The Times Are A Changing

Change is constant. We hear, read about, and experience it everyday in our jobs, businesses, career, and personal lives and relationships. Constant changes in business drivers, technology, the economy, health care, social programs, and security (just to name a few, whew!) can make our heads spin! Its rapid pace can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright intimidating. But, the change train won’t be making a complete stop at the station to board us as passengers. Whether we are ready or not, we need to make a leap from the platform to board it. For us baby boomers, remember the 1963 Bob Dylan song, “The Times Are A Changing?” If not, or if you are part of the later or more recent generations, I encourage all of you to read the lyrics…listen to the song as well if you wish :). The rapid pace of change started well over 50 years ago. Bob Dylan saw it and tried to educate us through the pop culture we knew back then… and it hasn’t stopped since. Change affects us all. How we handle it determines whether we survive and be successful.

Often times, when faced with change, we look back to the past. It’s human nature. At times, it’s difficult and complicated. Quite frankly, we struggle, especially if many changes are all occurring at once. We don’t like being taken out of our comfort zone.

When dealing with change, most of us go through a process called the “change curve” before we board the train. The “change curve” has four stages: Information, Support, Direction, and Encouragement.

Looking To The Past…

During the early stages, we are “looking to the past.” As we hear about the upcoming change, we may be in denial. We want to know what’s changing and why, and how will it affect us. So, we start gathering information.

As we learn and the information starts settling in, we may not want to believe in the change, let alone accept it. We grieve and anger may start to set in. So, we start looking for support. <Stage Two>

Looking To The Future…

At some point, we reach a crossroad. Either we don’t accept the change and accept the consequences and move on or we start seeking direction and start “looking to the future.” We start exploring options on how to adapt to the change. So, we start looking for direction. <Stage Three>
Finally, we accept the change and want to learn how to prosper and benefit from it. So, we seek encouragement. <Stage Four>

My Suggestions Beyond The Curve…

So, if you start peeling back the onion, when you, your friends, or colleagues have difficulty dealing with change, try to follow these nine simple points:

– Seek information and learn
– Seek to understand
– Be empathetic
– Seek and provide support and guidance
– Keep an open mind
– Consider all the options and consequences
– Make an informed choice
– Grasp the change
– Prosper and grow

In closing, change is all around us. Sure, it takes us out of our comfort zone some times. The choices we make have impacts on our jobs, businesses, careers, and personal lives and relationships. We may not agree with the changes, but we can choose to stagnate or grow. They are your personal choices and moments of truth. Whether we like it or not, “The Times Are A Changing.”

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The Leader In Me

At one time or another, I’m sure that everyone of us can step back and think about someone we met for the first time, a play, show, or production we attended, a book we read, or a talk or speech we heard, that made a lasting impact or impression on us. It could have been a story line or theme, a specific line or quote, or a profound message that hit home with us. Recently, I had such an experience that I would like to share with you.

Periodically, I offer my services as a part – time substitute paraprofessional teacher in a local school district for elementary and middle school children. Just last week, I was supporting a third grade class where the teacher was reviewing basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with his students to increase their proficiency. What was intriguing was not only how he did it but what he was trying to instill in the class at the same time. Let me explain what I think I saw and understood…

What Was The Teacher’s Primary Objective?: Teach and increase proficiency in basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).

What Was The Teacher’s Bonus Objective?: Introduce the students to the concepts of fair and respectful team play and the importance of integrated team leadership.

What Was The Teacher’s Approach?: The teacher instructed the boys to lineup and sit on one side of the room and the girls to lineup and sit on the other side. Taking turns, the teacher had one boy and one girl approach the front of the room and stand in front of him. The teacher then quickly flashed a math card with a question (e.g. 7 x 2 = ?) to the two students. Whichever student answered the question correctly would earn one point for their team. That student could then earn bonus points by shooting and scoring a Nerf basketball into a basket on the opposite end of the room. Depending upon where the student chose to stand, they could earn two or three additional bonus points if they made the basket just like in a basketball game. Whichever team provided the most correct answers and accumulated the most points within two 15 minute “halves” won the game.

What Was The Teacher’s Expectation?: While the game was in progress, he expected the students to “stay on course.” In addition, the rest of the class understood that they were to remain quiet, and not cheer for either team, until a correct answer and any bonus baskets were attempted (whether made or not). Regardless of which team answered correctly, and whether bonus baskets were made or not, they were expected to encourage and cheer for both participants. If any behavior was displayed that did not meet these expectations, that team’s point total was docked two points. In a nutshell, he expected them to stay focused, participate and do the work, support both teams, and have fun.

What Was The Result?: From what I witnessed, the primary and bonus objectives and the teacher’s expectations were communicated, understood, and met successfully.

