Tag: Human Resources and Industrial Relations

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


Keeping yourself informed in your business

No one tells me anything!

“Nobody ever tells me anything around here!”

How many times have we heard that?  Or “communication is hopeless in our business, we are like mushrooms, always kept in the dark!

While I will be the first to admit that we have worked with many leaders who lack communication and in particular storytelling capabilities and experience, and may not prioritise communication or are not skilled in ensuring they are ‘on message’, we rarely work with leaders who intentionally keep people in the dark.

Recently when working on a major acquisition, there were rumblings from across the teams that ‘we don’t know what is going on, no one is telling us anything’, so we investigated the communication forums, channels and initiatives available to the largely centralised organisation. There appeared to be several ways to learn more about the acquisition – CEO Update, intranet updates, toolbox talks, lunch and learn, team briefs, branded newsletter blasts, fortnightly videos – ‘what it means for our function’, the obligatory bathroom and kitchen posters and of course key messages were provided to all leaders to deliver during their standard team meetings. So, why was the “Mushroom Syndrome” so alive and well across the business? My theory – there was resistance, scepticism and almost a laziness from some individual’s about keeping themselves informed. If the information was not delivered in the way I wanted it, by whom I wanted it delivered by, then I did not feel informed!

But where is the responsibility to keep yourself informed?

Communication is two-way, we interpret and we listen, it is also multi-faceted, we can gather enormous amounts of information through questioning, observing, involving ourselves and most simply, reading the available information and actively listening when it is relayed at various forums.

Regardless of position, duration or experience; there is a responsibility to keep yourself informed, some easy options include:

  • Be present in meetings and actively listen, if you don’t understand something or require more information, ask a question or follow up
  • Allocate time each week to read the content which has been uploaded or emailed
  • Volunteer to be a part of projects or focus groups; get involved
  • Adopt a growth mindset, instead of assuming you are being kept in the dark, seek information to feed the gap in your knowledge
  • Share what you know with others
  • If you hear people saying, no one ever tells me anything, ask them “what have you done to keep yourself informed?”

We live in a highly complex, rapidly changing world where the luxury of waiting until all data is available before communicating an outcome is becoming a thing of the past. However the positive of operating in a highly complex, rapidly changing world means there are many times when the unknown is a real opportunity to test, challenge, query and learn – and we do all of this by keeping ourselves informed.

A lesson from early school days – if you don’t know, you need to ask!

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.

Accelerating Teamwork

Optimising a Team’s Potential by Accelerating Teamwork

Workplaces depend on team effort more than ever.  What’s driving this?  In part, it’s the frenetic pace of change, redundancy was once an infrequent occurrence, now it can be a weekly event.  This creates ambiguity and uncertainty, which can be both exhausting and threatening at the same time.  One certainty amongst this uncertainty is that teamwork comes to the fore.  A united team, underpinned by its collective knowledge and experience, is going to better weather adverse situations.  A silver lining in this is that mutual effort accumulates and makes the next challenge easier to handle, a win/win for the organisation and the individual.

A challenging statistic from a survey by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) indicated 86% of leaders surveyed believe that the capacity to work across demographic, geographic, stakeholder and other boundaries is extremely important.  Yet only 7% of these leaders described themselves as “very effective” at working in cross-boundary teams.

The consoling fact in this figure is there must be huge potential for organisations to harness this upside potential!

So how can this process of working as a team be accelerated?

Self-awareness is the starting point for accelerating teamwork.  Feedback is key to self-awareness.  Feedback should come from multiple sources including assessment tools, colleagues, third-party business parties (suppliers, customers), associates and friends. A high degree of self-awareness allows each team member to excel and exploit his or her full potential.  What this includes is identifying each person’s skill potential; their operating style; and where they may need development.

Encouraging individuals to share something about themselves is a good step towards accelerating team development.  It’s important to provide an environment conducive to this that promotes openness. A simple team building exercise is to ask people to select a photograph or symbol that means something to them, they then share what it means to them and why, invariably you learn much more than where they went to school or their favourite food.  Once people start to talk about their photo/symbol you can ask more questions and understand whom they are.

A shared purpose will accelerate teamwork.  At times the conversation around purpose is missed if the team assumes they have a shared understanding of the “why”. A real conversation, with no ‘super chickens’ (a term from Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk – “Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work”) around the team’s purpose, followed by the underpinning behaviours achieves this objective.

Being conscious of the desired team behaviours requires relentless focus (we are only human!). If the team selects behaviours such as curiosity; challenge; listening; and optimism then a strategy may be to focus on one behaviour until it becomes “how we work”, then progress to the next.

Optimising a team’s potential takes time and effort.

So what can you as the leader do right now?

