Why I am Optimistic for 2016

Watch the news and it’s easy to be cynical – wars, crime, disease, natural disasters.  And yet, is this the reality of modern life, or the interpretation of it that’s reported?  Considering violence, as Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker notes, “things really are getting better…..headlines are a poor guide to history. People’s sense of danger is warped by the availability of memorable examples – which is why we are more afraid of getting eaten by a shark than falling down the stairs, though the latter is likelier to kill us…..Despite the headlines, and with circumscribed exceptions, the world has continued its retreat from violence….As modernity widens our circle of cooperation, we come to recognize the futility of violence and apply our collective ingenuity to reducing it. Though a few narcissistic despots and atavistic zealots stand athwart this current, history does not appear to be on their side.”  [Click here for compelling statistics and graphics supporting his assertions.]

Andrew Weil, complementary medicine pioneer and wellness guru, recommends periods “news fasts” – “a news fast simply means opting out of watching the news on television, listening to it on the radio, reading newspapers, or following the news on the Internet for a few days or even a week at a time. I believe that taking periodic breaks from the news can promote mental calm and help renew your spirits. In this way, the anxiety and overstimulation catalyzed by the media may be minimized, and your body will function better.”  What a great way to end the year or start the new one – unplug, unwind, refresh and renew.

It can be challenging to focus on the positive, maintain a positive attitude, and consistently act with positivity.  And yet, the benefits of optimism are tangible.  As Martin Seligman, father of the positive psychology movement, states “optimists are higher achievers, better able to develop to their full potential, happier, and have better overall health,” among many other personal and professional outcomes.

More good news:  if you’re not an optimist by nature (and studies show that most people tend toward pessimism), hopefulness and positivity can be learned.  To build this mindset, Seligman sharesin Learned Optimism this simple yet powerful A-B-C model:

  • Adversity:  An event that happens.  For example, your company announces a new leadership team and reorganization.
  • Belief:  Your interpretation of the event.  For example, you think, “Here we go again!  A new regime and another program of the year!  Same circus, different clowns.”
  • Consequence:  Feelings and actions that result from your beliefs.  For example, you anticipate a lot of swirl without strategy, feel cynical and disengaged, and decide to keep your head down until this too shall pass.

Now, I’m not saying this is what “you,” my reader, would do – but you’ve witness this cycle.  Given the 70+% of the workforce that is actively disengaged (according to Gallup research), it’s all too common, and we’ve all experienced the lost productivity, poor customer service, and diminished loyalty and trust that results for organizations.

Yet, what about for us as individuals?  What can we control?  Ultimately, only ourselves – our attitudes and our actions.  While pessimism may be in our nature, we can nurture ourselves toward optimism – and reap all its benefits – regardless of what’s happening around us in our environment.

The first step is simply noticing our reactions to events – unearthing our own beliefs, and observing their consequences.  Second, we can begin to take even more ownership of our emotions and behaviors, recognizing that “I’m the boss of me”!  All empowerment is fundamentally self-empowerment, and all engagement starts with the choice be engaged – in work and in life.  As the Eagles sang, “So oftentimes it happens that we live our lives in chains – that we never even know we have the key.”

Cheers to a prosperous 2016 – full of positive change – and powerful change leaders – starting with YOU!

 

Does Leading Change Differ Across Cultures?

Although change is a universal challenge that we face as leaders, do styles of leading change show up differently across cultures?  What have we learned about leading change around the world – and what does it mean for you?

When I started researching Change Leadership Styles from around the world as part of developing the Change Intelligence/CQ Assessment, I was curious to see what differences would emerge. After consulting on global transformations and coaching leaders from around the world for decades, I had expected to find significant differences in styles of leading change across the globe.  What did I find when analyzing the CQ Assessment results and responses from Change Leaders spanning North America, South/Central America, Europe, India, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East, and Africa?

NO significant differences!  

Change Leaders from around the world – whether they are in New York or New Delhi or Newcastle – are equally likely to collaborate (lead change by focusing on the “Heart”) or strategize (focusing on the “Head”) or plan (the “Hands”) as their dominant tendency in a change process.

How can this be, especially with boots-on-the-ground insight into what appears to be substantial regional, cultural, and ethnic differences?

My hypothesis – which needs to be tested empirically – is that while the prevalence of each Change Leader Style may be similar around the world, how they are enacted will vary based on cultural context.  That is, while Change Leaders around the world may focus to a similar degree on people, purpose, and process, what that translates into specific behaviors may vary widely based on cultural norms and accepted business practices.

For example, consider these two examples of Change Leaders and their personal insights and actions based on CQ Assessment results with varying cultural expectations:

  • A Project Manager in Singapore scores as a very “high Hands” Change Leader.  She realizes that she often struggles “influencing up,” resulting in less-than-ideal sponsorship of her challenging IT implementations.  However, in her words, initiating “skip level” meetings and causing senior leaders to “lose face” are frowned upon in Asian contexts.  Recognizing she needs to adapt her leadership style to more impactfully influence executives, she realizes she would benefit from flexing some “Head” muscle.  She creates a presentation about project status focusing on the business case for devoting more resources to the initiative, and shares that with her Program Manager.  This sets the Program Manager up to be able to deliver tough messages to the senior team in a straightforward and respectful manner, enabling the executives to have the data they need delivered in a culturally-appropriate way by a peer leader.
  • A very “high Head” Plant Manager from a US manufacturing firm is assigned to start-up a facility in Sweden.  After meeting with the mostly Swedish management team he will be working with for several years, he realizes that the traditional top-down approach he had been used in the American-based plants he had led would not work in the Swedish business culture, which has a strong history of workplace democracy and employee empowerment.  Therefore, he adopts a more “Heart plus Hands” facilitative style, creating teams to make critical decisions about the technical and social system plant design.  When he transfers back the US after a highly successful commissioning process to assume a Regional Vice President of Operations role, he introduces team-based engagement processes, in a way that synced with the performance-based culture and compensation system within that business unit.

