Tag: Culture and Organisational Development

Belief really can make a difference!

Creating a Culture of Belief in the Workplace

What a treat for our sporting nation – the two key codes of football celebrating grand final wins with the underdogs getting up on both occasions. Having grown up with an almost obsessive love for AFL, I am absolutely delighted that the Western Bulldogs are the 2016 premiers (even though I am a passionate and long-suffering Carlton supporter)!

How does a team come from 7th on the ladder to win the flag? How do they overcome a 62-year premiership drought? How do they manage to play as a high performing team week after week even though their beloved and highly skilled captain was injured early in the 2016 season?

My observation – they believed they could do it. They were 100% focused on the outcome, they had a shared goal, a goal which was largely shared by the entire western suburban population of Melbourne.

So often we use sporting analogies in the business world; it seems apt, in a sporting team everyone must know their role, commit to maintaining and building their skills, always be there to play their role in the game, recognise the strengths of others and provide opportunities for them to be optimised, operate selflessly, communicate continually, reflect on performance and opportunities for improvements and always remain focused on the goal, in this instance the premiership.

While the analogy works we are rarely treated to leadership and teamwork such as that demonstrated by high performing sporting teams. There is no doubt that the busy changing world we operate in creates challenges for teams to remain aligned or high performing, but surely they should never lose sight of the goal?

If we believe in what we do, why we do it and our role in it, then regardless of the rapidly changing environment we are faced with, alignment, high performance and ultimately achieving the goal is more likely.

How do you create ‘belief’ in the workplace?

  1. Share the ‘why’ – ensure every person knows why the business, service or team exists; it builds engagement, ownership and belief, it creates the story which employees can place themselves in
  2. Be clear on roles so each person knows how they can contribute to the goal
  3. Keep everyone informed, celebrate successes and share learnings from mistakes
  4. Encourage ideas from all parts of the business, listen, consider and give feedback
  5. Invest in skills and behaviours of your team so they are equipped to achieve the goal
  6. Recognise that leadership can emerge from anywhere at any time, encourage it!

The ecstasy of the Western Bulldogs win will easily carry them through the off-season while they enjoy a well-earned break. But first, they will take a deep breath, they will celebrate, they will reflect on their role in this momentous event and they will demonstrate thanks to every supporter who shared in their belief that anything is possible!

Nine Habits to Embrace Ambiguity

Recently Change2020 launched the Embrace ambiguity movement. This movement is about firstly acknowledging where your tolerance of ambiguity sits and then taking action to Embrace ambiguity – both at home and at work.

At Change2020, we believe that Embracing ambiguity is imperative if you are to remain relevant as a leader.  Research also identifies that “leaders who are comfortable with uncertainty and competent under ambiguous conditions might very well provide a competitive advantage to organisations”[1].

So, if relevancy and having a competitive advantage are important to you, is it time to jump on board and join the Embrace ambiguity movement.

Joining the movement is simple, the first step is to complete our survey by clicking here to determine your tolerance of ambiguity.

We have developed nine habits that will assist you to Embrace ambiguity.

These are:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Take the reins
  3. Focus on what matters
  4. Rewire expectations
  5. Hatch butterfly moments
  6. Open the floodgates
  7. Challenge idea killers
  8. Be courageous
  9. Let go and move on

Over the next nine weeks will be releasing a blog on each of these habits. Watch out for these to build your tolerance to Embrace ambiguity.

[1] White, R.P. and Shullman, S.L., Acceptance of Uncertainty as an Indicator of Effective Leadership, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2010, Vol 62, No 2, 94 – 104


Wasted Talent and Lost Opportunity

Wasted Talent and Lost Opportunity – The Simple Acts of Employee Engagement

One of the great aspects of my role is the opportunity to meet potential new Change2020 consultants. Each one brings their own unique story with a wonderful mix of skills; it is always inspiring to meet these people and learn about their career, values, and motivations. Why people choose to work in change management often comes down to real passion for helping organisations do the right thing, natural curiosity and, often, the desire to reignite their creative spark and do something outside of a traditional employment situation. Creativity is an important component to a change professional’s skillset and is often expressed as the ability to adapt technical expertise into the language of an organisational culture in order to break down barriers and deliver outcomes. However, creativity and curiosity are also important skills to embed into an organisation’s culture and leadership; and this is often a missed opportunity.

