Sometimes leaders know they need to make a new beginning, either personally or for the organization, but they can’t figure out how to start. There may be many options, and sometimes these options are complete opposites.
We’ve written several times before about managing polarities – the kind of decision making that needs to happen when there are two opposing options, both of which have positive benefits.
A natural tendency is to look for some sort of compromise. But sometimes the compromise results in an outcome that doesn’t satisfy anyone. In their new book, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin talk about ways to get out of the trap of either/or thinking and come up with new solutions.
So what does that have to do with Legos? As Riel describes in this interview with Harvard Business Review, the executives at Lego had to make a difficult choice related to the movie. Should they hold on to creative control and protect the brand, or should they give creative control to skilled professionals who would create an exciting movie but might not serve the brand well?
The executives came up with a new solution that resulted in a blockbuster hit. It was a win for Lego and for the creators of the movie. (Check out the interview to find out what that solution was.)
Is there an area where you are feeling stuck in either/or thinking? How can you look at the problem in new ways?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Last week this photo of my brother crashing showed up in my Facebook feed. Ouch. Having biked with my brother often, I know he got up, checked himself for injuries, and then tried to get over that boulder again – and made it! He took a risk, tried an unknown, fell, figured something out and succeeded. Leaders have to do the same thing. Take risks, be prepared to crash, learn from it and try again.
A recent article in the Telegraph Connect, an online community for leaders, highlighted that successful leaders “will take carefully calculated risks, while accepting that failure is a byproduct of success and innovation.” The key point being that they are calculated risks and a part of a leadership strategy having four parts.
- Calculated risks mean predicted success. Assess if your goal is important enough to take a chance. Do your preparation and planning and don’t rush in blindly. And, purposely accept and have a plan for how you will learn from each and every misstep, mistake, blunder or crash!
- Failure is a part of experimenting. This requires trust and actually accepting the fact that failure WILL be a part of your career.
- Change requires growth. You will operate out of your comfort zone during times of important growth.
- Accept failure and build rapport. You can create a culture that takes risks, and then acknowledges, accepts and learns from the failures that inevitably follow.
Growing up my family always shared the phrase I used in the title, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying something new and learning.” Are you encouraging your team to “go for it?”
I have a confession. A few minutes ago I finished a task that I’ve been procrastinating about for several weeks. It took less than 15 minutes and I’m sure I’ve spent more time than that adding it to to-do lists and thinking about it. It feels great to finally check it off!
That step was part of some new habits that I’m working on. I decided I would start managing my time differently, and so far it’s working. I’ve been able to make significant progress on some big projects as well as get little things done.
To celebrate my “accomplishment,” I went into the break room for some tea and met a colleague who was excited about some new time management techniques her daughter learned from her piano teacher. Not only was it making practice much easier, but mom had also started using the techniques in her work and home life.
Sometimes we can make our own new beginnings. Attending a class, reading a book, or a conversation with a piano teacher can create a spark that makes us want to make a change. Whatever the reason, it helps to tell someone about your new goal. It keeps you accountable, and it means someone else will notice your success.
What new beginning would you like to make? What’s one step you can take to get there?
Dee Anne Bonebright
As a kid the start of a new school year was both exciting and a little unnerving. A chance to build on what you did last year and a chance to make a fresh start!
Similarly, when you are a new leader or an experienced leader each day is a new start. A chance to build on your experience and the opportunity to make a fresh leadership start.
Amy Jen Su, author and co-founder of the executive coaching and leadership development firm Paravis Partners, encourages leaders to “step back and think about your leadership presence and if you are thinking, saying, and showing up as you most hope to and intend.” In her Harvard Business review article she highlights four key fresh start actions for both new and experienced leaders.
- Set or update a leadership values-based goal. Your people pay great attention to what you do and how you do it. Having an aspirational other-directed goal to guide your daily decisions and actions will directly impact the perceptions your team has of you and will strengthen your relationships at work.
- Continue to develop and increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness. Leaders get work done through others and everyone on your team is different and every situation is different. Different motivations, different perspectives, different backgrounds, different experiences, and on and on. You need to be agile and adaptive. A starting point is to ask yourself the following questions before important interactions:
- Who is the other person or audience?
- What might their (not yours) perspective on this topic be?
- How are they best motivated or what is most important to them?
- What is unique about this situation, what variables are important here and now?
- What are the optimal outcomes in this situation, for these specific players, for our team, for our organization?
- Be clear and direct, with respect. Leadership is build on two-way dialogue and trust. Leaders need to be clear and open to other perspectives – at the same time.
