Bill, lost his job recently. It seems his company was downsized, his well developed skills were no longer required. It's tempting to claim his company was at fault. But the fault was his and his alone. Let me explain why.
Things are changing incredibly fast. Yesterday's idea, is an emerging technology today, mainstream news tomorrow and history by next week. And... everyone contributes to the speed of change.
There's a myth about management, since we're responsible for so much change, we must be good at coping with it. I've observed the exact opposite. Managers have great difficulty accepting change. They tend to get complacent in their 'secure' status quo. They believe the skills they've acquired, will serve them well into the future, in spite of all
signs to the contrary.
Take a close look at business magazines. Each issue offers something new, something different. Each advertisement promises to increase productivity, to increase efficiency, to inflict change upon our unsuspecting organization. Used properly, magazines are a guidepost to the future. Ignore them and they'll get you downsized.
Bill acquired his management skills in the trenches. He worked his way up through the ranks. He acquired a set of skills, and over the years, deepened them. He began to believe his tool kit of management techniques was complete. They'd served him well in the past, and would suffice in the future.
Bill's error was not in his judgment of whether or not a particular skill was long lasting. Bill's error had little if anything to do with 'management skills.' His error lay in his world view. He believed his world would stay the same. Somehow he's protected from change. Somehow he alone is immune.
Shielded in immunity, he gives no thought to a 'different' tomorrow. He leans on his illusion of status quo, even while destroying the status quo of others. He's not alone in this. He's joined by politicians, unions, successful companies, staff, by anyone and everyone who's comfortable with past achievements.
How do you prepare for the future? Step one is trivial... Acknowledge uncertainty. That alone, will keep you from being complacent. That alone, will have you thinking about alternatives. That alone, will remind you that you're not alone. Everybody is faced with the same uncertainty. Welcome to the future!
Next - you're not your business card. No matter what your title, no matter what your function, you're more than a 'box' on an org chart. You're a collection of skills with the ability to learn new ones.
These steps do little to change the future. Accepting uncertainty and solid self assessment is a good strategy, but without a plan of action, they'll add up to nothing.
Assume you're fired tomorrow, what would you do? Sounds drastic, but it happens every day to thousands of people from 'every walk of life.' So why not to you? What better time to contemplate it, than today, when you still have a job, and time to plan?
Bill lost his job because he couldn't see beyond his status quo. Don't make that same mistake, contemplate this issue of Words of Mouth devoted to Change. Ask the question... "What's my place in the uncertainty I'm helping create?" Then leap into your future.
The Challenge of Change
What is the only thing constant in our lives? CHANGE impacts everything we do and is never-ending. Whether technological, psychological, physical or emotional in nature, we must learn how to deal with change effectively if
we are to survive and prosper.
In programs I have conducted for clients, their most frequent requests are in two areas:
1.What do I do with negative people?
2.How can I get people motivated?
It could be argued these two areas have always been important. I have noticed the need for assistance with these areas is in direct proportion to the changes the organization is experiencing.
We all go along our "merry-little-way" until one day and ... boom ... change appears. The change is sometimes our own doing but more often beyond our immediate control. When this occurs, the response is sometimes demonstrated in negativity or in an unwillingness to move. This constant newness is outside many people's comfort zones and they are confused as to how they should respond. My clients know change is inevitable and yet have staff who are reluctant to embrace the constantly changing environment. It may be management themselves who are reluctant to
adopt the changes necessary for organizational success.
Management and staff must deal with technological, psychological and personal changes, all of which impact on performance. People handle change in different ways. It is estimated as high as 78% of people are followers ... they do not want to be first at anything. They would rather wait until something happens and then copy what they see. Approximately 5% are leaders. The remaining 17% have no idea where everybody else went! I work with the 5 percenters who want to learn approaches which will produce the best results through encouraging the 78% to follow and drag along the 17% who aren't quite sure what is happening.
I will never suggest all change will be enjoyable. I believe we have to learn to adapt to it. The good news about change is it happens so quickly that if you don't like the change, just wait and it will change again soon. The bad
news is if you do like the change you had better enjoy it now because it will not be here very long. What can we do?
