The Change Stops Here

Where does the “buck” stop with change?  I’ll tell you where I think it stops… with your front line leaders.

To beat some phrases “with a stick,” the front line leader is where “the rubber meets the road.”  If your organization is struggling implementing change, consider checking with the front line leaders.

Front line leaders typically have the responsibility to:

  • Communicate the reasoning for the change
  • Help employees adjust to the change
  • Help employees make the change a reality
  • Adjust the way they are managing in response to the change
  • Be accountable for the results of the change
  • And they still have to get their job done.

Some Truth

I hate to say it, but if a change makes the front line leader’s job harder and they aren’t sold on the long-term value of the change, the change just ain’t gonna happen.

Ironic, isn’t it?  That your organization’s least experienced leaders have the most influence on the success or failure of your change initiatives?

Throw in the fact that people naturally don’t  want to change and it’s not surprising that workplace change can end up getting “enforced” rather than being adopted and improved over time.

So what can mid-level and senior leaders do to help the front line leaders? They can give a lot to make sure better results are achieved in change initiatives!

Senior Leaders can Provide:

• Education

If your organization isn’t offering learning opportunities to front line leaders around change management, conflict resolution, effective communication, performance management, etc., it may be time to start.

• Tools

Take a structured approach to change  that provides tools at every level of the organization.  Not just tools to “manage change” but also tools to recognize successes and progress with the change or tools to get the job done better within the context of the change.

• Support and a Voice

Find out what obstacles there are to the change. Listen to their suggestions related to fine-tuning the change. Seek to understand specifically how the change affects them and each of their employees. Help them find why the change is meaningful for their employees and how it connects to each person’s job.  Seek to discover these types of things through participation and observation, not just through discussion. If you don’t put energy into this kind of support, people will begin to “work around” the change.

• Time

Establish timeframes that break the change down into smaller segments to create forward movement, gain successes, and to avoid a complete stall.  Forward movement reduces resistance and also decreases the panic sometimes associated with an “overwhelming” change.

• Resources

Things like information, technologies, access to people with the skill sets to execute the change, etc.are all needed in the hands of front line managers to be successful. Avoid resources or exceptions that allow people to “just finish this one last thing” before they begin work within the new paradigm.

• New Paths

Remove organizational obstacles– if organizational systems and processes are reinforcing the “old” way of doing things, it is very difficult for the “new” way to succeed or sustain itself over time.

It isn’t easy being a front line leader. Nor is it easy to make decisions that initiate organization-wide change. So senior leaders should be proactive in equipping front line leaders to be successful with proper tools, eduction, planning, and resources.

After all, front line leaders hold the real control.

As a front line leader, what other suggestions do you have for senior leaders?  What else could senior leaders do to help make sure a change initiative’s success?  Are any of the above tips more important to you than others?  If so, why?  Where do you think the “buck stops” with change in your organization? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

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Are you Prepared to be Wrong?

What if you’re wrong?

What if an idea, approach, solution, thought, or answer you have at this very moment is flat out not right?  What if the thing you’ve done successfully fifty times before in this exact same situation is not the right solution in THIS situation?

How would you know you are wrong?  How would you get another, better solution to appear?  If you knew that there was another approach, would you be willing to admit it?  Would you be willing to let go of what has been successful in the past in order to let this new solution be successful?  Would you be willing to bite your tongue and ask questions to understand rather than behaving in a way that proves you are right?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that has seen 2 “rights” becoming very wrong.

Where two people, both with excellent talents and expertise have become so wrapped up in what they know how to do well that they can’t acknowledge the value of the other person, thus missing a chance to make what they are both good at even better.

Not that this is easy to do because we have likely been rewarded for being right.  In fact, likely earned our positions based on a track record of success.  But just like failure can become a barrier to others’ ideas (e.g., “We tried that before and it didn’t work”), so can success.

One of the many ironies in leadership is that the more successful we are, the more important it is to prepare to be wrong.

Or… to be able to try something different than what we would normally do.  Or… at least to be willing to consider that a method other than ours may work just as well as the way we would do it.  Being willing to be wrong is a risk, and certainly shouldn’t be the approach in every situation, AND yet might be valuable to consider in some circumstances.

Why?  Because that is how we learn, how we add new tools to our toolbox, and how we can tap into the value that others bring to the table.

As a leader, what do you see as other pros, for yourself and for your team, of preparing to be wrong?  How can leaving the door open to failure positively impact you and the people you lead?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

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Leading and Developing “Cezzanes”

Talent Managment
What is the best way to look at “talent?”

With regard to this question, I have been pondering a couple of things related to talent these days and they are “Picassos and Cézannes.” I saw author and speaker Malcolm Gladwell speak at a conference last June where he talked about the difference between artists Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne. According to Gladwell, Picasso’s most recognized work was done as a young man, while Cézanne’s best work was created later in his life. Gladwell used this comparision to highlight the emergence and development of talent over time. He cautioned us against focusing our talent development processes “only on the Picasso’s.”

Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success was released a few months ago, however, he is not the only author talking about what it takes to be great.” In his recently released book, “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else,” Geoff Colvin asserts that greatness is the result of focused practice, analysis, and adjustments that take place over decades.

In other words “Picassos” are rare (no pun intended), AND Cézannes take time.

