Category Archives: Leadership

Creating Great Change, Transformation and Innovation Teams

Creating Great Change, Transformation and Innovation Teams

GUEST POST from Stefan Lindegaard

Teams and organizations need to be agile, resilient and able to effectively navigate change and transformation to stay ahead in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Thus, the above question is one I often ponder upon and discuss in my network and circles. I would like to start a conversation here to better identify the key elements to make a team great for adapting to change, managing transformation and driving innovation.

So, this is like a discussion starter. Feel free to engage and follow-up with your ideas and perspectives in the comments!

What are the key benefits for you and your team(s)?

I am working on these three key benefits that a team should strive for as they develop through the building blocks I propose in this context.

1. Improved ability to embrace change and innovation!

Teams need to develop the skills and mindset needed to quickly and effectively respond to new situations, changes, and opportunities, leading to a more agile and adaptive teams and organization.

2. Stronger team cohesion and communication!

By focusing on psychological safety, emotional intelligence, resilience and internal communication around change and transformation, participants can get insights into creating an even more supportive work environment that encourages open communication and collaboration, leading to stronger relationships, a circle of us and a more positive work culture.

3. Continuous growth and development!

When teams and the team-members step outside their comfort zones, foster a culture of continuous learning, and develop a growth mindset this can lead to ongoing personal and professional growth for all team members.

The Building Blocks to Apply for Stronger Teams

Here, I share a range of topics that teams can work more specifically with in order to get better at adapting to changes, managing transformation and driving innovation.

Maybe you can suggest others like this or let me know what you think is really relevant here or not so at all?

1. Adaptability and Agility: The ability to be flexible and responsive in a fast-paced environment, adapting to change and embracing new opportunities.

2. Fostering Psychological Safety: Creating a supportive work environment that encourages open communication, experimentation, and learning.

3. Developing a Growth Mindset as a Team: Cultivating a curious, learning-oriented approach to challenges and opportunities, fostering a team environment that values personal and professional growth.

4. Internal Communication Around Changes and Transformation: Clear and effective communication of vision, strategy, and goals to team members and stakeholders to help them understand and navigate changes and transformations.

5. Collaboration Capabilities: Enhancing the ability to collaborate effectively with stakeholders, partners, and other teams, both within and outside the organization, to achieve common goals.

6. Emotional Intelligence (EI): Recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions to effectively navigate social interactions and build positive relationships.

7. Resilience: Bouncing back from challenges, maintaining positivity, and adapting to adversity through proactive approaches.

8. Strategic Vision: Aligning goals and vision with the organization’s future, anticipating future trends and challenges, and thinking systematically about goals, resources, and challenges.

9. Expanding One’s Comfort Zone: Encouraging personal and professional growth by embracing new challenges and taking calculated risks while continuously learning and developing.

10. Continuous Learning: Fostering a culture of continuous learning, growth, and development.

11. Stakeholder Engagement: Identifying and effectively engaging with internal stakeholders to ensure their support for successful implementation.

12. Data-Driven Decision Making: Making informed decisions by identifying, analyzing, and utilizing relevant data and insights from within the organization.

13. The Circle of Us: Identifying and focusing on the people elements and interpersonal interactions that need to be address to a higher degree to build stronger teams.

14. Empowerment: Many team leaders struggle with empowerment as in giving this to their own teams. Among several reasons for this, two might stand out. 1) They are unsure what they are allowed to do for their own leaders and 2) they don’t know how to increase the level of empowerment for their team members.

15. The “being too busy” Challenge: Everyone is so busy today. This can lead to a focus on the “wrong” things which in particular can have a negative impact in the mid and long-term range. A key issue here is to understand if and how being too busy impacts you in negative ways and then how to address this.

I believe these capabilities and mindset indicators help teams and employees develop and improve in areas critical to their success and growth, allowing them to be more effective and confident in their roles. This is highly needed for change, transformation and innovation.

Please be sure and share your reactions and additions in the comments.

Image Credit: Pexels

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Five Challenges All Teams Face

Five Challenges All Teams Face

GUEST POST from David Burkus

Teams face a lot of different challenges. Leading a team involves leading through many challenges. You’re given performance objectives. You map out a plan of execution with your team. But pretty quickly, you will run into challenges—both seen and unseen. And while most of these challenges are unique to the work being done and the team doing that work, some challenges are universal for teams.

These challenges all teams face are less about the work and more about teamwork and collaboration. That’s what makes them so common. But because they’re so common, they can be anticipated—and overcome.

In this article, we’ll outline five challenges all teams face and offer some insight on how to overcome them.

1. Finding Direction

The first challenge all teams face is finding direction. Most teams in most organizations don’t get to decide what specifically they get to work on—it comes with their collective job descriptions. However, they still get to make decisions as a team about what the priorities around all their tasks are, and sometimes even who is going to do which task. This is the initial challenge of finding direction. But keeping direction in a changing environment can be just as challenging as well. Priorities often need to change or be rearranged. New tasks are assigned. New changes in the environment happen. And that could mean slight shifts in the direction need to be made.

As a leader, one of the easiest ways to find and keep direction is through a regular “huddle” or weekly meeting. In that meeting, give the team a chance to review what they’re focused on, what they’ve completed, what potential roadblocks they face, and who needs assistance. These weekly meetings help review the large-scale direction and provide space to make any small-scale shifts in direction as well.

