How Leaders Can Facilitate Change

Change is an integral part of any type of growth.  If any organization is to grow, leadership must recognize that change is inevitable, and then set up a process to help people embrace it.  Too often, employees experience what they perceive to be random attempts at change with no thought-out plan.  It is these impulsive and unsuccessful change attempts which lead to an organizational culture of skepticism and negativity.  To prevent such a culture from taking root in their organizations, leaders need to: (a) be aware that most people dislike change, (b) solicit input from the employees, and (c) communicate and celebrate the change.   

When trying to implement a change, the first thing leaders need to understand is that most people reject change.  In fact, up to 80% of people in an organization can be labeled as reactive thinkers.  Reactive thinkers tend to resist change, avoid responsibility, fear taking risks, and have low confidence (Oakley and Krug, 1991).  Therefore, change efforts must begin by changing the mindset of these individuals As Oakley and Krug emphasize, one of leadership’s main responsibilities is to bring out the best in those they lead Attitude is critical to performance, and one of the key issues behind attitude is one’s self-esteem.  One way to help improve employee self-esteem is by soliciting their input during the change process.

Some leaders have the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality – they believe they can impose their ideas onto other people.  And yet, as Oakley and Krug point out, this philosophy does not work for implementing long-term change (1991).  Instead of only telling people what to do, leaders should strive to engage employees in the change process.  Leaders can do this by asking for employee feedback, questions, and ideas to make the change more successful.  This experience not only increases employees’ self-esteem and confidence, it also helps employees feel a sense of ownership for the change initiative. 

Engaging people throughout the change process facilitates organizational “buy-in.”  Without such commitment it will be impossible to move change forward.  Another way to develop buy-in is by building trust with one’s employees.  It is only when people trust a leader that they will be willing to follow him or her into the unknown territory of change.

One way of building trust is through constant, clear, and honest communication.  The first step in the communication process is to develop a clear vision around why the change needs to take place and what it will look like.  Unless change is clear in the leader’s mind, it will be impossible for him or her to communicate a compelling vision to others (the same is true for leadership teams).

Once the leader is clear on the vision, he/she needs to communicate it.  Leaders can communicate the vision by delivering speeches, sending emails, posting the vision statement on the wall, participating in discussions – but most importantly –  by “living out” the message.  As Kotter (1995) says, “Communication comes in both word and deeds, and the latter are often the most powerful form” (p.65).

This consistent communication in word and deed will reinforce the change process as will celebrating successes.  Many times leaders are so bogged down with trying to achieve results, they do not take the time, energy, and resources to acknowledge success.  For employees, the perception of never being recognized can erode their desire to engage in change as engaging usually takes great effort.  One way to combat this is by celebrating short-term wins and recognizing, perhaps even rewarding, employees for their involvement in the change process (1995).

Overall, leaders need to remember that change does not happen overnight.  Instead, it is a long and deliberate process that requires engaging one’s employees, communicating a clear vision, and celebrating successes along the way.  When used together, these actions will help employees open their minds and be more receptive to new ideas and change in order to help the organization grow.

Resources:

  • Kotter, J. (March, 1995). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review.
  • Oakely, E., Krug, D. (1991). Enlightened leadership. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Principles of Mentoring

Are you mentoring someone?  Thinking about mentoring someone?  Are you being mentored?  The importance of mentoring is regularly discussed, but often, there is little practical advice about how to go about it.  Here are some key principles to keep in mind during a mentoring relationship.  

(The video below contains highlights of keynote address delivered by Kathy Coder and Valerie Faust to the PA Federation of Republican Women on May 19, 2012.)

Leadership and Government

Inta-Great’s Founder and President, Kathy Coder, discusses the importance of leadership in government and why she decided to run for State Representative in Pennsylvania’s 16th District. 

What is your primary reason for running?:  I want to use my background and experience to make a difference in our State’s future.  I desire to help create a sustainable flourishing state and region for the next generation.  I am not looking for a “job” or to be a career politician.  I think we need people in Harrisburg who know how to lead from a foundation of integrity and principle-centered decision-making.  I would like to use my leadership, local government, and business experience to help be part of a team who can create positive change.

What will be your top priority?:  Strong leaders understand their role is to serve the people they are leading; they also understand the importance of a compelling vision.  For those reasons, I will serve the people by putting their needs ahead of politics, party, and self-serving agendas.  I will also cast a vision of Pennsylvania as one of the most thriving states in the nation with reduced government size, spending, and taxes and increased job creation and economic development opportunities.

What’s the biggest problem facing the state?:  The lack of leadership.  A common definition of insanity is to keep doing what you’re doing and think you’re going to get different results.   Year after year, we keep hearing about the same issues and nothing changes.  Obviously, we need new thinking and people who have the courage, character, competence, and commitment to make change happen. We need to get the right people on the bus in the right seats and come together for the common good of our State—I think if we do that many of the problems will start being resolved.  Also as leaders, we elected officials need to role model what we want others to do, and we need to open to more accountability.  (For example: I am not taking the State pension and will report my expenses and receipts for the per diem allowances.)

Any final remarks?:  The compelling lack of leadership is why I got involved with politics to begin with.  Never in a million years would I have envisioned that I would be running for office.  Four years ago, my business was thriving, and my life was comfortable.  Then, I attended my first council meeting, and my life was turned upside down.  I saw a lack of leadership and competence. It violated every good leadership practice I was ever taught!  I was convicted that I had no right to complain, unless I was willing to get my hands dirty and get involved.  Since then, I have been passionate about getting others educated and involved as well.  I believe government can be better.  I have spent over 20 years in the private sector learning from wise mentors and business leaders.  I have translated these learnings into my public service.  I understand the importance of applying principle-centered, servant-leadership practices in government.  I realize that elected office is a stewardship and an honor.

