Archive for February, 2011

Leading through change

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Handling change effectively can be really satisfying. We are generally not the instigators of change, almost always the recipients of some change or other and are sometimes required to implement it.  This makes it important – but it isn’t always managed as if it’s important. It needs the human touch.

If we reflect on some of those times when we have been recipients, we may well be able to come up with examples of how the change was managed well. We can almost certainly come up with examples of occasions when it was not dealt with as well as it could have been.

Because of the emotions that experiencing change can generate, it is an area of management where the manager can have a particularly positive or negative impact. And whilst the manager may also be affected by the change process, he or she will do well to invest some time into managing it well – if they want as motivated and effective staff as possible post-change. It is a short-term investment of time that reaps long-term gains.

In my previous blog post, I described four 4 types of people we encounter during change – The Entrenched, The Overwhelmed, The Whirling Dervish and The Learner. And where they sit depends largely on their ability and willingness to deal with change.

Having previously described their probably reactions, I said that in this post I would give you some hints on how to manage the different individuals. This will help you to assist them as effectively as possible – or understand how you need to be managed in order to deal with the change as well as possible.

The Entrenched – You need to attend to The Entrenched person’s emotions or stress. A phased introduction of the changes will help them, as will clearly linking them to their past successes.  Don’t expect too much too soon from them, or you may have another Overwhelmed person. Find safe places and situations for them to test their learning, and use Learners as role models.

The Overwhelmed – The Overwhelmed person needs to be shown understanding in dealing with their stress and fear.  They need lots of support and encouragement for the future, and they require protecting from rapid empowerment or responsibility. Ensure that they can achieve some quick or easy wins. Finally, use effective colleagues to promote their confidence – you cannot do it all yourself!

The Whirling Dervish – Whatever you do, don’t empower The Whirling Dervish or let them loose with a wide remit! You need to limit their influence over others, hold them accountable for anything you ask them to implement and give them plenty of feedback. Ask them to address core issues and solutions, not symptoms and quick fixes. Help them recognise and address the true extent of their abilities.

The Learner – You need to help fill any gaps in The Learner’s personal knowledge. Focus them on processes rather than the task. Give them the freedom to model learning for others, and consider offering them new and demanding roles with high impact opportunities.  Learners can sometimes take on too much and become all things to all people – support them and ensure that this doesn’t happen as you don’t want to lose your Learners.

If you have been able to identify your own ‘preferred’ position, do some of these tips on how you should be managed make sense? Or as a manager, can you see how they would work with your staff?

Remember, attitudes are caught, not taught. If you as a leader or manager are negative about change, your staff are likely to follow the example you set. And effectively managing the human dimensions of change can have a really significant impact on the performance of a team or business.


The Human Dimensions of Change

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

There is much change taking place at the moment. Here in the UK there are many people, particularly in the public sector, soon to be looking for different jobs, and many other people are having their roles changed due to organisational restructures. Difficult personal times.

And they are often made more difficult than they need to be by how they are handled. I have for some time worked on the basis that there are four main categories that people experiencing change fit into. I have seen these labelled as The Entrenched, The Overwhelmed, The Whirling Dervish and The Learner. I have absolutely no idea who came up with these classifications, but if you know, it would be great to be able to mention them and give them the credit.

So which are you? Or where do those people you manage fit? By understanding more about how change impacts on us, we can help ourselves – and our colleagues – to cope with such situations more effectively. Here’s a little more detail to help you to understand the categories.

The Entrenched – An Entrenched person has the ability to learn and capacity to change, but is generally not particularly willing to engage in this. The change experience can lead to them feeling frustrated or angry, and to be frightened of what the future holds. They are confident of their proven skills and their past performance – and as such, may well work harder to seek to justify their existence and prove that there is no need for change. They can struggle to understand the organisation’s change in attitude towards previously valued behaviours. They also tend to dismiss the reasons for the change.

The Overwhelmed – Like our Entrenched colleagues, our Overwhelmed people are not willing to engage in the change. Where they differ from the Entrenched is that they don’t particularly have (or believe they have) the capacity to change or the ability to learn the required new skills or processes. This potentially makes them feel powerless, fearful and unhappy. In order to deal with these emotions they can avoid issues and block stressful events. They can blame and commiserate – and hope that normality will return. They also tend to avoid risk, focus on the safe and known tasks and look busy.

The Whirling Dervish – Our Whirling Dervishes really rather look forward to the change, and are willing to embrace it. Unfortunately though, they tend not to have the capacity to make the required changes and learn the new skills. This leads to them being ready to get going with the changes and wanting to implement change – any change. They can be over-confident in their own abilities and as such seek positions of influence. They want quick action and visible results. They are surprised by and unsympathetic towards colleagues who demonstrate caution or concern for the future. They can have a particularly negative influence on Overwhelmed colleagues – as they attempt to lead such people down the garden path.

The Learner – Our final category of people has both the willingness to embrace the change and the capacity to learn the new skills. They tend to be a little anxious, but they are optimistic as they can see the positive benefits – they tend to have a balanced approach, being able to see the pros and the cons. They focus on any problems rather than apportion blame. They are not afraid of making mistakes, and can find humour in difficult circumstances and use it to help others.  

