How to Forge Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change

breakthrough

From Breakdown to Breakthrough 

Business leaders often focus on profits and metrics, living in spreadsheets and analytics. But what drives these results is people and relationships. So often it’s the resilient relationships, those that are forged in uncertain and difficult times that make the difference.

Author Michael Papanek takes three decades of experience with clients ranging from Apple to Google and shares it in his new book, From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Forging Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change. His framework helps leaders develop the confidence to take these relationships to the next level. I recently asked him about his work.

 

“Resilience is a social phenomenon based on relationships, not an individual leadership attribute.” -Michael Papanek

 

Build Strong Relationships

What are the elements of a strong relationship?

A strong business relationship will have a number of attributes that set that relationship apart from others.  First, it must provide value to both parties, and it is “generative,” meaning the value together is more than any one person could create on their own: so that 1 + 1 = 3.  Strong relationships also create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.

One example of this is from the entertainment world, where the band the Grateful Dead was famous for their long relationship with their very loyal fans (which continues today, long after the passing of their leader Jerry Garcia).  In addition to music, the band created value in other key ways for the fans, such as supporting a community of fans (the “Dead Heads”) as well as creating an ‘outside the concert’ experience, and even income for some fans (by selling items at the shows).

Finally, a strong relationship contributes to key strategies or needs of each party.  Relationships that do not create value this way may be categorized as superficial and easily ended. If you are ever not sure if the business relationship is really strong, that is the time to discuss it. Do not wait until you are surprised by a change.

 

“Strong relationships create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.” -Michael Papanek

 

How often do our relationships hit that sweet spot between strong, flexible and fair?

Your Playbook to Digital Transformation

Digital Business Transformation concept with arrow of compass (3

Reach for the Future

Nearly every business is impacted by digital transformation.

The key question for leaders is how to overcome the pull of the past to reach for the digital future. The authors of Digital@Scale: The Playbook You Need to Transform Your Company have developed a playbook based on years of McKinsey experience and research.

I recently spoke to author Anand Swaminathan, Senior Partner in McKinsey’s San Francisco office, about the book and his work in the area of digital transformation.

 

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” -Leo Buscaglia

 

3 Barriers to Change 

What do leaders need to know about identifying the barriers to change?

In our experience, executives face a fundamental conflict: Change requires a sense of urgency while highly-efficient organizations tend to have high levels of inertia. When business is going well, managers and employees generally only pay lip service to change requirements. Knowing that, there are three barriers we’ve identified:

  1. The good is the enemy of the better: Efficient, currently successful organizations often slow down the necessary change: Why cannibalize what is successful today? Why destroy efficiency gains of a ‘well-oiled machine’?
  2. Watch out for your top team: Ironically, today’s most successful managers might be the ones slowing down your transformation efforts since they have the most to lose. Transformation needs to start with the person at the top, and it’s often those who have grown accustomed to success that find it most difficult to change course.
  3. Your DNA takes time to change: Don’t underestimate the time and effort required to change deep-rooted mindsets and ways of working. Your legacy business exerts a natural gravitational pull that will stop all meaningful change unless you’re persistent and change at enough scale to break through

 

“Transformation is often more about unlearning than learning.” -Richard Rohr

 

What is the role of the CEO when it comes to digital transformation?

The successful digital transformations we see out there have one common denominator: the CEO spearheading and promoting the digital transformation. They are making it front and center of their personal agenda. Only if change is demonstrated and exemplified by the top management will the necessary changes to structures, processes, management instruments, as well as the establishment of new skills and new IT systems, be successful. That can mean using new technologies, challenging existing ways of doing business, and making the bold decisions necessary to change the trajectory of the business.

 

Assess Your Readiness

How can management assess the current strategy of the company and its readiness for digital transformation?Digital@Scale book cover

That’s two questions. The first is understanding your strategy, and that requires looking at sources of value – where they’re created in your business and in your sector. Most important, you need to look at where sources of value are being created outside of your sector – that’s where some of the biggest changes (and challenges) might be happening.

Then you need to look at where you are today and what needs to change. There are lots of assessments and diagnostics out there, but you need to take a cold-eyed view of where you are as a digital business and what needs to be in place to drive value at scale. As an example, we have developed a comprehensive benchmark to derive a company’s Digital Quotient (DQTM), road-tested with several hundred organizations across the globe. It helps leadership to take stock compared to best practices across sectors and within its own industry.

In addition to the benchmark, some questions that management should start with to determine the urgency and their organization’s readiness for change include:

  • Are we assessing whether we can use our strengths to penetrate completely new industries within the current rules?
  • Are we actively creating an ecosystem of partners, customers and suppliers that will last into the digital world?
  • Have we defined a feasible timescale and meaningful KPIs to reliably measure success or failure?

 

“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.” -Wayne Dyer

 

Break the Silos

5 Roles of Great Change Leaders

change management

Become a Great Change Leader

One of the most important skills of a leader is managing and accelerating change. What makes change stick or fail is a fascinating topic, one that most new leaders struggle to understand. Mastering the art of change is a challenge and yet one that is well worth the investment. Because all great leaders are change agents.

