Cultural Change

Wet Babies and Leading the Charge through Change

baby change meOne of my favorite quotations from Mark Twain is “The only one who likes change is a wet baby.”

As a thought leader, you are defining the change you want to see: in your employees, in your company, in your industry…or perhaps even in the world. Making change happen requires determination and rhetorical skill to persuade stakeholders to adopt your viewpoint. You’ll want to apply as many levers of change as you can muster to put those changes into effect and make them “stick.”

A 2012 piece by Morten Hansen, author of the book Collaboration, in Harvard Business Review online offers 10 approaches to get people to accept change. He categorizes these approaches in four buckets:

  1. Sharpen the destination
  2. Activate social processes
  3. Tweak the situation
  4. Revamp traditional HR levers

Are you pulling all of the levers and using all of the approaches you can to introduce change? Are you hesitating to do what needs to be done because some are ”crying out” in protest? Are they perhaps crying because they know they need changing? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo credit: texturl on Flickr


Sharing the Know-How to Know How

When explaining complex topics, thought leaders make a clear distinction between two key terms: ”knowledge of” and ”knowledge how.”

Let’s say, for example, that you want to shape your industry to be more agile and responsive to changing demands of the economy. You shouldn’t only show colleagues what that future will look like so that they have ”knowledge of” that vision. It’s important also to show them the way to reach that goal — to give them ”knowledge how” to get there.

to define and articulate change, use knowledge of and knowledge howSimilarly, if you want to change the culture of your organization, it’s important not only to give them ”knowledge of” what the changes look like and the advantages the new culture will bring. You must impart to them ”knowledge how.” Articulate clearly the steps each employee — no matter where in the organization they sit — will need to take to move toward the defined future.

Cultural change is a journey, not a destination. Employees need ”knowledge of” the destination and ”knowledge how” to navigate the path ahead.

Do you need help defining and articulating the roadmap to change internally or externally? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Resistance and Renaissance: A Metaphor for Managing Change

Renaissance Resistance West Zurich

Renaissance or resistance? Diverging views on change may stall or stop important initiatives. Photo:

In the trendy western part of Zurich is the Renaissance building, a tall hotel-apartment complex that has continued since its conception to draw the ire of some vocal Swiss opponents who object to the placement, size and scale of the ”skyscraper” with 15 stories. Local residents have staged a form of permanent protest by attaching a sign to an older, more traditional building in the neighborhood. That sign, in the same font and style as the Renaissance one nearby, declares the owners’ point of view: Resistance.

The juxtaposition of the two buildings presents a metaphor for cultural change in the world of business. How often do you, as a leader, try to regenerate your company and meet with reluctance to change? Are you looking to promote a rebirth or renewal of your firm for the future only to find that some employees are still holding tight to the past?

How can you effectively achieve that Renaissance and mitigate any Resistance you might be facing? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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How to Live Well in These Exponential Times

what happens in an internet minute infographicYou may have heard the old phrase ”in a New York minute” to describe something that happened very quickly. A new term might be better to reflect today’s fast pace of business: ”in an internet minute.” Continue Reading…

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Watching your Company Develop

Two video “memes” making the rounds right now in cyberspace are taken from photographs of children growing up from babies to teens. Using time-lapse photography, the videos capture the changes that occur as the children mature. What’s so special about these videos is that the photos reveal not only the children’s physical changes but also their personality changes as they develop.

As a company grows, it, too, develops and matures in its physical form, its outlook and its personality, which is often called its culture. You, as a thought leader inside your company, are responsible for guiding this maturation process, but how are you capturing the firm’s development for posterity? What snapshots in time best reflect the growth of your company’s culture?

Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Where’s Your Company’s Newsroom?

Our newsroom Swiss National Railway advertThe Swiss National Railway is running an ad campaign right now that shows a comfortably crowded train carriage filled with smiling commuters.  Now I’m not going to comment on the truth displayed in that picture of people happily standing on a busy train during rush hour ”en route home”. But I do want to point out that the ad’s caption seems appropriate: ”Our Newsroom.”

In this virtual newsroom, commuters appear to be multitasking rather than focusing on what they’re reading. They’re reading news from their iPads, mobile phones, magazines and newspapers, like 20 Minutes.

