, NY, 1996.
Dr. Terry Paulson is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, national columnist and author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Your Actions into Results. Learn more at www.optimismadvantage.com.
For practical help with your change program, check out our resource kit, Managing Change in the Workplace. This comprehensive guide is intended for everyone expected to lead, manage and implement change. Visit the Managing Change in the Workplace information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using this practical change management guide and workbook today.