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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Change is Not a Destination But a Process

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The facilitation of change is not the responsibility of any single individual, but is guided and directed by leadership on many different levels. Because change is dynamic, leadership must be equally so to keep pace with the opportunities and challenges it brings.

Leaders must understand change is not a destination but a process. The global economy does not allow leaders the luxury of resting on their laurels. Rather, it gives them the impetus to change and adapt on a frequent and regular basis. A failure to adapt opens the door to the forces of change overwhelming an organization.

A “management mentality” in the face of change produces a specific outcome, which is essentially to ask, “The organization is changing—now what?”

Leaders on the other hand become the real and active facilitators of change. They understand the forces behind it and use its dynamics as a means to effectively and repeatedly transform their organization. Rather than fear the concept of change, leaders welcome the opportunities it affords them.

Facilitating change within any organization requires proactive participation from all of its leaders. In the dynamic atmosphere of change, leaders must be ever-present and visible. There are a number of proven leadership techniques one can employ to successfully facilitate change within their organization, including:

Promoting Their Vision Daily

The importance of the leader’s personal vision is a guiding and fundamental leadership principle. It is not sufficient for leaders to simply state their vision; they must actively promote and talk about it at every opportunity. It is necessary for leaders to continually remind employees of their direction as they guide them step-by-step through the processes, transitions, problems and successes en route to attaining their vision.

As changes occur within an organization, leaders must take advantage of every opportunity to spotlight events and people in order to showcase individual and group initiatives demonstrating progress toward the defined vision.

Leading by Personal Example

One of the most valuable resources available to a leader is time. Time is at a premium, and leaders must schedule carefully to achieve what is personally important to them. When employees see that their leaders are organized around the strategic priorities established to facilitate change, it communicates that they are in earnest about their personal initiatives.

As a general practice, leaders need to adjust their personal calendars to reflect the strategic priorities of facilitating change. This communicates that the leader is leading with action to back up their words, as they are focusing their time specifically upon the point of change.

Practicing Visible Leadership

Leaders cannot lead from behind a desk or office door. They must be present at the point of change to train, coach, cajole and comfort.

Leaders can only observe and learn when they are in the midst of their employees during the implementation of change. This is not a one-time event, but an ongoing exercise. This is why the efficient scheduling of time is critical if leaders want to be actively involved in the direct facilitation of change transformations.

Being a Compulsive Listener

Leaders have one primary responsibility: to go out and listen to their employees. It should not be done in a passive style of listening, but one where leaders actively engage their employees, learn from their frustrations, take action to clean up a particular stressful or unproductive situation, and enthusiastically encourage each one of them. The process of facilitating change requires that leaders make it an ongoing habit to actively listen and make necessary changes based upon what they specifically learn and observe.

Honoring Your Frontline Staff

Leaders understand that the point of change happens in the front lines of their organization. While it impacts the entire organization, the front lines are the apex of change. This is where its real impact is felt—and where leaders must directly focus their time, efforts and attention.

In this regard, leaders should be honoring their frontline employees. They accomplish this by celebrating all major and minor successes and learning from failures as they test new ideas and concepts.

Delegating

When leaders delegate they are not only freeing up valuable time, they are empowering and training others to perform key tasks. Proper delegation allows leaders to be more responsive to the needs of their organization because they can get out from under tasks demanding their time and hindering their ability to lead. The key to successful delegation is the maintenance of high standards for those the leader designates to perform the delegated work.

Managing Horizontally

When leaders manage horizontally, they are opening up communications and responsiveness at the front lines of their organization, and across multiple functions. This minimizes the delays of bureaucratic up and down communications and replaces it with faster frontline communications across functional boundaries. This allows leaders to test, try, modify, and act on ideas quickly, and facilitates change more rapidly at its apex and focal point.

Questioning Daily Progress

It is easy for leaders to mask a number of functions, items and agendas under the label of change. An effective leader constantly questions his or her progress on a daily basis and asks, “What exactly have I changed?”

Rather than measuring progress over time, leaders understand that facilitating change involves countless decisions and minor changes that produce organizational modifications, alterations or elimination of unproductive practices across many planes and avenues. They are more pragmatic about looking at specific daily changes to ensure that transformations are taking place throughout their organization.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

While the nature of change brings about its own sense of pressure, leaders must continually reinforce their personal sense of urgency to overcome all of the potentially paralyzing fears employees may experience due to change and its compelling nature. Every action and activity a leader undertakes must also be viewed as an unequivocal call for urgency in the pursuit of constant testing and improvement in subsequent change transformations throughout the organization.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Managers as Facilitators of Change

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Six Critical Skills You Need to Be Really Comfortable With

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The complexion of business and the workplace are continually changing. The skills required of leaders in the past have become outdated and outmoded by the volatile business environment. Today’s leaders are required to change and adapt or lose their professional edge. There are a number of critical skills that need to be mastered in order for leaders to remain a relevant and viable resource for their company.

