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Leadership in Times of Crisis / Liderazgo en Tiempos de Crisis

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Although it is likely that what I am going to talk about in this blog is nothing new for many of my readers, I felt it was my obligation to share my thoughts with you during this global pandemic.

When I worked at GE several years ago, we used to discuss the importance of Leadership Traits during our strategic meetings. The content of this blog post leverages those conversations. I hope you find value in what you read.

One of the Leadership Traits that takes center stage and becomes very important in times of crisis is: INCLUSIVENESS.

An INCLUSIVE leader is defined as somebody who:

  • Can energize teams through connection with people
  • Builds loyalty and commitment
  • Is flexible in approach to motivate and retain talent and appeals to the unique interests of each team member
  • Builds a connection to the workforce through personal involvement and trust
  • Engages people to want to perform
  • Promotes an environment that recognizes and celebrates individual and cultural differences
  • Develops others, provides feedback, coaching and developmental assignments.

I would urge you, as a leader, to be aware of the need to be INCLUSIVE during these very trying times, embrace, adopt and use the best practices of Inclusiveness and encourage your leaders to do the same.

So, here are some of the things you should be doing:

  1. Communicate frequently: Keep everyone informed of what is going on in the company, what important decisions are being considered, what steps are you taking to mitigate the impact of the crisis, how do these actions impact the employees, hold virtual Town Hall meetings, encourage employees to express their concerns and contribute with suggestions (you can use FAQ´s, online suggestion boxes, etc.).
  2. Assign an “ambassador” as a representative of each group. People can be grouped by department, function, location, project, etc. The ambassador´s primary role would be to make sure everyone understands what is going on, listen to concerns, engage with and accompany employees, “hand-hold” (virtually, remember to social distance!) them as they navigate in these difficult times. The ambassador should meet with the group (virtually) once a week. In some hospitals in the US, the staff is doing this and they call them “Hope Huddles”.
  3. Celebrate anything positive: We are inundated with negative news. So it really helps to be able to celebrate during a time of crisis. So, share whatever positive news you can, whether they be business results, individual or group achievements, a good idea that somebody came up with, personal stories that you can share, something that everyone can laugh about, etc.

Keep Safe and Healthy – This too shall pass!

Kishore Shahani

April 2020

 

covidENG

Aunque probablemente lo que les escribo no sea nuevo para muchos de mis lectores, consideré importante y mi obligación, compartirles algunas ideas y pensamientos que he tenido y que espero les sean útiles durante esta época de pandemia global.

Cuando trabaje en GE hace muchos años, hablábamos mucho de los rasgos de liderazgo en nuestras reuniones estratégicas. El contenido de este blogpost tiene que ver con esas conversaciones. Espero encuentren valor en esto que les comparto.

Una de las características de liderazgo que toma preponderancia en tiempos de crisis, es SER INCLUYENTE.

Un líder INCLUYENTE se define como alguien que:

  • Impulsa y energiza a los equipos a través de conectar con la gente
  • Genera lealtad y compromiso
  • Es flexible en su enfoque para motivar y retener talento, apelando a los intereses únicos de cada miembro del equipo
  • Genera una conexión con la fuerza laboral a través de involucramiento personal y generando un ambiente de apertura y confianza
  • Motiva a las personas que deseen lograr sus metas.
  • Promueve un ambiente que reconoce y celebra las diferencias individuales y culturales
  • Desarrolla a otros, provee retroalimentación y coaching, asignando tareas que hacen al equipo crecer.

Te invito a que, en tu rol de líder, reconozcas la necesidad de SER INCLUYENTE en estos tiempos difíciles, adoptando estas mejores prácticas y motivando a tus líderes de equipo a hacer lo mismo.

En ese tenor, aquí hay algunas cosas que deberías estar haciendo:

  1. Comunica frecuentemente: Asegúrate que todos estén al tanto de lo que está pasando en la compañía, qué decisiones importantes se están considerando, que pasos están tomando para mitigar el impacto de la crisis, cómo estas acciones impactan a los empleados, etc. Sostén reuniones estilo town hall de manera virtual, invita a los empleados a expresar sus preocupaciones y a contribuir con sugerencias (puedes usar Preguntas Frecuentes, buzones de sugerencia, etc).
  2. Asigna un “embajador” como representante de cada grupo. La gente puede ser agrupada por departamento, función, ubicación, proyecto, etc. El rol principal del embajador será asegurar que todos entienden lo que está pasando, escuchar preocupaciones, conectar y acompañar a los empleados, “llevarlos de la mano” (durante esta época de distanciamiento social, ¡obviamente me refiero a virtualmente llevarlo de la mano!) para ayudarles a navegar estos tiempos difíciles. El embajador debería reunirse (virtualmente) con el grupo una vez por semana. En algunos hospitales en Estados Unidos, el equipo está llevando a cabo esta dinámica y llamándola “Grupos de Esperanza”.
  3. Celebra lo positivo: estamos inundados de malas noticias. Es importante tratar de compartir y celebrar lo positivo en épocas de crisis. Así que comparte cualquier noticia positiva que tengas, ya sea resultados de negocio, logros personales o del grupo, ideas buenas que alguien propuso, historias personales, algo que haga a todos reír, ¡lo que sea!