Have you been able to – even roughly – label yourself?  Perhaps you can identify where some of your colleagues fit?

This human dimension to change is really important – and the more we understand it, the better we can cope with it – or for managers, the better they can assist others.

In my next blog I’ll give some ideas as to how we can help and manage people within each of these categories to deal with change more effectively.


Work like an Egyptian

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

She looked surprised at the question, slightly confused. “It’s our Square, so it’s our responsibility to clean it”. She paused, and looked quizzically at the reporter. She continued, holding her sweeping brush, “We made it untidy so we have to clean it.” The young woman was standing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square late on Saturday evening. The celebrations of having forced Mubarak to resign had developed into the sense of responsibility for ownership of the Square that had been the focus of the world’s attention over the past couple of weeks. There were families there each equipped with cleaning equipment and rubbish bags. Other people were replacing the cobbles that Egyptians had recently been hurling at each other.  I found it very powerful television.

Less powerful – and rather concerning – was the report in yesterday’s Times newspaper (12 February 2011) regarding the EU and how it spends its money.  According to research by the Open Europe think-tank, last year Eurocrats and MEPs spent €274m on travel costs and allowances to visit overseas nations.  That’s more than €1m per working day – on purely travel and associated allowances. That’s a huge amount for one year. It would be interesting to hear some of them explain the return we as EU citizens have gained from their investment. This total included, for example, €55,000 for seven MEPs to undertake a two-day trip to the Seychelles. The think-tank’s research pointed out that this total was more than the EU spent on food aid over the same period – this humanitarian budget only contained €237m.

Perhaps the EU has lost focus on what it should be seeking to achieve with its financial muscle – a little like British society apparently has. ‘Call me Dave’ continues to talk up his ‘Big Society’ in an attempt to address this issue.  In simplistic terms, my understanding of the ‘Big Society’ is helping people to help each other to take responsibility for themselves and their communities rather than relying on the state. Whilst many people support this idea (and long before it was labelled ‘Big Society’), the culture of our nation has become very financially and materialistically based – thus making such a concept very difficult to achieve. But it would be a wonderful place to get to.

I was at the Manchester United v Manchester City ‘local derby’ football match yesterday, and experienced the euphoria of Rooney’s spectacular goal and United winning the match. The place was rocking and no-one had any troubles, everyone was smiling. That was only a football match. I considered how many times greater the euphoria must be for the Egyptians in central Cairo? The euphoria of the derby win has almost passed. That experienced by the Egyptians will last a while longer, but there will undoubtedly be more difficult and challenging times ahead – there always are when a country attempts to make such a seismic cultural change from dictatorship to democracy.  Achieving the ‘Big Society’ may register slightly less on the Richter Magnitude Scale than the proposed Egyptian cultural shift, but they will both be very challenging.

I really hope that the Egyptian people’s hope and belief lasts, and that MEPs and Eurocrats spend a little more time on the ground here in the EU proposing how they can use some of their travel money to support the Egyptians. The woman with the sweeping brush in Tahrir Square demonstrated a really clear understanding of a ‘big Society’ and – perhaps tellingly for us here in Britain – seemed a little confused that such responsibility wasn’t obvious to all.

Her words, and how she said them, will stay with me for a long time.


Can you afford not to do this?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Conflict in the workplace costs the UK economy dearly. Conflict outside the workplace generates huge amounts of wasted time and unhelpful emotions.

According to the Report Fight, Flight or Face It (OPP, 2008), “the average employee spends 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflict. For the UK alone, that translates to 370 million working days lost every year as a result of conflict in the workplace” (p.4).

The same report suggests that in the UK perhaps we conform to our international stereotype of bottling up our emotions. It found that 65% of UK employees “… admit to feeling anger or frustration in the face of conflict at work”, compared with 57% across the nine countries surveyed in the study (p.19). Furthermore, 30% of UK respondents reported that conflict has resulted in an absence from work – compared with 25% across all respondents.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey Report Leadership and the Management of Conflict at Work, (CIPD, 2008), found that 44% of the 660 HR respondents reported that they have to manage disputes at work “frequently or continually” (p.4). It also reports that 28% of the respondents “… admit to having left a job as a result of conflict at work” (p.7).

So why don’t we address it more often?

I think that there are three main reasons:

1)    We often worry about whether we can handle it effectively

2)    We have concerns about how the other person(s) will react.

3)    We’ve got more important things to do (at least, that’s what we tell ourselves).

Well, here’s a way to do it that helps out with points 1 and 2 (and if you needed convincing that it’s not an important issue, the statistics I mentioned earlier should have helped). It’s a model called CUDSA – and it gives a structure to discussions. And following a structure will reduce the chance of unhelpful emotions getting in the way.

Confront the behaviour – it may well be that the person is aware of what they are doing, however, it is often not the case. Where a person displays unhelpful behaviour on a regular basis, it is easy to make the assumption that they must know that they are causing conflict – but it would be wrong to do so. I have come across situations on several occasions where everyone has assumed (or perhaps hoped) that someone else has already given feedback and therefore not addressed it. Often the person appreciates being made aware of the issue.

