Monday, March 17, 2014

5th in a Series on Change: Tempered Radicalism by Meyerson

So this article gave me the name for a role I relish but did not have a name for, Tempered Radical! Nice! 

tempered radical is "an informal leader who quietly challenges prevailing wisdom and provokes cultural transformation”. They:

1. "rock the boat without falling out” 
2. leverage their differentness in the organization for constructive change 
3. effect significant change over time through moderate, local, diffuse, (in)visible, flexible, persistently patient means. 
4. walk the fine line of dedication to the company (status quo) and change. 
5. work largely alone, but are savvy at uniting others
6. listen and converse to bring people around rather than pressing their own agenda
7. see potential friends where most others see embattled foes
8. set an example from which others can learn   

On describing the characteristics of tempered radicals, and I hope you see yourself here, the author talks about the tempered radical’s tactics along a continuum from the personal to the public. 

1. disruptive self expression, most personal means, where one quietly acts in ways disrupts expectations and improves performance
2. verbal jujitsu, where one redirects negative statements & actions into positive change
3. variable term opportunism, where one is open and ready to capitalize on unexpected opportunities for short-term change and to orchestrating deliberate long-term change
4. strategic alliance building, the most public means, whereby clout is gained by working with allies, and especially in the form of opponents, who are "often their best sources of support and resources”.

I love the author’s allusion to the tempered radical’s effect as, “like steady drops of water, they gradually erode granite”.

May we all see our potential as tempered radicals to effect the change we desire in the world. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

4th in a Series on Change: Survival Guide for Leaders by Heifetz & Linsky

This article especially resonated as the right leaders must survive if we are to survive.  Our survival is threatened when too many shy away from leadership because they are afraid they cannot, or will not survive. 

The author talks about leadership as “living dangerously”. The leader is always subject to being taken out, removed or set aside, thus the need for such a guide. 

The author asks us to remember that the hazard of leadership which is leaders are asking followers to give up what is dear to them. This was a slap in the side of the head for me! Though true, I had never thought about it this way. As a result, I cultivate new compassion for those we are asking to lead change. I cultivate like compassion for those who undercut change in the name of order, familiarity, security and protection. The author admonishes leaders to pay close attention to the losses, dashed expectations and feelings of incompetence and disloyalty their staff struggle with as part of change. This attention is critical to empathic leadership which balances tough calls with acknowledgment of pain and loss.

I really dug the distinction the author makes between technical change (involving objects and processes) and adaptive change (involving people and their mindsets & practices). The latter is the more challenging and that most change projects fail as they mistake adaptive, for technical, change. We go for the easier task of changing the technical and paying too little attention to how the more challenging human element.
The author goes on to talk about the common hazards change leaders face, and must be equipped to address if they are to survive. They are:

1. Character or style attacks as these are often effective (for the opposition)  as a distraction from the issue or opportunity at hand

2. Marginalization where the leader is so identified with a narrow set of issues that their broader authority is undermined  

3. Seduction by need for approval which causes the leader to hedge on asking for sufficient sacrifice and accountability from their followers and stakeholders

4. Diversion due to overwhelm with too many, or too disparate, priorities which is effective in diluting focus and critical mass of effort.

As leaders we all struggle with these hazards and have or are being threatened by them all the time. 

The author contends that resisting sabotage requires environmental management and self management. One might term these the outer and the inner game.

Environmental Management, or the outer game, involves:

1. Operating in and above the fray where the leader is both able to be in the situation as participant, and apart from it as observer, providing the ability to simultaneously act in and upon the change situation. 

2. Courting the uncommitted where the leader is influential in bring people along and around to the change they envision. I especially like the authors suggestion that leader have coffee weekly with their detractors. Talk about jumping into the lion’s jaws rather than avoiding it.