Kendall Lyman and Tony C. Daloisio studied change for the last decade and have packed their key takeaways and learnings into their new book, Change the Way You Change! They outline the five roles of great change leaders. If you want to accelerate your leadership and improve your results, this book is a blueprint on how to orchestrate your change efforts.

 

“The only constant is change.” –Heraclitus

 

5 Roles of A Change Leader

In your book, you talk about five roles for change leaders. Is one more commonly a problem for a leader than others?

This is a question leaders ask us a lot, probably because they are so busy running the business that it’s hard to think about improving their leadership. We have found that each role of leadership has its unique challenge. For example, the FOCUS role requires a leader to get everyone on the same page and pull in the same direction. And the ALIGN role requires leaders to ensure that all of the processes, structure, and systems are aligned to the direction of the organization—a daunting task to say the least. But the role of leadership which is probably the hardest, takes the most time, opens up the organization for pushback, and has the most potential if done effectively is the ENGAGE role. Most leaders who put a lot of energy and money into the diagnosis and design of a new organizational solution are so excited to implement the new idea that they take very little time to syndicate that direction with key stakeholders either during design or before execution. True engagement done well holds the key to open the minds, hearts, and hands of employees required to implement by helping them change and adapt to make the new solution a reality.

 

“The world fears a new experience more than it fears anything.” –D.H. Lawrence

 

How is your approach to change different from others?

In all the books we read, the authors (and many change practitioners) argue that change starts one way or another. Some say that change starts with individuals. Others claim that individuals can’t really change until the organization does. But after helping lead transformations for years, we asked ourselves, “How does change really happen? Does change happen from the inside-out or from the outside-in?” In other words, is the most effective way to change an organization accomplished by helping individuals change so they, in turn, can change their teams and the organization (inside out)? Or is the best approach to improve the organizational elements of strategy, processes, and structure, and then expect teams and individual behavior to align with the changes to deliver better results (outside-in)? And we asked, “Does it have to be either/or?” After many years of considering this question and approaching change using one approach or the other, we have found that the answer is “no.” Instead, for change to be sustainable, it requires both an inside-out and an outside-in approach. To change a team or business, a leader must change both the thoughts and beliefs and the structure and systems. And to get it to stick, all levels of the organization (individual, team, and organization) must be focused, aligned, and engaged on the same thing—and that takes leadership!

 

“Nothing is so dear as what you’re about to leave.” –Jessamyn West

 

How the Best Leaders Initiate Change

How and Why You Should Become a Mentor

The Power of Mentorship

 

Giving back.

There’s one aspect of servant leadership that is most important: helping people work on their lives, not just their jobs.

Becoming a mentor is one way that professionals can give back.

 


“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” -Oprah

 

Patty Alper’s passion is mentoring. She is president of the Alper Portfolio Group, a marketing and consulting company, and is a board member of both the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and US2020, the White House initiative to build mentorship in STEM careers. Her new book, Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America, provides a compelling argument for starting mentor programs in organizations and communities around the world.

 

The Joy of Mentoring

Mentoring is your passion. What are a few lessons that you’ve learned from your work mentoring so many inner city high school students?

I’ve learned that the impact you can have on students can be even greater than you ever imagined. And it is wonderful. Consider this: so often these youth have absolutely no connection to successful, professional adults. When you mentor, you become their ambassador to a future world of commerce, which is often remote, complex, scary and seemingly unattainable.  I have found an intergenerational connection forms particularly when you share your own life trajectory.  And not the cocktail-party jargon about Mr. Success either, but more the vulnerable mishaps and the bumps and turns along the way.  When you piece together life’s uncertainties with strategies that turn out well, you offer kids a truly relatable journey. It’s as if you have said, subliminally, “If I can, YOU can.”

When you enter into mentorship, you do so blindly.  You enter without a return-on-investment in mind but simply a prospect for potential. This phenomenal exchange can result in an unanticipated “light bulb” moment.  What I’ve learned is that you might actually set a ripple in motion.  After 1500 student letters I’ve received over the course of 15 years of mentoring, I’m witness to a mentor’s impact that is unforeseen.  Students, who look like they are not even listening or engaged, write to proclaim gratitude for an obscure detail you thought went unnoticed. Indeed, some mentees have stayed in touch and are young adults now— in their thirties—who have become entrepreneurs, educators, fashionistas, or preachers. Interestingly, the highest compliment of all is that they, too, are paying it forward. What I’ve learned is that you cannot forecast the genuine awe that occurs when you help another and the crescendo of that ripple effect.

 


“Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.” -Lailah Gifty Akita

 

What are a few of the benefits of corporate mentoring with students?

The difficulty with answering this question is keeping it to a “few.” Starting with the mentor, the benefits include the connections and friendships you make. You meet incredible, knowledge-craving students who will cherish every day that you make time for them. Also, you get to know your fellow employees, from senior management to administration, in a wholly new, shared experience of giving back. These positive experiences are brought back to the workplace and ultimately impact the culture.

