Friday, 27 November 2015

Your Customers Need You to Upgrade Even if Some Don't Know it Yet

I upgraded my smartphone this week. I didn't need a new phone for my current uses, but I upgraded because the nature of business communication is changing.

I primarily use my smartphone for calls, emails and texts, and as an alarm clock. More and more, smartphone use is eclipsing my basic needs. People are using them as their preferred business and education tool.

This trend was spotted two years ago by Soundview when they launched their on-line course division. I remember speaking with the CEO who predicted that most leadership development would soon be delivered via smartphone. To enable mobile use, my course, Building Your Change Capability, was filmed in bite-sized fifteen-minute segments that could be accessed anywhere at any time. Education is now mobile.

Statistics tell a compelling story of the expanded role they play in people's personal and professional lives:
  • Over 6.0 billion people use mobile phones  that's 87% of the world's population (Source: Global Web Index)
  • In 2015, the penetration rate of smartphones in Canada grew to 68%, representing a year-over-year growth of 24% (Source: Catalyst)
  • U.S. adults spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day using mobile devices (Source: eMarketer)
  • About 65% of information searches start on a smartphone (Source: Michaels & Associates)
  • 99% of mobile learners believe this format enhanced their learning, and 100% say they would complete more training in a mobile format. (Source: eLearning Industry)
  • By 2018, at least 70% of mobile professionals will conduct work on personal smart devices (Source: SailPoint)
This communication shift is important to my business and its customers. Part of what makes my change and capability solutions relevant is that they are delivered in formats that my clients use. They now must become more mobile friendly because this is where people's needs are going. To do this well, I must become more mobile savvy.

My first steps were to upgrade my hardware and change my behaviour. As I compared my new and old devices, it was clear that all specifications had been improved  power, connectivity, storage, image quality, screen size, camera features  to enhance the communication experience. Why did I wait this long to upgrade?

It was fascinating to hear the sales representative, Jerry, explain how he uses his smartphone; it enables all parts of his personal and professional life. I am next, I thought.

My learning curve has been amusing. My bigger, heavier phone felt like a brick the first time I made a call. Also, it peaked out of my front pocket as I left the store. Jerry said, reassuringly with a smile, "Don't worry, you'll get used to it."

Yesterday was day one of behaviour change. I started an on-line course on my smartphone. I also read the news and downloaded a F. Scott Fitzgerald book to read on my Kindle app. My new phone is becoming my preferred business and education tool.

The biggest takeaway from my upgrade experience is that we need to evolve with our customers, and ideally faster than they do. This is as true for the advertising agencies promoting customers' products in an increasingly digital world as it is for universities educating students located remotely around the world; relevance is defined by the people we serve. We must upgrade our mindsets, skills and behaviours, even if some of our customers don't know it yet.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Successful Change Requires Shared Ownership. Just Ask Gary Numan

Gary Numan is best known for his 1983 hit song, Cars. In the late 1970s, he pioneered an electronic 'New Wave' sound that dominated the airwaves a few years later. 

Since then he has released 18 new albums and continues to play concerts around the world.

This week a friend sent me a link to a crowdfunding site for Gary's new album. I was intrigued about why he chose this route since his last one, Splinter, had been critically and financially successful.

Gary explained that "with my new album I want you to be a witness to the entire process, from the very first note played, through every up and down as the days unfold...some days will be good, ideas will flow easily and I will be happy and excited. Other days will be awful, and I will be miserable...but this is the process."

I immediately signed up for the all-access package including a signed extended CD at the end of the experience. Supporting an artist I like and respect and getting an insider's view of how he creates music is an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

As I started receiving daily updates, I realized that this opportunity was much more than watching an artist create; it was an interactive endeavour where I was participating in the process. Today's post asked 'pledgers' to submit questions about the new album. I leapt into action hoping Gary would select my question to answer as part of a future Q&A post. I felt like I could be an input to his creative process. I thought hard about my question as if it mattered. 

So what does this have to do with change management? Let's say that Gary is a business leader who is responsible for a change. He says to the people who must implement the change that he wants them to be a witness to the entire process. From the very first step, through to the successful completion they will see all of it. Some days will be good where we make progress and some will will not where we will get stuck, but this is the process. 

Next, Gary provides daily updates on progress, sharing all the good and bad details. Then he asks them for their questions along with their names and where they are from. People do so eagerly, wanting to move their change forward. 

Gary, the business leader, has shared ownership of the change with his team and has engaged them in the process of changing, which has greatly increased the probability of its successful.

