A Better Performance Evaluation

Love them or hate them, performance evaluations are the norm at the vast majority of companies.

walkway of airport

Their helpfulness depends upon the quality of the person assessing more than the form that gets filled out. If you don’t know how to identify areas of character and competence that need to be addressed to serve the person you are evaluating, then frankly the evaluation will be a check the box and perhaps painful process.

I’ve chosen to move beyond a classic performance evaluation and have set the bar of evaluation with this metric; Fighting for the highest possible good in ____________ (name of the employee). I call it a highest possible good session! I don’t wait for the annual mandatory performance evaluation to come in order to give encouraging and challenging feedback. In fact, here are the three steps I take when giving input to those around me;

(Prerequisite: You are genuinely for the person and have demonstrated that commitment over a period of time. If you are captive to envy and pride and out for yourself, stop reading as this won’t work.)

  1. I write the phrase “Highest Possible Good Session” at the top of a piece of paper. This frames my thinking about exactly what I’m about to do. For me, it is a sacred task as we are dealing with human beings with great value and worth. I communicate to the person that I am committed to serving them as best as I possibly can.
  2. I write the phrase “High Challenge” and start there: Here’s the deal, the typical evaluation conversation starts with the things they are doing well SO THAT you can slam them with what you really want to say. Wrong answer in my view, I prefer to bring challenge first. This takes away any hint of manipulation in the kind things I want to say, and also helps reframe challenge as a good thing. I write down the top 3-4 areas of character or competency I have identified that need some attention and I go there straightway in a conversational fashion.
  3. I write the phrase “High Support” and identify the unique contributions of the person. Having laid the foundation of challenge, this now feels like party time! Celebrate them in a way that they will value the most.

The effective delivery of support and challenge, when done from a healthy perspective will yield transformation. How does this challenge you? Any helps you have in giving or receiving employee feedback like this?


Editor’s note: We received so much positive feedback from this post, we are rerunning it as an encore today.

Healthy Teams Inside Unhealthy Organizations: What To Do

What word or short phrase would best describe your team culture? Now step back a minute and widen the lens. How would you describe your broader organizational culture? Are the definitions more alike or greatly contrasting?

Often, I have the opportunity to ask similar questions of team leaders, and the responses received typically run along two very dissimilar channels — direct and confident or reserved and unsure. The latter is even more pronounced when the direct report is in the room.

A common finding across multiple sectors is this: department and individual team culture is reported as healthier than the whole of organizational culture. Might this be your reality as well?

healthy team

Healthy teams within unhealthy organizations signal something worth digging into, but don’t fret. Protected silos of security are natural across broad sectors of organizations. Here are some familiar examples:

  • Your favorite football team may have a powerful offense but a terrible record.
  • Your child may be enrolled in a healthy school within a dysfunctional district.
  • Your business unit may have exceeded quarterly expectations while the organization is on life support.
  • Your state may be celebrating a budget surplus while the nation’s financial outlook is troubling (to say the least).

A good leader can build a good team. Great leaders are the ones who are secure and skilled at building bridges of healthy culture across the organization. They know how to multiply what they do, in other words. Silos of excellence won’t multiply, in fact, they might actually subtract from the overall health of team culture.

Edgar Schein, organizational culture specialist and author, believes that culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group to solve its problems. Among these basic norms are the organizational values, mission, vision, and a common leadership language set within simple tools that scale as an effective and efficient medium of communication. Said differently and succinctly, healthy organizational culture creates a clear pathway of organizational clarity within a secure human system for success.

Positive or not, every organization has a culture. More than curb appeal, it reinforces and inspires the way people behave “in the moment” and serves as a predictor of what one might expect in the future. Secure leaders pay close attention to individuals, teams and wider organizational culture. Owning and managing your zone is important, but responding and leading healthy community culture is truly the mark of a leader worth following.

If your team embraces a collaborative and human-centric approach, while your organization’s brand is “results and winners rule,” you should not be surprised to find a level of distortion, frustration and inconsistent behavior within your system.

So What’s The Solution For Security?

