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How to Communicate Change as a Leader

Adapt to Change Quickly: The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.

–– Spencer Johnson, MD, author, Who Moved My Cheese?


By John Millen

Leadership is often described as getting people to do what they wouldn’t do on their own. 
 
This is the primary charge of a leader. It’s your job as a leader to influence people to adapt to constantly changing circumstances.
 
And some experts posit that, given the advance of technology, the pace of change we see today will be the slowest of our lifetimes. This creates a greater challenge for leaders and their teams to adapt.
 
‘Don’t like change’
I’m sure you’ve heard people at work say they don’t like change. The truth is they don’t like change at work.
 
I say that because in our personal lives we accept change as inevitable: people move, people get married, people create homes, people have kids, people move to bigger homes, people buy larger cars, and on and on.
 
It’s change. The cycle continues and we accept these changes as a part of living.
 
Nonetheless, when it comes to their workplaces many people somehow expect that things will stay the same. This, despite the fact that their businesses, their industries and their own tastes in products and services change all the time.
 
This is why communication is a critical, and often undervalued, success factor for leading change. With massive disruption in once-stable industries, how effectively you communicate will determine how well you influence the attitudes and behavior of the people critical to your success.

Having worked through or advised more than thirty mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations here are some lessons I’ve learned on how to communicate to successfully lead people through change: 

Focus on why
Leaders often rush to the how and what of their changes, sending orders to the troops with task lists of what they need to accomplish and when they must be done. People will certainly comply, but not with a sense of purpose. They may be smiling, but if you look closely, those are fake smiles.
 
Creating a narrative of purpose — a clear vision — gives a sense of mission that will produce better long-term results. Take the time to convey a clear picture of the end state. 
 
Some leaders think of this as a waste of time, so called “soft skills,” but it turns out people are emotional beings who have to buy into their leaders before they buy into the vision.
 
Mental transitions
One pro tip for communicating massive change: search for appropriate analogies or examples in the marketplace that help people understand transition to the future. These help people see the relationship between the past, the present, and future states. 
 
For example, look at Apple. It transitioned successfully from computer hardware and software to smartphones and music. With the slowdown of iPhone sales, Apple is transitioning to wearable technology for healthcare (iWatch), a service business, and perhaps even autonomous vehicles. There’s even talk of Apple, with its surplus of cash, buying Netflix. Every business needs to evolve.
 
Be clear about what you want them to do
Having said that you should focus on purpose doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be clear about specifics. While you want to be visionary, it’s important to provide a clear, believable path to your end state. The best course is to engage and involve people in creating the outcomes, rather than simply directing them.
 
Address the fear with empathy
The deep-seated fear of change lives in our amygdala, the small ancient part of our brains, where we feel the “fight or flight” sensations. It feels real. People wonder whether they’ll lose their jobs — be kicked out of the tribe, as it were. Their survival is threatened.
 
Technology exacerbates the fear tenfold. The rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics increases the sense of dread. It all seems to have happened so quickly. 
 
It’s easy to destroy a culture of trust by being tone deaf to people’s concerns. With this in mind, your empathy can go a long way in maintaining trust with people. 
 
Overcommunicate
When telling your story of change, repetition is your friend. I tell CEOs and other senior leaders that about the time you’re sick of repeating your messages is when people will begin to hear them.
 
We obviously live in a distracted world where, unless you share a clear, consistent story with repetition at every level through every communication channel, people will not hear you.
 
In a world of constant change, your ability to communicate change is not only important, it is a skill that will, over time, make you a more valuable leader. 

All the best,

John


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How to Talk Like TED

By John Millen

Ted has changed everything about presentations.
 
You probably know that I’m not talking about a guy named “Ted.” I’m referring to TED Talks, which are given at TED-sanctioned events around the world. 
 
The original TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is a conference that has been held annually since 1990.

Talks have been given by a wide array of world leaders, including presidents and prime ministers such as Bill Clinton and David Cameron and big thinkers such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and the late Stephen Hawking. They also featured artists, musicians, surgeons, and every other conceivable endeavor.
 
No matter their stature in the world, all of the leaders’ talks have one thing in common: they are restricted to eighteen minutes in length.
 

One of the TED Talks I most frequently recommend to clients is Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Dr. Amy Cuddy, pictured in this photo.

Here are some TED-style strategies for developing and presenting your talk. As you read these tips, bear in mind that you can apply them to any of your meetings, from a convention speech to a one-on-one sales presentation.
 
Don’t give a presentation. Have a conversation with your audience. Presentation-mode means you’re giving a performance. A conversation means you are listening and responding to the needs of your audience in real time. You are present in the moment. 
 