2. Improving Communication

The second challenge all teams face is improving communication. Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, including the relationships on your team. The challenge of improving communication arises because everyone has slightly different communication preferences. Some people prefer to talk in person, some on the phone, some in email. Some people write short, quick emails, others write five paragraph essays. These differences in communication preferences can lead to a lot of miscommunications as well. Many conflicts on a team happen because one person assumed their preferences were shared by everyone else, and they were not.

As a leader, taking the time to have conversations about communication preferences can go a long way toward improving communication. Outline the communication tools the team has available and discuss when the team would prefer to use each one, for what type of communication, and any best practices the team can think of for that tool. Ideally, this leads to a set of group norms around communication and communication tools. Those norms can be revised from time to time but should be done so collectively. Otherwise, everyone goes back to their typical preferences.

3. Building Trust

The third challenge all teams face is building trust. Trust is a core component of teamwork. We need to trust the competency of our teammates—that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. But we also need to trust the character of those teammates—we need to know we can admit failures or request help without being demeaned or ostracized. Teams need a climate of trust so that they can safely disagree with each other and engage in task-focused conflict that ensures the best ideas rise to the top.

Research suggests that trust builds through a reciprocal process. So as a leader, the way to build trust on a team is to step out and signal you trust them. The most powerful way to do this is to be vulnerable. Leaders need to share certain vulnerabilities they have. They need to be willing to admit they don’t have all the answers all of the time, and that they need help from the team as well. Lead with vulnerability and teammates will follow, which over time will lead the team into greater levels of trust.

4. Keeping Diversity

The fourth challenge all teams face is keeping diversity. To be fair, many teams still struggle with finding enough diversity, but most leaders and team recognize that diversity on a team is a worthy goal. That creates a new challenge, keeping diversity. Ideally, diverse teams are formed because people with diverse backgrounds bring a diverse set of experience and perspectives to the team. However, as the team works together over time, they start to share the same experiences and perspectives. Eventually, if a team works together long enough, their ideas and opinions will start to become really similar. They may still look like a diverse team, but they act like a monoculture.

As a leader, this means rotating the roster of your team more often than it might seem necessary. It means being comfortable with the idea that people leaving the team can be a net positive as new members, and new perspectives join. It could also mean looking for small scale additions to diversity such as inviting members of different teams into group discussions or encouraging the team to seek out new cross-functional colleagues or new sources of ideas and inspiration.

5. Maintaining Motivation

The fifth challenge all teams is maintaining motivation. Staying motivated as a team, especially when the work gets difficult is a huge challenge for any team. Motivation and engagement happen when the work people are asked to do challenges them just enough to engage their full skillset—but not so much that it seems impossible. It also requires those challenges to be connected to a broader mission or purpose. People want to do work that matters—and teams want to know why their team matters.

As a leader, this requires looking at motivation both individually and teamwide. Individually, pay attention to the task-load of each member of the team. Ensure that they’re being challenged, but not overwhelmed. This may require moving some assignments around to different people on the team. Teamwide, make sure the team understands how its mission and objectives fit into the larger purpose of the organization. Be ready to draw a clear and connecting line between the work the team is asked to do, and the way that work serves a bigger purpose. Perhaps the best way to convey this purpose is by answering the question “Who is served by the work that we do?” and then building in reminders around that “who.”

These five challenges are ones every team faces eventually. But they aren’t the only challenges teams face. However, teams that proactively work to overcome these challenges work together better—and are better able to overcome those new, specific challenges. All teams face these challenges, but the answers to these challenges are how any team can start to do its best work ever.

Image credit: Pexels

Originally published at https://davidburkus.com on January 23, 2023.

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Creating Productive Interactions During Difficult Times

Creating Productive Interactions During Difficult Times

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

When times are stressful, it’s more difficult to be effective and skillful in our interactions with others. Here are some thoughts that could help.

Decide how you want to respond, and then respond accordingly.

Before you respond, take a breath. Your response will be better.

If you find yourself responding before giving yourself permission, stop your response and come clean.

Better responses from you make for even better responses from others.

If you interrupt someone in the middle of their sentence so you can make your point, you made a different point.

If you find yourself preparing your response while listening to someone, that’s not listening.

If you recognize you’re not listening, now there are at least two people who know the truth.

When there are no words coming from your mouth, that doesn’t constitute listening.

The strongest deterrent to listening is talking.

If you disagree with one element of a person’s position, you can, at the same time, agree with other elements of their position. That’s how agreement works.

If you start with agreement, even the smallest bit, disagreement softens.

Before you can disagree, it’s important to listen and understand. And it’s the same with agreement.

It’s easy to agree if that’s what you want to accomplish. And it’s the same for disagreement.

If you want to move toward agreement, start with understanding.

If you want to demonstrate understanding, start with listening.

If you want to demonstrate good listening, start with kindness.

Here are three mantras I find helpful:

  1. Talk less to listen more.
  2. Before you respond, take a breath.
  3. Kindness before agreement.

Image credit: Wikimedia

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The Five Gifts of Uncertainty

The Five Gifts of Uncertainty

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“How are you doing?  How are you handling all this?”

