Before you start making changes…

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

Change is part of organizational life — inevitable, unsettling and necessary.

Too often when managers are pushed to improve, they make changes without taking stock of the situation and their talent. So, before you embark upon a change process, learn to ask yourself and your team five critical questions.

Knowing what you are now, coupled with the fortitude to push for positive change, is what leaders today need to succeed in our turbulent times.

Thoughts?

Follow me on Twitter @JohnBaldoni

Leadership and the Impossible

It’s Not Impossible – It Just Hasn’t Been Done Yet

Leaders - Nothing is Impossible

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

How many times in your career have you witnessed someone say, “that’s impossible – it simply can’t be done.” Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of uttering such a phrase yourself. Here’s the thing – leaders don’t accept impossibility as a valid thesis. If you think I’ve lost my mind, or that my optimistic nature has crossed over into a state of irrational exuberance or delusion, I’d encourage you to read on as I challenge the logic of impossibility.

The fact something has yet to be accomplished is rarely evidence of impossibility, rather it usually means whatever “it” is just hasn’t happened yet. Put simply, a lack of a particular outcome signals a lack of accomplishment, not impossibility. History has proven time and again that incurable diseases become curable, so-called laws of science are revealed to have been little more than flawed theory, and physical limitations once believed insurmountable are eventually exceeded.

When leaders view everything through a lens of what is they often get a false positive on impossibility. However when they change to a filter of what if the barriers to possibility are often removed. Conventional wisdom will tell you attainment and achievement lead to great outcomes. However true wisdom reveals discovery leads to better outcomes. Great leaders don’t play to an end, they think beyond outcomes – do you?

What if Michelangelo, Einstein, Ford, or the Wright Brothers had settled for impossibility over possibility? What if Gates, Jobs and Bezos focused on what was instead of the possibilities of what could be? What if our next generation of researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and academics fail to challenge conventional thinking? What if our world leaders continue to view the status quo as acceptable?  As a society we cannot afford to embrace theory as fact, fiction as truth, or good enough as good enough. The burden and privilege of leadership simply demands more.

When you think about what keeps good leaders up at night, it’s rarely an issue of can things be done, but more likely an issue of should they be done? Given enough time and resources, virtually anything can be accomplished. If you say you don’t have the resources, I will surmise you’re not very resourceful. If you state you don’t have the time, I will conclude you’re not very focused. If you imply you have too many things on your plate, I have no choice but to believe you’re not very disciplined.

Where the absence of an outcome or a discovery exists so does a lack of creativity, critical thought, focused energy, effort and resources, and ultimately a lack of leadership.  My thesis is a simple one: “The plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability in the absence of leadership.” Leadership is the difference between what could have been, and what will be.

Leaders must refuse to accept the status quo. Consider this – if nobody ever reinvented the wheel, our tires would still be made out of stone. Whenever I see leaders focus on maintenance over innovation, I see people who have unnecessarily drawn the line of impossibility in the sand. As I’ve said before, a leader’s job is to disrupt mediocrity – not embrace it, to challenge the norm – not embolden it, to weed out apathy – not reward it, and to dismantle bureaucracies – not build them. Nothing is impossible until you embrace it as such.

Thoughts?

Change: 3 Essentials For Every Leader

Change: 3 Essentials For Every Leader

 	Change: 3 Essentials For Every Leader

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

The sustainability of any organization hinges on leadership’s ability to understand, embrace, and implement change. Whenever leaders are surveyed about what keeps them awake at night, “change” is usually at or near the top of the list. When change initiatives fail, so do leaders. When brands fall into decline, and organizations implode, it’s often due to a company’s inability to change. In today’s post, I’ll share three fresh approaches to change.

Try to envision a future without change… it’s nearly impossible to do, isn’t it? A world without change, a world frozen in time, a world stuck in a perpetual state of status quo – it’s certainly uninspired, and for me, it’s altogether unimaginable. While most of us hold a worldview that embraces, if not demands change, this isn’t always the case with business leaders. Sure, most leaders talk about change, but do they really lead it? Talking about innovation is not the same as bringing it to life.