Focus on conveying a single idea. Your talk is not a readout, and it’s not a data dump. It’s the opportunity to convey an idea into the minds of your audience, whether they be employees, investors, donors, or others. 
 
In his book, TED Talks, the Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Chris Anderson, whose title is the Head of TED, writes, “The central thesis of this book is that anyone who has an idea worth sharing is capable of giving a powerful talk.” Indeed, TED’s tagline is “Ideas Worth Sharing.”
 
Less is more. An eighteen-minute window is more than adequate to share your core idea. This is true of most any meeting or conference call. We live in a distracted world. Fight the urge to go deep and fill a five-pound bag with ten pounds of sugar. 
 
Here’s a sample format you can follow to give your own TED-style talk. With this structure, your eighteen minutes could be distributed like this: 
 
3 minutes – Story relevant to your main idea
3 minutes – Intro of your main idea and three key points
9 minutes – Three key points/stories developed (three minutes each) 
3 minutes – Close and call to action
 
Simple slides. As you develop slides, consider using only a few slides to keep the attention on you and your talk. Also, consider using images, rather than words and numbers, to support your talk.
 
Tell your story. Human beings are wired for storytelling and story-listening. Your talk will be best conveyed with a few stories illustrating your key points. The best stories have emotional resonance and a relevant tie-in or lesson learned. You can use stories from your personal and business lives.
 
Connect with purpose. By starting with why, the purpose of adopting your idea, you’ll be tapping into the power of meaning to inspire action. Telling stories connected with purpose adds additional impact to your talk.
 
Talk with your hands. As humans, we become more engaged watching people with open gestures and body language. A team led by researcher Vanessa Van Edwards studied why some TED Talks go viral, while others don’t. 
 
The team reviewed hundreds of hours of TED Talks searching for differences in the most and least watched talks. They analyzed hand gestures, vocal variety, smiling, and body movement.
 
Edwards’ team concluded that speakers who used the most hand gestures had the most views. “The most popular talks used an average of 465 hand gesture (yes, our coders counted every single one). The least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures. And TED superstars Temple Grandin, Simon Sinek, and Jane McGonigal topped the charts with more than six-hundred hand gestures in just eighteen minutes.”
 
And it’s not only good for presentations. Edwards also notes that thirty years ago, researchers found that job candidates who used more hand gestures were more likely to win the job.
 
Call to action. As you develop your talk, think about what you want people to know, feel, and do. What beliefs, actions, or behaviors are you trying to inspire?

Your call to action can be as simple as asking them to think about your customers in a new way.
 
Today, there are thousands of TED Talks on every conceivable topic. I have a few highly disciplined clients who start or end their days with one TED Talk for motivation and inspiration. 
 
I recommend you visit the TED Talk site and think about how you might use this process to improve your own talks. You’ll find everything about your day-to-day communication will become easier and more natural.
 
So give it a try. Talk like Ted. 

John

One of the TED Talks I most frequently recommend to clients is Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Dr. Amy Cuddy, pictured in this photo.

Photo Credit: www.Ted.com


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How to Apply the Principles of Marie Kondo in Your Work and Life

Think of clutter.
 
Have you ever felt bogged down by your possessions? Your endless to-do lists? Your job or relationships?
 
We all have. That’s because clutter is everywhere in our lives: in our minds, in our digital distractions, in our businesses, and, of course, in our homes.
 
The clutter in our homes is where Marie Kondo makes her impact. If you’re not familiar with Kondo, she’s a Japanese organizer and author of the worldwide bestseller,The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizingwhich has nearly 14,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon.
 
Kondo also has a new Netflix series which together with her book has prompted a decluttering of homes in the United States. Perhaps even your home. 
 
She has been credited with a huge increase in donations of discarded goods to Goodwill, Volunteers of America, and other sites, dubbed "The Marie Kondo Effect." The deluge has also caused some organizations in U.S. cities, including San Francisco, to limit when and how many goods they will accept. 
 
The popularity of Kondo stems from her unique approach, which I believe can be applied to any aspect of our lives and businesses. These are a few of her key concepts:
 
Clearing clutter changes everything in your life. As Kondo writes, “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order… It allows you to confront the issues that are really important.”
 
This is true in business as well. When we clear away the clutter, we have the opportunity to focus on the few priorities that matter. 
 
Focus on a specific area all at once. Don’t go room-by-room. In other words, take all of your clothing from anywhere in the house into one location. 
 
Make it a sprint. Don’t make “tidying” a life-long project. Get it done quickly and then maintain.
 
