What is Your Aspiration?

Change

Be the change you wish to see in the world. — Gandhi

Our language influences how we interpret and experience things. I purposely first ask people their aspirations rather than their goals or expectations.  A different part of the brain is activated when we are envisioning. We are more open and see more possibilities. Then, there is a place for clarifying goals and the next actions to move toward the aspiration.

Emotions are contagious and it is easy to feel anxious and want to rush to solutions. Often in conversations, we jump to solutions before fully listening. We push ourselves and others to commit to action for results. In fact, many of us seem wired for action and we certainly have been rewarded in the workplace for committing to action.  As a coach and team facilitator, I work to stay open and inspire people to dream of what is possible. By my questions and presence with clients, the space is set for such dreaming.

I realize that I do not always hold this same space with myself or my teenage daughter. My own worry about her succeeding can make me jump to proposed actions. “How is your studying going? What are you doing for your college applications?”  She does not feel my positive affirmation in these moments. In fact, I do have positive aspirations for her but my own worry and push for action can get in the way. I regret that I have missed opportunities with her the way leaders I coach have missed opportunities for connecting and envisioning with their teams.

When I worked with a leadership team that was experiencing challenges in the marketplace, I was able to share my excitement about what is possible for the organization and encourage them to dream of what they could co-create. They joined together to create a compelling vision and they also left with concrete priorities and actions.  Each leader agreed to carry the excitement and questions about what could be possible back to their teams. After a few days, the whole energy of the organization was lifted and new possibilities emerged. It is amazing to see the transformation when we are reflecting on our aspirations of what is possible rather than what is not going well and what we don’t want.

Be sure to give yourself space to reflect on what you most aspire and to connect with what brings you meaning. Then identify goals and next steps. Also, be an inspiration for others and engage them in dialogue about what is possible. This kind of conversation is needed more than ever these days when it is so easy for people to feel disheartened and out of control.

What is Your Urgent Need for Transformation?

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What’s wrong with these people?  Don’t they see the stock price is tanking? How do I get people to move? How do we turn this ship around? Will we make it?

Often leaders are frustrated when they sense that things are not moving fast enough or that there is not enough energy to create lasting change. How do they enhance the co-creation and action for results?

They often try to instill urgency by making staff changes. However, this can create more fear and uncertainty rather than engendering co-creation and collaboration. Other times, leaders resort to platitudes such as “the train is leaving, get on or off now.” Again, while these statements may promote short-term compliance, they do not seem to sustain commitment and action.

The challenge is that leaders generally are seeing things from a different perspective and need to engage in open-minded conversations with their teams.  A leader needs to clearly share the urgent need for transformation while understanding the needs of team members.

I have worked with many leaders who have been able to share their view and listen to the perspectives of their colleagues and then create shared meaning and a vision that inspires action for change. The value of taking some time for real conversation cannot be overestimated. Unfortunately, some feel they are too busy to engage in these essential and transformational conversations.

When all the voices are heard (initially through pre-meeting interviews) and a respectful and open environment is created, the urgency and focus emerges. An honest dialogue about the current situation and needs, without making people wrong, provides space to imagine what is possible. You can engage people to create a shared vision and a concrete plan for action. The powerful energy available when a shared sense of meaning is created is inspiring. The team can tap into a creative energy for change and then there is urgency and the excitement of working collectively for a shared goal. Rather than getting on the train, the team is forging a new path together with all the energy of experienced hikers and they bring along the rest of the organization. Mobilizing such energy is what makes being a leader and a part of an organization exciting.

After working with a leadership team to align around a shared vision the leader shared that a senior hire candidate indicated that he was excited to see the alignment of the senior team and wanted to join in the exciting venture. They had not been able to hire for the critical position before the team had engaged in open-minded dialogue and co-created a shared plan to urgently create changes in their business. Their energy and excitement after facilitated dialogue was contagious and extended throughout the organization. There is nothing like the power of engaged hearts and minds tapping into creativity. The results followed.

We love supporting leaders in deepening their ability to do this. It’s fun and rewarding for everyone. One way we support leaders with this is in working with them to create a Transformational Leadership Retreat. We’d love you to join us at our next seminar, in which we share the 6-question coaching model we use for leaders and their teams.

Creating urgency and powerful meaning is one of the topics we discuss in Use Your Next Leadership Retreat to Launch a Transformation: Learn the Process September 24 from 12 – 4:30 at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago. Learn more here.