Indeed, one of the benefits of offering corporate mentorship is that millennials prefer to work for a company with a robust corporate social responsibility program.  Therefore, more qualified employees will seek jobs there. I believe they want to engage in good works activities that they might not be able to find or fund of their own volition. Employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to a company that isn’t solely profit driven but is a “company with a soul.”

Lastly, the employees find a unique way in which they can serve their company by sharing their professional knowledge as ambassadors in the community. Will those mentees go home and tell their parents about you and the company you work for? You bet. Will the school remember the corporation when it comes time to send their finest students for potential employment? Absolutely. And will an employee find like-minded people within the corporation who will all want to build on the mentoring connection you have? Almost immediately.

 


“Millennials prefer to work for a company with a robust corporate social responsibility program.” -Patty Alper

 

Watch Your Employees Benefit from Mentoring

You talk about the link between employee retention and mentoring. Would you share your perspective?

As Rick Luftglass, former director of The Pfizer Foundation’s education volunteer programs, said when I interviewed him for the book, “Employees want to be part of something that is bigger than a company.  The business culture is internally based, but the philanthropy is external. That volunteer ethos provides something more than a quarterly return on earnings…it stretches employees beyond their day-to-day job. “

Mentoring boosts employee retention in a myriad of ways. The employees who mentor become the public face of their company. They take pride in this important role of bridging corporate relationships within the communities where they reside. As well, they enjoy an enriched experience that is brought back to the business culture. A sense of gratitude and loyalty evolves toward the company that provided this opportunity. All of these factors lead to greater employee happiness, more significant social connections, and greater satisfaction with the company overall.

 


“Mentoring boosts employee retention.” -Patty Alper

 

Build a Successful Mentorship Program

What A Caterpillar Can Teach You About Growing Your Business

Master Near Constant Change

 

Many people think that businesses should develop a strategy and stick to it at all costs.

But Sid Mohasseb, serial entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, and former the Head of Strategic Innovation for KPMG’s Strategy Practice teaches an entirely different approach: It’s the ability to adjust your strategy, almost constantly, that brings success. The environment is uncertain and changing, and changing with it is vital.

Sid teaches that we must push for more and evolve from one approach to another.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his new book, The Caterpillar’s Edge: Evolve, Evolve Again, and Thrive in Business.

 

Prepare for Constant Flux

Why a caterpillar?

The caterpillar evolves many times over before it becomes a butterfly. It changes form until it turns into a completely different species. The caterpillar teaches us the wisdom of constant and incremental evolution and offers the promise of flying.  To compete, to advance and to win, in our businesses and in our personal lives, we must evolve constantly and purposefully, always.

 

“Things do not change. We change.” -Henry David Thoreau

 

How is the game changing? And how do leaders prepare for the constant flux?

Innovation is constantly approaching from every corner of the world. The speed of change fueled by unprecedented technological advancements and constantly increasing customer expectations are challenging companies to “stay relevant” – competitive advantages are temporary. The game has changed from, “How do I gain an advantage and defend it?” to “How do I change to stay relevant?”

To win in a state of constant flux, leaders must shift their minds and change their actions. First, by realizing their addictions (old assumptions, orthodoxies, biases, etc.). Next, by aligning with uncertainty – no plans can be permanent and no decisions are certain. Leaders must learn to live with probability and a portfolio of related plans – always ready to take the path that offers the most likelihood of success. They should also appreciate the reality of their capabilities and aim to build the future in increments; success cycles must be shorter and capabilities (people & systems) have to be created accordingly. Last, leaders must constantly look for the next advantage and aspire for more “Aha’s.” They should look for and discover the next challenge or opportunity, always; innovate, always (create new value), and evolve, always.

 

“To win in a state of constant flux, leaders must shift their minds and actions.” -Sid Mohasseb

 

How to Embrace Change

Why do we so often refuse to deal with change and uncertainty?caterpillar-cover

The refusal is more natural than intentional. We refuse to deal with change because of our fears of unknown (what is on the other side of change) and comfort with the status quo (comfortable routines we are used to and have served us well in the past). Most people embrace change when they i) realize the severity of the problem they face and ii) gain trust that what they can change to is a better state. We often refuse to change because we believe that the status quo does not present a major danger and/or we don’t trust the alternative paths offered by our leaders.

At business school and later at work, we are trained to look for certainty to plan to and execute against – assuming reduced risk. In our personal lives, we are comfortable living with probability and operating in uncertainly – there is a 40% chance of rain, and we decide, based on our risk tolerance, to take an umbrella or not. In our professional lives, we are expected to be certain and execute with confidence in outcomes. People, on a personal level, can innately adjust to uncertainty. However, they are reluctant operating with uncertainty at work because corporations expect and reward the illusion of certainty.

 

“The only thing that is constant is change.” -Heraclitus

 

3 Categories for Leaders to Plan in a World of Change