So last week I was struck by a comment from a colleague that joining our team had been like “having her brain switched back on”. Why, I wondered? Because suggestions for improvement and using initiative were welcome and appreciated, and that she was therefore motivated to continually think of new ideas and suggestions without fear of being knocked back without due consideration. Referencing that in a past role her suggestions for improvement had been continuously knocked back, she had eventually shut down, got on with the prescriptive requirements for the job and ultimately resigned. The contrast was clear – and troubling. In a position to see how much value this person contributes to our business, here was a moment of clarity illuminating some of the hidden and arguably more substantial costs to an organisation when they lose good employees. Perhaps this anecdote is one that you too have heard, possibly many times. Or does this scenario apply to you too?

Employee Engagement and an Organisation’s Need for New Perspectives

Albert Einstein once said that “you cannot solve the problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Organisations need new perspective and thinking to help solve problems and to find incremental opportunities for change that help to improve a business. This is creativity driven through skill sets and active employee engagement, and is key to unlocking innovation in an environment of ongoing change and ambiguity. Discussions like the one outlined above remind me that there is so much wasted opportunity for making time to listen to suggestions and ideas from committed, motivated people. Emotional engagement and personal mastery really are the cornerstone of retaining talent, money is only ever part of the equation.

Whilst this is bit of a personal rant, I thought it was timely to share because personal development is a wonderful thing and to see eyes being opened, brains being switched back on and real problem solving take place is a truly satisfying outcome. It’s simple acts that help to stimulate this, emotional connection and a sense of personal self-worth at the end of the day. Innovation comes through people and needs to be encouraged through active listening, broad-ranging engagement and attentive leadership. Einstein also said that “the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”. What a great aspiration for our future workforce.

Did Charles Handy have a crystal ball?

In May 2001 I had the good fortune of attending a well-known conference within the UK HR industry on board the Oriana. This event is an annual tradition and held on the ship for three days during which time delegates are able to attend a variety of discussions on emerging people issues and, of course, network like machines with an assortment of suppliers, peers and organisations represented.

That year the keynote speaker for the conference was Charles Handy, a great thought leader who, with Irish wit and charm, did not disappoint in the clarity of his view points or challenging the status quo. I got to meet him briefly with this wife Elizabeth as they had chosen to remain on board for an additional three days of the conference (other speakers had scurried off before setting sail on Friday night).

Handy introduced a rapt audience to his latest book at that time, The Elephant and the Flea, which proclaimed the rise of ‘fleas’ – or individuals who would work independently, flexibly and creatively across a number of organisations in their career – versus ‘elephants’ who remained stable in their careers working for a large corporation. Amongst the many ideas that he puts forward in the book Handy identified four key challenges for organisations over the coming 20 years:

  1. how to grow bigger, but remain small and personal;
  2. how to combine creativity with efficiency;
  3. how to be prosperous but socially acceptable; and
  4. how to reward both the owners of the ideas as well as the owners of the company.

Fast forward to 2016. Bombarded with the rising impact of the freelance economy, numerous reports on the future of work – including one from the World Economic Forum – the rapid acceleration of technological and social change and the words of Charles Handy are once again ringing in my ear.

We have been talking a lot about the future of work in the Change2020 hub, particularly as we pursue our vision to Embrace Ambiguity. Today we live in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous – and the pace of change is relentless and rapid. It requires news ways of thinking and a new mindset to gain competitive advantage and deliver impactful leadership. Moreover, the greater connection between people and organisations is changing the language of work and the expectations of the customer or client. It’s entrepreneurial meets big business in the face of massive disruption. Charles Handy was both right and way ahead of his time.