Jackie Sloane and Ann Van Eron are seasoned executive coaches, and work together with leaders to create transformational interventions and retreats for public sector, corporate, privately-held and not-for-profit entities.

The Transformational Power of Alignment

Alignment

“We don’t talk with each other.”  “The leaders each have their own fiefdom.” “Our stock price is tanking and we are fighting each other.” “We have too many priorities.”  “Nothing is being done well.” “What are we trying to do?”

It is not uncommon to find leaders each operating with their own assumptions in an effort to create success. However, given their different backgrounds and experiences each focuses on what he or she deems is most important.  Often energy is wasted and the price of misalignment is high. It is costly for the leaders and even more so for those reporting to them.

I assume you have experienced the frustration, decreased energy and commitment drain when you have worked in a system where you believe the leaders are misaligned, not listening and the direction is unclear.  On the other hand, there is increased creativity and innovation and success seems to flow when there is open-mindedness and alignment.

What can you do? I suggest three steps:

  • Schedule a transformational retreat
  • Collect perspectives
  • Engage in dialogue for alignment
  1.     Schedule a transformational retreat

Devoting time for dialogue and connection is useful when a team or an organization is newly formed.  It is great to define expectations and agreements and support a positive beginning. When changes are going to be introduced, it is helpful to ensure that leaders are on the same page and speaking the same language. A merger, reorganization or a new leader or a significant change, each create uncertainty and the need for alignment and dialogue.  While it can be challenging to find a date, it is useful to announce the intention to create a positive environment for dialogue and alignment.

  1.     Collect perspectives

As part of my work facilitating a leadership team retreat I speak with each member of the team and other key stakeholders before we all meet. It is amazing how different the perspectives are on what is happening and what should be done. Each person is seeing the environment and the situation from their vantage point. The marketing person shares her concern about how the competition is gaining market share and poaching key people and emphasizes the need to invest in facilities and promotion. The finance person talks about market share and the need to reduce expenses. The technology leader believes that the company can be transformed by investing in new processes.  The business line heads may hope to acquire other businesses or grow their business.

Often each person also complains about what others are doing or not doing and what the leader should do.  Each believes that he or she is right. And it is clear that they don’t all see the whole situation.

Most of the time the leaders are busy with their function or business lines and have not had the space or support to genuinely step back and assess the best direction for the enterprise given changing conditions.  The value of a retreat is that all the views can be put on the table in an open atmosphere. Leaders can collectively step back from their own day-to-day challenges and look at the larger picture together. In the process, they get to know one another more and learn skills.

As a team and executive coach, I use the interviews before the retreat as an opportunity to coach and challenge leaders to try new behaviors and explore other perspectives.

  1.     Engage in dialogue for alignment

With the support of a facilitator/coach the various views can be surfaced and explored in the context of developing a shared strategy.  Engaging in open-minded dialogue strengthens the team by enhancing trust.

I like to jumpstart retreats by sharing the multiple perspectives regarding the business and how the team is working. I share that it is natural that participants have different perspectives and encourage the group not to make each other wrong. Participants want the organization to succeed and need to see that they rise and fall together in the same boat.  By sharing the findings from interviews upfront, people know that the issues are on the table and they can get to work to clarify their vision and priorities. I also work with teams to clarify their criteria for decision- making and what they will postpone or not do. This can be one of the most challenging conversations. In addition to aligning on the strategy and priorities, the team focuses on being open-minded and how to engage in positive and productive conversations.  Participants listen and give empathy to one another. They experience a new way of interacting and co-creating agreements. I teach participants the OASIS Conversations process that supports them in being open-minded and curious and creating understanding and agreements. Participants agree on the kind of culture they will inspire together.

The transformational experience is unforgettable. When people come together to work on a shared goal and support one another, it is exciting and worthwhile. Leaders realize that they can achieve goals and make a difference together.

When team members leave a meeting aligned on their vision, strategy, priorities, processes and values they are prepared to lead together. They agree on structures and practices to ensure sustainable success. The alignment is palpably experienced by others and can be communicated across the organization.

How aligned is your team and are they engaged in open-minded conversations?

How to create alignment is one of the topics we discuss in Use Your Next Leadership Retreat to Launch a Transformation: Learn the Process September 24 from 12 – 4:30 at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago. Learn more here.

Jackie Sloane and Ann Van Eron are seasoned executive coaches, and work together with leaders to create transformational interventions and retreats for public sector, corporate, privately-held and not-for-profit entities.