How does this apply to your change initiatives within your team and organization? What are the implications for  any leader charged with the opportunity to spearhead new directions globally?  Change Intelligence is the awareness of one’s Change Leader Style, and the ability to adapt one’s style to be optimally effective leading change across a variety of people and situations.  Adding awareness of regional, ethnic and cultural variations – in addition to organizational, functional, and personality differences – enables leaders to be even more savvy in flexing their behaviors to engage for change with greater confidence and competence, and less stress and frustration.

Questions to ask yourself might include:

  • As you develop your CQ and better understand your style, what cultural, regional or ethnic variations do you need to consider as you put together your strategic change plan?
  • How do the strengths of your style mesh well in your current cultural context?  How could you deploy these in new and even more winning ways?
  • In what ways might you be driving change in a way that’s causing you personally – your behaviors – to be a barrier in the change process?  What shifts might you benefit from making in your leadership style to enable you to powerfully partner with others who may hold different norms and expectations of how the change process should be managed?

A FREE Resource for You to Prepare for Upcoming Change Challenges

As renowned physicist Stephen Hawking sagely stated, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

Want to ADAPT?

To help focus and ground your reflection, I’d like to offer you a resource that I use with my clients to help develop their Change Intelligence – the ADAPT tool.  Click here To access the free ADAPT tool and download the PDF.

As I share with my clients, to cope with demanding challenges spanning from mergers to reorganizations to new technologies, we don’t need to change ourselves, any more than we can “force” change on those we seek to partner with towards positive new directions.  Instead, the opportunity is to ADAPT our behaviors to be more effective across a wider variety of situations, thereby expanding our influence and increasing our impact.

The ADAPT tool is a targeted and simple resource to encourage intentional reflection about the one aspect of our workplaces and our worlds we can genuinely control – ourselves!  How liberating is that?!

Please do reach out and let me know what insights the tool provided you, and how you are planning on applying your learnings on-the-job.

What’s YOUR Style of Leading Change?

What’s YOUR style of leading change?

Knowing your CQ (Change Intelligence) style can make all the difference for your ability to influence others and overcome resistance to change!

Just as each of us communicates, collaborates and handles conflict in our own unique ways, so do we each have our own style of leading change.  And, just as we are much more effective in working with others when we understand ourselves and how we are similar and different than others – and can adjust accordingly – so we are much more confident and competent in influencing and partnering with others towards challenging goals when we understand the various change leader styles.

Our Change Leader style is comprised of our tendencies to lead with our Heart versus our Head versus our Hands. Powerful Change Leaders “start with the heart,” “engage the brain,” and “help the hands” move in positive new directions.  Of course, none of us leads only, all the time, in every instance with the Head or Heart or Hands.  We are each a blend of all three.  It is this unique combination that represents our Change Leader Style.  

There are seven possible styles, depending on how strong you are on heart, head and hands.

  • If you’re a Coach, you’re all about Heart.  You love engaging your colleagues whenever you get a chance, and you find great reward in supporting people around you as you all move through a change process.
  • If you’re a Visionary, you are the one who’s always looking forward to an inspiring future.  Thanks to your Head focus, you have a gift for seeing opportunity and planning for new situations, and you tend to get excited about what lies on the other side of a change.
  • If you’re an Executer, you focus primarily on the Hands.  You like to get things done, and people know they can rely on you to not just talk but take action.  Often your execution is backed up by comprehensive, step-by-step plans.
  • If you’re a Champion, you use a combined strength in Head and Heart to get people pumped about a change.  Like a Visionary, you see abundant possibilities for the future and, adding the people skills of a Coach to the mix, you’re able to energize and excite your colleagues as you all work to bring about change.
  • If you’re a Driver, you’re strong on both Head and Hands.  You see an enticing vision before you, and you use your executional abilities to drive toward that vision, laying out clear strategies and tactics along the way.
  • If you’re a Facilitator, you focus on specific people and specific activities you need to support on a day-to-day basis to lead the change, thanks to your strong Heart and Hands capabilities.  You know the tasks that need to be accomplished to make measurable progress, and you succeed in motivating others to work together on those tasks.
  • If you’re an Adapter, you’re about even on Head, Heart, and Hands.   You can employ all three approaches as necessary, and you’re generally flexible, politically savvy, and willing to collaborate with others.   

The relationship between the seven styles can be represented as a triangle, which, incidentally, is also the Greek symbol for change:

We enhance our influence and impact when we learn how to shift our leadership strategy to more meaningfully connect with people of different styles.  We all know the Golden Rule, “do onto others as YOU want to be done unto.”  To optimally partner with others through change, follow the Platinum Rule, “do onto others at THEY want to be done unto.”  

Depending on the circumstances, sometimes we lead in one way and sometimes in another.  No style is better or worse, right or wrong.  However, at any given time one style may be more effective in leading change.  Awareness of our style can help us adapt to different people and situations and ultimately take action to become more powerful change leaders.

By building Change Intelligence, Change Leaders are able to overcome what looks like resistance, but is really either confusion over the goal (no “Head”), lack of connection to the goal (no “Heart”), or lack of tactics and training to partner together to work toward the goal (no “Hands”).  That’s CQ!