I have found one of the biggest roadblocks to personal adaptation to change is the belief we can just relax in what I call the coast mode. Do you know anyone in the coast mode+just coasting, coasting? The problem is there is only one way you can coast and that is downhill. The last person to realize you are coasting is usually yourself. Each of us knows at least one person in our personal lives who is going downhill and has not realized it yet. Your staff sees you every day and will very quickly recognize which way you are going. In a terrific book I recently read entitled Flight Of The Buffalo by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer, the realization of managers that "I Am The Problem" is the first step in overcoming the "What do I do with negative people ? or How do I motivate people?" problems.
Demonstrating calculated risk-taking and encouraging staff to do likewise creates a different mind-set towards change. People who are not encouraged to take risks will not. All of us have failed at least once in our lives. What do we remember longest...good experiences or bad? The bad ones discourage us about additional attempts. Overcoming our negative programming about failure is a key step towards meeting the challenge of change. Working with, or worse still, living with someone who does not want to change can be a very frustrating experience.
People go through five specific steps in overcoming resistance:
1.RESISTANCE When we fear, we resist. This can take the form of loud verbal protest or passive, non-participation. Some people resist long after the change has taken place. It sounds like this: "I can work just as well under the old system and probably do a better job."
2.BEING UNSURE We have lots of questions and fewer answers. How will the change affect me personally? Will I be able to handle it? Who else is doing it? (There is the follower tendency) How long will it take?
It sounds like this: "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to have new uniforms."
3.ASSIMILATION We begin to implement although very slowly. Our confidence increases as we use the new system to our advantage.
It sounds like this: "I now have some control over my job, but it seems to take longer than before."
4.TRANSFERENCE Part of us still prefers the old way and we realize we can't go back. Therefore we must know and understand more about the new way of doing things.
It sounds like this: "How much longer will it be until we have all the new equipment we need to make it work."
5.INTEGRATION We have accepted the change and work with it comfortably and even wonder how we ever worked with the old system. Our confidence increases daily.
It sounds like this: "I really enjoy the weekly planning meetings. Decision making is much quicker and we get better results too."
The responsibility of the manager will be to help staff through the various stages by being both a coach and a teacher. You must first progress through the stages since staff will only go as far as you lead. If you exhibit a
reluctance to move yourself, some of your "really good people" will look for someone else to follow. Remember the power of MODELING.
Implementing organizational change can lead to some new realities:
1.Need For Better Leadership.
Getting into the 5% group and staying there will involve continual change. Leaders get results with different leadership styles.
2.More Emphasis On Teamwork.
You get results through others. Managers succeed only when their staff succeeds. How did they forget this?
3.Involvement Of The Whole Person.
People bring themselves to work. People want to be treated as individuals. The fact we label them with the same job title and pay them the same amount of money will NEVER make them the same. A substantial percentage of people's potential is never realized or recognized in the work place because, after all, "What could a front- line person possibly contribute, etc.?" We put people in slots to maintain control not realizing that staff can always make us look bad or good. So, who really has control? Using the hidden expertise of your staff could be a big step in dealing with change.
Anytime we venture outside our comfort zone, we must deal with the unknown. What we say to ourselves about this journey and process will impact on our stress level.
5.The Need For Continuous Learning.
Change is happening so quickly that to believe we can coast is a major roadblock. Read more, listen better, invest in yourself and your staff development, ask more questions, seek out new ideas, measure results and
see change as an opportunity. Most importantly, don't forget to HAVE FUN!
1995, Kit Grant is a keynoter and trainer in conflict management, sales and customer service. He can be reached at (403) 256-1416..
Seeing Through Change
During a consultation with an optometrist you will put your face against a machine called an auto-refractor. The doctor will flip various lens in front of each eye asking constantly, "Does this make it clearer or worse?"
The application of the metaphor comes easily. We'll just use a Life Chart instead of an eye chart. Does your job make your ability to see what is really important, clearer or worse? Flip. Did your parents make your vision of the world clearer or worse? Flip. How about the lens of education? Flip. What contribution has your marriage made to
your vision? Flip. How about the promotion you got last year? Flip. Your own heart attack? Flip. What did going through the re-engineering project do to you? Flip.
Change is simply combination of such lenses. These change lenses are positive factors in our lives only if we can see THROUGH them to something beyond the lens itself. If the lenses are smudged and dirty we start to focus on them rather than on what they were meant to reveal to us. We start to look AT the lens rather than THROUGH it and end up in a lot of stress.