Most leaders would like to maintain the status quo. It is easy to be resistant to change. In fact, many are doing just that, hoping that conditions will revert to the way they were in the past. Unfortunately, this wishful and myopic thinking produces numerous adverse consequences.

The dynamic impact of change is a reality that each leader must fully comprehend and come to terms with. This demands that thinking and attitudes continually evolve with increasing ongoing transformations in the global marketplace. New skills are required for leaders to integrate these changes into their business environment and adapt to new ones not far behind.

A number of skills must be developed in order to enhance personal and professional development. None of these skills are independent of a leader’s job performance, but are in fact strongly linked to it. These include the ability to:

Related: Mistakes as a Source of Innovation

Think ‘Outside the Box’

Most leaders’ personal thinking is shaped by the events and circumstances they have previously experienced. Over time, thinking patterns tend to become solely focused on the activities of the company and upon issues and situations related to the effectiveness of their employees. Because of this, reasoning and perceptions often become clouded and stagnant. Many times they include a bias and perspective that does not reflect reality.

Change and its forces really do demand that leaders get outside of their normal way of viewing things to develop a fresh perspective of both their company and the reality of the existing business environment. This often results in a thinking paradigm shift that positively impacts future business practices and methods. It compels leaders to recognize the changing reality of their own business climate, its needs and concerns, and how emerging forces are producing a positive or negative impact on how the business functions. It also works to develop a fresh focus on what is needed to compete effectively, grow and gain market share.

Related: Formulating Questions as a Source of Continuous Improvement

Change the Culture

Linked with this thinking paradigm shift is a need for effecting a change in the corporate culture. This is necessitated by the various factors brought about by a continuously evolving marketplace. Leaders often have difficulty dealing with the concept of changing the culture around them. This stems mostly from fear of the personal consequences that accompanies corporate transformation and because most of the changes tend to challenge conventional wisdom.

Most leaders don’t understand exactly what is required to evolve as truly effective leaders or how to go about it. New methods and ideas conflict with their current managerial roles. They feel at risk because their comfort zones are threatened and new skills in leadership are often lacking. Many worry they will not be able to fill their newer role adequately enough to produce the results the culture change demands.

Related: Success Is the Sum of Details

Monitoring the Pulse of the Business

A leader’s professional development demands that they delegate more daily activities and responsibilities to selected employees. While this pushes decision making down to the front lines—where it has the most impact—it does not mean that leaders should not be continually aware of what is happening in regard to each delegated employee. Rather, they should use some form of metrics system to keep a daily pulse on what is occurring in the workplace. Though they need to delegate their micromanagement activities, there still is the essential need to maintain an active and open presence with their employees or work teams. This allows them to individually and proactively interact whenever required.

Related: Do You Have a Zeal to Execute?

Act Quickly

As leaders formulate their particular leadership style, they must incorporate the ability to act quickly and decisively. In a business environment of rapid change, hesitancy is a liability, especially in the current workplace environment where failure to act can easily create an opportunity for the competition to gain a foothold.

Keep it Simple

While many leaders are prone to the misconception that the more sophisticated and complicated the plan, the better it is, a good leader understands the need to keep things simple and to stress execution.

Though outwardly impressive, complicated plans and solutions demand complex and costly systems to support them, are prone to human error, and increase the risk of failure. Straightforward and simple plans and goals are less expensive, less subject to human error and far easier to execute.

Related: Do You Believe in Yourself?

Develop Self-Confidence

Leaders who desire to develop their professional skills must cultivate an innate sense of confidence in their decisions. Many stumble into the pitfall of always second-guessing themselves. This results in hesitancy and a loss of self-confidence in their professional abilities. It is a far more desirable leadership trait to act quickly and decisively, then modify the decision as additional data and results become available, than it is to wait until extenuating circumstances develop due to indecision. Inaction only gives rise to additional problems that will also need to be addressed and surmounted.

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Adapt or Be Bypassed

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In the face of overwhelming change, it is often difficult to predict the future with any certainty. Managers must have the flexibility to adapt to change and harness its forces to their advantage. In many cases the results of such an upheaval cause a shift in both thinking and actions. While this process can be difficult for some managers to adjust to, one thing is certain: they can either adapt or be bypassed. Market and business conditions are unforgiving to the manager who resists change.

