The Human Side of Change Leadership

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As a change leader, you drive change in your organization. Everyone is watching, counting on measurable results. Mastery of the continuous improvement tools is important, but a change leader's job is more than tool implementation. Your success depends on your ability to engage, inspire, and influence people to learn and adapt today and every day -- to change how they think about themselves and the world. The tools are straightforward, logical and predictable. Math is math. People are more of a mystery -- both unique and the same, variable and predictable. If culture change is the ultimate goal, understanding the...
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4 Keys to Team Performance

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It's Spring Training time for Major League Baseball. First order of business -- a return to the fundamentals. No matter their tenure, first year recruits or long-term professionals, you'll find them hitting off the tee, taking ground balls, and catching pop flies (two hands!). They'll practice fielding the ball and making quick & exact throws to first base. They'll even practice running the bases. Coaches watch for ways that small changes in the basics can help them improve each player's individual performance -- and by extension, team results. But if team performance is what you want, it's not enough to...
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Six Super Bowl Wins and Tom Brady Still Has a Coach

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On February 3, 2019, Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to victory over the LA Rams in Super Bowl LIII. It's Brady's SIXTH super bowl victory, and also the sixth for the Patriots. Tom Brady is well on his way to the NFL Hall of Fame. Still, at 40 years of age, he plans to continue playing football with hopes of adding to his collection of super bowl rings. If Brady is successful by all definitions in professional football, why does he still have a coach? Coaches support achievement. Achievement is attained through a combination of talent & character....
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3 'Back to Basics' Ways to Jump-Start Your 2019 Goals

Much like your car battery in the dead of winter (or during a polar vortex), your goals may need a jump-start this time of year. As the luster of the shiny new year wears off, our best laid plans often lose their spark, too. Fear not! Here are three 'back to basics' ways to jump-start your 2019 goals and get back on track. 1. Align your identity: Affirmations Whatever your goal requires of you, decide you are a person who does that. For example, I set a big health & fitness goal this year. It's not a new goal. I've...
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Thanks for Listening

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On Christmas Eve, I joined my mom for Mass at our home church. With Dad gone, I didn't want mom to be alone. Funny that I thought I was going for her, when in fact, the sermon that night seemed written for me. "You may be familiar with the television program, Inside the Actor's Studio," the priest began. He continued to share about watching the show and how his favorite part was at the end of every interview when the host, James Lipton, asks his guest 10 questions. The questions originally came from a French series hosted by Bernard Pivot,...
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"A Year From Now You'll Wish You Started Today"

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That's a quote attributed to author Karen Lamb -- with the intent to get you started on that project you've been putting off. What if that project you've been putting off is YOU? I've been listening to podcasts and reading blogs about how to start off the new year on the right foot . A meme I found on social media suggested lifting your left foot in the air right as the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve. Get it? Start the year on your right foot? Well, I have a less corny and more effective way to offer....
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Change is a Self-Leadership Challenge

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If you review the table of contents for most leadership courses, they focus on self-awareness, but not necessarily self-leadership. Leadership development tends to be about how well you lead others, not how well you lead yourself. Self-leadership is not easy or everyone would do it. You are never done; you always have room for improvement. There are people I look up to, people who are better at self-leadership than I am, who will tell you they have a long way to go. Self-leadership requires discipline, accountability and humility, plus courage and vulnerability. These are all qualities you'd expect in a...
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God as a Coach

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The funeral mass for my Dad was this past Monday. He experienced a massive stroke the Sunday after Thanksgiving and died 10 days later. My parents were one of the first couples to be married in the newly rebuilt St Peter's Church in Forest Lake, MN. My siblings and I all went to elementary school there. And as I sat with my family on the hardwood pew, listening to Father Ben talk about my Dad, his faith, and his relationship with God, I thought about my relationship with God. The God of my childhood was an all-powerful, all-knowing God, known...
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5 Ways 'Change' is Something to be Grateful For

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Winter is taking over where fall left off, and the Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner. This time of year we are compelled to give thanks, to look at life from a place of gratitude. 2018 has been a year of change for me, and I suspect I am not alone. Change can be wanted or necessary, but that doesn't make it less hard or stressful. Change is a process that requires us to evolve, to allow more of ourselves to emerge. Whatever the change you've experienced this year, here are 5 ways change is something to be grateful...
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Generations of Change

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“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went 
before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” — George Orwell With the recent mid-term election, the generations and their differences are back in the headlines. The 'make America great again' sentiment is an invitation to those who long for simpler times of days past. Rhetoric calls for a return to an old set of values, as if those values have somehow disappeared. An underlying claim that the American Dream, as defined by the Traditionalist generation, no longer exists drives a need to place...
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Change: Resistance or Readiness?