The best evidence of the importance of change leadership is what occurs in its absence– mediocrity, irrelevance, and ultimately, obsolescence. Leaders concerned with the cost of change should be far more concerned about the cost of not changing. The best of human ingenuity and accomplishment are experienced through change. To learn, create, advance, develop, and sustain, we must change. If you accept this premise as true, then my question is this: why do so many businesses struggle with the practice of change? The answer is regrettably obvious– many leaders are simply inept at leading change.

Following are three ideas, which will help you lead change more effectively:

#1: Pull Change Forward
Stop talking about change as a theoretical future state and pull it forward into the present. Change is the path to the future, but the future isn’t some ethereal, distant event – it begins in just a fraction of a second. While all great leaders must navigate the present, they must do so in anticipation of the future. The best leaders understand the present is nothing more than a platform for the envisioning of, and positioning for, the future. If you want to lead more effectively, shorten the distance between the future and present.

#2: Change Is Not a Process – It’s A Mindset
Leading change is far more than a process– it’s a cultural mindset. Change requires leaders to embrace dissenting opinions, give voice to positional differences, and to constantly challenge static thinking. While leading change does require skill, it first requires a decision to value change, and then it demands the courage to act. Leadership isn’t about being right; it’s about achieving the right outcomes. Change must be more than a buzzword used by leadership – it must be embedded within the strategic vision, cultural design, and operating fabric of the enterprise. Leaders who protect the status quo through control must surrender to change in order to secure the future for their organization.

#3: Leadership IS Change
If there are no visible signs of change in your organization, I would suggest your leadership isn’t leading. Change must become a leadership competency and priority. Leaders who fail to deliver change will be replaced by those who can. Leadership is nothing if not fluid, flexible, and forward moving – none of these things can occur without an emphasis on change. In fact, I would go so far as to say “leadership IS change.

Bonus: This is where it gets tricky – not all change is good change. Just as a lack of change can bring demise, Ill-conceived change, change solely for the sake of change, or change driven by hidden/self-serving agendas can ruin even category dominant brands. Make sure the drivers for change are in alignment with corporate values and vision, serve the best interests of the consumer, and lead to a higher purpose.

If you’re in a leadership role, it’s in the best interest of the organization, and those you lead, to embrace change at every level.

Thoughts?

Other Posts On Change/Innovation

Game Changers

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

At one time or another all great leaders experience something that is so big, so impactful, that it literally changes the landscape. It’s what I call a “Game Changer.” A game changer is that ah-ha moment that creates an extreme, disruptive advantage or improvement. What’s interesting is that the best leaders proactively focus on looking for game changers. Sure, great leaders never lose sight of their core business, they pay attention to managing risk, etc., but they expend far more energy intentionally searching for opportunity, but not just any opportunity – a game changer. In the text that follows I’ll not only provide you with a blue print for finding game changers, but I’ll also ask you to share your experiences and insights as well. I hope this post is a game changer for you…

As most of you know, I spent last week at the World Business Forum in New York. I listened to esteemed business school professors, two Nobel laureates, bestselling authors, and some of the world’s most successful CEOs. These were all people who have personally experienced game changers, and some have experienced them many times over.

While there were clearly a few moments last week that I found instructionally valuable in terms of creating a game changer (Nando Parrado), there weren’t nearly enough of them. There was far too much rehashing of old ideas spun as new. A game changer doesn’t maintain the status quo, it shatters it. It was this taste of disappointment that led me to share my personal process for finding and implementing game changers – I call it SMARTS(C) (Simple-Meaningful-Actionable-Relational-Transformational-Scalable).

Simple – While not all game changers are simple, the best ones usually are.  In most cases simple can be translated as realistic, cost effective, quick to adopt, and fast to implement. Don’t get entangled in complexities, get heavily invested in simplicity. 