And here is Kondo’s differentiating concept:
 
Shift your mindset. Don’t focus on what to get rid of. Instead, think about what gives you positive feelings.
 
Specifically, Kondo says to hold an object and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is “no,” let it go.
 
If you’re a natural skeptic, as I can be, “sparking joy” might put you off. So, let me share that I asked for and received Kondo’s book as a Christmas gift a few years ago. I used her method to clean out the clothes in my closet. It worked very well!
 
All of the clothes went onto the bed and, instead of thinking, “I might wear this someday,” I asked, “Do I love this?” That Hawaiian shirt? Gone. Old suits? Gone. Ill-fitting pants? Gone. And on down the line. I was left with clothes that I love and wear all the time. 
 
It’s a great mind shift, and a concept that can apply to anything. I view it as an easy, practical way to apply the Prieto Principle, commonly called the 80/20 rule. Focus on the 20 percent that has the most impact.
 
I’ve gone on to apply Kondo’s principles in my business. This is my sixteenth year as a consultant, and I had accumulated a lot of paper files, electronic files, equipment, and other items that were bogging me down. The question is not, “will I use this someday?” but, “do I really value this? Will I use it regularly?”
 
I’ve also done this with my business relationships. I’ve stopped a couple of partnerships that I didn’t love and “fired” two toxic clients.

Do they bring you joy? 
Regardless of whether you buy Marie Kondo’s book or watch her Netflix series, I urge you to consider her principles in your life and business.
 
Ask yourself about your possessions and relationships, “Do these bring me joy?”
 
Hopefully they do, but the larger question is what can we do when relationships don’t bring us joy? 
 
The reality is that difficult relationships in business and in life can’t all be avoided.  Whether pleasant and straightforward, or complex and uncomfortable, we typically can’t or won’t easily discard them.  
 
This is where the Kondo “shift your mindset” principle can be applied.  Can you minimize your interactions with difficult people, keeping them cordial and focused?
 
In the same way, why not spend more time with those who are positive and energize you? This will improve your outlook and offset those who drain you. Or maybe clearing the air between you and someone else will move your relationship to the positive end of the spectrum.
 
I hope you’ll consider the applying Kondo’s principles to clarifying your possessions and your relationships.

After all, life’s too short to be lost in clutter.
 
John


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Photo Credit: Netflix

Sharing Love at Work

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. 

–– Maya Angelou


Speaking at a convention of insurance agents in Las Vegas last year, I got a lot of nervous laughter from the crowd when I conveyed an offbeat idea: they should be sharing love with their agency staff members.

To be more specific, I said they should be speaking the love languages of their employees, except for physical touch, of course, which I crossed off on my slide.

This comes to mind because on February 14 here in the U.S. we will celebrate love in the annual, commercial tradition of Valentine’s Day.

As with all communication, in the language of love our actions often speak much louder than our words. We must understand our lover’s (or employee's) language in order to successfully express our love. 

So, as you read the following about expressing love in your romantic relationship, I would urge you to think about how you might apply these principles to your business relationships as well.

One example: A female leader told me she had one night quickly hand-written a card of thanks to an employee. She said today, three years later, that card is still pinned on the person's cubicle wall. 
 

Gary Chapman, marriage counselor for more than 30 years, is author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.  First published in 1992, the book has been a New York Times Bestseller and published in 49 languages.

Chapman believes each of us has a primary love language, a way in which we are most emotionally satisfied to receive love from another person. Our lovers may find satisfaction from an entirely different love language.

The secret to communicating love, then, is to understand our partner’s language and act on that sincerely and consistently. “The one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision every day,” Chapman says.

These are the five love languages identified by Chapman along with my thoughts:

1) Words of Affirmation 
Kind, loving, supportive words that express appreciation. The tone and the intent of the words, of course, carry as much weight as the words themselves.

2) Acts of Service 
The saying is “Actions speak louder than words” and for people who favor this language of love nothing could be more true. Simple acts of service will speak deeply to your love.

3) Receiving Gifts 
Throughout all cultures and civilizations, the act of giving gifts has been seen as an expression of love and appreciation. Certainly the engagement ring is one powerful symbolic example. But speaking this language is not about expense. A small gift or thoughtful note sincerely given can mean far more than an expensive gift without thought.

4) Quality Time 
In our hectic, over-scheduled lives, nothing is more valuable than our time. Giving someone undivided attention, being fully present in the moment, is one of the best ways of showing love. Sharing quality time has an impact on everyone but is enormously powerful to those who speak this love language.