- Know what you think and what is important to you – what are your convictions.
- Ask, listen and acknowledge – provide space and acceptance of other points of view.
- Share the WHY – include context, connection to personal and organizational priorities, and alignment.
- Be a stable and grounded presence in the face of change, stress, or difficult news. People need to feel safe bringing you news, even bad news. Otherwise you will end up in a vacuum with no information and no ability to make a difference. In addition, your team will look to you and mimic how you react to stress and changes. It is important to be genuine but prepared to demonstrate your leadership presence, even in tough times.
Fresh starts are exciting and a little scary. They give us an opportunity to reflect, build on what has worked and try something new.
Posted in building teams, change and transition, communication, Engagement, Leadership, leading authentically, trust
Tagged confidence, culture, feedback, motivation, purpose, stress, transparency, vision
My daughter’s dog, Lucy, frequently visits overnight. She’s enthusiastic and curious, and really fun to have around. But we often have this conversation in the mornings:
Lucy (while jumping all over me): It’s morning! The sun is up!! That means we can get up and do things!!!
Me (pulling blanket over my head): But the alarm didn’t go off yet. That means I can sleep 10 more minutes.
It seems like some people greet new beginnings with lots of exclamation points and are genuinely happy to jump in, while other people need to go more slowly. As leaders, we need to respond to both kinds of people.
That might mean having action steps ready for those who want to get started. We need to take advantage of the enthusiasm and channel it towards positive change. Or it might mean providing more information for people who want to consider things, and helping them adapt at their own pace.
Which sort of morning person are you when it comes to new beginnings at work? What has been useful when communicating with the other type?
Dee Anne Bonebright
It is tempting to focus on the new beginnings as a leader. We craft messages that highlight the benefits of the new system or the new structure. We glowingly describe the advantages of a new procedure or we document the potential dollars saved “after” the change is implemented. Yet study after study have confirmed that often we never reach the hoped-for Shangri-la.
William Bridges, in the 25th anniversary edition of his ground breaking book, (Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Da Capo Press. 2009.) counsels leaders to actually meet their people where they are at, the endings they are facing! All new beginnings include something ending or being lost. When we only focus on the new beginnings and ignore that our people are losing something we won’t get to the new beginning as smoothly or successfully as we hope.
Think about it, a new school year also means the end of unstructured summer time. A new leader also means the end of knowing how your previous leader liked to get updates. Or a new house also means not knowing where the closest take-out pizza place is!
It isn’t necessary, or even advisable, to wallow in the losses and endings but it is important to start there to ensure a better transition to the new beginning. Specifically Bridges advises leaders to work with their people and make sure they understand what losses they are experiencing. It may be a loss of:
- or many others
While many of these losses can and will be replaced or redefined you can help your people understand what is actually ending and what isn’t ending. As an example, the human resource division at Minnesota State is changing to a service center model for HR transactions. Most employee record keeping and status changes will be done by staff at four regional centers. Campus HR staff will clearly feel a loss of direct connection with people on their campus since they won’t be processing the paper work in this new model. It is important for campus HR leaders to acknowledge that loss and also highlight that their staff will still have have access to employee records. They will be able to answer questions and will still have a personal relationship with the faculty and staff on their campus. Lack of clarity on what is ending and what is staying can lead to the natural tendency to over estimate what is ending!
Yes, the new beginnings are bright and shiny but we need to see and acknowledge that our people are experiencing some losses and endings if we want them to join us on the other side of the change.
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato
Working in higher education for the last 30 years, September has always signaled new beginnings for me. The beginning of the new school year. New energy with students on campus starting classes. And new leaders who are joining the enterprise of educating students and leading our institutions. In my department, this season signals work with my team on new work plans and projects that support our mission. It is an exciting time as the academic year gets underway.
On a personal level, this blog post represents another new beginning. A year ago, I crashed my bicycle and suffered a traumatic brain injury that kept me out of work for nearly a year. I’m thrilled to be returning to work (albeit part-time and slowly). It is truly a new beginning for me as I rejoin my colleagues at work and learn how to adapt to the realities of my slow recovery.
You might have noticed that Todd and DeeAnne kept the HigherEdge blog going until April of this year in my absence. It was a Herculean effort since they were also backfilling many of my duties while I was out on medical leave. Now that I’m back to work, we are looking forward to posting articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays once again.
This month, we will be writing about all kinds of new beginnings: new directions, new leaders, new coworkers, and new challenges. We invite you to join us by adding your comments to our discussions. If you like, you can start by sharing any new beginnings are you experiencing.