  • The X Factor for accelerating healthy organizational culture is personal humility and incredible will (for the organization – not self). Secure and liberated leaders will be observed modeling, “don’t follow me, follow our cause.” Ego feeds upon small wins but can’t live within larger causes.
  • The logical next step is to clearly understand and adjust all behavior to the organization’s larger cause. Beyond your team strategy and quarterly objectives must be a believed and embraced vision built upon agreed upon values. Hook your larger wagon to these powerful and robust forces. What is your bigger cause?

Will you settle for being a good leader in a good organization, or are you willing to grow to become a great leader driven by a greater cause — are you for organizational excellence rather than self-superiority? What motivates you? A well-managed silo, or a well-led network?

The human condition is naturally challenging, as we all have appetites towards success over significance. Strong, liberated leaders don’t start out secure. Secure leaders are not natural. They BECOME and grow from patterns of less mature subtractors and dividers into more fully developed leaders who not only know how to add, but can multiply what they do.

So how about you? Are you ready to BECOME and multiply? We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you more about how GiANT can partner with you to transform your leadership and build enduring greatness across your entire organization. Email us at hello@giantworldwide.com, or me at joseph.hill@giantworldwide.com.

Learn How to Focus from the Military

Are you focused or scattered these days? The capacity to stay on task, focused and engaged will ensure that you are maximizing your influence in the workplace. Definitely something you want to be working on, so let me help today by providing a tool from the U.S. Military.

I have a friend who is, by all accounts, an expert in military operations, as well as being a strong leader himself. It is fascinating to listen to him apply lessons from all service branches into the life of leaders and organizations. The other day we got to talking about marksmanship discipline. Marksmanship discipline speaks to the skill set needed to focus fire on the desired target as opposed to being scattered or random with your gunfire. Here was his description:

Marksmanship discipline = accuracy + intentionality + timing + consistency 

“Did you hit (accuracy) what you wanted to hit (intentionality), when you wanted to hit it (timing), every time you hit it (consistency)?”

I’ll use a very brief example of evaluating my last week using this formula so you can imitate and innovate this tool on your own. (Note: Those of you reading who are in our apprenticeship process will know how important imitation is!)

Accuracy: (Did you hit) + Intentionality: (what you wanted to hit)

Accuracy is kind of the big E on the eye chart. The basic question here is did you fire the weapon?  When it comes to leadership, overwhelming schedules, fear, despair, other people and trivial distractions can sometimes keep us from pulling the trigger at all. Intentionality relates to hitting the desired target as opposed to an accidental discharge that results in hitting something, but not exactly what you wanted to hit.

So with regard to accuracy, as I look back on this past week, I would say that overall I “fired” well. I’d give myself a 7 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being great. I was active and focused with my work for the most part. There were times, however, when I allowed lethargy to set in and did not pull the trigger when I should have, perhaps when I felt a bit overwhelmed with everything going on and spent a bit too much time in the recliner, which actually doesn’t energize me.

With regard to intentionality, I hit what I wanted to hit in the following areas: good decision making, maximized schedule with important lunches and work-related phone conversations, good family activity (took kids to movies), nailed exercise schedule all but 1 day. I “missed” in getting some important writing done and engaging in conversation with my children as much as I would have liked to.

Timing: (when you wanted to hit it) + Consistency: (every time you hit it)

The questions here are: Did I bounce around at the whim of others or allow my priorities to win the day? Did I allow intrusions to steal my day in an unhealthy way? As I look back, I would say that this past week was particularly strong in this area. While I wouldn’t say I hit 100%, I’d say I was strong at 90%. For the most part I achieved what I wanted to in the time frame I wanted to, while also being sensitive to the normal, spontaneous interruptions of the week. I had one unexpected opportunity come my way that involved serving people in need, and I pursued a volunteer opportunity that I believe will be really life-giving.

Based on this quick analysis, my takeaway for this coming week will be to schedule writing time and conversation time with my children, rather than having blurred lines and assume that I will be able to be effective in both areas through my preferred spontaneous norm. It’s the same amount of time, but it will move me from scattered to focused.