If you wish to find out more information about Kathy Coder’s campaign, please visit:  http://www.kathycoder.com/

Importance of Leading Oneself

Leadership is about influence, service, and transformation.  First, leadership does not come from positional authority; rather it is based on influence.  Second, it is the leader’s job to serve the people.  For as leadership-expert Larry Spears states, “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others and see them grow” (1998, p. 3).  Finally, successful leadership is about transformation—the transformation of individuals, organizations, and even broader culture.  It is in this transformation piece where professional development plays a key role.

Transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  As Peter Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself: personality, learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, etc., one has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.”

The important question then becomes, how does one lead oneself?  One important way one can learn to lead oneself is through professional development.  Some professional development tools we use at Inta-Great include: the DiSC Profile, The 360 DiSC, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership, The Truth About You, and a listening profile—among other things.  All of these assessments are meant to help individuals understand more about themselves and the way they think, feel, and act.  On top of these tools, identifying personal values, writing personal mission and/or vision statements, setting SMART goals for one’s life, and developing a relationship with a mentor are all great professional development exercises.  And more formally, professional courses/seminars and advanced education also constitute professional development.  And yet, professional development is not only confined to resources outside of oneself, for as Donald Schon (1983) is quick to point out, the reflective practitioner is a resource onto himself.

The reflective practitioner is one who engages in reflection-in-action as a means of professional development.  Reflection-in-action takes place when one thinks about what he or she is doing while he or she is doing it.  This allows one to conduct mini-experiments, apply theory to a situation, and, in real-time, evolve the theory until the desired results are achieved.  This reflection-in-action allows one to recognize the tacit understandings which have been guiding one’s actions, perhaps even hindering one’s effectiveness (Schon, 1983).  Schon (1983, p. 68) sums it up when he says, “When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice of context….[he] constructs a new theory of the unique case.”

Overall, professional development, through both external resources and internal reflection-in-action, is the foundation of self-leadership.  Then, self-leadership is the basis for personal transformation.  And finally, personal transformation is “the breath that sustains our ability to lead others” thereby transforming organizations and institutions, and ultimately culture (Manz, 2001, p. 16).

Resources:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN)
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. NY: Basic Books.
  • Spears, L.C. (Ed.) (1998) Insight in leadership. New York: Wiley.

What is My Calling?

There is the leader one is and the leader one is meant to be.  According to Richard Leider, the key to having these two leaders meet is asking the difficult question, “What is my calling?”  Asking this question requires courage to look inside oneself, identify one’s strengths and talents, and explore how to offer those strengths and talents to others.  Recognizing one’s own calling is only the first step, however, truly great leaders are able to recognize the potential in those they serve and help them discover the leader they are meant to be as well.

Leider defines calling as “the inner urge to give our gifts away.”  Therefore, when one asks “What is my calling?” he is really asking, “What gifts do I possess, and how can I offer these gifts the world?”  Answering this question requires a lot of introspection and honesty.  It also emphasizes the principle that good leadership starts with the self.

One’s own life must be transformed, one’s own questions answered, before one can hope to successfully lead others.  As the old adage tells us, “One cannot give away what one does not possess.”  It is only after one takes the time to explore his or her own strengths and stewardship of those strengths that one’s full potential can be reached.

After understanding one’s own strengths and talents, true leadership requires the ability to help one’s followers identify their strengths and talents.  Why?  Because a great leader knows and responds to the differences in calling and gifting among the people he or she serves.  This allows the leader to pull together a team whose sum is exponentially greater than all its parts.  Or, as strengths expert Marcus Buckingham puts it, “There are no well-rounded leaders, only well-rounded leadership teams.”

In the end, asking oneself “What is my calling?” is the key to unleashing the vast potential inside oneself, and then, inside others.  It is the key to transforming the leader one currently is into the leader one was designed to be, and the results are sure to be remarkable.

*Richard Leider, “Is Leading Your Calling?” from Leader to Leader, Winter, 2004.

Why Does Leadership Development Matter?

Times are tough.  We are in the middle of a recession.  That’s the truth and there’s no getting around it.  As an executive you may think, “Yes, I believe leadership training and organizational development work is important, but I just can’t afford it right now.”  Well, think again.

According to the world-renown research institute, the Gallup Organization, businesses that have optimized employee engagement have 2.6 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry.  On the flip side, within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates the cost of disengaged employees to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity.  Ask yourself a question—can you afford that?

What makes an employee “engaged?”  Engaged employees sense alignment between an organization’s vision, values, and everyday practices.  And most importantly, engaged employees have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday—they work from their strengths.  In fact, Gallup reports that employees who have the opportunity to “focus on their strengths every day” are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Inta-Great will come along side you and help your organization create alignment around a clear vision, mission, and values.  We also have programs designed to help your employees become more self-aware, understand what their strengths really are, and learn how to communicate those strengths to you and their peers.  But it can’t stop there—for real change to take place you need to know what to do with that information.  That is why Inta-Great offers services to help you achieve organizational transformation.

The last thing very successful companies have in common is great leadership.  Credited leadership expert Jim Collins has found that great leaders—“Level 5 Leaders”—garnered stock returns at least three times the market’s for 15 years after a transition period So while it important for your employees to be engaged and working out of their strengths—it is important for you as well.  Organizational culture is created from the top down; therefore, Inta-Great offers many services and programs for C-level leaders.

There is one important caveat—this is not a “quick fix.”  Transformation is a process not an event Real change takes time and commitment.  It is not easy, but our team at Inta-Great promises to support you and provide you with all the tools you will need as you grow yourself and your organization to greatness.