Many lenses are available to you. Accounting lenses and medical lenses. Lenses for artists and homemakers. A being laid off lens and a being hired lens. Another if you're a man and another if you are a woman. There is one for poverty and one for wealth. Not one of these lenses is an end in itself. Each is simply a viewpoint THROUGH which to get a glimpse of the landscape beyond. Change always reveals something beyond itself.
Some of the lenses of our lives make things clearer in the spiritual sense, while others fog and cloud both our out-sight and in-sight. We need to learn how to positively impact the ratio of the two. It's a spiritual version of what the Endeavor astronauts had to do for the ailing Hubbell space telescope. In addition to installing gyroscopes to keep things in balance, they replaced the Wide Field Planetary Camera so the telescope could see and record things more clearly. That's what we need -- a Wide Field Planetary Camera for our personal and corporate souls. Come to think of it, we may need a gyroscope too. Change is the opportunity of a lifetime, learn to see THROUGH it.
1995, Ian Percy is one of North America's most unorthodox management consultants and inspirational speakers. Ian is the President of the Toronto-based, The Ian Percy Corporation. His number is (905) 513-1950 You can E-mail him at [email protected]
The Changing World of Business Writing
Typewriters. Personal secretaries knowledgeable in grammar. Shorthand. Dictionaries on desks. Photocopiers. Fax machines. Computers. Unit secretaries. Personal computers. Lap tops. Spell Checkers. Grammar checkers. E-mails. Internet.
These are only a few of the changes in the resources available to the business world that have had a major impact on writing styles. From the early 1920's to the 70's, a manager would dictate a letter to his secretary who would type it and send it out. The letter would be written in a verbose style aimed at impressing the reader with the sender's education and literary style. And because a third party was involved-the secretary-it tended to be rather impersonal.
Then in the early 80's we were hit with a recession. North American business strategies changed and companies became leaner and stream-lined. In turn, readers wanted their correspondence to match. They no longer wanted to take the time to sort through wordy, stilted messages. They didn't want irrelevant details but were more focused on "the facts, just the facts."
This desire was further reinforced by the amount of paper crossing readers' desks. Between 1982 and 1992 the reading material of business people-letters, memos, reports, faxes-increased 600 per cent. Today's readers don't have the time to absorb convoluted messages. They want to read a message just once and know precisely what they should do next. Sentences such as "Kindly execute the attached documents and return them at your earliest convenience to the undersigned at the above address" are no longer appropriate. They are too vague and have the readers' eyes roving all over the page to pick up the details.
A key idea to remember is that in the 80's, a writer wrote about his interests or what he wanted the reader to know. However, an experienced communicator in the 90's should write about what the reader needs to know.
This brings us to tone or how the message is delivered. Whether you are communicating internally with staff or externally with customers, today's readers expect to be treated with courtesy and in a friendly fashion.
How can you do this? Write as though you were speaking to the reader. Explain what you can do, rather than what you can't. If you are listing features, include benefits. Use the active voice. Include the reader's name. And use words that would not used in normal conversation. For example, I doubt if any human resources person would ever say, "A prompt reply will expedite consideration of the student's application." Then why write it?
Write as though you're speaking-assuming you speak in a grammatically correct fashion.
Grammar is making a come-back. In the past, many managers depended on their secretaries to correct their spelling or punctuation errors. However, because of down sizing, right sizing or re-engineering personal secretaries are rare.
For the most part, white collar workers are now expected to use computers and input, revise and edit their own correspondence and reports.
Surprisingly, this hasn't meant that grammar rules are slipping. Individuals are now paying more attention to their own correspondence. And more and more executives are requesting grammar workshops, reference books or software programs to keep themselves accurate.
Note: You can always tell whether a person is familiar with keyboarding. An inexperienced keyboarder places one space after a period at the end of a sentence, while a trained keyboarder always uses two spaces.
Computer Software Packages
Software packages have been a mixed blessing to business writing. Nowadays, you can check spelling, grammar and readability levels with your computer. However, you can't rely on them exclusively. Documents must still be proofread manually as well as electronically because spell checkers can't catch words that are spelled correctly but are misused, such as its versus it's and deer instead of dear.
In addition, grammar packages can indicate errors, and readability indexes can point out the ease or difficulty of the reading level, but for most people the packages don't provide enough information on how to solve the problem.
Writing is not static. It constantly changes to match the changes in resources, society, technology and business. Smart communicators are the ones who recognize that keeping their language skills on the leading edge will mean success for themselves and their organizations.