It seems like 90% of conversations these days start with those two sentences.  We ask out of genuine concern and also out of a need to commiserate, to share our experiences, and to find someone that understands.

The connection these questions create is just one of the Gifts of Uncertainty that have been given to us by the pandemic.

Yes, I know that the idea of uncertainty, especially in big things like our lives and businesses, being a gift is bizarre.  When one of my friends first suggested the idea, I rolled my eyes pretty hard and then checked to make sure I was talk to my smart sarcastic fellow business owner and not the Dali Lama.

But as I thought about it more, started looking for “gifts” in the news and listening for them in conversations with friends and clients, I realized how wise my friend truly was.

Faced with levels of uncertainty we’ve never before experienced, people and businesses are doing things they’ve never imagined having to do and, as a result, are discovering skills and abilities they never knew they had.  These are the Five Gifts of Uncertainty

  1. Necessity of offering a vision – When we’re facing or doing something new, we don’t have all the answers. But we don’t need all the answers to take action.  The people emerging as leaders, in both the political and business realms, are the ones acknowledging this reality by sharing what they do know, offering a vision for the future, laying out a process to achieve it, and admitting the unknowns and the variables that will affect both the plan and the outcome.
  2. Freedom to experiment – As governments ordered businesses like restaurants to close and social distancing made it nearly impossible for other businesses to continue operating, business owners were suddenly faced with a tough choice – stop operations completely or find new ways to continue to serve. Restaurants began to offer carry out and delivery.  Bookstores, like Powell’s in Portland OR and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester VT, also got into curbside pick-up and delivery game.  Even dentists and orthodontists began to offer virtual visits through services like Wally Health and Orthodontic Screening Kit, respectively.
  3. Ability to change – Businesses are discovering that they can move quickly, change rapidly, and use existing capabilities to produce entirely new products. Nike and HP are producing face shields. Zara and Prada are producing face masks. Fanatics, makers of MLB uniforms, and Ford are producing gowns.  GM and Dyson are gearing up to produce ventilators. And seemingly every alcohol company is making hand sanitizer.  Months ago, all of these companies were in very different businesses and likely never imagined that they could or would pivot to producing products for the healthcare sector.  But they did pivot.
  4. Power of Relationships – Social distancing and self-isolation are bringing into sharp relief the importance of human connection and the power of relationships. The shift to virtual meetups like happy hours, coffees, and lunches is causing us to be thoughtful about who we spend time with rather than defaulting to whoever is nearby.  We are shifting to seeking connection with others rather than simply racking up as many LinkedIn Connections, Facebook friends, or Instagram followers as possible.  Even companies are realizing the powerful difference between relationships and subscribers as people unsubscribed en mass to the “How we’re dealing with COVID-19 emails” they received from every company with which they had ever provided their information.
  5. Business benefit of doing the right thing – In a perfect world, businesses that consistently operate ethically, fairly, and with the best interests of ALL their stakeholders (not just shareholders) in mind, would be rewarded. We are certainly not in a perfect world, but some businesses are doing the “right thing” and rea being rewarded.  Companies like Target are offering high-risk employees like seniors pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems 30-days of paid leave.  CVS and Comcast are paying store employees extra in the form of one-time bonuses or percent increases on hourly wages.  Sweetgreen and AllBirds are donating food and shoes, respectively, to healthcare workers.  On the other hand, businesses that try to leverage the pandemic to boost their bottom lines are being taken to task.  Rothy’s, the popular shoe brand, announced on April 13 that they would shift one-third of their production capacity to making “disposable, non-medical masks to workers on the front line” and would donate five face masks for every item purchased.  Less than 12 hours later, they issued an apology for their “mis-step,” withdrew their purchase-to-donate program, and announced a bulk donation of 100,000 non-medical masks.

Before the pandemic, many of these things seemed impossibly hard, even theoretical.  In the midst of uncertainty, though, these each of these things became practical, even necessary.  As a result, in a few short weeks, we’ve proven to ourselves that we can do what we spent years saying we could not.

These are gifts to be cherished, remembered and used when the uncertainty, inevitably, fades.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Hyper-Innovation

A Change Management Strategy for Better, Faster Ideas

Hyper-Innovation

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

The nature of innovation is that it is a hyper-fluid force that is never fully predictable. A well-curated change management strategy helps to harness the power of innovative change.

Innovation plays a significant role in driving positive change, as 51% of organizations attribute their success to innovative initiatives, all of whom also experienced an 11% increase in revenue.

In this article, we trace the pathway to innovative change in the following topics:

  • The Plan for Change
  • Designing Strategies for Change
  • An Agile Approach to Transformation
  • Getting Curious About Change

The Plan for Change

In charting a course to bigger and better ideas, a clear change management strategy helps to identify a direct path forward. Creating a thoughtful change management strategy allows you to plan several steps ahead and steer change in your favor.

The most intentional change management strategies focus on proactive change. The following are key elements in creating a proactive path for change:

1. Prepare to Plan

Preparing to create a change management strategy is essentially planning to plan. As you consider the best approach to creating change, take time to map out each step of your strategy. While it may seem more effective to just dive in, remember that intentionality is the name of the game in lasting change.

2. Cultivate Transparency

Many changes are unexpected and unwanted. For this reason, many organizations make the mistake of keeping changes quiet from the rest of the team. However, this type of secrecy can sabotage your organizational transformation.

