CONSIDER THIS SCENARIO

ACME Corporation is implementing a new technology. 

  • Executive Eric exclaims, “We need this new technology to remain competitive!  Why is it taking so long?  Why aren’t my managers getting their people on board?”
  • Middle Manager Mary laments, “I’ve been directed to implement this new technology when we haven’t even finished our last major roll-out.  My staff just rolled their eyes at me when I announced the change, complaining about how they don’t have time to learn the new process with everything else on their plates.” 
  • Employee Eddie complains, “Here we go again. Another program of the year. We’ll outlive this change, just like the last one corporate tried to shove down our throats!'”

DOES THAT SOUND FAMILIAR?

Change challenges vary by organizational level. Those at the top, like Executive Eric, usually set the direction of the change and are most convinced of the need for it, but they tend to be isolated from many of the change’s direct impacts. Staff on the front lines, like Employee Eddie, are most removed from the rationale behind the change, but are often most directly impacted by it; an alteration in their behavior is usually a significant part of the change initiative, and they can thus appear most resistant to it. That means that managers like Mary – and perhaps you too – typically find themselves stuck in the middle, squeezed between these two levels, sandwiched between the edicts of their bosses and pushback from their staff.

WHAT CAN A MIDDLE MANAGER DO?

Managers can play a mission-critical role in leading change by helping their organizations overcome these all-too-common disconnects across organizational levels, which result in over 70% of major organizational changes failing to achieve their objectives. Here are ways to exert your influence and emerge as a powerful voice in leading change, which is a pivotal capability for a leader at any level across all industries today:

INFLUENCE UP

What you see depends on where you sit.  It can be easy to vilify senior leaders above you in the hierarchy, but they don’t know what they don’t know – and it’s your job to tell them. Why is the TV show Undercover Boss so popular? Because in every episode a CEO masquerades as a frontline employee and experiences how hard it is for good people to comply with the changes they must wrestle with. How can you step up to help your executives see that sometimes the emperor has no clothes, and that they may benefit from a new way to engage people in and equip people for new directions?

ALSO, INFLUENCE DOWN

At times managers can be as in the dark about the changes they are supposed to drive as their staff! Take control by proactively obtaining the information you need about the ‘they, why, what, who, and how of the change,’ so you are armed to deliver the message to your people. It can be tempting to join the naysayers, especially when you have so many legitimate concerns and such limited information. Remember that behind every complaint is a request, and strive to tease out the wants and needs, communicate what you unearth in a business language that can be acted upon, and challenge your team to step-up and be part of the solution versus the problem.

HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE

The most important change leadership competency is courage – the courage to say what needs to be said in an authentic, transparent, professional and respectful way to help others up and down the organization appreciate the need for change, understand the barriers in the current state, and collaborate to invent a new path forward.

ABOUT BARBARA TRAUTLEIN, PHD

Barbara is the principal and founder of Change Catalysts, the author of the best-selling book Change Intelligence: Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks, and the originator of the CQ® System for Developing Change Intelligence®. For over 25 years, she has coached executives, trained leaders at all levels, certified change agents, and facilitated mission-critical transformations – achieving bottom-line business and powerful leadership results for clients. She is gifted at sharing strategies and tactics that are accessible, actionable, and immediately applicable.

Dr. Trautein will be delivering 11 IMS programs on Developing Your Change Intelligence to Lead Critical Initiatives in 2020. To learn more about Barbara and her IMS programs CLICK HERE.

Futurist Bob Treadway

No single set of skills and techniques will help you sustain and improve your team, organization, or even career more than anticipation. Most leaders have never taken a course or seminar on the subject. It wasn’t in the required curriculum for your university major, was it?

Effective anticipation sees not just the obvious that’s ahead but also the hidden, the hinted-at, the possible. The process need not be complicated. But it must be persistent. I urge you to adopt the approaches I list here. Habits of anticipation will stand you in good stead for your entire career, for your entire life.

Here is a “starter kit” for anticipation. Things to do, ways to think, and habits to adopt that allow you to see developments before they arrive, avoid nasty surprises, and take advantage of opportunity.

Widen and Lengthen Your View

The most successful business leaders keep themselves informed. They see media, listen to viewpoints, mine promising sources, and collect forward-looking contacts that see ahead. They leverage time saving summaries, look at sources with a future focus, and employ technology to push information their way. They team with peers and associates to compare notes, discover unusual insights, and gain novel perspective. They change up their sources and network to cast a wider net for signals of what’s ahead. Nothing goes over their head. They allow their curiosity to drive a continuous alertness to signals of the future. I list two excellent free daily resources at the end of this posting.

See the Significant

I’m often asked, “What should I pay attention to? There’s so much reading and information I’ve got to see already.” Recognize information that will have the strongest impact on your future from three simple categories:

  1. Be surprised. A surprise is new information, a departure from your current understanding, and probably a signal of something to come you should be monitoring.
  2. Determine “game-changers.” Keep an open mind but be honest with yourself about factors, forces, and innovations that could change everything. Robotics, artificial intelligence, generational change, and social adoptions are appropriate current examples. Don’t hunker down in denial. Here is an opportunity to adapt, ally, or move in a new direction.
  3. Notice what has strong implications. An implication is a consequence, result, impact, upshot, or ripple effect. A development with high-impact implications is a blip on your radar. Your mind should jump to the question, “Since that’s happened (or will happen) then what?” Your brain will think like a futurist to create a range, a cascade of after-effects.

Analyze Impacts

Many of my clients organize implications into systems and patterns. One quick technique you can try is to write a trigger event, situation, or scenario in the middle of a blank sheet. Then ask the “then what?” question and write 3-5 impacts down in a circle around the trigger. Then go to each of the those implications you recorded and ask “then what?” of each of those, generating 2-3 more implications. By the time you reach the third level you’ll see entries and patterns that are actions and strategies for how to move into the future.

Of course this process is even better when done in a small group as we do in IMS learning experiences. The addition of other viewpoints and experiences causes you to include a wider range of possibilities. You’ll find your teammates bring perspectives you would not have developed on your own. This also allows you some time to contemplate what’s coming. The “implication wheels” you generate are insightful, full of specifics, and prompt you to use the next portion of the took-kit below.

Pull the Trigger

Anticipation leads to a forecast. Forecasts are valuable insights and knowledge of future events. But scanning, thinking, and analysis is useless unless it leads to action. Doing something that protects, leverages an advantage, opens a new avenue, or puts a proactive plan in place is what seeing around the corner should accomplish.

Those are four components of an anticipation system. Widen-broaden your view. Recognize the signals both obvious and less so. Analyze potential impacts. Take action.

Scanning Resources

Two free, well-curated, morning-delivered summaries I suggest you give 5 to 10 minutes daily:

Morning Brew – business-oriented with useful dashboard graphics, a forward-look, and good writing – morningbrew.com/daily/r/?kid=ee9dc2

Quartz – the news e-mail that took things up a notch. International in scope. qz.com

About Bob Treadway

Bob Treadway is the President of Treadway & Associates, a consulting and training organization that focuses on future business environments, strategy and planning methodologies. He has consulted and designed programs for major organizations as such Gillette, Berkshire Hathaway, SBC, American Express, Pfizer, and the Federal Reserve. You can learn more about Bob on his website at: https://www.trendtalk.com.