Category Archives: Leadership

Change Doesn’t Care If You’re Too Busy, It Carries On Anyway

Too busy to change? That is me. I would like to improve lots of things but I have to choose. The things I am not doing come at a cost. I hope I am choosing my priorities wisely. My job is to support the choices of others and the processes that will enable them to act. This is not easy because they are busy, too. bees

Being a consultant is a privilege. Clients trust us with their business, their careers and with supporting them through some difficult decisions. Each decision will require someone to change. They call us in because a problem exists. That problem is creating immediate needs and those need attention. Their capacity is stretched and without addressing the fundamental issues they will continue to experience dysfunction and have a reduced ability to lead.

So what is the solution? First, as a consultant I need to empathize with the demands leadership places on our clients. The result is to ask only what can be given and to make it easy for them to receive our support. For the client, it is to match their expectations to where they are in the process of change. Together we need to create shared responsibility for solving the root of the issue. The purpose is defined by what matters when their leadership is successful.

When the goal is met, not only have we all changed but they have also achieved a collective goal. This can mean safer conditions for employees, more housing for the vulnerable or a transportation system that carries people to work faster and cheaper. A commitment to tackling change consciously and head-on has a great reward. Our role as consultants should be to see clients achieve this success.

Empathy and Helpfulness are Required

  • Most of the time for desirable outcomes to be achieved the first people that need to do something differently are executives. The expectation is that they model the new way of doing things. They are willing most of the time. We need to make sure they are also able.
  • To accomplish organizational change we call them into steering groups and ask for their sponsorship. We require them to create the space to do the work of change. They brought us in for support and we ask them to do more. This is the challenge of leadership and with our role as consultants.

Our role as consultants should be to add to their capacity and yet we need their time and attention to be helpful.

  • Immediately the consultant should do some heavy lifting for them, connect the dots, do the research, review documents and get up to speed. Then we should summarize what we learn so they can make decisions. We should lead by leaving them with the decision but not all the work.
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Managing Change – Lesson from 80 ft of rope

I feel like there has been a tsunami of change in the last few months and the second wave is coming. The good news is that I study leadership and change so I should be prepared. Then reality sets in and having the knowledge does not reduce the physiological reality of change. As a change agent in organizations, I have a tool kit of professional techniques to create clarity, communicate a desired future, and involve people in the process. Yet change is still difficult. We mitigate the reality of change but we still have to generate the energy to achieve it. That has a consequence.

A story that mirrors organizational change

So imagine that you have never been on a wake board and your cousin says “I will teach you, it is fun”. He promised support; he had done this before and he promised the result will be rewarding. So you agree.  You say to yourself,  “I am going to do this.”

Just as you enter the water he gives you an out, “Just let go if you fall forward!”

No problem, I have seen how this is done. I have done similar things and I have a coach. Now I am in the water  80 ft behind the boat. I feel alone.

He yells back to me, “are you ready”.  I say “yes”. The boat accelerates.  I hold on and I put my nose over my toes and drink a large amount of lake. That is okay, I didn’t think I would get it the first time.

Two minutes later, I am ready to try again. I repeat going nose over my toes and drink some more lake. I now question “Maybe I can’t do this”.

Third time is the charm. I am up; I can hear Lady Ga Ga coming from the boat; I am wake-boarding! After a minute, I thinking “I am working a little harder than I need to “.  I experiment a little bit but this style of ride in not very familiar.

After two minutes, my right leg is burning; after three minutes I go over the wake knowing I will wipe out. It was fun but my energy is done. I get back in the boat.

Change takes energy. It takes practice and it may take failure before we feel success. When we learn new behaviours,  we must practice and exercise those new muscles. Days later my back muscles were still sore. At the time of change we may not even realize the new muscles we are using.

Tips in change – do the right things and use all the tools you have to mitigate the negative impacts but also set clear expectations that this will take effort and energy. To learn something new takes energy, it takes practice and it may take failure before you reap the reward. Last tip, build in rest pauses around your change process to enable your best effort.

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Filed under Leadership, Strategic Planning

Leading a team of volunteers

My Dad was sharing his volunteer leadership experience of over 40 years with me. I asked his advice while we were together at IABC’s World Conference in San Diego this month.  I am entering a new leadership role and welcomed his guidance.

I welcome your experience on creating a great volunteer team. Please share your comments and links at the end of this post.