Sharing ownership of change is an essential success factor. To do so well you need to be:
  • Personally committed to the project  you still must be the most committed to the change of all contributors
  • Humble  you don't know all of the answers and you are keen to learn
  • Open to input  the best way forward is chosen regardless of who suggests it
  • Transparent about progress  especially when things aren't going well
  • Highly communicative  provide many updates and opportunities to share feedback
  • Generous with recognition  you couldn't have done it without people's excellent contributions
Close to 100 people had posted questions to Gary's pledge site within a few hours. I think the lesson for us all is how to create a following for the changes we are responsible for making in our personal and professional lives.

Perhaps it's a blend of our visible passion, commitment and ability to create something new with the opportunity to be an active contributor who is also responsible for the successful outcome. 

One thing is for sure: I believe I am a part of Gary's album experience. And as a part owner, I am all in.  


Friday, 13 November 2015

What You Read Shapes How You Lead

Years ago I remember a peer saying, "If you want to lead, read". I think this is true; reading builds people's knowledge, hones their communication skills and helps them create a compelling story of a better future, all important traits of good leaders.

An extension to this adage is that since readers are leaders, what they read shapes how they lead. Reading different resources broadens their critical thinking and leadership capabilities. Knowledge, perspectives and decision-making approaches are broadened through the understanding of multiple, and often contradictory, viewpoints. Conversely, reading from one resource narrows exposure to different ideas and limits their leadership capabilities. If they only read material from hammer manufacturers, then every opportunity and challenge looks like a nail.

The Change with Confidence Newsletter has been running for almost 2 1/2 years. Each month, MelTim and I each select two current articles or videos we find intriguing. Our goal is to expand thinking about change and how it impacts our lives. We provide brief descriptions and links so that people can view the ones that interest them. 

The November issue will be our 28th. I thought it would be interesting to map the sources of our selections to see if any patterns emerged. I wanted to test if our breadth of sources was aligned with our goal to expand our thinking.

It was encouraging to learn that we drew upon 101 sources for our 162 selections. The sites ran a broad spectrum from traditional to esoteric, from Business Insider India to the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog

Our top 10 repeat sources were: Forbes (12), Harvard Business review (7), The Globe and Mail (7), C3Conversations (5), Fast Company (4), Huffington Post (4), The Atlantic (4), Big Think (4), BBC News (3) and The Washington Post (3).

It's good to know we are tapping into diverse sources of knowledge to expand our (and our readers') thinking on personal and business change. The assessment has reminded me that we need to push ourselves toward new knowledge sources to expand our leadership abilities. I will be sure to review where we have gone in the past so I forge new ground in the future.


p.s. Click here if you would like to receive our newsletter. The November issue will be out in a few days.

Friday, 6 November 2015

How to Gain Honest and Useful Feedback When Interviewing People About a Change

I am starting a type of  assignment that I really enjoy: interviewing people to uncover what is working and not working after a change has been launched.

The process required to uncover the 'truth' is both systematic and flexible: data gathering through conversation, pattern identification, hypothesis development and testing, and recommendation making. It's like building a puzzle where you need to create the pieces.

Conversations last between 30 and 60 minutes. In this time you need to stimulate interest in providing feedback, build rapport, ask questions, probe answers and take coherent notes. Time flies.

The best interviews are the ones that feel like conversations versus question and answer exchanges. They progress based on the interviewee's interests yet end with all questions being asked. 

As I was writing my interview guide, I wrote down these tips for gaining great observations, insights and actions that will make the change you are assessing more effective, embedded and valuable.

  • Create an interview guide including an opening welcome and closing thank you -- it ensures that you ask the same questions and don't forget to build rapport and show appreciation
  • Commit to anonymity of comments  opening the call by stating this pledge can increase the honesty and specificity of comments. Besides, sharing who said what is not relevant to your mandate and can be a distraction to stakeholders
  • Phrase each question in two ways, e.g. "What challenges are you facing/what can you no longer do that you could do before?"  one will better mirror the language patterns of the person you are interviewing
  • Ask interviewees if they have any questions -- it sets people at ease and builds rapport through the two-way exchange of information
  • The best final question is "What last thoughts do you have/what is one last piece of advice you have?"  often, the best information and insights are gained from this answer
  • Capture verbatim comments  they add credibility and reveal any emotions behind comments
  • Identify insights supported by verbatim comments  including the data behind your insights sets up a dialogue with the stakeholders about the validity of your conclusions 
  • Review questions with all stakeholders before the first interview  it ensures that you and all stakeholders are aligned
  • Invest 15 minutes after each call to organize your notes  this allows you to decipher your notes, compare the feedback with others and identify any emerging patterns
  • Make the interview enjoyable  they last longer and people will share with others that it was a good experience

Gaining feedback from people about a new way of working is an important element of the 'Making it Stick' phase of change. Discovering what is working, not working and how to make it better leads to improved implementation and outcomes. Effectively doing so can also build employee engagement and learning for future changes. Even better, it can become part of your culture of 'how we do things around here'.