Meaningful – It must add significant value to your core business, and if it doesn’t add to the core business it better add even more value. Here’s the thing…most leaders get sucked down into the weeds and they spend too much of their valuable time majoring in the minors. If it’s not really meaningful, it’s not a game changer so why do it? Focus on value creation.

Actionable – It’s not a game changer if whatever “it” is never gets off the drawing board. If you cannot turn an idea into innovation, if you can’t put thought into practice, it’s not a game changer. By definition game changers happen, they exist, they have life. They don’t lurk in the shadow-lands of the ethereal and esoteric, they become reality.   

Relational –  I have found that game changers enhance, extend, and leverage existing relationships as well as serve to create new ones. When you get down to brass tacks, all business boils down to people (employees, customers, partners, investors, vendors, etc.), and people mean relationships. Real game changers understand the power of people and relationships, and they embody this in both their construction and implementation. If you forget the people, you cannot have a game changer.  

Transformational – I have yet to see a static game changer. By definition, a game changer causes change. If nothing changes, if nothing is created, if nothing is improved, if nothing is transformed, then you don’t have a game changer. A lesson that I learned long ago is that you simply cannot experience sustainable improvement without transformation.

Scalable – if it’s not scalable it’s not a game changer. An idea that offers no hope of a future will more often than not turn into a nightmare rather than fulfill a dream.  True game changers are built with velocity and sustainability in mind. The best thing about real games changers is that they build upon themselves to catalyze other accretive opportunities.

So there you have it, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on creating game changers, my SMARTS if you will, it’s your turn to share. Share an ah-ha moment, an experience, a process, but share…This post can be a game changer to many people if those who read it are willing to share their collective wisdom. Go…

Leadership & Change

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership & Change
First the bad news
: If you’re not willing to embrace change you’re not ready to lead. Put simply, leadership is not a static endeavor. In fact, leadership demands fluidity, which requires the willingness to recognize the need for change, and finally the ability to lead change. Now the good news: As much as some people want to create complexity around the topic of leading change for personal gain, the reality is that creating, managing and leading change is really quite simple.  To prove my point, I’ll not only explain the entire change life-cycle in three short paragraphs, but I’ll do it in simple terms that anyone can understand. As a bonus I’ll also give you 10 items to assess in evaluating whether the change you’re considering is value added, or just change for the sake of change…

An Overview on the Importance of Change:
While there is little debate that the successful implementation of change can create an extreme competitive advantage, it is not well understood that the lack of doing so can send a company (or an individual’s career) into a death spiral. Companies that seek out and embrace change are healthy, growing, and dynamic organizations, while companies that fear change are stagnant entities on their way to a slow and painful death.

Agility, innovation, disruption, fluidity, decisiveness, commitment, and above all else a bias toward action will lead to the creation of change. It is the implementation of change which results in evolving, growing and thriving companies. Much has been written about the importance of change, but there is very little information in circulation about how to actually create it.

While most executives and entrepreneurs have come to accept the concept of change management as a legitimate business practice, and change leadership as a legitimate executive priority in theory, I have found very few organizations that have effectively integrated change as a core discipline and focus area in reality.  As promised, and without further ado, the change life-cycle in three easy steps:

1. Identifying the Need for Change: The need for change exists in every organization. Other than irrational change solely for the sake of change, every corporation must change to survive. If your entity doesn’t innovate and change in accordance with market driven needs and demands it will fail…it’s just that simple. The most complex area surrounding change is focusing your efforts in the right areas, for the right reasons, and at the right times. The ambiguity and risk can be taken out of the change agenda by simply focusing on three areas: 1) your current customers…what needs to change to better serve your customers? 2) potential customers…what needs to change to profitably create new customers? and; 3) your talent and resources…what changes need to occur to better leverage existing talent and resources?