By Tudor Williams, ABC, MC, IABC Fellow

Some years ago, the leader of a political advance team said to me “How do you fire a volunteer?” As the public affairs and media relations guy on the team, my response is you don’t – especially in the rough and tumble of politics. The key to success is to critically select the team you need from the volunteers available at the outset and recruit from your personal and professional network if talent is not available. If you develop your team with care, you will never need to fire a volunteer.

Recently I was the leader of a team of volunteer business professionals. As I served my apprenticeship on the board of directors and then as a junior member of the executive, I decided that, if I was to successfully lead this organization, I needed to have the right talent in the right places.

Learn the various motivations, skills and talents of your volunteers as you get to know and work with each person. In the year prior to assuming the chief executive role, I self examined my personal vision for the organization and what I felt I could contribute. Then I defined the type of support I would need to accomplish a succession plan for future years and long term success.

First, I recruited my vice chair – the person who best complemented my leadership skills and vision. Together we examined what talents and skills we needed on the executive team. If we were going to achieve our goals and make a significant contribution to the business community, we need the right team. Then we aligned existing talent on the board with what we needed. The search was out for what we did not have.

I sat down with every board member, new and old, individually before we assumed our term of office. We defined aspirations and expectations of each other. I took that feedback and outlined my expectations for each member. It was equally important for me to ask what they would need from me to succeed.

The board entered its term of office sharing the vision, knowing our objectives, and knowing their individual role in determining the outcomes of the year. You want a team of volunteers that enjoys what it does, procures results and delivers high levels of volunteer satisfaction, do you homework early.

You can follow Tudor on Twitter @tudorwilliams

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Filed under Communication, Leadership

Community, transformation and relationships

When you found your last job, did you think you were entering into a relationship and what that meant? I am entering into the consulting community at Tekara Organizational Effectiveness. Their aspiration is to be a community. This has me reflecting on what we call ‘community’.

You may have had a discussion that looked like this, “Is it a group or a team?.” Teams have attributes we desire. Even if it is actually a ‘group’, we label it a ‘team’. This is similar to being a community member. Community is much deeper than a label and it requires us to be in relationship.

It is easy to ascribe attributes of proximity to community when we need attributes of relationships. Proximity will ensure we see each other, have common experiences and spend time together. In relationship, we invest into each other and fundamentally change as part of the process.

At Tekara, we ascribe to a transformational leadership paradigm. As Macgregor Burns states in his book Leadership, to transform something it cuts profoundly, “It is to cause a metamorphosis in form or structure.”  To be in a transformational community it requires being open to deep relationships that will fundamentally change who we are, what we do and how we do it.

Painting can be a metaphor for combining the concepts of transformation, community and relationship. Paints can be bright and distinct; they can have similar features and in combination bring the best out of each other. Paint on a canvas is in proximity. Take yellow and mix it with blue and you get green. The new mixture cannot be returned to the original colour and will continue to be changed with new additions. It has been transformed and can continue to transform.

This observation is both an opportunity and a caution. We can and do transform. Relationships leave us in a new form.

Pick those colours that build into your life carefully and then be open to the new mixture.

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership

IABC Gold Quill 2011 Lessons Learned – Change that didn’t hurt

In this past month’s issue of Communication World the focus was on change and the role of the professional communicator. The issue contained sage advice and examples of how to support and/or create change. In the light of judging at IABC’s Blue Ribbon Panel this weekend it was re-enforced to me that effective communication involves change. We seek to change attitudes and behaviours. Outcomes sought by Gold Quill entries this year included more votes, sales, saved lives, and ensuring human dignity.

The best and the brightest in the communication profession shared their work to be evaluated by peers. The entries were insightful, well measured and at times inspirational. Some took change resistant environments and effectively matched communication tactics with a process that ushered in new opportunities and achievements.

Our Leader

Other entries helped me think big and dream about what could be. Some campaigns really did change the world. When the winners are released these entries will inspire us all.

Providing communication platforms and being change agents with good research and hutzpah entrants charted new courses but they did not operate alone. Many of the successful communication campaigns were in partnerships with larger movements and other change agents. By listening to the needs of our audiences and our businesses many participated in movements. Communicators enhanced the positive sentiments while minimizing the barriers to success. Communicators were crucial leaders and implementers that led to great outcomes.

A memorable conversation
Blue Ribbon brings together communicators from around the globe. I find my colleagues challenges and insights invaluable. This weekend, I learned from an American adjusting his style to operate effectively in Hong Kong. His story unearthed some vital principles that will help me be successful in Canada. The conversation left me with some questions to contemplate.