Make it a point to cultivate a sense of transparency at every level of your organization. By including all parties in your plans for change, you’ll get a head start on driving innovation. When team members feel included in major decisions like a big change, they are more likely to accept and support it going forward.

3. Encourage High Tolerance

Tolerance for change is a muscle that should be exercised. Challenge your team members to fight their resistance to change by sharing the benefits of change. Explaining “what’s in it for me” gives team members a reason to root for change while increasing their tolerance for the unknown.

4. Monitor and Measure 

Just as true change is a long-term endeavor, creating a change management strategy isn’t just a one-time event. Successful strategies for change will never be static, making monitoring and measuring key performance indicators a perpetual part of the change management process.

Design a fluid change management strategy by teaching your team to measure success, monitor potential problems, and resolve issues as efficiently as possible. This way, your strategy for change will evolve according to your needs.

Designing Strategies for Change

A design thinking change management strategy places team members at the heart of a change. This people-first approach to purposeful change lets team leaders curate a strategy with the greatest benefits for all parties involved. At Voltage Control, we explore design thinking as a change management practice to inspire the most innovative ideas, allowing team members to shape new initiatives together.

Apply design thinking to your change management strategy in the following ways:

1. Find the ‘What’ of Change

Design thinking facilitates purposeful change. Shape your change management strategy by determining the “what” of your change to inform your path to the most viable and innovative solutions.

2. Center Empathy

Successful changes tap into our emotions. Design thinking cuts to the heart of a change by prioritizing empathy from the very beginning. Harness empathy in your next change by considering your team members’ mindsets and perspectives before implementing change. Continue to research how all participants will be impacted by a change as you incorporate empathy into your change strategy.

3. Use Divergent Thinking

Employ divergent thinking in your change management strategy. Through a design-centered approach, shape a plan for change that encourages collaborative thinking, integrated innovation, and holistic decision-making.

4. Practice Constant Experimentation

Experimentation is the beating heart of design thinking. Make the strategizing process more tangible by testing new ideas and running experiments to see what works. By testing an idea on a small scale, you’ll be able to make the necessary changes to help shape your initiative for real change.

An Agile Approach to Transformation

An agile approach to change management zeroes in on a faster, more urgent need for transformation. Agile principles offer a valid framework for transformation. Agile is tailor-made for systemic problem-solving, allowing team members to find the most groundbreaking solutions to the most persistent problem.

According to Carie Davis, a corporate innovation specialist, inventing new methods for problem-solving is the key to driving innovative change. Regardless of how powerful an initial initiative is, lasting change won’t take hold until it truly transforms an organization. For this reason, Davis suggests that businesses initiate long-term shifts by starting small and by making little changes at the core of the company. These smaller changes are a key part of Agile change management strategy and are instrumental in catalyzing lasting transformation.

Consider applying agile methodology to your change strategy in the following ways:

1. Go Lean

  • Focus on a change strategy that provides increased value and positive change. Going lean allows for rapid transformation by limiting factors that waste resources, energy, and time.

2. Practice Continuous Improvement

  • Agile champions continuous improvement through small changes over time. These small changes lead to the most significant shifts.

3. Encourage Employee Authorship

  • Innovative change doesn’t happen with a top-down approach. Create an agile-informed change management strategy by bringing your employees into the decision-making process. This way, all team members can determine the most pressing areas for improvement and make meaningful contributions as they work together to co-create the next change.
  • 4. Practice Reflective Improvement 

  • In shaping a change management strategy to grow with your organization, practicing reflective improvement guarantees consistent long-term change. Regularly evaluate your organization’s performance and initiatives as you continue to shape your change management strategy into a better, leaner plan.
  • Getting Curious About Change

    In designing the most innovative change management strategy, don’t forget to consider a sense of curiosity. Thrive through change and drive innovation by cultivating a curious desire to be better than ever.

    Research shows that curiosity allows us to welcome new experiences with less defensiveness and aggressiveness. By responding to the unknown in uniquely positive and inquisitive ways, your teams can dream up the most imaginative solutions on their path to lasting change.

    In addition to helping teams accept change, facilitating a sense of curiosity is an essential component in designing an innovative workplace. In creating a culture of curiosity, you’ll encourage team members to become change agents themselves. With a desire to learn more, be more, and do more, you’ll be able to reframe the potential pitfalls of change and the fears that come with it as an opportunity to get better and better.

    Innovation and change are infinitely interconnected. Harness the power of both by designing a change management strategy that continues to transform your organization in the best ways possible. Explore our offerings to learn more about taking change management to the next level.

    Image credit: Pixabay

    Article first seen at VoltageControl.com 

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    3 Things for the New Year

    3 Things for the New Year

    GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

    Next year will be different, but we don’t know how it will be different. All we know is that it will be different.

    Some things will be the same and some will be different. The trouble is that we won’t know which is which until we do. We can speculate on how it will be different, but the Universe doesn’t care about our speculation.

    Sure, it can be helpful to think about how things may go, but as long as we hold on to the may-ness of our speculations. And we don’t know when we’ll know.

    We’ll know when we know, but no sooner. Even when the Operating Plan declares the hardest of hard dates, the Universe sets the learning schedule on its own terms, and it doesn’t care about our arbitrary timelines.