However, the most humbling recollection of hearing and meeting Charles Handy at the HR Forum is not only the relevance of his words but the timing of them. In May 2001 the world was breathtakingly different. There had been no 9/11, 7/7, Lehman Brothers collapse, technological revolution, GFC or Facebook (or any other social media) to accelerate the pace of change as all of these events have. A few short months later and we were staring at our TV screens (no tablets then people) for days – in my case at our local in London – as we grimly watched the events of 9/11 unfold.

Putting this into perspective for me in 2016 reminds me of three things: how far we have come, how far we have to go and how embracing new ways of thinking – and views about this issue – is going to be the key to building a sustainable future in business and as leaders.

Humour Champions

Calling all Humour Champions!

I am proud to work for Change2020 an organisation that has humour, as one of its values.  We embody this value in our creativity, laughter and fun.  We understand the serious nature of our business and the business of our clients and we aim to create working partnerships where great outcomes are achieved in an optimistic, positive, happy and energetic environment.

To me, humour at work does not mean telling jokes or being a stand-up comedian, it is about your mindset, your perspective, how you respond and how you approach tasks and activities.

Andrew Tarvin’s TED talk and Jacquelyn Smith’s Forbes article each identify the benefits of humour at work.  Their research-based evidence supports my own observations of the benefits of workplaces where humour is part of the fabric.

From my experience, as a Humour Champion, the benefits of humour at work include:

  • Enhanced working relationships
  • Less stress and tension
  • Greater engagement
  • Increased productivity
  • Creative problem solving
  • Higher levels of trust
  • Better outcomes
  • Improved culture
  • Perspective is maintained
  • Reduces boredom

So how can you be a Humour Champion (without being a comedian)?

  • Smile
  • Have fun as a team – work out what works for you and your colleagues
  • Opt for positive, not negative
  • Be yourself (be aware of what you find funny or makes you laugh)
  • Be curious and ask questions when things are getting too serious
  • Laugh with others (not at them)
  • Establish a routine to energise the office (particularly at that 3 pm slump) e.g. read a Dilbert cartoon; watch a short you-tube skit

The ambiguous and rapidly changing environment that we are all a part will require more Humour Champions in the workplace.  Give yourself permission to bring humour to the workplace and reap the benefits.

So apparently MBTI is not all about me…

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is an assessment tool that measures an individual’s preferences and how they make decisions. Change2020 regularly uses this assessment tool to build self-awareness and team effectiveness.

Prior to starting the role as Office and Team Coordinator at Change2020 I had not been exposed to an assessment tool of this type, but I was eager to be involved.  Naturally, as most people are, I was curious to find out about myself and the MBTI tool was a great place to start.

Apparently, I am an ESFJ – a “supportive contributor”.  After reviewing my report, I was not surprised by the results but the real benefit for me came when I shared my results with my team and they shared their profiles with me. I feel I am more considerate of how others like to work in my team, particularly those who fall into the opposite preference to me (for example; those who prefer to direct their energy as an introverted style vs myself who is a clear extrovert).

Completing MBTI has helped me to:

  • Resolve conflicts – learning to recognise that people aren’t wrong – just different
  • Recognise and play to people’s strengths
  • Communicate more effectively with others
  • Provide feedback to others for greater productivity
  • Relate to others with greater understanding
  • Be less judgemental
  • Appreciate the value of a diverse team.

Have you ever taken a personality test? What did it tell you about you and your preferences?

‘Hubris’ or ‘Arrogance’

‘Hubris’ or ‘Arrogance’ – A Workplace Problem?

The ancient Greek word ‘hubris’ means ‘arrogance’ in modern language.  ‘Hubris’ still gets a run in modern usage, usually directed at politicians to denote a detachment from electors.  It can be a problem in the workplace as it goes hand in hand with other negative traits.

The birth of democracy is assigned to 5 BC when it was the political model for Athens.  Essentially, everyone who was entitled to get a vote on all issues.  It was estimated that this allowed about 60,000 people to vote, excluding women, slaves and non-Athenians.  At the end of each year the voters were asked to cast a vote on the politicians whom they believed demonstrated the greatest amount of ‘hubris’, the unfortunate winner of the vote was then banned from Athens for ten years due to their belief that this extreme level of arrogance could lead to irrational and selfish acts.

