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Category Archives: Managing/Leadership

3 Ways to be a Successful Change Leader

Communications, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Sacramento, Team Building

By Debbie Blagsvedt, CSM, LSSGB

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realists adjust the sails.” – one of many inspirational quotes by William Author Ward, whose words reminded me how difficult the winds of change can be for change leaders.

Change is hard. People like their comfort zones and take great measures to protect them. While there are those who get on board with the change, some people only adjust to it as time sails on. A change leader’s role is to influence and inspire people even though they may not support it.

Here are three tips for change leaders to help navigate the winds of change to ensure setting sails toward your destination.

1. Accept the impact of the change. When a change is announced, people may feel stunned and disillusioned, particularly when they feel the change is being done to them. People are not always equipped to deal with uncertainty while maintaining the job they were hired to do. What we know is that resistance is normal, and often people’s reactions hide their rational thoughts about how the change may be beneficial. Change leaders need to be cognizant of where people are in the change journey and know that individuals will not always catch the wind, but rather will set the sails when they are ready to embark on the change journey.

Be aware of individual’s concerns and take actions to address them.

2. Set sail with emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage yours and others’ emotions, as well as the ability to manage interactions and relationships successfully. Emotional intelligence helps change leaders manage people and themselves during change. Change leaders must be aware of their emotional impact and know how to proactively influence a project team’s emotional state though moving from pessimism to optimism.

Focus on sharpening your emotional intelligence to create positive emotions to help shape the organization’s climate towards change.

3. Head up the wind with strengths. Understanding, acknowledging, and building on the strengths of people who have contributed to past successes make change feel less like an imposition from the top and more like a shared goal. Successful change leaders know the value in facing those winds by focusing on the strengths of the crew.

When assembling a project team, make sure you have the right combination of people who have the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to sail towards a successful change journey.

Did you know KAI Partners provides change management solutions and services to clients in California and beyond? Interested in learning more? Contact us today at info@kaipartners.com.

About the Author: Debbie Blagsvedt is an Organizational Change Consultant with over 25 years’ experience in change management, performance management, process improvement, training, and facilitation. She has a worked in both the private, public, and non-profit sectors in industries that include health, legal, financial, social services, high tech, and transportation. She currently works as an Organizational Change Consultant with KAI Partners on assignment with a child welfare services agency. Debbie is passionate about collaboration among teams which she believes leads to high employee satisfaction and is equally fascinated with the rapid-fire speed of change and what it means for organizations today. Debbie grew up in the bay area but now considers Sacramento her home. She has many interests from home projects to wine tasting, volunteering, witnessing the changing face of Sacramento, and going on new adventures with her family and friends…Not to mention nightly walks and occasional mountain hikes with her dog, Emmett.

3 Things Leaders Can Do to Be Better Change Agents

Best Practices, Communications, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM)

By Denise Larcade, CSM, CSPO, LSSGB, Prosci

One of the most common things I’ve seen through numerous mergers and acquisitions or other major change events within an organization is the lack of engagement and communications from leadership.

Oftentimes, leaders are so busy leading the change, they forget to play an active role in the communications process.

Unfortunately, not adequately communicating change events to staff can cause the rumor mill to start churning (at best) or employee upheaval (at worst).

Luckily, there are some easy ways leaders can mitigate the feelings of confusion and disorder for employees that often come with times of change:

  1. Be Present

As a leader, your physical presence is not only needed, it’s required. Your employees need to see you at town hall meetings, open forums, staff meetings, etc. Anywhere their presence is mandatory, yours should be too.

We know you’re busy; it’s likely not possible for you to attend every town hall meeting across all shifts. Plus, you are already involved in the planning process, so why would you need to be present at these meetings? Remember, your staff doesn’t necessarily know what you know, nor do they know how much you know.

Be present by attending the last 5-10 minutes of each meetings. At the meeting, engage employees by asking questions:

  • What did you learn today?
  • How was this meeting valuable?
  • What can we do better next time?

This shows you are engaged in the discussion while also getting direct feedback on how the communications process can be improved going forward.

  1. Be Honest

The rumor mill can start for numerous reasons:

  • Leaders themselves are not sure about what’s going on within the organization and so they avoid discussions about it
  • The information cascade is not working effectively
  • Employees pick up on small changes in attitude and draw their own conclusions about what’s going on—Joe seemed grumpy today, that must mean a layoff is going to happen.

No matter how the rumors start, it’s important to address them directly, rather than hope they go away. To identify which rumors are out there, try implementing smaller focus group-like sessions. These sessions should include people from across all different departments and should be facilitated by a member of the leadership team who does not directly supervise any of the staff in attendance.

Scheduling these focus groups can be tricky at first (you can schedule video calls with remote teams), but the benefits are numerous. Allowing staff to talk through whatever is on their mind in a small group setting brings about honest conversation, as well as informing leadership about which rumors are out there and need to be addressed.

