Stop Managing Change, Start Inspiring It

Leadership

Today’s leaders believe they must be skilled at driving change, leading change, and managing change.  It’s their job.  It’s what they are supposed to do.  But is it?

Many leaders wear their “change” credentials like a badge of honor.  They know how to drive change. What they might be saying is that they know how to force change.  Driving, or forcing change may in fact work initially, but if your “followers” aren’t aligned, in sync, or haven’t embraced the change because they can’t quite see or understand it, the change itself won’t last.  When you hear leaders describe their company as “always changing”, beware.  If something has to constantly change it may just mean that it hasn’t yet found its calling – it’s grasping at straws.

Also think about what image “driving” evokes. If you’re driving something that means you’re behind it.  You’re in the back pushing. How can you lead from behind?  Leaders should always be in front. Being in front may be symbolic, it may be ceremonial, but no matter it’s leadership.

If I force a change to take place, it’s likely that I’ll have to force another change shortly.  However, if I inspire change, if I rally those around me, if I can paint a clear picture on what that change will produce or deliver, then I have a much better chance of getting folks to rally not just around me, or the change, but around both.

If you’re a leader in any size organization consider this…

People don’t want to be led. Human beings simply don’t like being told what to do.  No.  Going back to the beginning of time our ancestors learned the importance of working together toward a common goal.  Whether that goal was to produce fire, transportation, or medicine, people need to understand the goal first, and believe that if they achieve that goal they will benefit and prosper.  Imagine if fire produced no heat, and no light.  What would the benefit have been to “invent” fire making?  There has to be a clear goal with benefits, to serve as the first ingredient to an effective change recipe.

It’s your job as the leader to provide this vision.  If you can inspire those around you to see the value in the change you’re suggesting you’re well on your way to building an effective, sustainable, and adaptable workplace.  Your team will trust you when they know why you’re asking them to do certain things and to make certain changes.  This does not mean you need everyone to vote in your favor.  No.  This is not about singing Kumbaya and holding hands.  Inspiring change is about leadership.  It’s about having the courage and conviction in the value of the change you’re asking to be made and those you’re asking to make it with you.

 

 

Leader or Executive – Which Are You?

Washington

The dictionary defines an executive as someone who has administrative, or supervisory authority within an organization.  A leader is defined as simply one who leads.

I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have encountered some of the best leaders in the business world. Many of these leaders took a personal interest in me and my development. The coached me. Guided me. Taught me.  They invested in me. These same leaders who I once worked for have become mentors later in my career.  They are the same people I turn to for coaching and advice today who taught me years ago. They stood by my side then and they’re still with me today.

From them I learned the importance of kindness, and the power of paying it forward in the business world. And just how do you pay it forward in the business world?  By leading. Just as I had someone take an interest in developing me, I too have taken people under my wing to teach them.  Leadership is about giving not taking. Taking is easy.  Giving is tough.

Leaders inspire. They provide vision. They create excitement. Leaders instill trust. They stand firm in the face of adversity. They provide strength and confidence. Leaders create an environment where learning takes center stage.  They have a beginners attitude.  I’ve worked for plenty of executives who believe they know everything, yet I’ve never worked for a leader who behaved that way.  Leaders know that to continue leading they must continue to learn. When the learning stops, so does the leading.

The good news is that it’s a choice.  It’s a conscious choice to lead.  It takes time, courage, discipline, a sense of humor, and perhaps most importantly leadership takes commitment.  Commitment to keep learning, to keep teaching, to keep giving.  I’ll take a leader any day of the week over an executive.

Where Wisdom and Experience Intersect

wisdom

Great leaders possess many characteristics.  Courage, foresight, perspective, and vision are just a few thoughts that come to mind when thinking about leaders.  Leaders are not all-knowing, nor do they have to be right all the time.  In fact, knowing everything is impossible, and being right all of the time simply means you haven’t tested the boundaries.  Good leaders fail.  Great leaders fail often.

It’s been said that “wisdom is the result of experience, but experience is often the result of lack of wisdom.”  So where do the two intersect?  People ask you for advice because they admire your wisdom.  Job opportunities because of your wisdom.  Yet if it weren’t for all your failures you’d have nothing to offer, you would lack wisdom.  Great leaders possess this knowledge because they understand the importance of failure. They are able to see failures as deposits into their bank of wisdom, not withdrawals or setbacks.

Wisdom allows us to take chances.  It allows us to predict outcomes.  It enables us to maximize our chance for success but it does not guarantee our success.  Wisdom gives us the courage we need to attempt something that carries the risk of failure but doesn’t prevent us from trying.  Failure must be an option as we try new things and expand our horizons.  Wisdom helps us see that what we gain from these failures often times outweighs succeeding on the first try. 

So when confronted with a choice between a sure thing and one that presents potential failure, look first to your wisdom bank.  Do an honest assessment of what you will gain versus what’s at risk if you chose to take the chance.  Know that if you do take a chance and fail, you now have wisdom to share with others.  It is this wisdom that increases the value of your insight, perspective, and experience.   It is this wisdom that makes you unique.  This is the wisdom that enriches you personally, and the wisdom that develops you as a leader.

5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor

Helping-Mentor

Throughout your career, you will encounter moments that will present great challenges and/or opportunities.  Knowing what to do at those specific times depends on several things including experience, attitude, skills and capabilities, and the strength of your personal support network.    As you grow personally and professionally, the complexity of these circumstances increases and may create anxiety as you determine your next steps.  And while this is perfectly normal from a developmental standpoint, having a coach or a mentor by your side can make a huge difference in the quality of outcomes.  Understanding the difference between the two is the first step to making the right selection.

Many people believe mentors and coaches are the same…interchangeable terms.  But they’re not.  Mentors are quite different from coaches.  The key differences between the two are listed below:

  1. You select a coach, a mentor selects you.  As such, mentor relationships tend to last for years, if not a lifetime.  By the mentor selecting you, he or she is demonstrating their personal commitment and genuine desire to help with your personal development.
  2. Coaches focus on improving specific performance, usually on the job, while a mentor focuses on your overall development with a much greater focus on you, the person.
  3. Coaches interact through a formal structure, usually the same day and time each week – office hours.  The session follows a certain flow or formula for the review and update on the items discussed in your last meeting.  A mentor interacts as needed.  They’re “on-call” and happy to be so.  Less formal in nature, free-flowing, and very personal.
  4. Coaches tend to be “career-point-in-time” resources.  Meaning, few coaches can provide value in all stages of someones career.  A great high school football coach does not automatically equate to a great NFL coach simply because he understands the game of football.  As the stakes grow higher in your career, you will need to find a coach whose skills are equally equipped for the circumstances you are encountering.  The coach you had when you were 35, and in your first senior manager role, most likely will not be as effective for you when you are 45 in an executive role.  In contrast, a mentor is always focused on the “broad YOU”, gathering deep and intimate knowledge of the real you, thereby allowing them to provide valuable insights and guidance in nearly any circumstance.
  5. Finally, and perhaps the biggest difference between a coach and mentor is how they are paid.  Coaches, at least professional coaches, charge a fee for their service.  These fees range anywhere from a few hundred dollars per session into the thousands depending upon the circumstances, and length and frequency of the engagement.  A mentor has no fee.  They’ve taken you under their wing.  They have a personal connection with you and are committed to your development and success.

It’s important to understand that while different, there is a need to have both a coach and mentor in your life.  Both play very different, yet important roles in your personal and professional development.  Having a general understanding of your circumstance, time frame, and objectives will help guide your decision on selecting the right coach or mentor.  I will visit specific benefits of coaches and mentors in upcoming blogs.