    What to do?

    Step 1: Try Three New Things

    Choose things that are interesting and try them. Try to try them in parallel as they may interact and inform each other. Before you start, define what success looks like and what you’ll do if they’re successful and if they’re not.

    Defining the follow-on actions will help you keep the scope small. For things that work out, you’ll struggle to allocate resources for the next stages, so start small. And if things don’t work out, you’ll want to say that the projects consumed little resources and learned a lot.

    Keep things small. And if that doesn’t work, keep them smaller.

    Step 2: Rinse and Repeat

    I wish you a happy and safe New Year.

    And thanks for reading.

    Image credit: Pexels

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    Five Questions All Leaders Should Always Be Asking

    Five Questions All Leaders Should Always Be Asking

    GUEST POST from David Burkus

    Leaders don’t need to have all the answers.

    That sounds counterintuitive. There is a lot of pressure on leaders to have the right answers and to solve problems that team members can’t solve on their own. In fact, most leaders were promoted into a leadership role because they had many more of the right answers than others in the organization. And the further up the hierarchy you go, the bigger the problems and bigger the expectations for answers.

    But the more complex work gets, and the more complex problems get, the harder it is to know all the answers. So, it’s okay if you don’t know all the answers. But leaders should always be seeking out answers. To lead well, there’s a few answers leaders should always be working to find.

    Which means there’s a few questions leaders should always be asking. In this article, we’ll outline the top five of those questions.

    1. What are our real priorities?

    The first question leaders should always be asking is “what are our real priorities?” Teams are tasked with all sorts of projects and objectives. And the reward for getting those projects done well is often…more projects. Doing new tasks well results in people asking you to do more work. And when new tasks come up, many teams succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and focus their attention on the newest tasks assigned. But that can often mean diverting focus from what are actually the most important tasks. In addition, when circumstances change or when new problems arise, it can change what tasks matter most. So, leaders need to be asking—and re-asking—what the real priorities are often and then making that answer clear to their team. That way the team stays committed to what matters—and not just what’s new.

    2. Where are our potential roadblocks?

    The second question leaders should always be asking is “where are our potential roadblocks?” Once you know what the real priorities are, ask what could derail your team from achieving those roadblocks. The concept of leader as roadblock remover is a simple one rooted in trust. Great leaders trust that, once their people know what they need to do, those same people will also know best how to do it. That means a leader’s job isn’t telling them how to work better, it’s finding the barriers that are keeping people from doing their best work and removing them. If you’ve built trust and rapport with your team, they’ll likely just tell you. But the nature of your role as a leader also means you can anticipate some barriers based on what else you see happening in the organization or your environment. But roadblocks can pop up unexpectedly, so don’t just ask once. Keep asking.

    3. What am I not hearing?

    The third question leaders should always be asking is “what am I not hearing.” There’s a reason the warning “don’t shoot the messenger” became a cliché. It’s because many leaders shoot the messenger. And even if they don’t, many team members fear of being shot keeps them from sharing openly. (I hope it’s clear we’re using “shoot” as a metaphor here…we do not endorse firearms as a management tactic.) That means there’s likely certain bits of information that team members know that you’re completely unaware of. That can undermine your decision-making and your leadership. And reversing that trends starts by asking regularly what you may not be hearing or by extension who you’re not hearing from. Then take the time to amplify those unheard voices and signal your consideration for what they shared. That not only keeps you more informed in the short term but also makes it less likely you’re not hearing important information in the long term.

    4. Who isn’t being challenged?

    The fourth question leaders should always be asking is “who isn’t being challenged?” People tend to be most motivated and engaged in a task when the demands of the job match their skills and capacity. Too much of a challenge can lead to stress and burnout. But too little of a challenge can lead to boredom and…burnout. And while members of your team may have entered their role in the sweet spot between demands and ability, many of them have likely grown and improved their skills…which means they might be falling out of the sweet spot and being less challenged. Great leaders are proactive not only in creating new growth opportunities for their people, but also new challenges or new projects to keep them in the sweet spot of engagement.

    5. How is our motivation?

    The fifth question leaders should always be asking is “how is our motivation?” The attitudes and emotions of a team and its members can change quickly, and so can their collective level of motivation. So, leaders need to be monitoring motivation levels constantly and finding ways to keep motivation inside the ideal range. Especially for teams on the front-lines and in the middle of the organization, the flowery speeches and mission statements that come from senior leadership are not enough to keep motivation high all the time. When the day-to-day tasks get demanding, it’s hard to even remember how one person’s work makes a difference. But this is where team leaders are most important. It’s up to the team leader to make that connection and be constantly reminding the team why their work matters.

    In the end, people want to do work that matters and that challenges them to grow. And that’s what makes these five questions so important. Because the answers to these questions, even though they change over time, provide leaders with the knowledge they need to help their team know their work matters and help their team find new challenges. And that helps their team do their best work ever.

    Image credit: Pexels

    Originally published at https://davidburkus.com on January 9, 2023.

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    Getting Through Grief Consciously

    Getting Through Grief Consciously

    GUEST POST from Tullio Siragusa

    Life brings opportunities, happiness, and skyrocketing success when we decide to live it fully and without fear. Along with that, we will face challenging times that will cause us to grieve.