Understand each other’s position – the most important stage. If this isn’t carried out thoroughly and openly, the remainder of the discussion and any solution will not last very long. There will almost certainly be new information as you discuss this – in situations of conflict we often make judgements about the other person that may well not be based on fact – this stage addresses such potentially devisive issues.

Define the problem – once you have all the information and fully understand each other’s position, you will be able to define the problem. This needs to be achieved objectively and succinctly. Write it down so you record it clearly.

Search for a solution – list all the possible solutions, even if they seem a bit off the wall. Some might initially not seem workable, but they might generate further ideas from the other person. The more you come up with, the more chance you have of arriving at a really effective one.

Agree a way forward – Having reached this far, and if you have carried out the previous stages thoroughly, this final stage should be relatively straight forward. You will have built up increased rapport with the other person and may well see them in a different, more positive, light. Be specific about your way forward – and if what you agree is going to impact on others, let them know what you are going to do – it will increase your likelihood of success. Finally, fix a date to meet again to see how it’s going – this will help ensure the buy-in of all concerned.

Have a go. You can make a huge impact on your business and on the effectiveness of individuals. And you will develop and improve your own skills!


How do you respond in difficult situations?

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I mentioned the ‘Responses to Dominance’ model in my last post about the Sky Sports sexism furore. I have always found this an interesting and helpful model for enabling us to understand how people may respond differently to ourselves in the same or similar situations.

The model (also sometimes referred to as the ‘Conflict Continuum’) has three named positions on a horizontal line (the continuum). At one end of the line there is the Withdrawal (Avoidance) position, and at the opposite end is the Resistance (Confrontation) position. And in the middle of the line the point labelled Acquiescence (Diffusion).

The model is labelled as a continuum because a person can take any of these positions – but can also change their position on the continuum at any point. People will often adopt different positions in different situations, however, usually a person will have a ‘preferred’ or default position when finding themselves in a position of conflict.

It is possible to develop the Sky Sports scenario further in order to illustrate the model. Let’s say, in our hypothetical situation, that there is a camerawoman who works for Sky Sports who has witnessed the now public sexist incidents (and possibly other similar situations) that have occurred within the Sky Sports studios and elsewhere where Sky Sports have been reporting from. ‘Camerawoman’ is a bit of a mouthful to keep repeating, so let’s call her Jill.

When Jill has witnessed one of these incidents and recognised the sexism, it may well be that she is a little concerned, wondering if whether it the sort of workplace she wants work in. It may be that it takes a few such incidents for her to be concerned. Whenever it occurs, she will probably think about her options. Jill could start looking for another job, or hand in her notice immediately. This latter course of action can sometimes be followed when the situation has a severe impact on the person and possibly brings about a deterioration in their health. Both of these responses would be examples of Withdrawal – as Jill is taking herself away from the situation.

Alternatively, it may well be that she decides that whilst she doesn’t like it, she’s going to tolerate it as she has a lot of friends at the company – and whilst she will tolerate it, she also doesn’t want to rock the boat. So Jill may witness such an incident and one of her male (or female) colleagues might say something like, “You’re okay with this banter, aren’t you – you know we’re not sexist?”. Whilst Jill is uncomfortable with this sort of workplace behaviour, she could replied, “Sexist? Don’t be daft, of course you’re not – it’s a good laugh”. Here Jill would be diffusing the situation, and therefore providing us with a good example of how someone Acquiesces.

Jill’s final possible position on our continuum is that of Resistance. People can resist, or confront, in two ways – through the use of either Negotiation or Power. If Jill chose to give feedback to those involved by explaining what they were doing and how it was impacting on her, she would be confronting the issue through Negotiation. To do this successfully she would be having an Adult (TA) conversation with the other individual(s). It has the potential to be a win-win situation – as the behaviour will cease, Jill will be happier, her colleagues will learn and they will probably be stronger as a team. If you want to build a mature team or organisation, this is the approach that needs to be used – hence why there is such a push for mediation to be used in the workplace.

Jill could also address the matter through the use of Power – either immediately, or perhaps if a Negotiated approach has been unsuccessful. Examples of the use of Power can be taking a person to an Employment Tribunal, or, perhaps specific to this type of workplace, releasing audio or audio visual recordings of the incidents to the wider media, knowing or believing that they would be picked up and broadcast more widely (Perhaps this is what happened in the actual scenario that led to Andy Gray and Richard Keys leaving Sky Sports?). How does this differ from the Negotiated approach? Well, Jill would probably be addressing this from her Parent ego state (TA) – particularly if she went straight for this course of action before trying to address it in any other way – and there is likely to be a win-lose result.

We have to remember – and this is very important – that all positions on the continuum can be appropriate. People need to use the method that is most useful for them at a particular time. If Jill had financial constraints, giving up her job might cause more stress than carrying on in an uncomfortable environment, so Acquiescence would be right for her at that time. And what might be right for the development of the organisation is not necessarily right for the individual.

In my next post, I’ll describe a model that really helps people address conflict successfully – in other words, a model to support the approach of Negotiation.