Monday, October 24, 2011

Tell Me A Story

In this video short video from The Wall Street Journal, James Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, shares his strategy for getting buy-in on change.  Stories.   

Stories allow us to convey a message in a manner that invokes emotion and creates an experience people can connect to in a way that a business memo never will. 

A book I've mentioned before in this blog, The Influencer by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler, also recommends the use of story in change efforts.
     "A well-told narrative provides concrete and vivid detail rather than terse summaries and unclear conclusions.  It changes people's view of how the world works because it presents a plausible, touching, and memorable flow of cause and effect that can alter people's view of the consequences of various actions or beliefs." 
The book goes on with further detail as to why this strategy is so effective.  Even better though, the authors share some incredibly powerful stories of successful change efforts for individuals, organizations, communities, cultures, and entire countries.

One of the reasons we use story in coaching for change is because of how differently a person listens to story - guard down, ears open, mind open, and engaged.  Compare that to how a person listens to advice, even when the advice was solicited - defensive, ears listening for criticism, mind arguing with the speaker, and closed off.  Advice or lecture invites debate while story invites reflection and connection. 

If you're looking for a better way to introduce change to your teams, consider the use of factual, authentic, experience-based storytelling.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cross-Training for Strength Development

Do you have the enviable challenge of what to do next after receiving a 360-degree assessment that ranks you at or above the norm on every level of competency?  Everyone is happy with your work as a leader, no clear weaknesses to apply yourself to, just keep building on your strengths.  What does that mean, keep doing the same thing? 

No, turns out it doesn't, at least not according to the research conducted by Zenger, Folkman, and Edinger, authors of The Inspiring Leader.  For the overview, check out this short slide show "How To Improve Your Strengths".  It contains the complementary skills to 7 (of 16) core competencies that can boost performance to the next level.  Meaning, find a core competency you excel at, and then work to develop a complementary skill.

The October, 2011 HBR article "Making Yourself Indispensable" goes on to share more detail on the research conducted by these authors when they analyzed the 360-degree surveys of 30,000 developing leaders.  What they found is that some pairings of strength attributes resulted in far higher scores on overall leadership effectiveness than either attribute did on its own. 

The authors recommend the business equivalent of cross-training—enhancing complementary skills that will enable leaders to make fuller use of their core strengths.  For example, if you are highly skilled in "problem solving and analysis", developing the complementary skill of "communications" could ensure that your ideas are fully embraced and implemented.

If you're looking for ideas on how to take a strength to the next level, this article is for you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That's Not So Easy

The Staples' Easy Button isn't going to help employees out with the number one request on their wish list for office improvement:  Eliminate Office Politics

In preparation for "Improve Your Office Day" on October 4th, Staples released results from a survey they conducted in September (Staples Survey) sharing employee wishes for better technology and more comfortable office furniture.  But granting the number one request isn't so easy as a trip to Staples.

Management is the major influence on the role of office politics within a company's culture.  It's the classic example of The Shadow of A Leader (Senn-Delaney Leadership).  If politics are created and encouraged within the leadership teams, individual employees will follow suit.  And even those who make their best efforts to "stay out of it" will be affected if their direct management and/or team members are playing the game.

Office politics are a distraction to the real work of the organization, draining energy and wasting time.  They can be the very reason teams fail to reach their full potential.  If you suspect your team is suffering from the politics game, this survey could be a great conversation starter.