It’s unlikely that workplaces will introduce the Athenian concept of dealing with ‘hubris’ but it has some attractions!

Is arrogance a problem in the workplace?

First of all, it portrays a certain exclusiveness, at odds with generating a positive and collaborative team.  While the workplace is largely a hierarchical establishment, this feature should be downplayed to get everyone to contribute beyond their level of appointment, it’s important people exceed their own expectation of their capacity to improve performance.  A reminder of where they stand in the pecking order does not support collaboration, co-operation or engagement.  People end up operating as puppets – which is neither good for them or the organisation.

Secondly, this is not to say that ‘hubris’ is necessarily a hierarchical feature.  I’m sure we’ve all worked in places where a new arrival is confident and smart and is happy to let everyone know it.  Using these fabulous traits for evil rather than good may result from an air of arrogance.  This attribute can derail individuals, teams, outcomes and organisations.

Thirdly, some believe ‘hubris’ on occasions can be justified because it’s essential to achieving great things. Steve Jobs’ style of operating is well known, the smartest and most arrogant person in the business but presumed necessary for Apple to achieve its market dominance. I am yet to be convinced about this but I only have anecdotal feedback and observations to support this position.

Fourthly, a culture of arrogance can be the end result when organisations tolerate top-down hubris.  This came to light through “Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal” and the subsequent investigation. This culture cost the CEO his job, tarnished the company’s reputation and resulted in significant fines.

It is time to tackle arrogance.

Fortunately, arrogance is a cluster of changeable behaviours, driven by relatively malleable beliefs. The starting point is admitting there is a problem.  This may be painful for both individuals and organisations. It will also take a desire to change, time and focused commitment.

For those people who display a bucket load of ‘hubris’ and no desire to change – it is probably best to cut your losses and exit them. This has a hint of an ‘Athenian’ approach without the vote.

Lessons from Dr Who

Lessons for Leadership from the Classic TV Series, Dr. Who

The iconic Dr Who first hit the screen in a BBC broadcast in 1963.  It’s now the longest-running program in TV history.  Its longevity is due to its clever format that allows it to refresh with new scenarios and periodically new doctors.  Like many TV shows, there is a subtle message built into the show – good over evil, success over failure, risk-taking over risk avoidance, collaboration over isolation, to list a few.

Each episode offers a different scenario and they are quite ambiguous, meaning the viewers really don’t know what to expect from episode to episode. Bouncing around through history, from the past to the future, allows many themes and concepts to develop, it really is like a free (and entertaining) education on how to engage and build creative workplaces – critical elements of great leadership.

What are the takeaways from the show, particularly for leadership?

  • First up, hopping into an ex-police phone box and appearing in a new era that throws out new challenges should be like our modern day work environment. Imagine a Dr Who where every time he landed he found himself in the same place and era; it simply wouldn’t compel viewers to ‘stay tuned’. A stifled workplace with no buzz of excitement simply does not compel employees to perform! This is a challenge for leaders.
  • Next, Dr Who depends on his helpers to get him out of tight jams. He’d have been long demolished by a Dalek or Cyborg if he’d been going it alone. What is the nature of the help? It is collegial and independent.  By collegial I mean working together for the overall good; by independent I mean it’s distinguished by allowing the helpers to use their initiative to get out of jams.  Dr Who doesn’t have all the answers and needs the help of others to survive.  Imagine a show where the ‘star’ told everyone what they had to do; it would be boring, a bit like a command and control workplace.
  • Then, the show doesn’t just focus on history it jumps into the future. It allows the imagination to roam about ‘what could be’.  Does your workplaces lack imagination?  Imaginative and creative leaders think about the future and embrace the ambiguity of future events.
  • Dr Who is a calculated risk taker. Whenever he hits the button in the Tardis to a new adventure, he does it in the confidence that risk is not unhealthy; it is the essence of being alive.  If the shows’ viewers knew where the next adventure was it would be boring, turning up to work every day with a scheduled and configured routine makes for boring work.  Great leaders aim to make the workplace interesting; it increases productivity!
  • When a Dr Who runs out of steam, interest or hits the time to go and smell the roses, the producers cleverly introduce a new Doctor. Always resplendent as a new character and different to the previous Doctors.  A clever way to maintain viewer interest and to refresh the show; some workplaces need to institute a ‘Dr Who replacement program’, particularly when things begin to flag. This could mean new faces or a new style and approach to leadership; regardless, variety is an imperative!
  • Dr Who never forgets the importance of lightness and humour, while he faces tense situations he always paints a positive view and optimism for a successful result; he’s also comfortable with self-mocking and not taking himself too seriously. We the viewers know he’ll be back next week with another dose of optimism and self-deprecation.