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Change resistance is a human condition. We all experience it to some extent. Resistance is based on the level of disruption of change -- which is different for each individual. A change that creates a high disruption for one person may seem insignificant to another. Change resistance shows up in a variety of different ways. Push-back is one way. Other examples are avoidance, delay and outright sabotage. While resistance can be logical -- based on a lack of information or understanding, resistance is primarily emotional -- rooted in feelings of fear, anxiety, or loss. One manager I know did not...
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Change and a 4-Letter Word: Help!

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My friend, Mike, toured a Toyota plant a 5-6 years ago. He remembers the group came upon a group of workers addressing a problem. The workers assigned to that task had a problem and had flipped on their "andon" light -- a signal they needed help. Other workers had come to help. When the problem was resolved, the helpful workers returned to their stations, the andon was set to its original "go" position, and work continued. Watching the scene, another man on the tour blurted, "That would never happen at my plant." Startled and curious, Mike asked, "What do you...
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Leadership, Character, and the "Man in the Mirror"

I was promoted into my first supervisory role 18 years ago. I was the training supervisor for our ERP project team and had 3-4 people reporting to me. About nine months in, Alice, one of my direct reports, set a meeting with my supervisor to tell her how horrible I was as a supervisor. To her credit, my manager asked Alice if she would be willing to tell me directly how she felt. Alice and I met for 90 minutes. For 90 minutes Alice described everything I had done to undermine her success and to ruin her self-esteem. I listened,...
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Leading Change: Brownies, Boulevard Trees and an Old Office Chair

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I sat with the others, waiting for the meeting to start. Our leader was checking people in, each taking their turn on the scale after removing belts and accessories -- anything that might help that result look better. When we were all settled in, she began the meeting, asking if anyone had questions or concerns we needed to discuss right away. Someone behind me raised their hand. "I don't think I can do this," she said. "On this program I can't eat a pan of brownies anymore." We were in a weight loss group. Eating a pan of brownies in...
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Change and the Troublesome Employee, part 3

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In part 1, we met Jerry, a production employee who seemed like a troublesome employee, but with compassion, conversation and time, was able to engage, catch up, and contribute positively to the continuous improvement (CI) movement at his company. In part 2, we met Nancy, a woman who struggled to accept change because she lacked self-esteem. That brings us to Part 3. (Side note: Somehow I skipped part 3 and already published part 4... my mistake!) Meet Brian. Brian is a sales rep. He has been mildly successful as a sales person. Out of the dozen sales reps at the...
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Change and the Troublesome Employee, part 4

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What if that troublesome employee -- the one that pushes back, or wants to slow down, or needs every detail ironed out before moving ahead -- what if that employee was doing you a favor ? What if that employee wasn't an obstacle, but instead, a blessing? We can be quick to label the people who don't come on board with our vision right away. I say "we" because I've been there. Back when I was part of my company's lean team, we had strategy meetings about how to deal with specific individuals -- whether we should force them to...
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Structure, Discipline & Change

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Structure is a necessary tool for change. It has taken me a long time (longer than I care to admit) to accept this truth. I've understood it as a concept, but resisted taking it to heart. But where I have struggled to make change in my work and life, I have also resisted or rejected structure. I can point to situations when I have achieved temporary results by following structure. But then I threw out the structure -- and lost the discipline it helped create. It's not a coincidence that where I have resisted or rejected structure, I have had...
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Change and the Troublesome Employee, part 2

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Ten years ago I was sitting in a business lobby, waiting for a client, when flowers were delivered to the front desk. It was a large, colorful and fragrant bouquet in a clear glass vase with a red ribbon. The delivery person told the receptionist who they were for and headed back out to his truck. The receptionist smiled and paged the recipient to the front desk. Minutes later, a woman hesitantly approached the desk. I assumed, based on her apparel, she worked on the shop floor. She looked concerned, even confused about why she was being paged. The receptionist...
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Coaching is a Structure for Change

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Why does anyone need a coach? The one characteristic common to all high performing individuals, from executives to athletes, is the fact that they all have a coach. Why? Coaching is a structure for change. Structure is essential if you want to make change stick. Without the right structure to support it, change won't happen or be sustainable. Structure helps us to focus; it also serves as a trigger for new behavior patterns. Structure provides a guide for desired behavior, but also a way of getting feedback. As the old saying goes, "you get what you inspect, not what you...
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Change and the Troublesome Employee (part 1)

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Change requires focus, commitment, and a willingness to be uncomfortable. As leaders, it's our job to clear away obstacles to change. As much as we want people to trust us and go along with us, that isn't realistic for everyone. Some of us need more information, others want direct involvement in decisions. Others want to be heard , to know that their input is valued by their leader and their company. In my experience, most companies have at least one employee who they can count on to disagree with and be upset by any change that is introduced. I remember...
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