Manténganse a salvo y sanos. ¡Las cosas van a estar mejores!

Kishore Shahani

Abril 2020

Digital Transformation – 5 Reasons why Change Management is absent

By Kishore Shahani

Blockchain, IoT, cloud storage and processing, machine learning, predictive data analytics, augmented reality, data driven supply chain management, data ecosystems, artificial intelligence… the list goes on and on. These buzzwords have discreetly crept into our mainstream discourse and now they are part of our day to day conversations in the business community.

As former CEO of Cisco John Chambers said, “Every Company Will be a Technology Company” and so today we have a trend of companies rushing to embark in their own journeys of digital transformation, some through a well thought out and planned process, some detonating projects just out of #FOMO.

digitaltranschange

Digital transformation projects are costly but if implemented correctly, worth every penny. They usually include implementation of new technologies, platforms and systems and imply changes to critical processes. Anybody tangentially close to change management (CM) practices would immediately identify the need for CM in 99.9% of digital transformation projects and yet, in my experience, most executives tend to minimize and sometimes flat out ignore this imperative, critical factor of success.  I’ve seen cases in which many thousands of dollars could have been saved if the need for change management had been identified and embraced sooner rather than later.

If the need for change management is so evident, why is it that companies keep making this mistake? Typically, the need for CM is recognized once adoption problems begin to appear.  Why are change management activities initiated so late (if at all) in the project? Here are some of the reasons I have identified for this seemingly irrational behavior:

  1. Most providers sell the benefit of the solution based primarily on the system or tool. Specialized IT consulting firms that don’t have a CM practice will often pitch their solutions as a magic black box, without considering the need to manage adoption and use by people who are required to do so. Their sales pitch focuses on things like “this new system will lower your logistics costs and lead times by up to 15%”. But guess what? No, it won’t. At least not on its own. With very few automation project exceptions, what drives the benefits is the adoption and use of the solution by the PEOPLE who need to do things differently as a result of the new system. And to do that people need to be helped to transition from the current state to the future state by using CM methodologies and tools.  In their intent to sell and close the deal, salespeople from the IT companies tend to downplay any additional investment their clients will need to drive adoption and usage.
  2. IT Solutions costs are seldom bundled together with CM services. While more mature IT consulting companies have started to bundle their solutions to include a change management component, most don’t. They’ll offer the service but usually as an addition or a separate, non-essential component. And given the fact that these projects are usually cost intensive, clients all too often sacrifice what is perceived as add-ons so CM is excluded. Customers then believe that change management is not part of the minimum value proposition… and that is an expensive error. The use of new IT tools and processes is understandably faced with resistance. People fear what they don’t know; they are also skeptical about new systems because they finally got used to using the old systems and unless they understand the underlying benefit (for them) of using the new one, they are, more often than not, going to want to stick to the old ways. This is why I stress that the product as a stand alone should not be perceived as an integral solution. It doesn’t even serve the supplier’s interest to sell it on its own. Sure, they’ll get the short term sale and commission but if the system does not deliver on the promise, it will affect the supplier’s relationship with their client, who will not want to buy from them again because “their solution never worked the way we expected and you told us it would do” (reason being, lack of adoption and usage).
  3. Decision-makers are not end users and don’t dimension the complexity of change. This is not exclusive to IT projects and is usually a problem in larger, siloed organizations. Leaders and decision-makers would do well in empathizing and taking the time to understand the implications of the projects they are approving.  A close friend of mine was directly involved in the implementation of a series of new SAP modules in a multinational company. When the project was initially approved there was no budget allocated to change management activities. When he raised the issue to the Executive Board, the CEO told him “Nobody change-managed me into using Microsoft Office the first time I used it. Why do we need anything additional? Can’t they learn on the go? We’re paying millions for this new system, I’m sure it is user-friendly enough.” Luckily, as the opportunity presented itself, my friend was able to actually do a test run with the executive board, placing them directly in front of the new solution in order for them to understand the implications of the change they were making, and it took no time at all for them to give the go-ahead for and additional budget for CM activities. The project was a success.
  4. “Use it or leave” attitude. A step further and more critical than the last reason, this is the case where leaders think they can simply threaten their organization into adoption and usage, so change management is unnecessary. Because the need for digital transformation is so obvious to themg, leaders tend to think it is obvious to everyone else and hence, they expect that everyone will automatically embrace, adopt and use the new model, processes and tools. Under this framework, they might conclude that anybody showing the least amount of resistance is against them and their view of what is best for the company and so they should be strong-armed. Does this sound familiar? “If people don’t start using the new model, they are against the company’s best interest and so they should leave. It’s just the way things are supposed to be done around here and if they don’t like it, the door is wide open.” Having led a number of companies in my professional life, I can understand the leader’s frustration when things aren’t going according to plan and YES sometimes you do have to consider removing a few “bad apples” before they spoil the bunch, but to jump to this conclusion without considering that resistance is natural and that it should be expected and managed, is poor leadership, poor resistance management and will cause unnecessary problems with morale and attrition. Firing people for not adopting the new practices should be the last resort.
  5. Leaders do not understand and therefore do not play their CM role as Sponsor: I constantly urge leaders to understand and adopt their role as “Sponsor” of the projects. This is the most critical success (or failure) factor.  Prosci describes the role of Sponsor as ABC: Actively and visibly involved, Build a coalition of sponsors and Communicate directly with employees. This role requires leaders to empower the teams, be directly involved, be the early adopters of the solution, encourage others to use the solution, explain the purpose of the solution and the benefits it brings to those who embrace, adopt and use, provide resources and, overall, be supportive of the project.