That particular newspaper features prominently in the Swiss commuters daily consumption of news, as evidenced by the number distributed (circulation 700,000). Five Swiss cities have their own ”freebie papers” given out to commuters in the morning (20 Minutes) and the evening (Blick am Abend). The content is generally the same in all editions, with some tailored stories, specialized ads and local weather reports added in. All of these papers have short, lively content and colorful photos that attract readers.

Despite the already-frenetic pace, media consumption is growing. The Swiss Media Association recently published a surprising statistic about how Swiss are ”media hounds.” The average Swiss household spent 3150 CHF in 2011, about 8% more than the previous year.

And that brings us to the point of this blog: Today your employees are getting their information on a wide range of topics, on a wide range of devices, in a wide range of settings, tailored to their interests and needs.

Are you offering that wide range of options for them? Are you offering short, readable pieces that are attractive to your ”distracted” employees?  Are you meeting them where they are…in their ”newsroom”? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Pink Matters, Part 3: Female leaders “having it all:” Myth or achievable goal?

The last of these three blogs also focuses on the so-called ”pink ghetto” where women linger in staff jobs while their male counterparts continue to rise to the top. This blog will look at some of the views and statistics that appeared in Annie Marie Slaughter‘s article in the July-August edition of Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.

With such a controversial title and data-driven content that sometimes challenges conventional wisdom, the article has stirred up a ”fe-maelstrom” of commentary from business men and women alike.

Slaughter blames the structure of organizational life for making it difficult, if not impossible, for a woman to have a high-powered full-time career and at the same time to be fully involved as a wife and mother.

It’s a proposition that has been around for at least two decades, according to the daughter of Felice Schwartz, who wrote an article titled “Management Women and the New Facts of Life,” published in the Harvard Business Review. Schwartz’s daughter explained in an HBR blog that what women needed most in the workplace in the 1990s was more flexibility from organizations in balancing family and work at different times during their careers. And they still need it today, the daughter explained:

“The key to making it possible for women (and men) to effectively combine work and family, both Slaughter and my mother agreed, is for employers to provide more options about how, when, and where to do their work.”

In the Atlantic cover article, Slaughter warns women not to believe those who say, ”You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” She points out several half truths about women in the workplace, some of which resonate and some of which contradict, the opinions expressed in the video by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, as covered in my last blog.

  • It’s possible if you are just committed enough
  • It’s possible if you marry the right person
  • It’s possible if you sequence it right

Critics of these concepts cite various reasons that the workplace today is filled with women who suffer from the ”tiara syndrome,” which means that women feel entitled to the wear the corporate crown and lead the professional procession to the top. They also voice concern that the sense of entitlement that some women feel is a mask for not working hard enough to achieve that goal. ”I didn’t get the job because I’m a woman,” can be a convenient excuse to cover her low performance.

Is your organization actively dealing effectively with pink matters — as well as gray matters? If you as a thought leader are still uncertain, then it’s definitely time to ask, assess, then act.  We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Part 2: Practical advice for aspiring women business leadersPart 1: Pink Matters: Women are still scarce in the C-suite

Pink Matters, Part 2: Practical advice for aspiring women business leaders

TED talks sheryl sandberg on women leadersMy 30-year-old stepdaughter recently sent me an interesting and entertaining video link  featuring Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Sandberg pointed out some of the gender inequities in the business world and offered three ”self-help remedies”:

  1. Sit at the table. Sandberg has seen women who don’t take a seat at the table in important meetings but remain on the sidelines, both literally and metaphorically.
  2. Make your partner a real partner. Sandberg emphasized the importance of having a supportive spouse as you climb the career ladder.
  3. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg noted a tendency among women in child-bearing years to stop ”raising their hands” well before they actually need to take maternity leave.

Sandberg also cited a Harvard Business School study that showed how success and likeability were positively correlated in men, but not in women. Gender stereotypes can be reinforced by the lack of positive role models for women in the workplace — women who are successful and well liked by male and female co-workers.

It’s not that most women don’t want to be successful.  A study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that 91% of senior-level UK women surveyed, compared with 76% of UK men, want to be promoted.