  1. How and when should we adjust our approach to meet the culture we are operating in?
  2. Does the culture we are operating in need to be challenged so we can achieve our goals?
  3. Are we evaluating the positive and negative aspects of our own culture?
  4. How is our culture impacting our communications?
  5. Do we have overarching principles as professional communications that apply across cultures?
  6. Am I, North American centric and believe others should conform to my cultural beliefs?

Asking these questions will enable me to understand the needs of those I interact with and adjust or advocate depending on the situation.

Linking Communications to Leadership
Great conversations and great communication entries reminded me that transformational leadership is not asymmetrical. As communicators we have espoused two-way communication for decades as necessary for positive change. Recently, the topic has moved to three-way communication, where the audience communicates with the change agent and with others in the audience. Steve Crescenzo in this month’s Communication World stated this as a new responsibility for communicators to foster.
Interactive communication acknowledges that for leadership to be sustainable the leader and the led both need to change. With the increased emphasis on dynamic feedback and interaction this becomes more likely. Effective communication and leadership both seek to deepen relationships – relationships impact both parties.
My challenge for professional communicators and myself is to be willing to change as part of the communication process. When my audience shapes me, I am able journey into a deeper relationship. The relationship should grow the influence of all parties involved.

Thank you – IABC
To all the wonderful people and minds that make the Gold Quill experience possible, thank you for engaging in the profession and enabling our community of professionals to learn, grow and transform. This weekend many fun stories were told, collectively we encouraged passion and the food in San Francisco fed my growth.

I hope to see many of you in San Diego in June for IABC`s world conference.

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Why the effort is always worth it – changed lives

Today was a proud moment. The VC Nation placed the AAA BC Football Championship banner in the rafters of the school. This past week has seen hundreds of alumni reach back to the school and share how the program has shaped them and their teammates. As a coach for the past 11 years and an alumni (94), the last week has affirmed what I long believed, the young men who play football at Vancouver College leave better men. To affirm this and to learn about our trans-formative community read Jon Conlin’s (03) speech from the banner raising  ceremony. To the young men from this years team, you made us all very proud!

My name is Jonathan Conlin, and I graduated from Vancouver College in 2003. I was a five year man on the football team and captained the 2002 Varsity squad to a championship game, only to fall short on the scoreboard. I have a passion for this program that has never wavered, even in the face of many heartbreaking losses in the years that followed. It is with great pride and honour that I am able to address the team, the coaching staff, and our faith and learning community after such a meaningful win.

First, to Coach Bernett and his staff. As I was walking out of Empire Field on Saturday night, basking in the glow of celebration, I felt compelled to impress upon you how proud your past players are of the team this year and all they have accomplished.

While the result was finally what we all hoped it would be, the one common observation from past years was how well the men carried themselves – on and off the field. The maturity, poise, and dominance which characterized their performance will never be forgotten, and the integrity found in our victory was a direct result of your influence on the players and the virtues that you instil through coaching.

The context of today’s story would be lost if I did not pause to recognize how painful it was for many of us to come so close to the glory that today’s team enjoys. Until Saturday, time had not assuaged the disappointment of so many finals losses. However, now that I have the hindsight of some years as an active member of our Alumni, I would like to share with you something else that time has revealed.

You will be celebrated for this win, and this season, and rightly so. You turned a group of young players into a team of champions, and showed this school and this community the very best of itself, a testament to the heights that can be reached with commitment and sacrifice.

But the true mark of your impact has never been measured exclusively, or even primarily, in wins and losses. The unparalleled passion and dedication which you have infused into this program teaches life lessons far outside the boundaries of O’Hagan Field. Your impact is seen in the accomplishments of our graduates, no matter how diverse – in the university and college students, in those involved in charitable and faith-based initiatives, in those entering the workforce, and in the Grey Cup rings and Olympic dreams.

VC challenges us to “leave here as better men”. You have been one of the most important parts of that development for me, and for so many whose voices I channel in this address. In that way, every year you have attained the highest success in your coaching and teaching careers.

On behalf of the alumni of both this football program and this school, we thank you. Not only for the gift you have given us of shared championship glory, but also for the gifts you have given us through your guidance, friendship and teaching. We will hold both very dearly for a lifetime.

To the men of the 2010 BC High School Football Champion Fighting Irish, on behalf of the many generations of VC players and alumni, we thank you as well. I hope you could feel our support as you took the field last Saturday, as we were with you every step of the way, whether that was from the stands, or watching on tv or the internet thousands of miles away. For so many of us whose football experience at VC was missing this crowning achievement, we share in your victory as a community united. Since our last championship football banner was lifted, we have all experienced challenges from opponents far outside the realm of athletics. But as you did on Saturday, we overcame great obstacles to emerge victorious. Your win is fitting testament to the resiliency of this entire community.