Since Talent Management seems to be focused on identifying, hiring, developing, growing, and retaining people that have already demonstrated some kind of potential (Picassos?), the next leadership challenge may be in creating situations where someone can become a “Cézanne,” and where both Picassos and Cézannes are valued, developed, and succeed.

Are today’s organizations structured to support both Picassos and Cézanne?  If so, how?  If not, what solutions do you believe are necessary in order to lead and develop Picassos and Cézanne?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results
Email | LinkedIn | Blog

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Leadership Madness

Leadership MadnessAlthough admittedly a trite subject, it perhaps can’t hurt to take a look at something that is in the front of many people’s minds this time of year  – March Madness. Although tired and menacing to many, sports is often used as a metaphor in the business world.  So, since we are in the season, please allow me to indulge the moment just briefly and look for leadership lessons as we ponder the recent competition in the NCAA basketball tournaments.

As I observed the games this year, several key factors influenced the results of games and had links to good leadership:

  • The importance of getting a team to play its best, “peak,” at the time when it matters most.  Link to Leadership -> The value of building learning, improvement and collaboration into you and your team’s daily/weekly/etc. processes.
  • The significance of a team’s “bench” and how no matter how good your team is, the result of a game may hinge on the performance of players who don’t start the game.  Link to Leadership -> Always develop backups and give them a chance to perform regularly.
  • Knowing when to call “time out.”  Link to Leadership -> Remember to have enough information about people and projects so that you can recognize when you need to stop and re-group.
  • The power of momentum and how results are influenced by a team’s ability to recognize it, leverage it, start it, build on it, or end it.  Link to Leadership ->  As a leader, remember to watch, pay attention to, and value the emotional and social makeup of yourself as well as your team.

These are just a few of the leadership lessons I’m reminded of as I view the clashes on the hard courts.  What other leadership take-aways do you see reflected in the coaching or play of teams competing in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

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People Are Humans

Suffice to say that moving into a management role is sometimes the only way organizations can reward people who are performing well at the individual level.  What that means is that often times, people who were good at and enjoyed their individual level role are asked to move into a management role that requires much more interaction with people.

i-love-meRegardless of how you have found yourself “in charge” of others work and/or career development, one of the lessons I’ve learned is that to lead people you actually have to like and appreciate humans in general… and all of the things that “being human” brings along with it.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like everything your team says or does, or that you have to like everything about people ALL the time.  It does mean, however, that a part of you must enjoy talking with people, solving problems between people, figuring out how people can successfully work together, etc. It is about becoming a people person.

If you don’t like people and would rather not talk to them all day long, then you might want to re-think accepting a management role.

Even those of us that relish interacting with people sometimes become frustrated with all the “people” problems that seem to confront us on a daily basis.  You have to work hard to make sure that you don’t turn all your interactions with people into communications with people that have problems.  Make time to connect with your people who are doing well, solving problems, anticipating problems, and coming up with solutions.  Go out of your way to drop in on people that give you energy rather than only visiting people that take energy from you.

Interacting with humans can be fun!

What things are you doing to make sure you get some enjoyment out of working with people?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

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To Share or Not to Share – What is the Question?

The higher up you rise in an organization, the more likely you are to be given access to information that is not commonly known to everyone else in the organization.  This can present a dilemma.

What do you share and what don’t you share?

It’s not as if people don’t know that there is information floating around somewhere that they don’t know about.  They know.  There is a saying in the facilitation world that goes “Where the attention goes, the energy flows.”

whisper2If I were going to change this saying to relate to information within an organization, this saying might go “Where information doesn’t flow, the rumor mill grows.”

A lesson I have learned is that there is virtually little that you can’t share with people.  AND if there’s something that you can’t share, that doesn’t mean that you don’t talk about “it.”  It means that instead of sharing the “it,” you just share that you can’t talk about “it” right now, and that you will share it as soon as you can (AND you make sure that you do come back and share it when appropriate).

So, the question isn’t so much about what to share as much as it is when and how to share the information.  What examples do you have of what, when and how you’ve shared information with your team?

What have you learned about balancing informing with discretion? Where have you misjudged in the past?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

Email | LinkedIn | Blog

Leaders Aren’t Perfect


As hard as this may be to believe, even though people will tell you that they don’t expect you to be perfect as a leader, they, in fact, do.  (If not perfect, then pretty darned close to it!)

Think back to your first supervisor of any kind.  Did that person lead perfectly?  Or, conversely, did you perhaps experience someone who did things “incorrectly” occasionally?  Let’s be clear.  That doesn’t mean that s/he didn’t do many great things, just that every once in a while, s/he made a “mistake.”

Like it or not, as a leader, we are being held to a higher set of expectations than perhaps we were held to in a non-leader position.  Most of our behaviors and decisions are being evaluated (formally and informally) more than ever before.

One of the lessons I’ve learned is that regardless of this higher level of expectation, as a leader you must risk making even more mistakes in order to lead others towards results and higher levels of performance.  You don’t improve as an individual or group without testing the limits, and as a leader it’s your job to test the limits.

In order to create a place where you can withstand some scrutiny yet still take risks, people that you work with must understand:

  • Why you’re/they’re doing things, and
  • You/they need to be able to discuss mistakes that have been made, what was learned from making them, and how the mistakes will be mitigated in the future.

Piece of cake, right?

As a leader, what other suggestions do you have for “balancing” taking risks with this higher standard of expectations?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

Email | LinkedIn | Blog

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