5) Physical Touch
Human beings thrive on physical contact, from holding an infant, to consoling loss, to expressing appreciation. Research finds deep emotional and physical benefits of touch. If this is your partner’s primary love language, nothing will communicate more deeply than your touch.

Note: while I crossed out physical touch in the workplace, a warm handshake with sincere eye contact might be a solid substitute. ;-)

Questions for you:

What is your primary love language? Does your loved one know that?

More importantly, what is your lover’s primary love language? Are you speaking that language consistently and sincerely? 

If you don't know, there's an easy way to find out: ask, and listen carefully.


John


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Leadership Lessons of Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher

Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.
 

–– Herb Kelleher

 
When Herb Kelleher passed away in Texas last week at age eighty-seven, he left a legacy of a big personality, a creative business model, and an airline industry revolution.
 
The cofounder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines was a colorful personality whose unique approach resulted in Southwest growing to be the largest domestic airline in the United States, with annual revenue of nearly $25 billion.
 
As the Washington Post wrote this week:
 
Herb Kelleher, the charismatic and colorful cofounder of Southwest Airlines, was hardly a cookie-cutter chief executive. He showed up at company parties dressed as Elvis Presley, invited employees to a weekly cookout, handled baggage during the Thanksgiving rush, and brought doughnuts to a hangar at 4 a.m. to schmooze with his airline’s mechanics.
 
He once arm-wrestled an executive from another company to settle a legal dispute and never hid his fondness for cigarettes and bourbon. Yet he was considered a visionary business leader whose record of sustained success at Southwest led Fortune magazine to ask on its cover, “Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO?”

This is why Kelleher’s legacy offers many great lessons in leadership such as:
 
Follow a successful model
There is a mythical story that Kelleher and his business partners devised Southwest on a cocktail napkin. He corrected the record, noting that they modeled Southwest after Pacific Southwest Airlines, a successful short-haul carrier I grew up with on the West Coast.
 
They wanted the same opportunity for customers in Texas as a short-haul airline with cheap flights connecting Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
 
Keep it simple 
Since its inception, Southwest had a single goal: to offer low fares and on-time service to customers. With that in mind, it devised a strategy of boarding passengers in simple groups; cleaning and turning aircraft quickly; having a single aircraft type (the Boeing 737) that could be flown by all crews; flying point-to-point instead of through hubs; and focusing initially on smaller, underserved airports.
 
Don’t give up
Kelleher was an attorney by trade and never intended to run a business. But when the airline made its initial filings to fly from its home in Texas, Southwest faced an onslaught of lawsuits from competitors who wanted to keep it grounded.
 
This week I listened to a recording of a radio interview in which Kelleher described how he worked for free for four years fighting for Southwest in court, while maintaining his private law practice. Kelleher said he believed he was fighting not only for Southwest and its potential customers, but for the free enterprise system.
 
Be a servant leader
When Kelleher was twelve, his father passed away and his brother was killed in World War II. As a result, he and his mother "became very close. We'd sit up until 4 a.m. talking about business, politics, everything.
 
“She talked a lot about how you should treat people with respect. She said that positions and titles signify absolutely nothing. They’re just adornments,” Kelleher said.
 
Build a strong culture 
Kelleher believed that a leader’s most important role is to build a strong culture by hiring the right people. At Southwest he created a “culture of commitment” devoted to the happiness of employees. He said that happy associates would lead to happy customers, a differentiator in the airline industry.
 
Create a positive customer experience
“What’s important is that a customer should get off the airplane feeling, ‘I didn’t just get from A to B. I had one of the most pleasant experiences I ever had, and I’ll be back for that reason,’” he said. With this in mind, Kelleher put a premium on personality. “What we are looking for first and foremost is a sense of humor,” he said.
 
“If you don’t have a good attitude, we don’t want you, no matter how skilled you are,” Kelleher said. “We can change skill levels through training. We can’t change attitude.”
 
For full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Southwest Airlines, on which I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles. It’s my go-to domestic airline, unless I’m flying on a corporate jet or being booked by a client’s agency.
 
While the fair prices and on-time service are great, it’s Southwest’s culture that keeps me happy. Employees seem genuinely engaged, which is unique in any company, and they get creative to make it an enjoyable experience.
 
Where else would you have the captain of the plane sing and play the harmonica? (That was before we took off, of course.) I’ve had hundreds of small, positive gestures on Southwest.
 
This is the legacy of Southwest Airlines’ cofounder and CEO: business success with satisfied employees, customers, and shareholders.
 
Rest in peace, Herb Kelleher.
 

John


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Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines

How to Change Your Habits for Success in 2019

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.  

