Leadership Today
Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 10

Change is Stressful

Recall the physiology associated with stress—the “fight or flight” response. That instinctive reaction has not somehow retired from our human condition. It is normal, alive and well.
When we are under stress, when emotions are strong, the chemical changes in the body are very real. The responses to increased adrenaline can be vivid.
A lot of people know about the health risks associated with heavy-duty stress. They can have serious consequences.
Another aspect of the “stress response” is not so widely recognized. When we are under a lot of stress, our bodies prepare for physical activity. But, what these reactions don’t equip us for is great thinking. The preparation to react is not preparation to be deeply thoughtful and logical. 
That increases the challenge. Logically addressing change is compounded by what is happening to us physiologically as a function of the stress. 
That does not mean that some people don’t thrive on high stress. You probably know some. We do. They seem to live for the “adventure of change”—trying new ways to achieve preferred results.
It is true; not everyone is affected to the same degree by change and stress. Several personality tools are based on Hippocrates’ four quadrant model of personality styles—Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric and Melancholic. An in-depth tool that we use is the PREP: People, Reading, Effectiveness, Profile instrument (Copyright © 2006 PREP Profile Systems, Inc.) It measures intensity in CORE behavioral categories:
C- Controlling vs. supportive
Outgoing vs. introspective
Relaxed vs. urgent
Exacting vs. generalizing
This tool helps us recognize our natural personality strengths, and also highlights patterns of preference that are a function of the combination of intensities in all of the elements. In other words, we are not one style and absent of all of the others. It is these categories in combination that lead to the way we prefer to act and behave.
The research indicates that people with a stronger preference in some behavior elements can be more comfortable with change. They do not mind so much the changes if they enable better outcomes. On the other hand, some people are uncomfortable with change. They prefer to navigate in the environment in which they are accustomed.
Here, as with any area of change, we recognize that we are individual human beings. As you study to navigate transformational steps for your organization, prepare to embrace the human reactions that you will encounter, in yourself and in others.
Many thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts



Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 9

Reaction to Change

There will always be some interesting reactions to change in our workplaces (and lives). It can create some interesting and demanding leadership challenges when we implement new methods, tools, and technologies as our organization pursue improvement (or transformation).
One common change model illustrates that the human reaction typically involves four stages which can be plotted as a function of organizational performance. 
Stage One—Let's begin in the upper left-hand quadrant of this graphic. It shows the direction of performance motivation immediately following communication about or implementatoin of change. Performance can plummets. That initial reaction to the change is often “denial.”—
·         “They will never do that here.”
·         “They cannot do that in our industry.” 
·         “It cannot be true.”
·         Etc.
As people spiral into preoccupation and speculation about the changes, they take the eye off of the business things that we need them to be closely attending to. It is easy to see how this impacts day-to-day results and output. More time is spent in the rumor mill that normal, and business can suffer.
Stage Two—“resistance” is also very emotional. People see that the organizational intent is real, but they are still preoccupied with what it all will mean for them personally.  Those in authority are moving to implement the change.  Everyone else is watching. They may not speak it or share it openly, but the thought process can be ripe with resistance—
·         “They just think that will work here.”
·         “We will show them that it won’t work.”
Again, the performance curve continues its downward drop.
Stage Three—“exploration” is the point at which people start to let go of the emotional response. They have begun to more or less internalize that the change is going to happen. Many people will be feel a need to better examine the possibilities and see how to navigate.  At this stage, performance begins a climb out of the ditch.
Stage Four—“moving on” includes a vision about where everything is headed. People are adapting. Performance climbs. Progress is apparent.
Now, the key truth we need to realize through the “chaos” of change is that we cannot somehow eliminate or by-pass these emotional reactions.  We might want to do it, but we can’t just short circuit these stages.  Managers that become effective at facilitating change recognize and embrace this human reaction. These leaders focus on how to help people begin to explore the possibilities more quickly. The key is to use techniques that let you navigate through the reactions more rapidly. Examples of techniques these leaders will employ include:
·         They help their people grasp the “vision” driving the change.  It is true for all of us, we are not so reluctant or resistant if we can see where we are going. Vision and direction, thus, are critical and should be shared.
·         They engage their employees in the processes to explore and implement the new requirements.  Another truth for us all is that we do not react as strongly if we are empowered and have the space to participate and contribute to the future—perhaps working on how the changes will be implemented.
·         They recognize the stress attached to change and open up opportunities to answer questions and talk about fears and frustrations. Communication, abundant information, becomes critical for effective change management.
There are volumes published on change management, so we won't pursue this farther. As you explore those volumes on methods and techniques, be on the lookout for how they map into this phenomenon related to the human reaction to change.
Many thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts



Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 8

Change and Its Paradoxes

Improvement is desirable, right? We made the case for that last time. When we ask any business audience if they can pin point opportunities to improve, we always get positive responses--even enthusiastic dreams for improvement.
Here is the catch. It rests in another question.
The answer to this question will always be different. -- If you come into your office or workplace next week, is it okay if things are changed dramatically? Are you okay with doing things differently than you always have in the past?
No logic is involved in the response to this. We just don’t like it.
The answer may not be an emphatic “no,” but it is usually no. Sometimes the “no” emerges as questions:
·         “Why do we have to do that?”
·          “Whose idea is this?”
·          “What is the reason for a change like this?” 
Or, it may take shape as derogatory statements and assertions: “That will never work here,” or “What idiot thought this up?”
Our response last time to the question of desiring improvement was based on logic, correct? If we can get better, it is logical that we desire to improve.
The answer this time is not based on logic, is it? No, these responses tend to be extremely emotional
Therein Lies the Paradox
Improvement is seen as positive—it is logical to want to be better.
Change is perceived as negative—it is a strong emotional response.
The paradox?—we cannot improve if we are not willing to change. 
I imagine all of you have heard some version of how Edward Deming addressed this in the early 1980s as a part of the quality movement. Some people have called it the definition of insanity—“to think you can keep doing the same things in the same ways and somehow get different and improved results.”  
Regardless of the paradox, if we seek transformation one message continues to be clear—dramatic improvement must be coupled with dramatic change.
Therefore, we need to understand this emotional human response to change so that we are prepared for it.
We have a model that does a nice job of illustrating graphically this human reaction. We will take a look at it next week.
Thank you,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts



Building Trust

As mentioned last time, a key ingredient to achieve successful empowerment is trust.

We can teach principles related to trust, but that does not have much to do with building trust.
Trust is not a skill that can be acquired intellectually. You cannot gather all of your team members into a classroom one day, and say, “Folks, today we are going to learn to trust each other.” It simply does not work that way.
How does Trust develop? Trust develops over time, based on our experience with each other. It takes time, but this important topic should not be left to chance. There is too much at stake to not pro-actively try to create team relationships that are strong – relationships that are based on trust. Remember, if trust is absent, the result will likely not be neutral; the result will probably be negative.
Covey's "emotional bank account" metaphor.
Stephen Covey, in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to an emotional bank account that we all have with each other. Our actions toward each other either make deposits, or withdrawals, to and from these accounts. Covey states beautifully that if we make deposits, through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments, trust levels increase. The opposite affect occurs if we are not courteous, if we are disrespectful, dishonest, etc. When this is how we treat people, these emotional withdrawals reduce or eliminate levels of trust. 
Leaders and team members can be taught principles such as Covey’s metaphor, but it still does not necessarily facilitate building trust. Training efforts have a better chance of creating movement toward increased trust if they include strong elements of experiential learning that can bring the principle of trust to life for groups.
Techniques for building trust.
The best facilitation process for building trust, through demonstration of trustworthiness, is by using experiential facilitation and learning processes.
With experiential learning processes, people get to experience firsthand the impact of trust. They experience that trust is essential to successfully accomplishing the training activities. The impact and importance is usually quite vivid. The experience in the activity then provides a safe and comfortable platform for discussing the issues related to trust in the work place. The focus is on what just occurred in the activity, but the lessons stick, as they pertain to the group’s real mission.
Experiential learning processes can accelerate the development of trust. It is the most powerful way to pro-actively educate and stimulate the building of trust within a team.
These important lessons can be woven into the processing and discussion that accompanies experiential exercises. 
Facilitators can often weave powerful learning activities into sessions that are designed to teach other topics to their group. This provokes important thought, consideration, and reinforcement about individual and group actions within the context of the additional topics, such as communication, and how they are critical to building trust.
High levels of trust within any group are a clear advantage. There is a lot to be gained by investing in facilitation processes to help a group understand and build their levels of trust. It is the key to effective relationships, relationships that will result in effective teamwork toward the objectives of the organization.
Still yet, leaders must understand that nothing is more important in building trust that the day-to-day actions and work methods that speak tons to employees and teams about what really can or cannot be trusted at work.
Sometimes specific efforts must be facilitated to help groups overcome difficulties and pain from their past experiences, and to mend and/or create solid working relationships.   This can be true following periods of downsizing and restructuring that perhaps were not smooth or accompanied with effective communication and engagement.
Trust is a powerful enabler for an organization. On-going and enduring trust can be essential to:
  • Empower people effectively
  • Enhance organizational performance through the implementation of changes and improvements
  • Breakdown silos between organizational groups that may have been holding back progress
  • Improve the total effort toward accomplishing the business mission, rather that sub-optimizing with improvements at the individual team level
Many thanks,