Do a similar, quick analysis of your week (or some other area of life), so that you, too, can hit what you want to hit, when you want to hit it, every time you hit it.


Image source: Wikipedia Commons

A Model for Transformational Leadership

Are you experiencing high talent turnover and struggling to match performance with your competition? How would you describe your organization’s overall health?

a) 100% healthy?

b) 80% healthy?

c) Less than 50% healthy?

You would be surprised how often I hear answer “c” from the leaders and teams we serve.

Most of us have routine cycles of maintenance scheduled to keep our vehicles in good, safe working order, but I find it curious how often leaders don’t apply that same thinking to the teams they lead. My question: How intentional are you in caring for your team?

iceberg2 copy

In a recent post, I posed a challenge to consider how and when the three types of organizational change should be activated and the degree of transformation impact:

  • 1.0 – Standing Change: Improving upon “what is” by tweaking an existing method, skill, or standard.
  • 2.0 – Active Change: Shifting to a new state to improve upon “what is” through the investment of new structures, business processes, and/or technical systems.
  • 3.0 -Transformational Change: A radical shift and fundamentally different approach, mindset, and method.

Investing in Standing and/or Active Change is important in maximizing effectiveness and efficiency. These mid-flight adjustments are common and don’t necessarily require gutsy nerve, just clear and agreed upon instructions. Conversely, Transformational Change is complex and and has the potential to create a ripple effect of impact across all facets of organizational life. Rather than a shift, it is a metamorphosis from current state into something fundamentally different, which supplants all that was known and experienced previously.

The High Waterline of Leadership

Leadership expert James McGregor Burns first introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, “Leadership.” He defined Transformational Leadership as a process whereby “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”

Bernard M. Bass further developed the concept of the Transformational Leader. According his 1985 book, “Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations,” this kind of leader:

  • Is a model of integrity and fairness.
  • Sets clear goals.
  • Has high expectations.
  • Encourages others.
  • Provides support and recognition.
  • Stirs the emotions of people.
  • Gets people to look beyond their self-interest.
  • Inspires people to reach for the improbable.

Roughly thirty years after these seminal publications, Transformational Leadership is well argued to be the most important attribute of leaders who are worth following.

Becoming a 3.0 Leader

Transformational Leadership is far from a linear process but it does have a number of reliable touchstones for leaders to imitate.

  1. Create: Inspiring Vision of the Future
  2. Motivate: Teams to Engage and Deliver Upon Vision
  3. Develop: Clear Operational Strategies
  4. Build: Strong, Relational Cultures

Step 1: Create an Inspiring Vision

Individuals need to feel compelled to follow. This is true for exercise routines, musical performers, a restaurant chain; everything! A compelling vision springs from an organization’s purpose and values while giving hope and confidence to those being served.

Step 2: Motivate Teams to Engage and Deliver Upon Vision

A leader’s call to action is to appeal to people’s personal values and to integrate these core beliefs within the “why” of the organization. The use of positive storytelling and sharing “real time” impact for your customers is important. Linking vision to individual goals, values, and tasks give it a real texture and context allowing others to more readily channel-in and contribute.

Step 3: Develop Clear Operational Strategies

A vision is of no use and falls pathetically short if it is only a high gloss token of memorabilia from an event but never internalized. It must become part of the water system and reinforced repeatedly. However, many leaders put most of their energy into the design of vision but not putting in the hard and often mundane work of operationalizing it. Warren Bennis says it succinctly: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Step 4: Build Strong, Relationship-Based Cultures

Transformational Leaders empower those they lead. They intentionally and deeply invest in their people and they work tirelessly to calibrate both high support and high challenge. If your job title hints that you are a leader, then tag: You’re it! Your ultimate duty of care is to build and maintain relationships, earn trust, and create opportunities that allow your team to grow and develop, which, in turn, builds teams worth following.

Transformational leaders inform when they must and inspire whenever they can. Inspiring great loyalty and trust is the leadership standard of excellence and significant in securing 100% team health, engagement and capacity.

So how about you? Are you ready to grow and become a 3.0 Leader? Perhaps it is time for a leadership upgrade. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you more about how GiANT can partner with you to transform your leadership. Email me at joseph.hill@giantworldwide.com.

