Friday, 29 August 2014

How to Help People Manage Their Emotions Just Before a Change

Most people behave differently just before they experience a significant change. Supporting people when they must bridge their current and future circumstances can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful transition. 

During this time, most people express emotions associated with anticipationexcitement, fear, anxiety, blind optimism, sadness, etc. The spontaneous nature of these emotions leads to their amplification. Not managing them leads to distraction and poses a risk to taking on new ways of thinking and acting.

Since people express different emotions at different times with different intensitiesminimizing the likelihood of experiencing them is a more productive approach than just addressing them after they are expressed.

So how do you help people through this short, but intense, phase of transition? Here are some actions you can take:

Encourage people to appreciate what they are leaving behind
Every individual aor group has traditions and practices that define them. Reliving these practices either through doing them or storytelling can provide closure to the way things were.

Remind people of the benefits of what they are taking on
Although this is something that is important through all stages of change, it is essential just before people take on new and often uncomfortable ways of behaving. Remembering the ‘why’ behind the change can help justify the anticipated pain of experiencing it.

Offer multiple types of support as people take on the change
Demonstrating how people will be supported through their transition can reassure them that they are not alone. Easily accessible assistance can help minimize the anxiety caused by thinking about the unknown. Offering multiple types of support demonstrates commitment and builds confidence that things will be okay.

This week, my family has been anticipating a significant change. Our eldest son, Sam, is going to university in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1,800 kilometres away from our home.

My emotions have been varied and intense--everything from pride and excitement, to sadness and nostalgic longing. It has been distracting, but I have been determined not to let it be a risk to our transition. Here are some actions we have taken:

Encourage people to appreciate what they are leaving behind
Sam has had many get-togethers and a party this week. Making them fun and festive was our family's priority. We have also spent a lot of time doing and reminiscing about our traditions.

Remind people of the benefits of what they are taking on
This is an easy one. Sam is entering an exciting time in his life where he will gain new experiences and meet new friends. Living in a new city will be an adventure too. He is going to grow in many ways and everyone is talking about his journey.

Offer multiple types of support as people take on the change
We have turned Sam's move into a family vacation. Barb and Sam are en route to Halifax, and Charlie and I will be flying today to join them. We will be with Sam for three days followed by numerous video and phone calls, correspondence. He may not have time to study. 

Helping people manage their emotions and behaviours before they experience a significant change directly impacts their ability to successfully make their transition. This is true of business and personal changes. A few actions can help ease transitions, as we are finding out now.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Twelve Traits of a Change Agile Organization

Change agility is rapidly becoming a key skill of successful organizations. It is the ability to quickly respond to new developments—consumer choices, competitive threats, economic conditions, government regulations, etc.—so that opportunities are realized and challenges are managed.

Many common practices slow down an organization's response rate. Annual strategic planning, siloed resource management and static personal objectives (and incentives) encourage leaders and their teams to complete their commitments as originally agreed, regardless of its current importance. 

Agile organizations align three drivers of speed: leadership, resourcing and culture. Here are traits of a nimble organization: 


  • View change initiatives as a portfolio of opportunities versus a list of projects managed separately
  • Know their roles in change including acting as an unbiased assessor of value delivery
  • Are prepared to alter assumptions about an initiative even if it means changing direction and abandoning unproductive work 
  • Own the success of the change after it is launched


  • Are assigned to the highest priority changes according to need versus negotiated minimum requirements
  • Have right people selected for key change roles including experience, capability and motivation
  • Are easily transferable across initiatives and roles
  • Are dedicated to measurement of benefits and continuous improvement

  • See change as an enabler of ongoing success versus something to get through now
  • Understand the organization's vision and how the change initiatives will help achieve it
  • Give honest feedback that is listened to and rewarded
  • Discuss, share and follow lessons learned

An organization's ability to quickly change how it operates to achieve its goals is a key ability to ongoing success. As the speed of change continues to increase, it may not be an option. Adopting these traits could be a good start.


Friday, 15 August 2014

How to Lead Yourself Through Change

Constant change has become a day-to-day reality for most organizations. They must adapt to the changing needs and requirements of their stakeholders, often reshaping their portfolio of change initiatives before they are implemented.

The ability to be your best while accommodating a moving change agenda is a must-have skill for leaders, managers and their team members. People must work through their own reactions to disruption before they can effectively manage it. Those who respond with their initial mindset, feelings and behaviours tend to show their worst and accomplish the least.

Here are some tips to help you manage through continual redefinition of change:

Take time to reflect on the change
Everyone goes through an emotional cycle when faced with change. Before reacting, invest time in thinking through the change including the reasons behind it, how it will impact your organization and you and how to best accommodate it.

Talk through your feelings about changes with someone you trust
Gaining perspective is essential to managing change well. Confidants act as sounding boards to test and broaden perspectives and provide more options to consider. Two or three heads are better than one.

Choose your attitude, actions and behaviours

Ask yourself, “What attitude will make the best of this change?” Next, identify the actions and behaviours that demonstrate your attitude. Often, we don’t consider the impact we have on our co-workers’ ability to navigate change. Planning how to be your best will provide a positive example for others to follow.