What are your takeaways from Dr Who?   How can this formula be implanted into the workplace?

Embrace Ambiguity

Embrace Ambiguity – creating legacy with the agile mindset

This article was previously published in the July 2016 edition of Entrepreneurs and Innovation Magazine (a UK publication) and just in case you missed it, the full article is below; 

‘Change’ is occurring at a pace unprecedented in history.  By example, the Roman Empire essentially used the same military strategy to create its empire over 700 years with little modification, a successful model that had longevity.  By contrast military technology today is changing at lightning speed, it is not that long ago that ‘drone warfare’ entered our vocabulary, the ability of a ‘pilot’ to sit in an office in Arizona and fly missions anywhere in the world.  The next step will be ‘drone warships’, obviating the need to have crewed ships.

‘Change’ is no longer a matter of choice.  If you fail to change you will be left behind.  Amazon is currently developing the capacity to deliver parcels by drone.  The recipient will spread out a receiving mat in the backyard and the drone will land and leave the parcel.  Is the courier industry contemplating this development with their fleets of vans?  It is easy for an industry to miss the wave, who goes to a video store any more?  Movies are delivered to you, streamed over the Internet.

No industry is immune to ‘change’.  In fact ‘change’ is probably a wrong descriptor, it sends the message that this is a momentous exercise that once completed will provide breathing space till the next ‘change’.  An unnecessary impost imposed by a new management regime to make its mark.  Preferable sets of descriptors to ‘change’ are ‘evolve, adapt and mitigate’ with ‘agility’.  ‘Evolve’ indicates you have read the winds and your business is at the cutting edge, leading the pack.  ‘Adapt’ is reading the metadata to tell you what is likely to happen, not what is happening, making sure you do not get left behind by the evolutionary businesses.  If a company is reading the traditional ‘measures of performance’ it is probably at risk of missing the next adaptation.  ‘Mitigation’ is something you want to avoid; it means you are peddling hard because you missed the wave to ‘evolve and adapt’ – you lacked ‘agility’.

To ‘evolve and adapt’ is a 24/7 event; it requires an organisation to be ‘agile’.  Everyone in the organisation needs to be ‘agile’, not just those defined as managers.  This universal requirement reflects the one critical change from the 20th to the 21st Centuries.  ‘Knowledge and information’ in the 20th Century were largely controlled by a limited number of people.  Teachers, for example, were ‘knowledge and information experts’, a position attained by their education, experience and what they had read in books; there was a ‘monopoly’ on knowledge and information and its dispersal.  Now there is no limit or control on the access to knowledge and information, it is no longer a monopoly or a ‘top down process’.  The Internet potentially make everyone an ‘expert’.  Managers should no longer be appointed on what they know, it should be on their agility to consume and interpret new information and reformat it to define how the organisation needs to evolve or adapt.

The term ‘disruptive industries’ has entered our vocabulary.  Essentially people thinking with ‘agility’ outside the box to deliver an old service in a new way.  Disruption is really just evolution, turn an industry on its head and become a monopoly supplier is a smart strategy to making significant revenue quickly.  Why enter a business sector and mirror the way it currently operates, taking the small, start up margin you can eke out while you establish your business?  Shooting to undermine the margins of your competitors by a new way of operating makes more sense, agility at its best.