Are you strange, or authentic? Why leaders need to be real.

Current leadership literature is rife with ink spilled on authenticity. This authenticity concept always brings certain questions to mind: First, do we really know who we are? Second, if we really knew ourselves, then why would we want to be anybody else? Third, have we slipped so far that we really have to remind leaders to be themselves?

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

—Oscar Wilde

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Without authenticity, a leader is simply not effective. Our culture is increasingly cynical regarding organizations, institutions and bureaucracies, and we seek leaders who are genuine and secure, who can guide us through the complexity of these entities. Authentic leaders understand organizational constraints and the network of people who impact performance. Authentic leaders are attentive to honest feedback and to the details of organizations, like the signals of mood and morale. Detection of organizational trends allows adaptation as quickly as possible. Authentic leaders simply build trust.

Today we tend to emphasize analytical thinking which, in turn, impacts self-expression; but as leaders, we must fully understand our strengths and be comfortable with our weaknesses. If analytical thinking is a strength, we need to use it! If not, embrace that truth and partner with someone who possesses the gifts we lack. This is so easy to jot down in a blog post, but it demands real courage to achieve. We need to be who we are. Ponder for a minute The Doors’ lyrics in the song “People Are Strange.” Are we willing to risk people thinking we are strange? Will those we lead think less of us when they see who we really are?

This doesn’t mean proclaiming a lengthy list of our faults, although strategically revealing a weakness or two is indeed an excellent way to establish credibility. Acknowledging weakness illustrates to our followers that we care more about the mission than our reputation. It shows we are greater good leaders, not personal power faux-leaders.

TRUST: Anxiety and a breach in trust 

Thieves and rogues have been part of every generation of capitalism in the United States—it’s really nothing new. We see this in corporate America today in executives who make the news with stories of ethics violations and wrongdoing. Lack of ethics and a breach in trust leads to malaise and anxiety, which spread like wildfire when they ignite. A true leadership ecosystem is fueled by trust. Ultimately, authenticity is a gateway to trust. When a leader is authentic, trust naturally follows.

Leading is not easy. True leadership only begins as leaders look deep into themselves, understand who they really are and answer yes to the question of being authentic. Many people strive to become leaders without developing any true sense of purpose. Some want the wealth, status, and prestige that comes with leadership. The corner office, the big leather seat at the conference table, the stock options, the private jet, the sycophants. These individuals are willing to do anything, put up any front, and present any pretense necessary to make the impression that will win favor and advance their careers. Yet, all the while they are most often wretchedly unhappy and, in turn, they make those around them miserable.

KNOW YOURSELF: Who are you?

Is this leadership? Real leadership is honest, true, deeply insightful and reflective, purposeful and motivated by high ideals. It is thorough in deep self-knowledge, uncompromising in standards and unyielding virtue. We must know ourselves to lead ourselves, and leaders, above all else, must be true to ourselves. That’s very difficult to do unless we know who we are and what we aspire to be.

Leadership style is nurtured out of character. There’s no point in trying to adopt the leadership style of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, George Patton, or our boss. It would be as ridiculous as dressing in the same clothes with the same hairstyle, facial hair, and cologne (wait—I think we all know people like that). Do we truly understand our own character? If not, leadership will indeed be a challenge.

As leaders, we must spend time understanding who we are, what makes us tick, and what motivates and inspires us. We must know our passions—what makes us cry and what makes us sing. If we try to be anything but true to ourselves, the pressure will kill us.

No One Remembers Your Name? 

If we are simply part of the status quo, a minion, a cookie cutter, cloned leader, our impact suffers and no one will remember our name to any great degree. Yet when we lead from our strengths and engage those around us with full understanding of who we are, it is amazing to see the enduring impact a single leader can have across a vast organizational landscape. In order to know ourselves, we really need to spend time with ourselves and invest in our understanding of self. We need to ask deep questions of ourselves like, “Who am I? Why do I lead? Am I strange? Do I truly care if I am authentic?”