2. Leading Change: You cannot effectively lead change without understanding the landscape of change. There are four typical responses to change: The Victim…those that view change as a personal attack on their persona, their role, their job, or their area of responsibility. They view everything at an atomic level based upon how they perceive change will directly and indirectly impact them. The Neutral Bystander…This group is neither for nor against change. They will not directly or vocally oppose change, nor will they proactively get behind change. The Neutral Bystander will just go with the flow not wanting to make any waves, and thus hoping to perpetually fly under the radar. The Critic…The Critic opposes any and all change. Keep in mind that not all critics are overt in their resistance. Many critics remain in stealth mode trying to derail change behind the scenes by using their influence on others. Whether overt or covert, you must identify critics of change early in the process if you hope to succeed. The Advocate…The Advocate not only embraces change, they will evangelize the change initiative. Like The Critics, it is important to identify The Advocates early in the process to not only build the power base for change, but to give momentum and enthusiasm to the change initiative. Once you’ve identified these change constituencies you must involve all of them, message properly to each of them, and don’t let up. With the proper messaging and involvement even adversaries can be converted into allies.

3. Managing Change: Managing change requires that key players have control over 4 critical elements: 1) Vision Alignment…those that understand and agree with your vision must be leveraged in the change process. Those that disagree must be converted or have their influence neutralized; 2) Responsibility…your change agents must have a sufficient level of responsibility to achieve the necessary results; 3) Accountability…your change agents must be accountable for reaching their objectives, and; 4) Authority…if the first three items are in place, yet your change agents have not been given the needed authority to get the job done the first three items won’t mean much…you must set your change agents up for success and not failure by giving them the proper tools, talent, resources, responsibility and authority necessary for finishing the race.

There you have it; the 3 pillars of change in three short paragraphs. Now that you understand change, here’s are the 10 points that need validating prior to launching a change initiative:

  1. Alignment and Buy-in: The change being considered should be in alignment with the overall values, vision and mission of the enterprise. Senior leadership must champion any new initiative. If someone at the C-suite level is against the new initiative it will likely die a slow and painful death.
  2. Advantage:  If the initiative doesn’t provide a unique competitive advantage it should at least bring you closer to an even playing field.
  3. Value Add: Any new project should preferably add value to existing initiatives, and if not, it should show a significant enough return on investment to justify the dilutive effect of not keeping the main thing the main thing.
  4. Due Diligence: Just because an idea sounds good doesn’t mean it is. You should endeavor to validate proof of concept based upon detailed, credible research. Do your homework – put the change initiative through a rigorous set of risk/reward and cost/benefit analyses. Forget this step and you won’t be able to find a rock big enough to hide under.
  5. Ease of Use:  Whether the new initiative is intended for your organization, vendors, suppliers, partners or customers it must be simple and easy. Usability drives adoptability, and therefore it pays to keep things simple. Don’t make the mistake of confusing complexity with sophistication.
  6. Identify the Risks: Nothing is without risk, and when you think something is without risk that is when you’re most likely to end-up in trouble. All initiatives should include detailed risk management provisions that contain sound contingency and exit planning.
  7. Measurement: Any change initiative should be based upon solid business logic that drives corresponding financial engineering and modeling. Be careful of high level, pie-in-the-sky projections. The change being adopted must be measurable. Deliverables, benchmarks, deadlines, and success metrics must be incorporated into the plan.
  8. The Project: Many companies treat change as some ethereal form of management hocus pocus that will occur by osmosis. A change initiative must be treated as a project. It must be detailed and deliverable on a schedule. The initiative should have a beginning, middle and end.
  9. Accountability: Any new initiative should contain accountability provisions. Every task should be assigned and managed according to a plan and in the light of day.
  10. Actionable: A successful initiative cannot remain in a strategic planning state. It must be actionable through focused tactical implementation. If the change initiative being contemplated is good enough to get through the other 9 steps, then it’s good enough to execute.

Has this been useful? Have I left anything out, or got anything wrong? Sound-off in the comments below…