  • Get people talking – face to face, over the phone, Skype – whatever media is available
  • Have some fun together – this doesn’t mean the team has to climb the high ropes – this can be simple: individuals share a Dilbert cartoon that appeals to them; using an abstract image ask individuals to identify what they “see”; have a ‘cook-off’ and ‘break bread’ together, humour and fun is a key ingredient in highly satisfied teams
  • Buddy up individuals – this is a great idea until you are able to get the team together (either physically or virtually)
  • Collaboratively establish a team charter – these are the norms that you and the team establish to ensure efficiency and success.
  • Role model the behaviours you expect from your team – the team will take cues from the leader about what is expected and acceptable behaviour – discuss these expectations as soon as possible with the team

Accelerating teamwork is possible.  The benefits will be worth the effort.

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.

Who is your “True North”?

Change2020 works with a variety of industries and many different leaders. Within this diversity, the one thing that resonates as critical for the success of these individual leaders is having either someone or a small number of people who are their True North.

Bill George’s book – Discover your True North: Become an Authentic Leader (2015) – building on his 2007 book (True North) – confirms that authentic leaders are true to themselves and to their beliefs. Authentic leaders are needed for future and this has become the “gold standard”.

A person who is a True North is someone whom the leader trusts explicitly, is able to act authentically with and whom he/she can express vulnerability. They are people who can provide a leader advice, support, guidance and feedback as they manoeuvre through the complexities of the changing and ambiguous business environment – filled with challenges, opportunities and risks.

Every leader needs a True North – no matter how experienced, competent or successful.

As a senior executive, my True North was a person over 10 years my junior. Her name is Monica. Monica understood me as a leader – my motivations, drivers and values. She was courageous enough to tell some home truths or suggest alternatives for me to consider. At times, Monica was just there to listen when I was trying to work through a problem. She didn’t always agree and she told me when she thought I was wrong.

Monica was initially a fellow employee who had a matrixed reporting relationship with me. The trust-based working relationship developed over time as we worked towards the common purpose and achieving business results.

My True North made me a better person, a better leader with better business outcomes.

I gave my True North “permission” to:

  • Tell it like it is
  • Challenge my assumptions
  • Work with me to resolve problems
  • Push me outside your comfort zone
  • Remind me to remain optimistic
  • Get me to think differently
  • Make me laugh when I was starting to take myself too seriously

It is sometimes lonely as a leader and having at least one True North should assist you to be the best version of your authentic self while delivering business results in an environment of continuous change and ambiguity.

Do you have a True North? Or have your identified your True North?

Change2020 – a perspective one year on

Reflecting on one year as a consultant with Change2020 has been a happy experience… it’s hard to believe that it’s ‘only’ been 12 months.

For me the year has reinforced that the greatest learning we have is from each other. Although the opportunity in change is immense, the pathway to delivering outcomes is often complex. The only true formula to successful change is to drive broad ranging, relentless engagement and to be responsive to these discussions. I call it the change within the change, and successful change leaders are agile and recognise this nuance. Having worked with clients willing to adopt this mindset as part of transformational change has been to see genuine partnership, collaboration and courage. To shape a program and implement at the right time, with the right level of emotional investment, is a two-way process that involves a balance of intuition, judgement and ongoing adaptation. It is also an investment in trust and this is fundamentally the central premise of partnering in change.

Embrace ambiguity. The creation of this new Change2020 vision has been a very exciting development in our journey over the past 12 months. Embrace ambiguity is the essence of who we are as change consultants, but also much more than that. It’s the world we live in, the business context we operate within and a shared awareness amongst the people we talk with each day. To be able to genuinely live this vision is, for me, everything to do with leadership, change, strategy and engagement. Ultimately in any change program there are essentially a set of variables and a set of values – marrying the two together is the currency of change management and it’s not straightforward. To build the Embrace Ambiguity vision is the greatest opportunity in change for any organisation and one that we look forward to continuing to evolve.

Over the last year I have also met some truly fantastic people who have joined the Change2020 team and it has been inspiring to see our numbers double in size. These individuals bring diversity and perspective, and the exciting aspect has been the immediate alignment with our vision and values, and the collective recognition and connection that this has provided. These individuals live our story and talking about it really has been a lot of fun. (NB: We couldn’t do what we do without all of you).

Everything Change2020 does aligns with its core values and it drives a proposition that is focused on relationships and delivery. This is a point of difference that is very exciting and rewarding. It provides a working environment that genuinely respects and invests in individuality, and this has been the biggest change for me – to appreciate true authenticity.

To see change delivered is the ultimate learning experience as a consultant. The past year has reinforced that to listen, learn and adapt as needed is essential and, above all, just keep it real. Here’s to the next twelve months of working with amazing team members, clients, new clients and collaborators – and to embracing ambiguity.

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