Archive for June, 2011

Crisis, Allies & Trust

June 20, 2011

Just three  months ago, Japan experienced unprecedented damage from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. These three catastrophic events created enormous upheaval with many deaths and huge challenges for leaders in all sectors.

 Black Out Conditions

Japanese  Prime Minister  Kan  became wildly popular 20 years ago for  his ethics and mission focus.  As health minister he  exposed his own ministry’s use of HIV  tainted blood which caused illness and death. This corruption was  long known by others but conveniently ignored. A savvy man, for sure, but in the recent crisis, analysts now say  he was “acting in  near black-out conditions.”  Fortunately, Kan’s work history, his instincts and a handful of trusted co-workers  helped him navigate. During the  crisis and long after, the thick politics between primary stakeholders in the drama have been  obstructions.

In hindsight, deep mistrust was a key factor in this situation. It added delay when urgency was vital, and it cost credibility with both citizens and nations alike. Because Kan could not rely on people in key positions the severe implications from multiple disasters was not obvious for many days. In addition, advisers in important roles were unaware of the resources available to them. The right information was not shared quickly.

Find Capable , Ethical Allies

In an important confluence of events, the plant manager at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant bucked the system.  Despite the pressure of crisis, Mr. Yoshida, who had built a reputation for ethical choices and capable behavior, acted  fast. He allowed seawater to cool the nuclear core and defied orders  from his employer. Experts say this decision almost certainly prevented far more damage.  A day after the tsunami, Prime Minister Kan took a trip to the nuclear plant. Kan met Yoshida and was impressed by his candor. The Prime Minister recognized an ally who would “do the right thing” and was highly capable.

The bold moves of a few thoughtful people  in  the  Japanese crisis offer important leadership examples. It reminds us that credibility is tested in small ways  — daily. People are watching. They see patterns of behaviors. Dishonesty, avoidance, denial are errors that could derail your objectives. Display trustworthiness through transparency, facts, and  thoughtful analysis. Acknowledge mistakes. It underscores your credibility and creates essential trust.

Trust & Mission-Focus

Suspicion is not a hospitable environment for high performance. It can (and does) dramatically affect decisions. Quality information and consistent credible actions contribute to trust. Acting consistently on shared values offers encouragement. It shows a commitment to common good, mission, and to ideals that are bigger than self. Do all you can to squash petty politics for efforts on the “right work.” In the midst of the routine or calamity, build trust and keep a mission focus. These are a welcome refuge for your colleagues.

If you’re hoping people will follow you – act in worthy ways.

 –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author &  W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow.See:: www.pwkinc.com

So Facts Have A Chance – Lead With Values

June 6, 2011

 

What’s the best way to position change?

  • Connect to emotions through values and beliefs.
  • Support with dynamite facts.
  • Launch with specific and challenging objectives.

Yale studies have shown fictional newspaper headlines score differently with readers depending on resonance with their values.  Dan Kahan calls this “a culture war of fact.” Values and beliefs predispose one to reception of information. Simply put: a rational case is wholly inadequate to drive change.

 The Stubborn Status Quo

People and systems are desperately stubborn about keeping the status quo. Closed minds, preferences, established interests and other factors work hard to keep things the same. Regardless of how “broken,” the familiar is far preferred to new and different. This context is a fundamental reality in change management.

Inside organizations, managing change may be explicit or  embedded in other work. As an intentional adaption, change is often focused on efficiency or effectiveness.   Sometimes it’s competencies among sales staff, other times it might mean new processes in logistics and supply, purchasing or a software upgrade. In large organizations this special work is conceived and managed by organization development (OD) or effectiveness (OE) functions.

 People & Emotion

Regardless of the context it always means working with people. It very often requires learning. It also translates to deliberate attention to culture, strategy, and structures. This post brings a gentle reminder: it is never devoid of emotion.

 In your role as a manager and leader, you have special considerations in paving the way for new and different. Citing a clear case of need is logical and necessary. However, research shows that progress is rarely affected by facts alone. Six decades ago Stanford psychologist Leon Festinger wrote “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he fails to see your point.”

Even when evidence is unequivocal, “motivated reasoning” or pre-existing beliefs skew opinion and behavior far more than facts. An enthusiastic and urgent message that resonates with emotion is powerful.  Positive and negative feelings about others, things and ideas occur far more rapidly (in milliseconds) than our conscious thought. Humans push away perceptions of threat; we pull comforting information close.

 Facts Alone Fail

Have you ever failed with a direct, unadorned attempt to persuade via facts? Sometimes this doesn’t change minds but empowers the current point of view. It can result in wrong views held more tenaciously. This underscores why appeals to (and support for) emotions are essential to convince people to take the journey from their current reality to a new one.

Given the power of prior beliefs, if you want someone to accept new evidence, be sure to offer it in a way that avoids a defensive emotional reaction. So the facts have a chance, lead with values.

  –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow.

See : www.pwkinc.com


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