Category Archives: Change Agent

The Next Chapter


Taking my oldest son to college for the first time was harder than I thought.  My wife and I left with him Wednesday night and moved him in on Thursday.  Then, we left.

All the clichés are true; it happens more quickly than you think.  I can attest to that.  One day you’re putting him on the school bus for the first time, and then almost without blinking you’re hugging him in the dorm parking lot saying good bye.  You feel this extreme loss of his presence, knowing that it will never be the same.

But then my 88 year-old father, who did this 7 times, said it’s like he’s starting his next chapter.  For some reason that made me feel better, that somehow, for him, he’s getting to start something he’s been waiting a long time to start.  I then remember how happy I was for my next chapter after my parents dropped me off at college.  These additional perspectives helped me balance my own feelings of loss and fear I felt by dropping him off.

Maybe it should be about him, and not me?

I talk a lot about the “change cycle.”  This is a model that tells you no matter how big or small the change is that you are experiencing, science tells us that we always go through the same sequential 6 stages—Loss, Doubt, Discomfort, Discovery, Understanding, Integration.  The pace in which one goes through the cycle is dependent on several factors.  One thing I like about the model is that just knowing you go through all 6 stages—and you will eventually get to Integration—in of itself is comforting.  By using this model, I can self-identify that I am in the Loss and Doubt stages, and that is OK.

This one will take me a while.  The text messages and once a week phone calls help too.  After we got home, his younger brothers launched a multi-phased project where everyone was switching rooms.

“We keep no shrines,” my mother used to say when the exact same thing happened 45 years ago with my 6 sisters.

Peyton moved into Will’s now empty room.  Henry moved into Peyton’s room and Eddie stayed in the room he previously shared with Henry.  We moved clothes, dressers, beds–the works.  Now the remaining boys all have their own room.

Feels like they moved through the change cycle pretty quickly.  Have to love your siblings.

Mic’d Up at Work?

I was watching the Little League World Series recently and for television purposes the coach of one of the teams was wearing a microphone.  Throughout the game, the coverage would capture his coaching in real time.  I found myself intrigued at what the coach was saying to his team.  In one instance, I assumed he was going to express frustration to his pitcher, whom he was taking out of the game after the opponent scored the go-ahead run.  The pitcher, tears in his eye, braced himself for the verbal thrashing.  But instead, the coach put his hand on the pitcher’s shoulder, offered support, and reminded the pitcher that his efforts had kept them in the game and he was now needed to go out there and play shortstop.

Sometimes leaders and coaches surprise us.  Normally those instances are reserved for just the audience who happens to be present, at that time, in that moment.  I’ve written before that these are very powerful connections, what I call leadership impressions, and the limited audience is blessed to be present, to glean that leadership impression from the leader. 

But why do the rest of us have to miss out?

As I reflected about the Little League example, I smiled when thinking about leaders at work being Mic’d up.  Then I realized that working out loud is the workplace equivalent, sans microphone.  A leader who shares, out in the open, his/her thoughts, insights, opinions, values and vulnerabilities is choosing to be Mic’d up at work.  Maybe you should try it!


Transparency, not Compliance

Driving change is a challenging task. With so many different nuances to the type of change you are trying to drive, there is clearly no one size fits all approach. I’m a big fan of measurable goals at the macro level, where all participants understand very specifically how they are aligning to those goals. I say measurable because there are things that we should and can measure. Any continuous improvement process (e.g., ITIL) uses measurable goals that should and can be measured to baseline organizational performance and then subsequently drive improvements. I’ll take a “quality improved by 40% as measured by x” success statement any day over a “quality got better” statement.

So how do you effectively drive organizational-wide initiatives that have measurable goals?

My evolved answer is transparency. Let me give you a little background.

Earlier in my career, it was all about compliance. What’s your goal? Where are you at (what’s the number?) Who’s hitting it? Who is not? Get the folks who are not hitting the number to hit the number. Done deal, rinse and repeat.

Compliance, while often effective at “hitting the number”, is generally criticized as having the potential to drive the wrong behavior. And, to many, it just doesn’t feel that great. Reaching out to people and saying, “Well, you’re team is at 30% and the goal is 80%. You know this report is going out to Management” may be a quick way to get their attention, but it’s also a quick way to have partners get frustrated and question the value of what you are trying to do.

Now enter the value shift.

Transparency is just a much better way to think about things. If we are setting organizational goals that are measureable, it’s still important to understand why you may or may not be attaining those goals. Think about branding the reports you use as transparency reports instead of compliance reports. This now allows you to create transparency to where your opportunities are. And instead of feeling like there are punitive penalties, you just create awareness and an understanding (aka transparency) to the challenges the teams are faced with which will in turn create a dialog of understanding and a plan of action. Continuous improvement can still happen because people know where they stand and why things are the way that they are. You diffuse a natural tendency to be defensive.

The “what” is still achieved, but the “how” is even better. For me, I’ve really worked hard at this value shift. When you get labeled as a “numbers guy” people sometimes mis-interpret your intentions as just wanting to “hit the numbers.” But in reality, the spirit of what I try to do is to help people understand what they are shooting for, where they are at, and along the way develop a greater understanding for their business and how to think about what they could do to continuously improve.