On a lighter note, however, journalist Arianna Huffington thinks that women have a more difficult time being successful in their careers for another reason. They don’t get enough sleep. In fact, she says, that’s why women really should sleep their way to the top…in a chaste way, of course.

Are you as a thought leader clearing away the barriers for women in your organization and helping them find the way to success at the top? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:Part 3: Female leaders “having it all:” Myth or achievable goal?
Part 1: Pink Matters: Women are still scarce in the C-suite

Pink Matters, Part 1: Women are still scarce in the C-suite

You might have noted a recent trend in this blog to focus on color. An obvious color combination to describe a major water conference like Singapore International Water Week was ”blue and gold and green.” The last two blog entries were about the ”gray ceiling,” and this one is about the ”pink ghetto.”

”Pink ghetto” is a trendy buzzword for women hitting a glass ceiling and not being able to break through it. Rather than ‘living in the boardrooms,’ they remain in the so-called pink ghetto of middle management in staff roles.

A new McKinsey & Co. study reports that 50% to 65% of women at the vice-president level and higher are in staff roles, compared with only 41% to 48% of men, who are more likely to be in the line jobs that lead to the top.

According to data from the Center for Talent Innovation, U.S. women make up only 34% of what they refer to as the “marzipan layer,” the talent-rich level right below the icing on the corporate cake. UK women comprise just 24%.

Click to view at full size

To open the gates of the pink ghetto, one INSEAD professor of organizational behavior, Herminia Ibarra, suggested that CEOs who want better results should commit to assigning women to business-critical roles.

Ibarra cited the Corporate Gender Gap Report report she co-authored for the World Economic Forum (PDF), In which the top HR person in the largest companies of 20 OECD countries: “Among the assignments that you consider to be business critical/important, what percentage, in your opinion, are currently held by women (e.g., key start-ups, turnarounds, and line roles in key business units or markets)?” Sadly but not surprisingly, the most common answers were “0-10%” or “not measured.”

Her solution is to apply what she calls the 70-20-10 rule. In addition to 20% of learning and development coming from mentoring and 10% coming from classroom learning, 70% should come from on-the-job learning through stretch assignments in pivotal roles.

Other research by the Center for Talent Innovation also suggested that mentorship, strategic alliances or sponsorship is vital: UK women with sponsors are 52% more likely to be satisfied with their rate of advancement than those without.

Are you as a thought leader focused on effective ways to get deserving women out of the pink ghetto and into the C-suite? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Part 3: Female leaders “having it all:” Myth or achievable goal?
Part 2: Practical advice for aspiring women business leaders

Gray Matters, Part 2: Engage your organization’s emerging, next-generation leaders

See related post: Gray Matters, Part 1: Assessing executive career opportunities after age 50

holding the keys and older business execs not turning over leadership to gen x workers

Are over-50 business leaders gripping the “keys to the kingdom” too tightly?

When older, over-50 workers break through the “gray ceiling” and continue their careers, that can mean fewer jobs for younger workers. Several years ago, Fortune Magazine described this workplace phenomenon in this way: “Generation X, it would seem, is in danger of turning into the Prince Charles of the American workforce: perpetual heirs apparent awaiting the keys to the kingdom.”

More recently, Sylvia Ann Hewlett pointed out in a Harvard Business Review blog: “Unlike Prince Charles, though, Gen X’ers don’t plan to stick around and hope for the crown.”The blog cited a survey from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) that found 37% of Generation X workers surveyed were looking to leave their current employers within the next three years and co-related that to the lack of promotion possibilities in companies that retain older workers.

Suggestions for holding onto both generations of workers included mentoring programs that pair up Baby Boomer managers with Generation X employees and setting up intergenerational teams that will bond them to each other and to the company.

Are you doing all the right things to reward Generation X workers if you can’t promote them? How can you keep them engaged and committed until they, too, are old enough to hit — and then break through — the gray ceiling? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Another Gray Matter: Dorian Gray and Lessons in Authentic LeadershipPart 1: Assessing executive career opportunities after age 50

Photo credit: mharrsch on Flickr


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