Managers must recognize that many of the traditional business models of the past are no longer applicable. A number of organizations have employed a host of management fads over the past decade with either limited success or disastrous results. Aside from the implementation of new ideas and concepts meant to enrich the authors rather than the company, it is certain that managers must deal with the ever-increasing forces of change that appear to be both overwhelming and unrelenting.

It is important for managers to understand that they are forced to adapt to and align themselves with the changes impacting their industry and company. The traditional direct-and-control role is being replaced by the principles of active leadership and empowerment as the most effective method to anticipate and handle changes in the business environment and marketplace. As a result, the manager is required to take a proactive rather than a passive stance. In this way leaders are on the alert and prepared to deal with the constantly changing business environment.

Managers must adapt to meet the demands of their company, customers and the marketplace. Their professional development and transformation into a proactive leader is interlinked with the changes their organization must make to survive and prosper. The shift can be accomplished by the continual application of the ideas listed below. Since change is continuous and relentless, the evolution of new ideas and professional development must also be ongoing.

Related: You Keep Innovating if You Want to Keep Leading

Brainstorm

Managers must always be seeking new ideas to implement in their business. The best source of new ideas and insights lies within the native knowledge of their individual employees. They are positioned in the front lines of the business where they gather feedback from both coworkers and customers, and see firsthand what the competition is doing in the marketplace. Unfortunately, in many organizations this wealth of knowledge is seldom tapped, much less converted into a useful form. Yet this source of information, insight and ideas are at the manager’s fingertips.

Managers need to schedule ongoing brainstorming sessions to utilize their employees’ knowledge and work through ideas and concepts. Where geographically dispersed branches or locations prohibit this, managers should consider a threaded discussion group using email as a tool to engage their employees as a group.

Brainstorming has distinct advantages in that it feeds on participant synergy in order to build on ideas and concepts. Most participants feel energized and motivated when the exercise is properly undertaken and all ideas and feedback are considered and treated with respect.

Related: The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

Abandon Prejudices

Most seasoned managers have personal prejudices regarding how things in their business should be run. Formed from their experiences and successes over the span of their career, these biases can hinder a manager’s ability to develop and implement new ideas and concepts. With the speed and impact of change in the world now, it is essential to know that what has worked in the past may no longer be effective, and that the fact that old processes may still be in place does not mean there are not better ways of doing things.

New ideas and concepts developed during brainstorming or from other forms of feedback should not be summarily dismissed as a “bad fit” for the corporate culture. Managers need to put aside their personal prejudices and examine viable ideas from all angles in order to determine whether they have an application or can improve employee and company performance.

Implement New Ideas

While managers should seek out new ideas from their employees, customers and their own research, more must be done. After developing these ideas, determining their applicability to the company, and prioritizing them, managers must then implement those that can have the most impact.

People generally fear that new approaches will not work. However, managers must overcome their reluctance by continually testing new ideas. If they do fail, they should learn from the experience and move on to other concepts. It is from a series of failures and the subsequent lessons learned that new and viable ideas are built.

Related: Four Major Barriers to Effective Empowerment

Remove Barriers

Managers must remove barriers their employees may encounter that hinder their effectiveness, productivity and efficiency. In the sales environment, this can typically include reports as well as reworking procedures that hinder their ability to directly deal with a prospect or customer.

Managers need to measure what is actually needed versus what is currently required. The implementation of new ideas and the increase in the level of customer service may require a streamlining of procedures to enhance the individual employee’s ability to be productive and attain desired results.

Think Small

From the mid-90s to the mid-00s there was a tendency for companies with a “bigger is better” mindset to expand through acquisitions and mergers. However, managers must now think small. This adjustment may include reorganizing units into smaller cells that are more adaptable to change. Additionally, thinking small should translate into the areas of goals and planning. IBM built their business on the philosophy of small successes. By breaking their goals down into a series of less daunting, more easily attained steps, employees were able to build their confidence and motivation by completing one after another. The outcome was the same as giving employees the entire goal at once, but in this manner it did not seem insurmountable.

Related: You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose You

Lead with Passion

As managers transform themselves into proactive leaders they must evolve in their style so that they lead with a passion, sharing their personal vision at every opportunity with their employees, customers and suppliers. They will find that their passion is contagious and that it will impact the performance of the entire team.

Excerpt: Professional Development: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

 

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

August 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

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