In need of more Velcro

Reading for me is like applying large strips of Velcro to my brain.  With each new thing I read, whether a business book, novel or local newspaper, I now have new information that other information can stick to.  This new information always seems to help me find the patterns I need to drive the changes I want.

When you’re driving change, if you’ve lined your brain in Velcro, you’ll be better equipped to pick up patterns, to see  connections and to catch the facts you need.

Try reading:

  • Anything by Seth Godin, but especially Tribes and Linchpin
  • Anything by Eli Goldratt, but especially The Goal and It’s Not Luck
  • Anything by John Kotter, but especially Leading Change and Sense of Urgency
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Is that the brake or the gas?

Toyota paid out big money over their sticking accelerator pedal problem.

Turns out, according to initial reports, that the actual cause of the accidents was operator error.  It seems drivers thought they were hitting the brake when they were actually pushing the gas all the way to the floor.

While driving change I see the opposite, brake-for-gas confusion, all the time.

Our sticky pedal story starts with the perpetrators of the sticky pedal myth.  For today I’ll target as perpetrators an unnamed sum of Harvard Business Review article authors.  If you’re a leader who reads the Harvard Business Review you’d assume (because the article authors seem to all agree) that while the leader is pushing the gas for change, the employees have their feet firmly on the brake.   Consider the employees our sticky pedal.

Yet, just like the data recorders in those totaled Toyotas, if you could pull the data recorder on failed change efforts I bet you’d find a different story.

The work force is not the modern organization’s sticky pedal.  Instead, the organization’s leadership is introducing operator error, and causing terrible results.

Here’s the way our failed change story unfolds:

Leaders pour on the messages about the need to innovate, to save money or to do more with less.  It seems to all that their foot is on the gas and employees notice.

Next the employees act, often creating amazing, impressive change.

But, at the first hint that the change is getting out in front of the knowledge/control/interests of the leader (notice I didn’t say of the organization), the leader promptly, firmly, and seemingly with no regret slams on the brakes.

How will you know the brakes have been engaged (i.e., stomped, locked up)?

You’ll hear things like, “Who told you to do that?” or “Slow down or we’ll run out of work.” or the worst “Put it back the way it was.”

As a leader, you’re foot is on the gas when you are clearing the obstacles that stand in the employees’ way and when you are constantly feeding them reinforcement that they are moving in the direction you want at the pace you want (or even challenging them to go faster).  Leaders, you must be okay with speed before you start the engine, or you risk catastrophically engaging the brake.

Leaders, please keep straight which is the gas and which is the brake.

Your organization can’t afford to be totaled.

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Adventures and What Else?

I’ve been stringing together weeks of adventures.  Last week I was at a Naval Postgraduate School class in Monterey, California.  For the next several weeks I’ll be road tripping through Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin then back through Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Washington.

While I’m gone, where will you be?  I hope you’ll be driving change.

You’ll be well cared for while I’m gone.  I’ve loaded scheduled-to-post articles for you at the usual pace, Quote of the Week on Sunday followed by a Tuesday morning and a Thursday morning find.

Never one to depart without a plan, while I’m gone, I’m leaving you with a task.

Please ask yourself this question: What else do I need to drive change?

This isn’t an easy question because I’m asking you to think about, to conjure up or to create something from the host of unknown unknowns (i.e., you don’t know what you don’t know).

To answer the question you may:

  • Have to read a book or an article that gets you thinking, wondering, contemplating some new thought.
  • Have to start a conversation with someone about what it means to drive change and what the obstacles are to change in your organization.
  • Have to be alone with your thoughts for a while (a scary idea for some of us extroverts, I know).

After you’ve read about it, talked about or thought about it for a while, post to the comments your what else and when I’m back from all my adventures I’ll plow through your requests, doing my best to answer each one.

If you don’t post a comment, you won’t impact me any.  Actually, that’ll be less work for me.

But if you do take the time to take my challenge and answer what else, I’ll do what I can to give you an answer that’s important to you.  After all, that’s why I’m here.

Keep driving change!

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Change lovers

If you goal is to make change, it’s foolish to try to change the worldview of the majority if the majority is focused on maintaining the status quo.  The opportunity is to carve out a new tribe, to find the rabble-rousers and change lovers who are seeking new leadership and run with them instead.” – Seth Godin, Tribes


Last night I had the privilege to attend the wedding of two rabble-rousers who met while participating in our 2010 Guiding Coalition. They led a team together and made a difference together by seeking  something more and refusing to settle for the status quo.  Now they’ll make a life together as change lovers rushing headlong into their future.

Jessica & Phill – I wish you all the best in your life together!

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Welcome

When you’re driving change with a team, you’ll be holding at least a few meetings.

To keep people coming to your meetings, be sure to greet them as they arrive.

Arrive 10 minutes earlier than you usually would.  Get all your things together for the meeting.  Then, as people arrive, say something to them, anything.

For more formal meetings I like to shake hands and introduce myself to each new person.  For more informal meetings I usually make eye contact, say hello and thank them each for coming.

After every meeting I always thank them all again for coming and remind them when the next meeting is scheduled.

You’ll want each person to feel welcome and want to come back, especially if they are volunteers that can at any moment stop spending their time on your project.

Remember: Welcome!

It really is that easy.

Test: Try welcoming people at your next meeting.  Count how many people attended.  At the next meeting after, welcome everyone again and count how many people returned.  Keep that up for a few meetings and I bet you get a better turnout.  Feel free to try it and see if you can prove me wrong.

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Follow your passion

When you’re leading a team, find your passion within the team’s project or goals and make the team’s work essential to you in some way.

Maybe the team’s goal (e.g., expanding housing for the homeless) is your motivation.

Maybe you’re indifferent to the goal (e.g., reducing the number of file cabinets in the department storeroom), but you’re energized by the chance to practice your leadership skills.  After all, who knows how exciting the next project could be!

Maybe all you care about is that the team gives you an opportunity to mentor the next leaders.

Whatever way you spin it, you’ll want your passion fueled by the project.  You’ll need that fuel when you’re drive change.

So, go find your passion in your projects.  Look for those projects you can’t stay away from with the meetings you rush to make and never miss.  Watch for those moments when times flies by and you wish you could keep working.

And, if you look and you just can’t find any passion in the project, then ask yourself: Why am I doing this anyway?  Maybe its time to stop.

There’s lots of things you could be doing with your time.  Why not spend it working on projects that play to your passion.  See Seth Godin’s The Dip for more on this topic.

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Go!

For the next month I’m devoting the blog to a series of posts tailored for team project leaders and the people who support them (e.g., my favorite consultants and executives out there).

I think you’ll get something from these posts, whether you’re leading a team at your church, in your volunteer organization, or at work.  Enjoy the series!

Let’s start with the quote of the week,

Stay on your GO side!” – Dennis Goin

Years ago I attended Dennis’ training session on the difference between being on your GO side versus your STOP side. Your GO side is the place where you can keep adding the extra effort, push through the obstacles, or rise to fight another day.  Your STOP side is the “we’ll never,” “they won’t,” “how could I,” talk that keeps you were you are.

When I heard Dennis all those years ago I didn’t imagine then how far we’d come and how much we’d learn together.  With all those years gone by, I still remember this quote from that first day and use it to keep me on my GO side, cheerfully driving change.  Thanks for everything Dennis!

Now, let’s go!

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