If your company is considering undergoing a digital transformation initiative, I urge you to learn from others’ mistakes and include change management as an integral part of the project as early as possible. Leaders would do well in taking the hint from the name “digital transformation” and understanding that transformation is a synonym of change. Unmanaged change puts benefit realization at risk. Let’s talk about it!

Kishore Shahani is a proven Business & Leadership Development Executive with extensive achievement driving businesses within complex markets and developing value-add cross-functional teams. He is currently bringing his more than 30 years of business leadership experience to action as a Business Consultant, Leadership Trainer and Speaker.  Contact Kishore for more info.

 

Sponsorship – The Make or Break of all Initiatives

By Kishore Shahani

One of the most vital factors when implementing change in a company, is the crucial role of the Project Sponsor. Typically, a sponsor is somebody who occupies a position in top management or, if it’s a smaller company, the sponsor would be one of the major shareholders. Prosci’s extensive worldwide research reveals that active and visible sponsorship is #1 on the list of top contributors or top obstacles for success.  Project and Change Managers know this. They live with this reality in every project that requires change management and can tell a number of stories of how a good sponsor can catalyze change and a sponsor who is not adequately engaged can completely derail the project.

When we look at underperforming or even disastrous implementations, we find that the constant and common root cause, more often than not, is poorly-executed Sponsorship. So, why is it that the same cause for failure, i.e. poor sponsorship, occurs over and over again?

In my experience, the biggest challenge when engaging with sponsors lies in getting them to fully understand, accept and perform their role.

confusedSponsors are not aware of what is expected of them in their role as a sponsor. Some think that their involvement is symbolic and associated with their position in the company. They see it as putting their name on a project charter, showing up for update briefings and celebrations and holding up their “yay” or “nay” paddles when decisions need to be made. Hence, they tend to confuse “position” with “role”.   Very often they are oblivious to how much of their time and engagement is needed in order to move the project forward successfully.

Another common occurrence is that this is the person’s first time as a sponsor and/or that he/she has not received the adequate coaching for the role. I’ve seen this happen so many times. Prosci´s research reveals that more that 50% of the sponsors have an inadequate understanding of their role. So, coaching becomes necessary in order to learn the relatively new art (and it is an art) of change management. This brings us to the next obstacle: arrogance and lack of humility and the question “how coacheable is the sponsor”?

As you get higher up in the food chain, not only are you expected to know it all, you start thinking that you do! And when that happens, arrogance kicks in. From my perspective, there is nothing more toxic in leadership and in sponsorship, than arrogance.

arrogantArrogance is an obstacle to learning.  It clouds your vision, blocks out constructive criticism and feedback and hence, impedes the sponsor from learning his/her role.  Arrogant sponsors become tyrannical micromanagers and if they are assigned a coach, they go through the coaching process just to tick off a box instead of actually listening to, learning and and implementing the coach’s advice.

Last but not least, unengaged sponsors might just be afraid of the vulnerability and responsibility embedded in the sponsor role.  Sponsorship of a project implies accountability and exposure. The easy way out for the sponsor is to delegate the role and that is a big mistake.

If you are a sponsor of a project and at some point in time in your career, you may be, here´s some advice: your change management specialist is your best resource and ally in your role as a sponsor. Please take some time to learn about change management so that you develop an awareness of your role, the desire, motivation and knowledge to perform the role and do allow your change management specialist to be your coach.  He/she can make you aware of the importance of your role, create in you the desire to perform in it, give you the adequate knowledge and training that you require and accompany and encourage you as you perform. Especially if this is your first time as a sponsor, believe me, you need a coach.

Kishore Shahani is a proven Business & Leadership Development Executive with extensive achievement driving businesses within complex markets and developing value-add cross-functional teams. He is currently bringing his more than 30 years of business leadership experience to action as a Business Consultant, Leadership Trainer and Speaker.  Contact Kishore for more info.