    Globally, we are all facing a form of grief right now. Be it the loss of a loved one to Covid-19, or the loss of our free way of life — grief is all around us. Before this pandemic that we are experiencing collectively, you may have suffered the loss of loved ones for other reasons, or you may have gone through a divorce, a breakup, the loss of a friendship, or the loss of a pet.

    There are many forms of loss. You can experience loss of money, your job, reputation, your faith, health, and even loss of hope.

    “Loss is a normal part of life and grief is part of the healing process if we learn to face it with grace.”

    To get through grief with grace it’s ideal to face it with the help of others, but for the most part you have to get through it alone. We are privileged to have family, friends, spiritual direction, therapists, life coaches and other support groups around us, but healing grief is essentially between you and yourself.

    “In time of grief you need to embrace yourself, love yourself and cure yourself.”

    It is easier said than done, but there is truly no other way around grief than to face it fully on your own, courageously, vulnerability and with grace.

    Importance of Grace

    We all, at some point in our lives, have felt as if we reached our breaking point, but eventually we wake up to the desire to not be broken for rest of our lives. For instance, while going through hard times we are not always acting our best selves. Harsh words are often exchanged with others out of the need to “dump the pain” on someone else to feel some sense of relief. After doing that, we often feel guilty about it and apologize.

    It is not bad to apologize, but losing your temper and saying things you normally would not say can not only tarnish your image, but can scar someone badly enough that you lose their trust for a long time, and sometimes forever.

    “When you manage your emotions while grieving, you hold on to grace, and grace is the energy of mercy for yourself and others.”

    Our personality gets groomed with every pain we overcome. If we walk through life’s journey with a mindset that everything happens for a reason, and everything happens to teach us something new, then every challenging time becomes an opportunity to add strong positive and graceful traits to our personality.

    The people who learn to manage their emotions during the toughest times without falling apart, add an unprecedented trait of composure, grace and an emotionally intelligent personality.

    How to Get Through Grief with Grace

    First, you need to fully acknowledge that grief is normal. It is not a disease. It is not a sign of weakness, or lack of emotional intelligence.

    Our human body and mind is built to respond to situations. When we lose something, or someone precious, grief comes knocking. Trying to avoid that grief is not the right way to get over it. The best way to deal with grief is to embrace it and get through it.

    One of my spiritual teachers used to say: “The only way to get to the other side of hell, is one more step deeper into it, that is where the exit door is waiting for you.”

    “In order to grieve with grace, we need the courage to face loss as normal as anything else we experience in life.”

    I know people who have avoided facing the loss of their loved ones for years, but ultimately, they had to go through it and face it. Grief will come for you no matter what, so why postpone it?

    The foremost thing to handle any tough situation is to develop gratitude for all those blessed situations in your life that make it beautiful. No doubt, feeling gratitude while grieving is almost impossible, but if you develop a habit of being grateful on a daily basis, it becomes possible to feel it even during tough times.

    If you are going through grief, find a peaceful place away from all those people reminding you of the loss, and try to connect to any happy moment you can recall. Feel that moment in your heart. Hold on to that feeling as long as possible and write it down later.

    Whenever you feel broken, be mindful of such moments. You will soon be able to tap to a comparatively happy person inside you, anytime you need to.

    “The way to develop your grace muscle is to live daily with gratitude and make a mental library of the happy moments in your life that you can borrow against, during difficult times.”

    We have been living in a time in history void of pain. We are constantly seeking happiness and running from pain and suffering. Now we are being forced to face pain, suffering, uncertainty, and loss.

    There are blessings inherent within loss and suffering. The blessings are always revealed on the other side of grief, and it is always hard to believe that the blessing is happening amidst grief and pain. However, if you look back in your life at the moments that defined you, the moments when you experienced the most Light, the most blessings — it was soon after your darkest hours.

    “When we move through the process of grief believing in our ability to grow from the experience, we become more aware of the blessings in disguise that will come out of it.”

    A sense of serenity can be achieved through releasing the pressure of the expectations of a set pattern for your life. There comes a moment when it is better to embrace what you can’t change, and develop the courage to strive for what you can.

    “Acknowledging your capacities and the difference between what you can and what you can’t control, will make it easier to go through grief.”

    What I am talking about is the power of surrendering to what is, instead of holding on to what could have been. For most people, grace is among the most precious trait of their personality and behavior.

    If you have lost something or someone precious that is an irreparable loss, it is important to take care of yourself during those testing times. Remember that all chaos comes with an expiration date, and to surrender to the change you need to make to keep moving forward.

    Remember the blessings in your life, be grateful for what is, has been, and will be, and be patient with yourself.

    NOTE: For all those who have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic and have not been able to properly say goodbye, I wish that their memory be a blessing in your life.

    Image credit: Pexels

    Originally published at tulliosiragusa.com on April 27, 2020

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    99.7% of Innovation Processes Miss These 3 Essential Steps

    99.7% of Innovation Processes Miss These 3 Essential Steps

    GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

    Congratulations! You developed and are using a best-in-class Innovation Process.

    You start by talking to consumers, studying mega-trends, and scanning the globe for emerging technologies and disruptive offerings.