You can squash the rumors in the focus group itself, as well as address the rumors at the next open forum or town hall. Remember to put questions and answers in a shared location so that all staff can see what was discussed. I recommended keeping the identity of the question-askers anonymous.

For longer change activities—6 months or more—consider setting up an internal webpage or SharePoint where people can ask questions and leadership can provide answers. If updated regularly, this forum can become the first place people look for an answer to a question, and a good way to stop a rumor before it begins.

  1. Be Early

Engage staff early in the change process. If their department is likely to be effected, let them know as soon as it’s appropriate. When possible, bring them into the process to get their feedback about the future state and how they think roles, responsibilities, and procedures should change. When it’s time to implement any changes, employees will be more likely to accept the changes, since they were brought in from the beginning.

It’s also advisable to communicate when you’re going to communicate. Set up a framework or schedule around when people can expect to hear communications and in what form. Whether it’s a monthly town hall meeting on the third Wednesday of the month or an informational email digest each Friday afternoon, set expectations early around when staff will hear updates. The rumor mill has less of a chance to churn if employees know they are scheduled to receive an update at a previously-appointed time.

Change is going to happen whether we like it or not. As a leader, remember to be honest, present, and early in your change communications so that staff is informed, accepts, and is prepared for the change.

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to one of KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

4 Tips to Overcoming Project Challenges

Communications, Employee Engagement, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento

By Denise Larcade, CSM, CSPO, LSSGB, Prosci

My daughter and her family live in the Netherlands and my husband and I are lucky to travel there for a visit every year.

One thing I always look forward to on these trips is talking shop with my son-in-law, Han. He has been a Project Manager for a company there for 15 years. Although he has been an internal corporate project manager for the last 10 years, his prior project management experience was serving international customers at their locations.

Leading up to this year’s visit earlier this summer, I was finishing up my work for a public sector client here in Sacramento. As an organizational change management consultant, the project I worked on involved supporting the standing up and operationalizing of a Project Management Office for one of our public sector clients.

With project management on the brain, I was interested in talking to my son-in-law about how project management differs in the United States versus different countries. I wondered what kinds of challenges project managers from other countries face, and what we can we learn that would help us improve our project management services here in the states.

Below are some project challenges both my son-in-law and talked about—plus his perspective and how they manage these challenges at the company he works for.

1. The Problem: Goals. Goals are identified at the highest level and not defined or translated to projects successfully, resulting in a lack of clarity, direction, and committed deadlines.

According to Han: It’s about communication and translating the goals into the right key performance indicators (KPIs). Also, management needs to set an example. A radio commercial I heard mentioned that if health is an issue in a company, it’s not a matter of defining all kinds of improvement programs—managers need to behave according to the ultimate goal themselves. It’s the same with parenting—don’t tell your children not to abuse smartphones, while parents sit at the dinner table with social media on standby.

2. The Problem: Accountability. No one wants to take responsibility and tends to point the finger at someone else.

According to Han: One of the key points at my company is to speak up in the case of a mistake. The Dutch believe strongly that it’s better to let others know sooner rather than later, since that speeds up fixing the problem much faster and avoids any worse outcomes. When I’ve worked with American engineers, I have experienced two instances where an engineer was fired on the spot for making a mistake. Obviously, that punishment undermined trust and encouraged people not to admit mistakes or to avoid difficult situations.

I do recognize that employees don’t take responsibility/accountability, which puzzles management. I think it’s kind of a circle effect, where management doesn’t trust the employees because goals are not met. Consequently, management gets over-involved, making decisions which are not supported by the employees, who then will just carry out what is asked from them, without actually believing it’s the right direction. As a result, management thinks employees don’t take responsibility, whereas employees are actually overruled too much.

3. The Problem: Communication. Project success can often be attributed to a project manager’s ability to effectively communicate to the project team in a timely manner. A lack of communication leaves the project manager in the position to blindly lead a team without leadership support or awareness to impacts or changes. Even the best communicator finds it difficult to be successful if they don’t have exposure or access to upper management and leadership. A team can successfully deliver on the wrong goal if the project manager does not have multi-directional communication.

According to Han: Obviously, I think this problem is not much different anywhere. The difference is that Dutch have no problem (less hierarchy) asking ‘why’ at all levels.

4. The Problem: Managing Expectations. Realistic expectations must be identified and communicated. Unreasonable deadlines, insufficient resources, and/or lack of stakeholder engagement can result in project failure

According to Han: By default, the plans at my company are often too ambitious. On the other hand, a clear and challenging goal must be set at a high level and it’s up to the rest of organization to create and show a plan that is realistic and feasible. There will always be setbacks and unforeseen circumstances along the way. To anticipate the possible risks, all kinds of methods are used—FMEAs, risk mitigation plans, etc. But, let’s not forget that the goal itself is perhaps not the most important, but rather the reason ‘why’ the goal was set.