I have to tell you! My jaw dropped! How in the world did he get these third grade 9 year olds to understand and buy – in to the these objectives and expectations and actually get them to have fun and perform proficiently at the same time? Here’s what I found out that day…

At the beginning of the year, the teacher introduced a learning theme for the class named: “The Leader In Me.” Wherever he could, he integrated this learning theme into all his subject lesson plans. Just like he used a game for the math proficiency review, he tried to use “fun things” to get the students interested and engaged to help their learning and proficiency in those subjects as well. Slowly, he focused on seven “habits” to help the students understand the theme and to drive proficiency and individual and team leadership in the classroom.

Habit #1 – Be Proactive – “You are in control and choose your actions”

Habit #2 – Begin With The End In Mind – “Have a goal, work hard, and have a plan”

Habit #3 – Put First Things First – “Have a plan and do important things before unimportant things”

Habit #4 – Think Win Win – ” Everyone can win and learn, support others, and be confident in yourself and your fellow classmates”

Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand Then Be Understood – “Listen closely to see what others think since it is good to be different and everyone has something to contribute”

Habit #6 – Synergize – “Work together to listen and create new ideas”

Habit #7 – Sharpen The Saw – “Recharge, relax, and have fun”

When traveling home after class that day, I reflected on what I had just experienced. What did I learn? First, with the right teaching, coaching, and mentoring, leadership traits can be developed and groomed even at the simplest grass roots level.

Past research suggests that leadership is 30 percent genetic and 70 percent a result of lessons learned through life experiences. ScienceDaily University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES).

Granted, there’s no guarantee that everyone will be a leader regardless of what teaching, coaching, and mentoring that they receive; however, it’s a step in the right direction to help them be successful, be positive contributors, and be team players in whatever endeavor they choose. Second, it’s important nowadays to teach, demonstrate, reinforce, and encourage active involvement to achieve desired results. What better way to learn! This teacher was truly a leader that was making an impact! Finally, think about this. If corporate and executive leaders promoted a learning culture where their mission statements, charters, and values of their corporations, businesses, and organizations were centered more around habits and teaching moments like these, the meeting of challenges, pressures, and issues they face might just be a little more palatable and solvable.

In closing, here’s a parting thought: if it’s happening at the simplest grass roots level…then why not elsewhere? Think about “The Leader In Me.”

Wearing The Stripes From Zebra To Pin

Basketball has always been a passion of mine and has always been good to me. When I transitioned from being a point guard to a basketball referee over 30 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the friendships, relationships, and opportunities that I would gain. But, more importantly, the lessons that I learned beyond the rule book, blowing the whistle, and making calls, especially at the collegiate level, were just incredible. What always intrigued me the most was how the most successful and elite coaches built quality, successful, and sustainable programs which always centered around a solid culture and good core values despite the many social, competitive, economic, and media pressures that they constantly faced . And, on top of that, dealing with the multiple attitudes, expectations, and transiency of today’s coaches and athletes was a major challenge in itself! So, I often wondered: “how do they do it.”

Through many years of observation, reading, and discussion, it became apparent to me that, beyond having a good culture, core values, and solid offensive and defensive schemes in place, the one key ingredient that was critical to their success was having a good succession plan in place. Huh? you may ask…It’s true. I found that they always tried to focus on five key principles that were “a must” to have quality coaches and players to sustain the ongoing success of their program:

– Know The Key Positions and Players
– Know The Required and Preferred Skills
– Know The Possible Successors
– Involve Key People
– Commit To The Development of Talent

During my reading, I found this article on succession planning in sports which, ironically, pretty much summarized and explained the same thing.

So, I began thinking, if I’m a CEO or management executive, how does this translate to the success of my business or organization? If you think about it, it’s not much different. You too need a good culture, core values, and a solid offensive and defensive scheme in place in the form of a solid strategic plan, processes, and procedures. But, just like any collegiate basketball coach, you also need good talent and people in both your management team as well as your skilled work force. You too will find it difficult to keep talented executives, managers, and skilled workers in your organization as well due to many social, competitive, economic, and other pressures. But, how do you mitigate those risks? Follow the five principles that most successful collegiate basket ball coaches use:

– Know The Key Positions and Players
– Know The Required and Preferred Skills
– Know The Possible Successors
– Involve Key People
– Commit To The Development of Talent

So, from my view wearing the stripes in either role, having a succession plan in place is best, my friends! It’s worth having in your strategic tool box!

Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

Nowadays, customer and stakeholder needs, perceptions, and expectations are constantly changing. There are different drivers that make our culture, market, and environment so dynamic. How can a business, organization, or entrepreneur keep ahead of the curve to assure they are doing the right things and at the right time? Using an effective strategic planning process can help you anticipate what to plan for and execute for continued short and long term success. But, keep in mind, strategic planning is not just a once and done exercise. A continued focus on the right drivers and managing your performance trends should help assure that your plan continues to point you in the right direction.