    Once you find a problem and fall in love with it, you start dreaming and designing possible solutions. You imagine what could be, focused on creating as many ideas as possible. Then you shift to quality, prioritizing ideas that fit the company’s strategy and are potentially desirable, viable, and feasible.

    With prioritized ideas in hand, you start iterating, an ongoing cycle of prototyping and testing until you confidently home in on a solution that consumers desire, is technically feasible, and financially viable.

    But you don’t stop there! You know that ideas are easily copied by innovative business models are the source of lasting competitive advantage, so you think broadly and identify financial, operational, and strategic assumptions before testing each one like the innovation scientist you are.

    If (and when) a solution survives all the phases and stage gates and emerges triumphant from the narrow end of the innovation process, there is a grand celebration. Because now, finally, it is ready to go to market and delight customers.

    Right?

    Wrong.

    The solution’s journey has only just begun.

    What lies ahead can be far more threatening and destructive than what lies behind.

    Unless you planned for it by including these three steps in your innovation process.

    1. Partnership with Sales

    During testing, you ask consumers to give feedback on solutions. But do you ask Sales?

    Salespeople spend most of their time outside the office and in stores, talking to customers (e.g., retailers, procurement), consumers, and users. They see and hear what competitors are doing, what is working, and what isn’t. And they will share all of this with you if you ask.

    When I ask why innovation processes don’t include Sales, I hear two things (1) “it’s too early to talk to Sales” and (2) “they always tell us the same thing – it’s too expensive.”

    First, if you have a concept (or two or three) with a 50/50 shot of going to market, call a few Salespeople and ask for their reactions. Nothing formal, no meeting required—just a gut reaction. And once you get that, ask when they’d like to talk again because their perspective is essential.

    Second, “too expensive” should never be the end of the conversation. It’s one piece of feedback, ask follow-up questions to understand why it’s too expensive, then ask, “What else?”  There’s always more, and some of it is useful. Plus, better to hear it now than months or years from now at the launch announcement.

    2. Relay with Operations

    Most companies have a process between the end of the innovation process and shipping the new offering. It’s where sourcing, manufacturing, shipping, inventory management, contracting, and many other crucial and practical decisions and plans are made.

    Also, at most companies, the “transition” from the innovation process to the operational process is akin to chucking something over a wall. “Here you go,” Innovation seems to say, “we proved this will be a big business. Now go make it happen!”

    Unfortunately, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, and everyone else affected usually stand on the other side of the wall, solution in hand, mouth agape, eyes wide, thinking, “Huh?”

    Instead of an abrupt hand-off, the Innovation Process needs to identify when the relay-style hand-off starts, and Innovation and Operations run side-by-side, developing, adjusting, and honing the solution.

    3. Hand-off to the Core Business

    The hand-off to the Core Business is the most precarious of all moments for an innovation. The moment it leaves the Innovation team’s warm, nurturing, and forgiving nest and moves into the performance-driven reality of the Core Business.

    The Core Business knows why it was added to the P&L, but they don’t understand how it came to be or why it is the way it is. And they definitely don’t love it as much as you do. All they see is a tiny, odd thing that requires lots of their already scarce resources to become something worthwhile.

    Instead of depositing beloved solutions on the Core Business’ doorstep like an unwanted orphan, Innovation Process should ensure that the following three questions are answered and aligned to well before the hand-off occurs.

    • How material (revenue, profit) does a solution need to be to be welcomed into the Core Business?
    • Who runs the new business, and what else is on their plate?
    • What mechanisms are in place to ensure the Core Business supports the new solution during its tenuous first 1-3 years?

    Create a process that creates innovation

    Invention is something new.

    Innovation is something new that creates value.

    Innovation processes that focus solely on defining, designing, developing, and de-risking a solution run the risk of being Invention process because they result in something new but stop short of outlining how the innovation will be produced at scale, launched, scaled, and supported for years to come. You know, all those things required to create value.

    BTW:

    • 99.7% isn’t an exact number. In my experience, it’s 100%. But I wanted to leave some wiggle room.
    • I am 100% guilty of forgetting these three things.
    • If you’re trying to innovate for the first time in a loooooooong time, it’s ok to focus on the front end of innovation (define, design, develop, de-risk) and tackle these three things later. But trust me, you will need to tackle them later.

    Image credit: Pexels

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    Startups Must Be Where Their Customers Are

    Startups Must Be Where Their Customers Are

    GUEST POST from Steve Blank

    “A CEO running a B-to-B startup needs to live in the city where their business is – or else they’ll never scale.”

    I was having breakfast with Erin, an ex-student, just off a red-eye flight from New York. She’s built a 65-person startup selling enterprise software to the financial services industry. Erin had previously worked in New York for one of those companies and had a stellar reputation in the industry. As one would expect, with banks and hedge funds as customers, the majority were based in the New York metropolitan area.

    Where Are Your Biggest Business Deals?

    Looking a bit bleary-eyed, Erin explained, “Customers love our product, and I think we’ve found product/market fit. I personally sold the first big deals and hired the VP of sales who’s building the sales team in our New York office. They’re growing the number of accounts and the deal size, but it feels like we’re incrementally growing a small business, not heading for exponential growth. I know the opportunity is much bigger, but I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong.”