By now you have experienced no shortage of people telling you how important this win is to them. Why? Each alumnus who could’ve filled my place on this podium might give you a slightly different answer, but there are common themes. To understand why is to realize….

THAT when you attend this school and walk these halls, you are not simply transacting with an institution for a high school diploma, but are part of a movement much bigger than any one person or any one year – united by the memories of our common progression in academic, artistic, spiritual and athletic endeavours, arriving here as boys, but leaving here as men, in the mould of Blessed Edmund Rice.

THAT when you wear the Purple and Gold and represent this school, you are ambassadors for a fraternity of past players who enrich this program with their collective support and emotion. We believe this is due to the many special things about Fighting Irish Football. It is special that brothers and cousins, fathers and sons and uncles and nephews share in the experience of playing football for VC. It is special that so many former players return from colleges and universities to help coach the next generation. It is special, too, that mothers and sisters and grandmothers and aunts care and work tirelessly, year after year, to make the program something to be proud of. And, it is special that the Bernett family, Rick Gazzola, Bruce Jagger, Dr. Koss, the assistant coaches, and countless others choose to devote days, nights, weekends and summers to helping make the players and the program better.

THAT our past losses were difficult to bear, and we carried the pain of not having a banner each and every year to do justice to our commitment and pride. BUT those losses do not define us. Rather, they form only one part of our collective experience, intensifying our unity and affirming our commitment to the support of future years. Because we know that for every past loss we endured, there are memories of Archbishops’ Cups, team meetings, road trips, days in the bunker, film sessions and final reps on squats – each of which enriching our lives and ensuring a lifelong connection to the men that we bled beside on the fields of battle.

AND THAT, when the clock finally reached zero and you hoisted that trophy that has for so long eluded us – you were also lifting the spirits of an entire VC Nation that has been waiting so patiently for the time when we could stand in unison as champions and rejoice out of the undeniable sensation that at that moment, one of the highest in this school’s history, we were all one in victory – past, present and future.

It is in the echo of these words that I turn to the future of VC football. You all inherit a program at an apex of accomplishment. Grab hold of this momentum. Feel this pride. Use it to write your own story in our shared book. And know that no matter how your seasons end, we as Alumni will be there, and will, as always, be forever faithful.

Happy Day Oh Happy Day


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Building Effective Consulting Practices – Leveraging team while maintaining the benefits of unique approaches

Like all good leadership, good consulting starts by being a great listener. All assignments start with a discovery phase where we learn about our client’s business, the people involved and the nature of the problem that we will address. This process may be intuitive and discussion oriented. The discovery may lead to more discovery and adjusted plans.

This discovery process is most effective when a systematic approach is intentionally used. The credibility of a tested and tried approach assures the client of professionalism and comfort of past results achieved.

As a consultant, we have a methodology to approach each unique challenge. We balance our questions with diverse probing. With my partners we use the Tekara Integrated Model to build our understanding of the root cause of the problems. We then design our processes with an evidence based approach.

Tekara Integrated Model

This process lends itself to qualitative methods. It involves client meetings, interviews and focus groups. Our interview protocols are unique to each consultant. They are influenced by the integrated model. The result of the listening has produced effective processes and happy clients. The limitation is the shared knowledge across consultant practices and the ability to explore continuous improvements to improve our collective practice.

Qualitative processes are effective when all the stakeholders for the engagement can be involved. They also provide good indicator information to understand the root cause of the problems being addressed. The limitation is the ability to scale the process across an organization or across a diverse group of stakeholders.
Quantitative processes are more scalable. The most scalable involvement tactic in an organizational context is a survey. Surveys provide a predominance of opinion and can be used as bench mark measures to compare pre and post assignment successes.

Social media tools are now offering new opportunities; however, social media data does not have tested and validated methodologies. This does not enable generalizing results back to the larger population. As a result, the counts and comments must still be viewed as qualitative data. With good context, still valuable but limited in terms of interpretation.

As a team, the survey can speak to what we value and enable a consistent set of organizational diagnostic tools. Over time we can refine our processes and compare our results.

The cost is clear. To become more consistent with our approach, while maintaining unique solutions, we have to become  more similar and then allow the situation to create the leadership intervention.

For this process to be useful, it must create new opportunities and improve client results.

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