3. Cooking the conflict where the leader wisely gauges the organization’s need for turned up heat to get action, versus a cool down period to avoid burn out or burn up

4. Placing work where it belongs where the leader leaves problem resolution and opportunity capitalization to the troops, and avoids an over-reliance on leadership and the corresponding contempt it can engender. Ultimately, the leader has to move people to take up the message without being the assassinated messenger. 

Self Management, or the inner game, involves:
1. Restraining the need for control and importance in order to avoid ego trip(up)s and instead facilitate structure and process that channel energy into change.

2. Self-anchoring with:
     a) psychological repair & moral recalibration which acknowledged that the leadership game by its nature inflicts wounds and erodes one’s moral compass, the effects of which we see regularly in the news.
     b) a confidant to maintain external perspective and accountability, and
     c) role detachment so that the leader understands that the role of leader is just that, and not one’s true self.

The author asserts that leadership tempts one to become insulated from life with cynicism, arrogance and callousness, and that observing these points of management are ways to engage as a leader while avoiding this latter fate. I love the author's rubric which encourages daily reflection, repair, renewal and recalibration in every leader.

Upon reading this article, one might be tempted to avoid leadership because of its multiple risks but the author asserts that the risk is worth it for the reward of the positive difference that leaders stand to bring into the world. In other words, “no pain, no joy”.

May we all survive well as leaders, and support our leader's survival as followers.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

3rd in a Series on Change Management: Why People Won't Change

In my reading of the Harvard Business Review article, The "Real Reason People Won’t Change” by Kegan & Lahey, I came across this concept of “change immunity”. The insight is that "commitment conflict? is why people resist and even fights change. It is less that they are fighting change than that they are being true to their current commitments. Can’t blame people for that. In fact you can even respect them for it. That said, such immunity can cause damage when change is resisted in lieu of the obsolete status quo. By the way, a "competing commitment" is a subconscious hidden goal that conflicts with stated commitments. 

For me this is a new insight and a caution not to take other’s resistance to change personally. This is not about me. It really is about them and their commitment. This new insight accepted, the question becomes what can be done about it. The authors espouse a challenging 3 step process that can be used to overcome “change immunity”. Here is a summation of it and please read the article for better details.

1) Diagnose the Competing Commitment where there is an examination of: a) the change we state we want, b) the commitment required  to realize the stated change, c) the undermining behaviors that are disabling the stated change, d) an imagining of performing the  commitment (from b) along with an observation of the thinking, (uncomfortable) feeling & actions this calls up, and e) an examination of the worrisome outcome we are working to prevent when we engage in undermining behaviors. This “aha” insight contains the "BIG Assumption".  

2) Identify the Big Assumption, that generates our competing commitment. Do so by creating a sentence which inverts the competing commitment and reveals what we are really afraid of. For instance, I have a commitment to publish a book and on doing this exercise realize that publishing a book conflicts with my commitment to assuring that I do not make a “public" mistake. This explains why the book is still not published. Realization of this assumption helps as knowing what my conflicting commitment is, I can better choose to choose a more important commitment. Big assumptions are so difficult to identify and forsake because they “create a disarming and deluding sense of certainty”, and certainty is where its at, until its not. 

3) Test & Replace the Big Assumption where one confirms, via direct experience, how much their Big Assumption is unconsciously controlling their behavior, and deliberately plans alternate behavior which support their stated commitment.

The author further makes the point that groups are as susceptible to commitment conflict as individuals. As you can imagine, getting individuals to work through this process is tough enough so getting groups through it is exponentially grueling, but fortunately not impossible.

To lend proper perspective, the author notes that this process takes several hours to work through and a long time to ultimately act on in terms of reversing the undermining behaviors which support the status quo.

The author acknowledges that “bringing these issues to the surface  and confronting them head-on is challenging and painful-yet tremendously effective. Ultimately this process is about "understanding the complexities of people’s behavior, guiding them through a productive process to bring their competing commitments to the surface, and helping them cope with the inner conflict that is preventing them from achieving their goals.”

Good stuff and goodness help us in applying it for ourselves and our organizations.