A mentor of mine once shared that people are strange—we are all broken. Broken people come together with sharp edges, and people get cut and we can get hurt. But, when you take a bird’s eye view of all these strange and broken people, you see a beautiful mosaic. We must understand and own our strangeness, our weaknesses, and our strengths.

Leadership is a journey—not a destination. Live the journey. Be authentic, have fun, enjoy the ride, and live the mosaic—because, like it or not, we are all strange.


If you want to know more about how to be authentic, let us know: hello@giantworldwide.com

How to Learn More, Better

There is a segment of Marine Corps boot camp where recruits head out into the field to learn the proper use of what is called MOPP (Mission-Oriented Protective Posture) Gear. MOPP Gear is protective gear utilized in the midst of a toxic environment such as a chemical strike. The day my platoon was led out for this training is forever etched in my mind. As we sat on the metal bleachers and the instructors began to explain the importance of the gear and how specifically to put it on, I fell asleep. The rigor of Marine training made dozing off a common occurrence for many recruits, and we were committed to policing each other to ensure all were alert. The method of awakening a sleeping recruit was a hard slap on the back of the bald head. As payback for an earlier infraction, my good friend and platoon leader saw that I had dozed off and decided to let me sleep through the training.

I awoke to a loud shout: “GAS, GAS, GAS!” I was flush with anxiety as actual CS gas began to fill the area and I realized we were to put on the MOPP gear as quickly as possible—as we were just instructed to do. My friend laughed heartily as he watched my panic increase as I struggled to put the gear on correctly amidst the gas and smoke of the explosives and the noise of dummy rounds simulating an actual combat scenario. I had missed a critical learning opportunity.

Leaders worth following are lifelong learners who stay awake to identify their key areas of growth. Learning is an essential quality of leader who are fully alive as it results in transformation and satisfaction. Are you alert to your learning opportunities?  What is the school of hard knocks trying to teach you these days? You’re not meant to continue on status quo with enough just to get by, you are a leader worth following.

This week I want you to learn more, better. To get there, here are two challenges for you to embrace;

1-Prioritize Your Learning

Our information age can be overwhelming. You’ve got more options through blogs, MOOC’s (massive, open, online courses), and the latest free pdf. I would ask you to stop right now and reflect for about 5 minutes.  What is most important for you to learn in this season of your life?  Prioritize what you’d like to learn and begin taking steps in that direction.

2-Shatter the Forgetting Curve

I used to read 2 sometimes 3 books a week. I soon realized that for all of my reading, I wasn’t retaining any of it. The choice to slow down, take notes, and practice what I read is a discipline that continues to challenge me. While we all understand the concept of the learning curve, researchers have also been discussing something called the “forgetting curve.” Imagine that you listen to a one-hour lecture. Let’s say that by the end of the hour, you hold 100 percent of the information. By day 2, if you don’t engage the information in some practical sense, you will have lost 50 to 80 percent of what you learned. By day 30, you will be able to recall a mere 2 to 3 percent of the hour-long lecture. Now imagine that you engage the original information for just 10 minutes 24 hours after the lecture. Instead of forgetting 50 to 80 percent, you can spike the number back up to 100 percent. If you continue engaging the material 10 minutes per day the first week, you can cut to 5 minutes during week 2, and by day 30, you have trained your brain to recall the information by engaging for just 2 to 3 minutes.

If you are not intentional about your learning on a consistent basis, you can say goodbye to continued retention and ongoing transformation. To increase your leadership influence, wake up and stay alert to your learning this week.

Leading Change: An Issue of Skill or Choice?

In a previous post, I wrote on how change has been redefined as a constant and that even the most seasoned leaders are ill-equipped to lead toward transformed and sustained performance. If you believe this to be your reality, take heart. Your challenge may not be an issue of skill, but rather of choice.

joe post change

The Choices of Change

All sectors of leaders face three different types of change: Standing, Active, and Transformational. Each type requires a distinctive mindset, strategy, and common tools to succeed. Leaders must know how to accurately measure the type of change directed in order to successfully access the appropriate change strategies needed.