–– Aristotle


As we begin the New Year, most of us get the urge to change our lives and make a fresh start.

This year’s NPR/Marist Poll finds the usual suspects as our top 2019 resolutions: losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, and being a better person.

Many of us make bold resolutions and ambitious plans to achieve these and other aspirations.

And we fail. We fail miserably: Research reveals that as few as 8 percent of us are successful with our New Year’s resolutions.

Of course, this is why fitness centers may sign up 5,000 new members in January for a facility that will hold only 500 people at a time.
 
As we enter 2019, how about considering a different approach?
 
Try making just two small changes this year. One now, and one in six months. I’ve put this into practice over the past few years with great success. This approach means that every year you will have changed two of your habits by the end of the year.
 
Small Changes are Powerful
Changing two habits a year might seem too small, too easy. But science proves that the lasting changes in our lives come from making small changes that are easier to implement.
 
Consider this small, but powerful example: “Replace a soft drink with water at just one meal — say, lunch. With this small change, you will drink approximately forty more gallons of water per year, while not drinking forty gallons of carbonated sugar. You also save up to fifty thousand calories and as much as five hundred dollars.” From Small Change, Little Things Make a Big Difference by Susan and Larry Terkel.
 
In his new book, Atomic Habits: An easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, * author James Clear notes the compounding effect of small changes in habits: getting one percent better every day will produce results that are 37 times better at the end of the year.

"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement," Clear writes. "The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous."

The Power of Habits
I’ve always worked on continuous self-improvement, but never understood how to change habits until a few years ago when I read this great book: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explores the neuroscience of habits, using vivid examples from sports, business and life, including the NFL, Michael Phelps, Target, P&G and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, among many others.
 
Conserving Brain Energy
Habits are critical to our brain function. To conserve energy, our brains run routines by habit that we don’t have to think about. Duhigg says up to 40 percent of our daily activities are done by unconscious habit. This becomes clear when we drive to the same location so often that we sometimes arrive and don’t remember how we got there.
 
But the key to this book for me was understanding the simple process of how habits function and how they can be hacked to make a positive change.
 
The 'Habit Loop'
Duhigg calls this the "Habit Loop.” He explains: "This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which behavior to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward.”
 
Here’s how it worked for me: I like to work out a lot, so I’ve never had a weight problem, but a few years ago I found myself with a severe nighttime sweet tooth. I didn’t need the extra sugar and calories and started getting some extra winter “insulation” on the tummy.
 
CUE: At a certain point in the evening, whether I was watching TV, reading a book or doing work, I’d get the feeling it was time for a snack. You know, The Craving.  ;-)
 
ROUTINE: I would wander into the kitchen for a snack. It would usually be a nice helping of ice cream or a few cookies.
 
REWARD: I got the sweet taste of the dessert and the rush of blood sugar.
 
I wasn’t consciously being a Cookie Monster; I realize now that I was just caught in the loop.
 
I'm simplifying Duhigg's advice here, but his research found that the secret to changing your habit is to identify and tweak your routine.  I successfully used these steps to change my nightly dessert habit.
 
CUE: For me, the tweak was this: when the cue occurred, my evening dessert craving, I would still wander into the kitchen.
 
ROUTINE: In initially changing the routine, I told myself I could still have ice cream or cookies, but first I would have a piece of fruit and a glass of water and wait for 15 minutes. I did that and went back to whatever I was doing.

REWARD: This is the interesting part. I was shocked that from the very first time I ate an apple, drank the water and refocused on what I was doing, I was satisfied and not craving more sweets. My substitute reward gave me a sweet taste, the act of chewing and the water quenched my thirst. (Nutritionists say that often what feels like hunger is dehydration.)

Mistaken Rewards
Sometimes we are seeking a reward that is not necessarily what we might assume. Duhigg details getting up from his desk every day at 3 p.m. to get a cookie from the cafeteria at the New York Times building, where he is a reporter.

Then he would walk around and socialize with his colleagues. The reporter tweaked his routine to skip the cookie and go to the social break, which was really his reward.

The other interesting thing that happens is that when you change one habit, positive changes seem to build on one another. If you exercise regularly, you might find yourself wanting to eat healthier foods.

How about You?
What habit do you most want to change?

Think about this habit: What are cue, routine and reward of this habit and how can you tweak them to rewire your habit?

Would you consider skipping the New Year’s resolutions and instead change just two small habits this year?

Give it a try. I believe that if you change your habits, you change your life.

Thank you for sharing this year with me.

Wishing you great success and happiness in 2019,

John

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