They say actions speak louder than words.
That’s so true when you’re driving change and trying to set yourself apart from the pack of people still driving others to change.
When you’re driving change you must practice and practice and practice the driving change behaviors until it seems foolish to do anything else (e.g., driving people).
You must practice acting first instead of ordering others to act.
You must practice clearing the obstacles to the change instead of complaining that others aren’t moving fast enough.
You must practice lifting your eyes to your vision of the future and telling everyone what you see instead of focusing everyone on their feet and the last order they didn’t follow.
You must practice withstanding the criticism of people who are still driving people.
They don’t see it yet.
Keep practicing your driving change.
Let them see you practicing at driving change.
Someday they’ll see.
Be the example.
Why not try?
Tonight I read to my children from a collection of Aesop’s fables. We ended the night by reading, The North Wind and the Sun. If you’re not familiar with this fable, here’s how it goes (borrowing from wikipedia):
The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.
The moral of the story has been offered several ways through history. The moral I prefer is: Persuasion is better than force.
You might be thinking that now I’m going to encourage you to use persuasion (driving change) instead of force (driving people to change). Yes, I am, but that’s not why I wrote this post.
Instead–okay, maybe in addition–I’d rather you consider being a sun in your own life and allowing yourself to see potential and the warmth in trying something new (say, like driving change or making a career change or investing in your strengths).
Stop being your own north wind, who’s constantly beating yourself up for not being smart enough, fast enough, brave enough–you pick–to have chosen long ago to drive change (or learn a foreign language, or whatever you’d like to do and haven’t done yet).
Let your sun shine, take off your coat and get to work driving change or whatever it is you want to do.
When you’re driving change, you don’t get to order people out onto a path you’ve never been on. You must go first.
Going first can be scary, but it can also can be the best opportunity you’ve ever had to set the example.
You’re out in front, all alone and everyone is watching. Most people have to pay to gain that much attention. You’re getting it for free by choosing to act, and act first.
So, march out ahead and set the example.
If you believe in mentoring, get a mentor (or several) and find a mentee (or several).
If you know that meetings that end on time or early are the best meetings to attend, then make your meetings end on time or early every time.
If you crave processes you can count on, then build routine into your routine and stick with it even when you don’t feel like it.
Set the example and drive your change.
You are the engine for change.
Don’t look to your co-workers, your fellow volunteers, your boss or anyone else.
You must choose the change for yourself first.
Are willing to do that?
If you are willing to choose the change for yourself and become the engine for change, then the first thing you must learn is how to work this engine you’ve started. Learning how is a very personal experience. You must know your strengths and your weaknesses, what energizes you and what drains you, what fills you with joy and what drives you up the wall.
Then you must learn how to help others discover those same things in themselves and you must understand how you can provide opportunities for them to feel those joyful, energizing feelings.
This week I got an e-mail that said something like, “Thank you for re-energizing me.” She’d actually re-energized herself. I just knew how to give her the opportunity to feel that energy again.
Start with yourself, then practice with others. How do you start? Some of those details are found at this blog; most aren’t. You may have to break a path all your own.
This is your journey.
You’re the engine.
[Sorry to those of you who came looking Thursday night/Friday morning for a post. I took a much needed rest Thursday night. All is well now.]
I’m very frustrated right now…” – Theodore R. Mills, age 3
This past week, my three-year-old son has been using this phrase over and over again. You see, he’s at that age where what he want to accomplish outstrips his ability to accomplish it. He can’t get what or where he wants at his pace, and for him those delays are maddening.
What can a three-year-old teach you about driving change?
When you’re frustrated, it’s okay to say so.
Too many times I’ve seen change leaders walking around with a perpetual smiles on their faces, trying valiantly to hide their frustrations from their team members. News flash! You’re not fooling anyone; we can tell you are frustrated.
If you’re feeling frustrated that means you still have passion for your change. I’d be more worried if, when you were stopped or stalled, you didn’t seem to notice. No passion and no emotion means no energy to get past the obstacles and on to victory.
Typically, after Theodore tells me he’s very frustrated, I ask him, “What should we do about that?” Then, together, we come up with some clever ideas to get him past his frustration. Why not try the same with your change. Admit you’re frustrated and ask your team, “What can we do to get past this? How can we get moving again?”
Enjoy their answers, try some out, and keep driving change.
I’ve never given out homework before, so this post will be a first.
Here’s your assignment.
Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen.
Now close your eyes and visualize some change you want to make.
Open your eyes, pick up the pen and take one minute to write down all the endings you can think of to the sentence, “I can’t make the change I want because…”
How many sentence endings did you write?
Let’s go again, but this time take one minute to write down all the endings you can think of to the sentence, “I can make the change I want because…”
How many “I can” endings did you write?
If you had more “I can” than “I can’t” endings, please accept my congratulations. You’re on your way to driving the change you want, because your belief is winning out over your fear.
If you had more “I can’t” than “I can” endings, start over and repeat until your “I can” side wins. You must practice seeing more of what’s possible than what’s against you because success comes to those who say “I can.”
You’ll save yourself hours of effort and years of frustration if you publish minutes for all your team meetings.
- Who attended
- What topics you discussed
- What decisions you made
- Who will take action (and by when)
- When you’ll meet again
[I like to use a standard format, with a fixed font and set of typical headers and footers, but I’m a detail freak for those sorts of things.]
Your minutes can be rough, can be fragments instead of sentences and can only be kept in a 3-ring binder in your office, but they are an invaluable record of your team’s work.
When you’re questioned, when you’re praise or when you’re ignored you’ll have your minutes to remind you, celebrate you and keep you claiming your forward momentum.
Don’t ignore your minutes. Your hours invested are too important not to document.
…and I’m sticking to it.
This one is simple: Publish an agenda for every meeting and follow your agenda every time. Even if you include a portion in the agenda for open discussion/final thoughts/last nuggets, have an agenda!
You’ll think you don’t need an agenda because everyone knows the order of your meetings.
You’ll think you don’t need an agenda because you know how to control a meeting.
You do know your order and you can control a meeting, but you’ll get observably better results when you have an agenda.
Have an agenda. Publish it. Stick to it. You’ll thank me later.
Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments.” – Admiral H.G. Rickover
At work we use a lot of Plans of Action and Milestones or POA&Ms to track our work.
If you’ve never seen one before, a POA&M is a typically an Excel spreadsheet listing actions, who will do the action, when they will do the action by, and any notes or details to go with the task.
Each team goal has its own detailed list of actions and actors to get from the start to the finish.
A POA&M may seem a dictators dream. [Insert The Simpson’s Mr. Burns doing the evil “excellent” fingers here.]
Step 1: Construct a plan.
Step 2: Whip the masses into following it.
Step 3: Check off task by task toward success.
I disagree with that view. Instead, I see a POA&M as a way of making your plans real by getting your thoughts of “how” you’ll accomplish your change out of your head and onto paper.
Creating the POA&M often reveals how many steps you’ll truly have to go through, around and over to accomplish your change.
Track your work with a POA&M and though at first you’ll think you’re slowing down, in the end you’ll be driving change all the faster.
“They” won’t let us.
“They” tried that before.
“They” don’t care.
Whenever you hear someone use “they” you must ask,
Usually “they” is an untested assumption that some group or some person may be against your change.
Once you know the group or person, by code or by name, you can call them up and ask them, “Can you support this change?” I’m cheerfully shocked how often when calling and asking I get a “Yes” in response.
Don’t let “they” get in your way.
Ask “who?” and keep driving change.