What Conversations are Needed for Transformation?

Conversations

Don’t underestimate the power of open-minded conversations.

If you are like most organizations and leaders, you are experiencing disruption. You are experiencing pressure from within and outside your company. You are introducing new technology, you are facing greater competition, you have changes in leadership and focus. You worry about engagement and having the right talent.  You need people to think and behave in a different way to achieve challenging goals. Sometimes it is a matter of life or death for the future of the enterprise.

For example, an organization we worked with experienced a merger where very different cultures joined. There were conflicts among leaders about where to spend resources and devote energy. There were different perceptions about what was needed with different demands from senior leadership and the external clients. The misalignment and conflicts were felt throughout the system.

We spoke with the leaders to understand their perspectives and brought them together for open-minded dialogue. They needed to align as a leadership team and organization to make a real difference for clients and to survive in the increasingly pressured marketplace.

First, the leadership team needed to build trust. This was not easy. However, once the different perspectives were shared and each identified what they needed to feel respected they found common ground and that they could see themselves as the team to succeed.

They created a shared vision and aligned around where they would focus energy.

They found synergies when they stopped fighting one another. They agreed on their roles and responsibilities and developed processes such as cadences for how they would communicate with each other and the organization.

They clarified the kind of culture they wanted and the mindset and behaviors they expected. They agreed to move from competing with each other to achieving together. They planned to move from each group acting as an island to finding and benefitting from synergies. They planned to move from excluding to respectful inclusion and dialogue.  They agreed to say “we” rather than “they” when referring to each other.

There is great power in bringing a leadership team together for dialogue. Open-minded conversations are essential for transformation. No matter how compelling the need for change, it requires real understanding and agreement on how to co-create a future together. Too much energy is wasted when there is talking at one another or polite talk.  There needs to be genuine understanding, alignment and agreements. Of course, the conversations need to continue among the leadership team and throughout the system.

Conversations are key to creating a shared vision and culture to achieve goals. Don’t underestimate the power of conversations for transformation. How are you promoting transformational conversations?

Please join us for a free, introductory Zoom online webinar on Leading the Transformational Retreat, on August 23rd @ 12:30 pm Central Time. 

https://bit.ly/2M9x6O6

In this program, we will hear your challenges, offer insights and share a powerful coaching model we use to support leaders and others in creating, launching and sustaining transformation in their organizations. We will also answer questions about our upcoming half-day, live, in-person seminar program September 24th in Chicago on supporting leaders in creating, launching, and managing culture change.

 

Make Time for Conversations in the Face of Urgency

Conversations

People are not pulling their weight. I am replacing my team members. I am disappointed in what people are achieving. I feel I am carrying the weight of the challenge on my shoulders. I don’t have time for conversations or to develop people. I need to be successful or my tenure is at risk.

The disruptions in the marketplace and sense of urgency are resulting in many shifts in leadership and a sense of uncertainty.  Often the magnitude of change and need for transformation are so apparent to leaders that they sense they don’t have time for real conversations. However, without open-minded conversations everyone is operating with their own assumptions and a lot of energy is wasted on guessing, resistance and defensiveness that could be directed to solving challenges. People start focusing on who may be let go next and their creative energy is drained. The opportunities for synergy are missed.

I know, it feels hard to create time when you are so busy with meetings and planning. Plus, you sense it may not be worth the effort.

There is nothing more exciting than working together to achieve a challenge that seems almost impossible. This requires a sense of trust and open-minded conversations. When I ask people to share peak team experiences they recount times when the odds against succeeding seemed slim, yet a team of people focused on a common vision, used their strengths, communicated effectively and creatively won the prize.

Executive Coaching clients often report that conversations with team members and staff make all the difference. The air is cleared, multiple perspectives are shared and people can align and conquer challenges together. They agree on where to focus and save energy by building positive and productive relationships.

In the face of urgency and the need for transformation, make time for Open-minded conversations.

“Keep your mind open to opportunities. They are closer than you think.”—Anonymous

Contact us at any time.

Advocate for Open-Minded Conversations at all Levels

 

Open-Minded_Conversations

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”—Helen Keller

A leader told me that he was excited about a big new initiative for his company. The board supported the new direction, which he believed would result in increased market share and exponential success for the company. He asked me to facilitate a team retreat to work on implementation.

