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“The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner is a guide to leadership development based on years of research. It is a practical guide which discusses five practices of exemplary leadership. Each of the next five blog posts will discuss one of these leadership practices.
The first leadership practice is called Model the Way. The authors say that exemplary leaders know who they are, have a voice, and communicate their beliefs out to others. They truly stand for something and are willing to fight for the beliefs that they espouse. They have values that they hold dear, which they have explored and tested to ensure they truly believe in them. Exemplary leaders also are able to share those values and create agreements and common understanding around them.
Exemplary leaders also Model the Way by setting an example. They follow through on what they say they are going to do, personify the shared values of the group, and spend their time living the values that they espouse. They also teach others to live by these values by confronting critical incidents (e.g. - unexpected events) and reinforcing good behavior.
In the research in their book people chose Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln as examples of exemplary leaders because they had strong beliefs that they followed through on in order to Model the Way for others.
What values do you espouse? Are you living those values? Are you creating an agreement around those values with others in your organization? Are you modeling the way in your organization?
If you are going through a large scale change in your organization - be it a technology implementation, a change in strategy, or new legislation - there will inevitably be some resistance to from your employees. Why? Because each person reacts differently to a change, stress, or moving out of their comfort zone. There are some typical reasons, however, that employees resist change. Here are the top five:
1.They don’t know why the change is happening - if an employee does not understand why a change is happening and how it could be important for the organization as a whole they will often not accept or be resistant to the change. By making and communicating out a “case for change” employees can understand why the change is needed.
2.They don’t think that the “rewards” outweigh the “cost” - often people like to stay in their comfort zone. They want to keep doing what they are used to doing unless the benefits of the change can be made for them. With the case for change, leaders need to clearly state the benefits of the change and why the new change will be better than the old one. Then employees will begin to feel more comfortable with the change process.
3.There is not enough clarity around the change - often when there is change information is not provided as frequently or as well as is necessary. Openness and transparency are important when going through a change process. It is imperative to share information down from the leadership on why, when, and how the change is happening and keep employees informed about the progress of the change.
4.They don’t feel part of the change - If employees are not asked for feedback as part of the change process then they don’t feel part of the change, which can lead to resistance. Feedback is an integral pat in of creating buy-in and having employees feel like their input and feelings are being heard and integrated into the change process.
5.Past change efforts have failed - some employees can feel like this effort will be just like the others and therefore are not supportive of it. Communicating why this one is different and why and how it will be successful will go a long way to reassuring people as well as showing “wins” during the implementation time frame.
Are you seeing any of these behaviors exhibited from your employees during change efforts? What have you done to alleviate resistance to change in your organization?
Managing up is a skill set that is needed for anyone who wants to be an integral part of their organization. It is about building a strong relationship with your boss, building trust, and bringing up issues when needed. So how do you successfully manage up? Well there are four main components that allow you to build a strong relationship with your boss:
1.Understanding what is important to your boss - knowing what are the major priorities and goals of your leader is critical for you to be able to take initiative, show support, and get involved in those areas. By taking steps to further the goals of your leader you will show him/her that you are aligned with his/her vision and wanting to contribute to those goals.
2.Helping them to prioritize your work - by understanding what is important to your boss you will be able to strategically think through what are the highest priorities in your work. You will then be able to focus on those tasks earlier than others and raise questions to your boss about them as needed. This will show that you are proactive, have drive, and are able to think strategically.
3.Raising issues to your leader - as you are closer to the ground than your boss you will be able to determine if there are any barriers to success in the making sooner than they will. As a result a good way to manage up is to raise issues to your boss which could be potential problems so that he/she can can deal with them in a timely and appropriate fashion.
4.Taking initiative to raise ideas and opportunities to your boss - being proactive shows your boss your enthusiasm, commitment, and desire to progress in the organization. It will also show them that they can delegate more work onto you and that you can bring up new initiatives that support the organization as a whole.
Is there anything from this list that you can add or improve upon in your day to day work?
What is effective communications? Communications is happening all of the time in organizations whether in formal channels such as town halls, meetings, memos, or emails. But communications can also happen in informal channels such as gossip, water cooler talk, and informal networking.
While informal communications can be helpful, the most effective communications are done in formal channels, consistently over time, and in a way that creates transparency in the organization.
Effective communications includes top down communications through meetings - informing leaders of key news who then communicate that information down to their teams. It also includes grassroots communications that conveys timely and consistent messages out to the entire organization through mediums such as newsletters, email blasts, and intranet updates. When employees of organizations receive key messages it is important that leaders have a bit more information than their staff so that they can answer questions as they arise.
Effective communications also includes feedback mechanisms where employees and leaders can provide their input to the organization. It is important for employees to feel heard and part of the process of effecting the organization. Feedback mechanisms can include email boxes, customer service phone numbers, anonymous mail boxes for suggestions, and openness in meetings to allow for suggestions and thoughts.
If formal communications channels are not used effectively or information is not open and transparent, gossip and “filling the void” occur. This means that employees will make up information to fill the “vacuum.”
Does your organization have some of these key elements of effective communications? If not what can you implement in order to increase the transparency in your organization and “fill the void?”
Monica Thakrar has over 14 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.