    Erin continued, “My investors are starting to get impatient. They’re comparing us to another startup in our space that’s growing much faster. My VP of Sales and I are running as fast as we can, but I’ve been around long enough to know I might be the ex-CEO if we can’t scale.”

    While Erin’s main sales office is in New York, next to her major prospects and customers, Erin’s company was headquartered in Silicon Valley, down the street from where we were having breakfast. During the Covid pandemic, most of her engineering team worked remotely. Her inside sales team (Sales Development and Business Development reps) used email, phone, social media and Zoom for prospecting and generating leads. At the same time, her account executives were able to use Zoom for sales calls and close and grow business virtually.

    There’s a Pattern Here

    Over breakfast, I listened to Erin describe what at first seemed like a series of disconnected events.

    First, a new competitor started up. Initially, she wasn’t concerned as the competitor’s product had only a subset of the features that Erin’s company did. However, the competitor’s headquarters was based in New York, and their VP of Sales and CEO were now meeting face-to-face with customers, most of whom had returned to their offices. While Erin’s New York-based account execs were selling to the middle tier management of organizations, the CEO of her competitor had developed relationships with the exec staff of potential customers. She lamented, “We’ve lost a couple of deals because we were selling at the wrong level.”

    Second, Erin’s VP of sales had just bought a condo in Miami to be next to her aging parents, so she was commuting to NY four days a week and managing the sales force from Miami when she wasn’t in New York. Erin sighed, “She’s as exhausted as I am flying up and down the East Coast.”

    Third, Erin’s account execs were running into the typical organizational speedbumps and roadblocks that closing big deals often encounter. However, solving them via email, Zoom and once-a-month fly-in meetings wasn’t the same as the NY account execs being able to say, “Hey, our VP of Sales and CEO are just down the street. Can we all grab a quick coffee and talk this over?” Issues that could have been solved casually and quickly ballooned into ones that took more work and sometimes a plane trip for her VP of Sales or Erin to solve.

    By the time we had finished breakfast it was clear to me that Erin was the one putting obstacles in front of her path to scale. Here’s what I observed and suggested.

    Keep Your Eye on The Prize

    While Erin had sold the first deals herself, she needed to consider whether each deal happened because as CEO, she could call on the company’s engineers to pivot the product. Were the account execs in New York trying to execute a sales model that wasn’t yet repeatable and scalable without the founder’s intervention? Had a repeatable and scalable sales process truly been validated? Or did each sale require a heroic effort?

    Next, setting up their New York office without Erin or her VP of Sales physically living in New York might have worked during Covid but was now holding her company back. At this phase of her company the goal of the office shouldn’t be to add new accounts incrementally – but should be how to scale – repeatably. Hiring account execs in an office in New York let Erin believe that she had a tested, validated, and repeatable sales playbook that could rapidly scale the business. The reality was that without her and the VP of Sales living and breathing the business in New York, they were trying to scale a startup remotely.

    Her early customers told Erin that her company had built a series of truly disruptive financial service products. But now, the company was in a different phase – it needed to build and grow the business exponentially. And in this phase, her focus as a CEO needed to change – from searching for product/market fit to driving exponential growth.

    Driving Exponential Growth

    Exponential Growth Requires Relentless Execution

    Because most of her company’s customers were concentrated in a single city, Erin and her VP of Sales needed to be there – not visiting in a hotel room. I suggested that:

    • Erin had to quickly decide if she wanted to be the one to scale the business. If not, her investors were going to find someone who could.
    • If so, she needed to realize that she had missed an important transition in her company. In a high-dollar B-to-B business, building and scaling sales can’t be done remotely. And she was losing ground every day. Her New York office needed a footprint larger than she was. It needed business development and marketing people rapidly creating demand.
    • Her VP of Sales might be wonderful, but with the all the travel the company is only getting her half-time. Erin needs a full-time head of sales in New York. Time to have a difficult conversation.
    • Because she was behind, Erin needed to rent an apartment in New York for a year, and spend the next six months there and at least two weeks a month after that. Her goal was to:
      1. Validate that there was a repeatable sales process. It not, build one
      2. Build a New York office that could create a sales and marketing footprint without her presence. Only then could she cut back her time in the City.
    • Finally, she needed to consider that if her customers were primarily in New York and the engineers were working remotely, why weren’t the company headquarters in New York?

    I Hate New York

    As we dug into these issues, I was pretty surprised to hear her say, “I spent a big part of my career in New York. I thought coming out to Stanford and the West Coast meant I could leave the bureaucracy of large companies and that culture behind. Covid let me do that for a few years. I guess now I’m just avoiding jumping back into an environment I thought I had left.”

    We lingered over coffee as I suggested it was time for her to take stock of what’s next. She had something rare – a services company that provided real value with products that early customers loved. Her staff didn’t think they were joining a small business, neither did her investors. If she wasn’t prepared to build something to its potential, what was her next move?

    Lessons Learned

    • For a startup, the next step after finding product/market fit is finding a repeatable and scalable sales process
    • This requires a transition to the relentless execution of creating demand and exponentially growing sales
    • If your customers are concentrated in a city or region, you need to be where your customers are
    • The CEO needs to lead this growth focus
    • And then hand it off to a team equally capable and committed

    The full article originally appeared on Steve Blank’s blog

    Image credits: Pixabay, Steve Blank

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