1.0 – Standing Change

Standing Change is the simplest effort of improving what is—an existing method, skill, or standard. Examples of Standing Change include improving an operational process, increasing work skills, or refining the talent on-boarding process.

Standing Change typically has less significant impact upon people and usually calls for heightened IQ capacity of knowledge, skill, and means of operating. Processing Standing Change typically is driven via traditional project management approaches where work flow variables are known in advance and managed against the guiding factors of time and budget. In this static change order, leaders are able to declare desired outcomes and can execute through the existing organizational team structure.

2.0 – Active Change

Active Change has added complexity. Rather than simply improving upon what is, Active Change invests in new structures, business processes, and/or technical systems. It requires a shift to a new state, which is often definable at the front end of the change process. An example of this comes from a large government organization we serve. This agency is in the transition and buildout stage to guide their recruitment, selection, and hiring practices. This is a solid sample of Active Change as this fast growing organization will significantly shift from their former protocols yet not experience a radical alteration of general work designs, responsibility or authority. Active Change is fairly predictable and like Standing Change, can also be managed against tight budgets and timelines.

3.0 – Transformational Change

Transformational Change carries a drastically different dynamic and requires a fundamentally different approach, mindset, and method. Transformational Change is a non-natural leadership response that radically shifts from 1.0 and 2.0 change strategies (managing structures and systems) to a new order of leading team, modeling behavior, executing upon new expectations and accelerating healthy team culture over a sustained period of time.

The successful Transformational Change processes integrates a commonly understood vocabulary, common visual tools, leadership language and effective methods of multiplying leadership skills and best practices.


Transformation as Uncharted Territory

Clarity on the other side of transformation is largely uncertain at the launch of the change process. At the initiation, leaders and teams have a general direction in view, but the ultimate outcome of transformation becomes more greatly illuminated as teams proceed forward. Transformational Change is non-linear with the preferred future coming into view as byproduct of the Transformational Change process itself.

Numerous course corrections and “just in time” adaptations are the norm in the journey of Transformational Change.

Transformational Change is rarely lead effectively through the meme of domineering, command, or fear based positions of control. Leaders who influence from a posture of empowerment are more capable of navigating the tricky dynamics of guiding structure and “in the moment” spontaneity. Transformational leadership calls for a shift from the common fear and pride based tendencies of preservation and protection to an uncommon leadership response that is driven by a secure foundation of self-awareness, self-confidence and accurate self-assessment.

When leaders stay entrenched in their old habits of insecurity they ultimately loose focus, market share, and the trust of their teams. Regrettably, without the required shifts in culture, new initiatives are slow to take hold and less effective in delivering the results intended.

The Good News – There is ample evidence of Transformational Change, across numerous industries, governmental agencies, and nonprofit sectors observed.

The Caveat – The proliferation of healthy transformed culture is seen across all sectors but only after breakthrough and intentional release of the command, control, protective, and domineering leadership styles acutely common in our world today. Secure organizations mature and co-create environments where empowerment and opportunity become the norm. The intended consequence – greater team collaboration, cross-departmental support, innovation, systems integration, and customer loyalty.

To exist in the fast-paced and crazy competitive sprint for performance, leaders have choice. Standing and/or Active Change may be your most efficient approach to good but may not be the right choice for enduring greatness. To thrive forward in this new market reality, organizations must Become, Build, and Lead as Transformational artists.

What Type of Change Are You Facing?

Determine the primary type of change you are leading by answering the following questions.

1.0 – Standing Change

  1. Does your existing change effort primarily require an improvement of your current way of operating rather than a new system?
  2. Will training in skill and knowledge coupled with enhanced communications suffice to carry out this change?
  3. Does your current culture and team mind-set support the needs of this change?

2.0 – Active Change

  1. Does your change effort require you to disband your existing way of operating and replace it with something trusted and known but different?
  2. At the start of your change effort, were you able to design a clear picture of the envisioned reality?
  3. Is it realistic to expect this change to occur over a predetermined timetable?