Focus on what you know
It is common for people to speculate about the implications of a change, especially when little information is available. These conversations can quickly turn negative. To stay productive, focus on fulfilling your role based on what you know; not on what other people think they know.

Ask questions if you are unclear
Lack of clarity is one of the most cited challenges of dealing with change. Seeking clarity avoids incorrect assumptions and wasted effort. Your questions are most likely shared by others and asking them early contributes to a common understanding of what will and won’t change.

Be patient with yourself and others
Change can be difficult and it is normal for people to feel anxious when their environment changes. Giving people (including yourself) permission to be human will reduce stress and minimize relationship tensions.

Be confident in your capabilities and accomplishments

Often, people react to a change without taking stock of what they can bring to it. Thinking of the capabilities that will help make you successful—past experiences, knowledge, skills and relationships—will focus your energy and build your confidence. 

People remember how you behave and act during change far more than the tasks you complete. How you react to ongoing change—attitude, actions and behaviours—will last longer than the details of the changes you face.


Friday, 8 August 2014

How a Second Pair of Hands is Helping Me Become Smarter with My Time

Delegation has never come easy to me. It's definitely not a strength. The first time I had access to an assistant, I didn't know how to help this person help me. 

My justifications for this poor time management cover the range of productivity misconceptions: it would take more time to explain what I want than to do it myself, I do this task really fast, I can do it the best, etc.

Starting a consulting business didn't make delegation any easier. Often, there was only me to delegate things to and completing tasks myself gave me the satisfaction of keeping expenses low. I had no problem calling in experts to do work that I couldn't do myself, but the small tasks remained areas of opportunity. My accountant offering to file my quarterly tax payments. I responded "No thanks, I like to do it." Another productivity mistake.

I became interested in a virtual assistant when Michael Hyatt shared the benefits of and tips on using this service.  He made a compelling and pragmatic case, but I didn't take action.

Last week, I was reading a blog post by Steve Scott about his Kindle book launch. He shared that Fancy Hands, a virtual assistant subscription service, had completed his research for a small fee. I clicked on the link and became intrigued by this service.

Fancy Hands offers most types of tasks including setting up appointments and conference calls on your calendar, booking services, admin tasks such as editing emails, making calls on your behalf, research, etc.

I decided to start with the basic 5 tasks per month for $25 package to test how much I would use the service. The set up process took minutes on their easy to navigate website. It was great to see a 50 percent discount for the first month adjustment to my invoice too. Every step of the process made me happier. 

This year, I haven't had a lot of time to market Change with Confidence or my consulting business. This seemed like a perfect area to get help with. I wanted to send copies of my book to professors to see if there was interest in including it on their course reading lists or to have me as a guest lecturer. I have had excellent experiences with a few profs, but have not had time to expand my connections. 

My first Fancy Hands request was to compile a list of profs who teach organization development or change management courses in the US and Canada. In time, I will create another task for the rest of the world.

Once I hit send, a banner appeared saying "relax while we take care of that for you." I thought, this is also a de-stressing service. 

I can't wait to review the results of my request. My guess is that once I get used to the service I will think of many other tasks that are better completed by Fancy Hands.  Delegation is easier than I thought. Phil

Friday, 1 August 2014

3 Types of Change Leader: Engaged; Staged; and Disengaged

It's no surprise that leaders play an important role in the success of change initiatives. In fact, they play the most important role. Most research cite lack of visible and active executive sponsorship as the primary source of change failure. 

I have observed that leaders approach their change sponsor roles in three ways: engaged; staged; and disengaged.

Engaged leader are active participants in defining their roles. They:
- View change initiatives as business projects critical to current and future success
-  Are engaged in planning and briefing meetings
- Ask questions to gain clarity on their role and test the quality of thinking and rigour behind transition plans
- Get excited by the roles they will play
- Edit their communication
- Say things like "we have to get this right" and "what do you need from me"?

Staged leaders are attentive participants in defining their roles. They:
- View change initiatives as necessary, but not always a priority
- Are good listeners in briefing meetings
- Ask questions to gain clarity on tasks
- Accepts the roles they are given
- Review their communication and make minor adjustments
- Say things like, "just tell me what to do and I will do it" 

Disengaged leaders are passive participants in defining their roles. They: 
- View change initiatives as necessary, but not priorities
- Are efficient in briefing meetings
- Ask questions to understand commitments and may negotiate lesser roles than the one proposed
- Are resigned of the roles they will play
- Say things like, "other commitments may change my availability" and "we also have a business to run"

When I first meet executives, I watch for clues on what type of change leader they want to be. It is an early indication of how successful the change will be. Engaged leaders usually do well because their skills are fully leveraged and high level of commitment is known by all. They are invested and will do what it takes to ensure success.

Staged leaders are often successful too. As long as they stick to the script and their behaviours reinforce key messages, they usually do well.  If not, trust in them evaporates and employees retaliate by not supporting the change.

Disengaged leaders rarely lead change well. Their focus is on other things and people know it. Since people's actions follow those of their leader, they also focus on other things. Project teams have difficulty gaining momentum and execution suffers. Eventually the project fails to deliver benefits or it is shelved.

A change manager's role is to build the skill, behaviour and confidence of leaders so they are at their best during times of change. One way to do so is by shaping how they perceive their sponsor role. Increasing their level of engagement is a good start.