Team Re-Building
2/16/2010 9:18:56 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

change, team building, teams

In a recent blog, I promised to dedicate some time to the topic of building an effective team. I stressed the importance of giving team relationship adequate attention and outlined a couple of risks if the relationship is neglected.

In my work as a facilitator, there is one question that I get a lot. So what should you do if your team isn’t in sync? The answer depends on several factors, which include: the team, the problem (or pain, as we call it), and the cause of the pain.
It’s often best to start by unearthing the potential contributing factors to the problem. Have there been changes in the work environment? What are the demands that the team is being challenged with? Has there been a change in personnel? Has the personnel change impacted the group dynamic? There are endless scenarios that I could highlight here, but the important thing to remember is this – try to get to the root cause so you’re not just treating the symptoms, but you also understand the disease. You may or may not be able to change the cause, but understanding where the team’s pain is coming from can be important as you begin to work through the challenges.
I facilitated a staff retreat several months ago that provides a great example. In this customer’s scenario, staff changes had taken place at an executive level. This had resulted in a great deal of upheaval. The trickle down effects were additional personnel changes and a new methodology for running the business. New processes were put into place, and old, long-ignored processes were reinstated. No longer could an employee do something because “that’s the way we did it before.” 
These changes created a new team dynamic. Some of the team members were excited by the new challenges and the potential for growth and success. Others resisted the change and were fearful of what was going to happen next.
When we designed and then delivered the retreat, we kept all of the above factors in mind.  We spent two days focusing on the rebuilding of this team. Part of the process involved sharing information. This alleviated some of the fears of the unknown that the team members were experiencing. We also provided new tools in communication and leadership to equip the team to meet the business standards being set by the new director. Lastly, we combined social events and facilitated discussions to allow people to dialogue and solidify their relationships. At the conclusion of the event, definite progress had been made. The participants were open in their sharing, and the atmosphere was positive.
It’s important to point out that this team’s work was not done. They will need to continue their dialogue and follow up on commitments made at the retreat. The building and sustaining of a healthy team is an ongoing process.
This is just one example of how a team decided to navigate a major transition. The solution for another team scenario could be completely different. As a leader, you might want to begin by taking the “pulse” of your team. How’s the team’s morale? How’s communication going? What are the challenges that the team is facing? Are any of these factors impacting the effectiveness of team? When you’ve drilled down into the cause of the issues, you’ll be much more likely to create an on-target team building effort.

Many thanks,

Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 


Teamwork Is All About People
2/10/2010 2:49:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

change, team building, teams

Building an effective team is a key principle and priority of our business at Advanced Team Concepts, and it’s certainly important to the customers that we serve. Teamwork is all about people. As leader, it’s about creating a place where the talents and energies of individuals can combine to create something great. It’s also a tremendous challenge. It takes ongoing work and focused effort. A common misconception that I encounter in the business world is the idea that you can “team build” once every year or two and then check it off the list and get to the “real work.” 

Imagine a family that only has “family time” once or twice a year, maybe at a gathering for a major holiday or family reunion. The rest of the year, the family is busy – work, chores, school, bills….I’ve seen my own family get into this mode – we call it the frantic family syndrome. There isn’t time for quality time, family dinners or fireside chats. Have you ever noticed that this is when the family fighting starts? It’s the same with a work team. If you don’t take the time to communicate, connect, and build relationships, eventually you’re going to see some dysfunction.
 When a team isn’t cohesive, you as the leader can see the signs. Is there an absence of trust? Does the team avoid conflict or handle it badly? Are the individuals in the team more interested in their own self-preservation and advancement as opposed to the success of the team?
If you’ve noticed signs that your team isn’t syncing well, that’s a start. Awareness is the first critical step, but it must be combined with a commitment for improvement.
To start you off, I’d like to recommend a great read. Patrick Lencioni’s, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s a simple fable that simplifies and defines the importance of a healthy and effective team. 
Awareness is a critical step. In future blogs, we’ll discuss some practical tips that can strengthen a team from both a leadership and a contributing team member’s perspective. If you have any team stories or tips, please add your comments. We’d love to hear them.