Established businesses operate with a mindset that the counter to ‘disruptive players’ is to ‘change’.  This is usually an expensive and disruptive process.  It can impact on the ‘bottom line’; the assumption is short-term pain for long-term gain.  Unfortunately most change is premised on what is happening now, or in the immediate future.  ‘Change’ rarely discriminates between previously ‘good and bad practice’; everything goes.   Change is usually based on an embryonic understanding of the future and a large dollop of experience of the past, however, what if the past experience is invalid for the future?  Surely it makes more sense to continuously ‘evolve’ with ‘agility’ as the accepted best practice.  Sequential ‘change’ is a hangover from the 20th Century.

‘Agility’ is an organic process.  It is a mindset that needs to be embedded in the operating style of everyone in an organisation.  It is the only counter to the increasing number of ‘industry disruptors’ and dynamic change.  The key features of this organic and agile process are:

  • It shouldn’t involve expensive, time consuming and disruptive change and restructure
  • It should ensure that everyone is empowered to be an ‘agile contributor’ to the evolution of the organisation
  • It should be non-hierarchical to ensure that a master-servant attitude does not stifle creativity
  • It should encourage networking, knowledge accumulation and sharing – it should encourage self research and the contribution of ideas
  • It should value knowledge, ideas and ‘out of the box’ solutions’ by demonstrable reward
  • It should encourage free thinking and support education
  • It should value ambiguity and uncertainty and celebrate ‘jumping on the next wave’
  • Most of all – it should value ‘agility’ in personal contribution, structure and investment decisions

Importantly the mandating of ‘agility’ to the people in an organisation should not be open slather.  There is ‘good and bad agility’.  ‘Bad agility’ is the actions of rogue traders in the financial market, while making money for their company and themselves it is done unethically.  ‘Good agility’ is framed by ethical standards and clearly enunciated values and principles that are understood and persistently reinforced.

The business world will increasingly become ambiguous – the only solution is to embrace ‘agility’ and to join the team pushing the  ‘evolutionary’ envelope.

Building Trust and Promoting Collaboration in the Workplace

The modern corporate office environment is generally open-planned, minimalistic in style, decorated with lush wall-gardens, and furnished with generous plump lounges and long meeting tables with sophisticated coffee machines and a dozen or more Twining teas on offer.

These environments have been developed to foster collaboration, information sharing, inclusive behaviours and work practices as well as building employee satisfaction. I applaud the clever architects and interior designers, the blond wood and the modern white amenities look and feel clean, modern and inviting. So, what is not to like?

Well, I wonder about the behaviours in these environments. How do you have a full and frank conversation when you are surrounded by dozens of eyes and ears? Meeting rooms are a rarity and if you can find one, they have floor to ceiling glass walls which means privacy is difficult to achieve.

The real issue though is how conversations play out in the open plan environment. It can be loud, it can be chatty and at times disruptive, but that is real life, that is how we engage and behave in our social and family environment. What is not normal, at least in my social and family life, is whispering.

Whispering is Rude

Whispering sends a very clear message to all of those around the whispers – “I don’t want you to hear what I am saying”! Whispering is almost the opposite to collaboration, it creates an ‘in-group’ and an ‘out-group’ and it is very obvious which group you are in. At it’s worse, whispering is a form of exclusion at best, it is rude.

Whispering works directly against trust; without trust, we struggle to generate happy and productive employees which of course has a direct impact on the success of the business.

A simple message really, I was taught that whispering in front of others is ill-mannered, I have passed this message to my children, why then does whispering seems to be so common and ok in the workplace?

I understand that private conversations are important and necessary, my suggestion is to consider what it looks like to others – if you must have a very important and very quiet conversation, move to one of those rare meeting rooms or perhaps the plump lounge or one of the numerous coffee shops we are blessed with in most work environments. We don’t want to go back to stark white walls and high loop-carpet desk dividers, so we need to be more conscious of our behaviours and the associated messages.

But the point is, while you are trying to whisper, the message it sends is very loud indeed.