3.0 – Transformational Change

  1. Does your organization need to begin the change process before the destination is fully clarified, known, and defined?
  2. Is the scope of this change so broad that it requires the existing organizational culture and the behavior of your team to shift significantly in order to successfully achieve the new state and its desired outcomes?
  3. Does the change require your organization’s structure, operations, products, development, or technology to change radically to successfully meet the new paradigm of marketplace need?

Want to go deeper? My next post will equip you with bottom line truths to maximize your impact and success rate in leading Transformational Change – 3.0 across your entire organization.


What To Do When Things Are Tanking

Leaders, the things you are working on are in one of four states: accelerating, booming, declining, or tanking.

What do you do when things are tanking?


Honest response? Moderate stress begins to trigger the sleeping baby in the back seat. Some of you get more and more task-focused and the relational niceties go out the window. Others get overwhelmed by the impossibility of accomplishing everything they have committed to and begin to withdraw and catastrophize the future. Others get stuck in an internal doom loop of inadequacy and despair as the thoughts of how much they have let others down plague their soul. Others get fixated on a detail or solution and become over-controlling.

Listen, if something is tanking, there’s one thing you need to do: MAKE A DECISION!

Don’t get stuck in the pit of despair, blind to the reality that it’s decision time! You need to decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. Since the restatement of the obvious is often the most important thing we can do, here are 2 options to try when things are tanking:

1. Shut it down and stick to it!

Be as bold as a lion and shut it down. Whatever it is — the project, the program, the plan — sometimes the right decision is to kill it. If you’re honest, you really think that it has tanked long enough and the real reason you allow it to go on is because you know the potential ramifications — the backlash, the people mess, the sacred cow-ness of the thing. Tip the cow and roar with the reasons why it’s time to shut it down. Don’t second guess, roar with hope, vision, passion, shut it down and stick to it.

2. Lube it up and go for it!

If you’ve seen the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll remember that the father’s solution for everything is to spray it with Windex. Got a zit? Windex. Cat hair stuck on your trousers? Windex. You are probably more familiar with the WD-40 solution for everything. WD-40 has been documented to solve the problem of a squeaky door and the removal of a python snake that had coiled itself around the undercarriage of a bus in Asia. Norm Larsen is the inventor of the corrosion-preventing WD-40. What you are probably not aware of is what WD-40 stands for, namely Water Displacement (the function of the spray), 40th attempt. You betcha, it took Norm 40 times to get it right. So your thing is tanking? So what? Some of you are on WD-5. Others of you are at WD-39. Some of you just need to be encouraged to keep trying. Bring in different people. Pursue critique. Don’t be independent. Save yourself some pain.

It’s decision time: Shut it down, or spray it with WD-40.

Why Leading Change is Hard and What You Need to Win

Change is an inevitable part of life, particularly in business. But studies have trended for over a decade indicating that upwards of 60–70 percent of all change efforts fail to deliver upon their intended result of bringing about a transformation or improving performance. The artful craft of communicating vision and change is arguably the most important skill set for leaders across all sectors. If this is true, then why do leaders have so much trouble executing successfully and seeing their plans come to fruition?

why leading change is hard

The answer, in part, has to do with a lack of self-awareness. Often, the visionary leader paints a big picture of the horizon but isn’t aware that in order to move the needle and truly bring about transformational change, they have to make the path forward feel safe for everyone else on the team who will be following behind. They need to build a bridge, in other words.

Followers tend to be more present-oriented and have an innate need to understand the details involved in making changes. They usually have lots of questions about the way forward, and without solid answers, an undercurrent of doubt and fear results, which ultimately leads to resistance. Of course leaders want their followers to be responsive and not resistant, and they can create a culture of responsiveness by being prepared to answer three kinds of questions that provide the critical details followers need to cross the bridge to the new frontier:

  • What – The question behind the stuff in the organization that needs to change, such as structure, systems, processes, technology, products, and/or services.
  • Who – The question behind the human dynamics of change, including individual mindset and behavior, as well as the macro and micro organizational cultures that exist. Key elements include point of view, emotions, values, motivations, commitments, communications, engagement, politics, development, and readiness.
  • How – The question behind the way the “what” and “who” changes will be planned, designed, and implemented. The change process includes all the change-related actions and decisions from the moment of conceiving the felt need to change to the full realization of the intended organizational and cultural outcomes.