No matter where in the world we are, there are challenges we face in project management. What I have learned is that as project management and change professionals, we have more in common than we think, despite how many miles apart we are. Vacation in the Netherlands with my family—and listening to and learning about my son-in-law’s professional perspectives—is not only refreshing, but recharges me as I return to the daily challenges of project work.

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to one of KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

3 Tips on Using Servant Leadership to Build Successful Relationships

Co-working, Communications, Employee Engagement, Human Resources, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Sacramento, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM, The WorkShop

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D, SHRM-CP, CSM, LSSGB

As a People Operations Manager (traditionally, an HR Manager), my focus is relationship centric. From relationship management to talent management and everything in between, people are at the center of what I do—hence my job title!

Without strong relationships, I would not be able to do my job effectively. Business relationships are important both outside and inside of the organization. Strong relationships lead to strong teams. These are important in any organization because there is an ability to accomplish more together than as individuals. But how does one go about building strong and resilient relationships?

Relationships fundamentally, must be two pronged. There must be effort made on both sides for a strong working relationship to develop. The expectation must be mutual where all parties feel that equal participation and effort are being put forth. This creates accountability and reliability as well. Managing that expectation is important to making sure everyone is on the same page.

In my organization, we have always worked in teams in one way or another. I have worked with teams as small as two and as large as eight. As an introvert, working on teams was not always my first choice; however, I’ve come to not only appreciate the team dynamic but in some instances, I rely on those relationships when I’m stuck or just need to talk through something that I am working on. And, I am able to offer the same to my colleagues as well, because we have built that relationship.

Ideally, the focus of the relationship is not what you can get out of it.

Relationships are about what you put into it and what you can offer the other person, like the sharing of ideas and strengths to get to the best possible outcome.

In my opinion, a relationship needs be cultivated and built. One way this can be done is through a servant leadership approach or attitude, which demonstrates care and compassion. It is the will to serve others first. Here are a few ideas to demonstrate how using a servant leadership approach can assist you in developing strong lasting relationships and teams.

  1. Demonstrate and Encourage: Build the kind of relationship and team you want through example. Let others see you serve and it will naturally encourage that behavior in others. People see what you do and if you are serving others that in turn cultivates strong relationships and teams, it will catch on and others will want to join you.
  2. Invest: Give others your time. Offer to assist with projects, brainstorm together, etc. Let people know that you’re not too busy to assist them. Everyone’s time is valuable—show that by giving away some of yours.
  3. Care: One of the best ways we can build relationships in through example. The way we treat others is a direct reflection on how we want to be treated. Showing care for others is a fundamental stepping stone to building a strong, resilient, and lasting relationship.

KAI Partners recently celebrated 15 years of doing business in California. One way we’ve accomplished this is by fostering our relationships. Our new co-working space, The WorkShop – Sacramento, follows this same model. If you’re looking for a community of individuals who are always willing to talk through an issue or help one another succeed, then look no further than The WorkShop.

About the Author: Dr. Melissa McManus is the Human Resources Manager for KAI Partners. Melissa is passionate about human behavior and knowledge transfer and believes that human capital drives any organization to success. Melissa is a CSM, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and SHRM-Certified Professional. She holds a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. She is ardent about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), going to the movies, spending time with her munchkins, line dancing, being with friends and wine tasting.

Why the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt is Ideal for Managers [INFOGRAPHIC]

Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Infographic, KAIP Academy, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Professional Development, Sacramento, Six Sigma, Training, Workforce Development

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM

Are you thinking about getting a Lean Six Sigma certification? With several levels to choose from, it can be hard to know which is best for you. Here’s some insight:

Yellow Belts are professionals who have enough of the basic language and tools to act as subject matter experts. They’re empowered to make changes within their own work, but not quite prepared to tackle larger products. A Yellow Belt will give you the basics of Lean.

As a manager, though, you’re probably already spending your day collecting and analyzing data to implement fixes. Here’s where a Green Belt comes in. A Green Belt designation can help you utilize that data more effectively. Green Belt practitioners are equipped with the tools necessary to work on more complex projects and begin to lead change. A Green Belt also prepares you for the next step in Lean Six Sigma Certification: A Black Belt, for the advanced practitioner.

Need more? Here are the top three reasons why managers should be certified in Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

Interested in getting your Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification? The KAIP Academy is accredited through the Council for Six Sigma Certification as an independent training provider. For a list of our current Lean course offerings in Sacramento, visit http://academy.kaipartners.com/course/lean-six-sigma-green-belt-certification/.

About the Author: Ashley Christman is a former nurse and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a background in organizational change management and Lean. Her extensive experience in healthcare quality and performance improvement has transformed a number of organizations and led to better outcomes in patient care, reductions in wait times, and more. Her experience includes consulting for the CA Department of Public Health as well as multiple large hospital systems, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Hospital. Her passion for improvement and educating others led her to begin teaching in order to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders create a sustainable culture change by empowering them to be change agents and champions of innovation. You can find her online at @learnlivelean on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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