Many thanks,

Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 


Leadership’s Changing Skills

Research shows that many of the skills required for great leadership fall into three basic categories—technical, interpersonal, and conceptual. The importance of these relative to each other shifts as the leader moves up in the organization’s structure.[1]

For front line supervisors, coaches or project/team leaders, the technical skills are critical. As a leader advances up the chain-of-command, the importance of technical skills begins to give way to increased importance of conceptual skills.
It isn’t that supervisors and coaches do not need conceptual skills. It is just that as they move up in the organization, the conceptual abilities to perceive and plan further out on the horizon become increasingly important.
As the diagram shows, the interpersonal skills remain equally critical at all levels within an organization. In other words, leadership is all about people. Regardless of the management level, the leaders’ skills in working through people are critical to the success of the enterprise.  More than ever before, organizations are investing in the development of "soft skills" for their leaders.  The successful flow of information is a perpetual challenge in most organizations, whether large or small.  In recent leadership surveys, the number one leadership challenge cited by participants was developing management and people skills in technically-oriented people.  Although many professionals know what needs to be done and how to get the technical job done, many have difficulty communicating this to others and motivating employees in order to achieve the best results. 
Leadership Adaptability
Three variables come into play:
The leader:
It is important to remember that each leader is an individual, each with unique strengths, talents, experiences and leadership style preferences. These are important in the approach to empowerment.
The follower (or team):
Certainly the employees and teams in an organization are not all alike. In fact, we spend a lot of resources trying to leverage the diversity that exists within groups. Again, the individual talents, skills, experiences and motivations will demand leadership flexibility.
The situation:
Even with the same person or team, the individual leader’s approach to empowerment will need to vary based on different situations and circumstances encountered in the work of the organization. Time, complexity, costs and other factors will always have an influence.

 [1] Research noted by Robert Katz at Harvard University

As always, best wishes in your Leadership Journey,




The Need for Vision
1/18/2010 1:12:40 PM Link 1 comment | Add comment

change, planning, vision

The need for “vision”, or “purpose”, within organizations is very real. Most enterprises are going through major changes, searching for more effective ways to win in their markets, or to more efficiently provide high quality goods and services. 

Organizational change is always accompanied by a range of emotional responses by the people who are impacted by the change. 


These are commonly described as periods of denial, followed by resistance. These responses are then followed by a period of exploration regarding the possibilities associated with the changes, followed by moving forward toward the future, with the changes. In recognizing that these stages of change will occur, it would be in the best interest of the effected teams if they could move through the unproductive early stages of the cycle as quickly as possible, on to the exploration and acceptance of the change. 

Vision, or purpose, is one of the most compelling forces to move a team or individuals through the reaction to change. People tend to deny and resist change to lesser extent when there exists a compelling purpose, or vision, beyond the change.

 In many organizations, vision planning is thought to be the work of the company's leaders. There are, however, some interesting and contrasting views regarding where a vision should be created. We will examine these on the next post.
To neglect helping individual teams develop their "vision for greatness" may miss the opportunity to have the teams take ownership in the future of the enterprise.
We will spend a couple of weeks exploring this topic.
Many thanks,
Observations on Leadership and Teams
12/4/2009 8:00:20 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

change, Leadership

This is a new blog on Advanced Team Concepts’ website. We feel it is a critical time to be in dialogue on issues important to organizations.

Within the USA and much of the world, we are in a period of change that is dramatic.
Change is certainly not new to any of us, but the pace of change has really been accelerating. To keep pace, it may be important for all of us to keep our finger on the pulse of what is transforming around us.
This particular period also finds countries and companies trying to emerge from a long season of economic trouble and challenge. As with many similar periods in the past, this can leave the heads of leaders spinning with questions:
·         Where to go from here?
·         What now should be driving our priorities?
·         After restructuring and downsizing, how can the survivors cope and continue?
In the coming weeks we will include postings on relevant leadership topics, advice and thoughts from our coaching experts, and possibly other organizational development topics. Key members of the Advanced Team Concepts team will be contributing. We look forward to your comments and suggestions as we go.
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

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