Leaders often and swiftly move to common ground around the “what” solutions because that is where most of us live and put our focus. Unfortunately, results do not come simply from the new structure, program, or technology. Desired outcomes get produced only when the “who” embrace those solutions, emotionally own them, and maximize their utilization. Underperformance, breakdown, and failure in transformation nearly always occur in the areas of people and the change process – the who and the how.

Call It

  1. What percentage of intentional leadership attention do you place on the following?
  • The What – The stuff needing to be changed
  • The Who – Those who will eventually be responsible to carry out the what
  • The How – The operational plan that builds the bridge from current reality to your preferred future.
  1. What percentage of your executive team’s total leadership attention goes toward the three factors above?
  2. What can you own in terms of misalignment among the three and how might you respond with a better-balanced approach?

Want to go deeper? My next post will help you better understand the types of organizational change and strategies upon which your success rate can quickly progress toward 100 percent.


Image credit: Louis Llerena

Leadership Blind Spots: What We Can’t See and Why We Need to Know

I’m in the process of teaching my teenaged daughter how to drive. Actually, my husband is doing most of the teaching, and I’m observing the fruits of his labor now that I feel safe enough to ride along with her with my eyes uncovered. (It can be a scary place, that passenger seat!) Recently, she had an experience driving that I think perfectly sums up what it’s like to know yourself to lead yourself, a concept we spend a lot of time talking about at GiANT.

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We were en route to our neighborhood grocery store in late-afternoon traffic. As we approached the store, she turned on her blinker, glanced in the rear view mirror and began to edge over into the center turn lane. “Wait! There’s a car!” was my immediate response, having noticed another, smaller car close behind that I knew she couldn’t see. We escaped disaster, made it safely to the parking lot and afterward my daughter said, “That car! It came out of nowhere — I never saw it.” Thus concluded her first lesson in what what a blind spot is.

By their very nature, blind spots are areas where our view is blocked — we literally cannot see what’s on the other side of them without some help. How that translates to our leadership capacity is this: We all have tendencies and patterns of behavior that are unique to our personalities. In the same way we’re born with our eye color or preference to use our left or right hand, we also come into the world with a hardwired predisposition to communicate and make decisions in certain ways.

I, for example, am a good listener and like taking care of the people around me. It’s easy for me to bring support to those I lead, in other words. What’s not so easy, I have discovered, is bringing challenge. I don’t like conflict or arguing against another person’s views, and I want people to like me, so my natural default has often been to avoid being the opposition and work, instead, to keep the peace.

The inherent problem with this tendency is that no one can grow without the calibration of both support and challenge. Without the ability to help the people I lead see where they need to grow, I’m really doing them a disservice. They won’t ever be able to reach their full potential if all I ever say is, “That’s a great idea,” without also being prepared to challenge them if I disagree.

In GiANT terms, we work to become Liberators (see image below) and fight for the highest possible good of those we lead by bringing an equal measure of support and challenge. When we do this, we empower others. But here’s the catch:

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It’s not easy to grapple with things we don’t naturally do well. Even harder is discovering what those things are in the first place. Unless we ask the question, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” we won’t ever know. And this is a question that can’t be asked in a vacuum.

Until my daughter’s near miss, she didn’t know what she didn’t know. Now she’s careful to adjust her side view mirrors before she leaves the driveway, and she’s extra cautious changing lanes. Our leadership is exactly the same. We need other people to help us see what we, alone, can’t. And we have to be intentional in learning how to adjust our behavior so we don’t over-protect or dominate the people we lead. For me, it’s taken practice to get better at bringing challenge. It will never be as easy as the support side of the equation, but I keep at it because I want the people I lead to know I’m for them.

How aware are you of your leadership blind spots? Do you know if you dominate or protect others, rather than empower? What are your tendencies? Leaders worth following engage these questions to know themselves better.

Are you ready? Join us at GiANT for the journey. Questions? Email me at amy.norton@giantworldwide.com.


Image credit: David Marcu