In preparation for the meeting, I spoke with participants to learn about their views about the new initiative and what was needed to proceed. It became clear that not everyone was on board and that it would be a challenge to gain support from the various roles. This is not an unusual finding. Often, the senior team has been so involved planning a new initiative that they fail to realize the process for creating alignment. It cannot occur by broadcasting the change and expecting people to joyfully make the change. We know that approximately 70% of change initiatives fail. A primary reason cited is resistance to change. In reality, it is because people have not engaged in real open-minded conversations. Often people see the problems with new initiatives and are genuinely concerned about the well-being of clients, staff and the organization. People see things that the senior leaders do not. Senior executives forget that they have a different perspective and have been living with the challenge for some time.

To create real change people need to understand and embrace the new way. It is important to have meaningful conversations around the current state and to agree on the urgency for transformation. This is best done in an open and safe environment where people can share their views and genuinely listen to one another. Ideally, key people and groups collectively understand why a shift is needed now and the implications of doing nothing. Given the disruptions in the marketplace the need for transformation becomes compelling.

With the need for transformation established and the benefit of open-minded listening to the various stakeholders, the group is ready to establish a shared vision that can be the leverage for upcoming changes.

When people feel respected and that they are heard and aligned with a direction, the implementation flows more smoothly. Those impacted by the change have energy for developing and implementing change because they are involved in the conversation.

I have been fortunate to facilitate many leadership retreats and stakeholder conversations and experience the sense of magic and energy when people do engage in open-minded conversations and create a direction together. It is palpable to see the energy released for transformational change. Organizations embark on new endeavors and relationships are enhanced and become more productive. People learn to “assume positive intent” and not to make people wrong for their views. During these times of disruption, no one can create a real impact alone. We need each other’s strengths and diverse perspectives.

I encourage you to advocate for open-minded conversations at all levels—among leadership teams, across units, with clients and between colleagues. I introduce the OASIS Conversation process in organizations to foster meaningful dialogue.

A colleague and I are offering a workshop on how strategic use of a leadership retreat can launch transformational change for your department, business or organization and your career in Chicago on June 25. Find out more about the retreat here.

Transformational Team Conversations

Teams

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”—African Proverb

Two organizations merged and Maggie became the leader of a critical function. Some of the managers from the other organization who now worked under her mostly ignored her. While she asked to be kept up to date about team progress, she continued to learn about things that she felt she should have been made aware.  She felt disrespected and began to speak negatively about the long-time managers.

I was asked to facilitate a team dialogue session. As part of the process, I spoke with each of the leaders and their teams.  As I heard the different perspectives, I could see that team members were operating with very different assumptions based on their experiences and they were not aligned.  They disagreed on where resources should be focused and how things should be done.

When I spoke with the managers and others in the function, they shared that they felt the leader was disrespectful. Her negative comments were relayed to them and they felt she did not understand the business.

The sense of disrespect and disdain spread to those who reported to the leader and managers. The team atmosphere was negative and people felt unmotivated and uncertain about the future. The leader identified whom she felt should be let go.  At the same time, the managers were campaigning against the new leader.

While this dynamic persisted much was being asked of this function that was critical to the success of the entire organization.

A big challenge for this team, and many I coach, is that there were no real engaging conversations. At a retreat, I created a safe and positive environment to enable all involved to respectfully hear the varied perspectives. Naturally, given their different backgrounds and assumptions, team members were not aligned.  Once we showed people how to assume positive intent and be open and curious, they were able to view the multiple perspectives without making each other wrong and being defensive. They were able to understand the current situation and what was needed. By then shifting to what was possible, the team was able to create a shared compelling vision.  Alignment on a shared direction, goals and agreements made a tremendous difference. We identified synergies and designed a concrete plan with accountabilities for success.

In addition to creating an action plan to move forward, the team members felt more connected as a team and trust was enhanced.

The power of positive and open-minded conversations for any team cannot be overestimated. This team was able to move forward together and actually enjoy working together.  So much energy was saved and mobilized for positive results.

A retreat or team dialogue workshop offers the opportunity for impactful conversations that enable alignment around a shared vision, mutual understanding on roles and responsibilities, clarity around processes and appreciation of strengths and solid agreements. Transformational change involves meaningful conversations that result in shifted mindsets and new behaviors.

Engage your team in open-minded dialogue to create a positive and productive climate with unparalleled results. You won’t believe the difference.

A colleague and I are offering a workshop on how strategic use of a leadership retreat can launch transformational change for your department, business or organization and your career in Chicago on June 25th. Register for the workshop hereWe are also offering an information about the retreat to be offered on June 12th. Register for the webinar here.