Archives For Save The Drama Series

Last week we looked at some common myths surrounding change management that have the potential to derail the change effort. Organizational change often reminds me of the movie Jumanji that involves a supernatural boardgame that brings its jungle world to life and puts the actual players in jeopardy of being maimed, or perhaps worse yet, caught in the drama forever. Sound familiar? It’s a jungle out there, and if you want to avoid drama that could maim your change effort, not only do you need to dispel myths (last weeks post), but you also need to put solid game rules in place that will keep everyone on the same game board. Here are some suggestions to foster effective change:

1. Acknowledge The 300 Pound Gorilla In The Room

Don’t try and institute change covertly
- silence, denial and mislabeling always make the situation worse.  Call the gorilla, well… a gorilla – let your people know that there are uncomfortable changes taking place. Demonstrate your commitment by asking your opinion leaders for their ideas as to how to go about the change… and actually implement the best contributions. If you want your people to embrace change, they must have a chance to voice concerns and offer input. Effective change management includes listening carefully to concerns and fears – perceived, imagined, or legitimate – that could become barriers. Open communication provides valuable insight, letting you lay the foundations for effective change.

2. Provide Clear, Concise Communications

Even the most dedicated employees want to know how change will affect them personally. It is critical to provide clear and accurate information to the furthest extent possible. Whether they say it or not, people will naturally question:

  • How the change will affect them
  • What they will need to do differently
  • If they will need additional skills to be successful… if so, how will they learn them?
  • How they will know if the change is good for them
  • If the change will affect their position. Will they be moved or eliminated?

Communicate openly. People can more easily accept change if they know what to expect. Managing expectations is tricky, but it’s vital to success.  Make the case for change –  provide a clear and convincing rationale for the change and support it with sound evidence. Let those affected know about the proposed change in advance. Advise everyone of the honest implications for individuals, teams, functions, and organizations.

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It is inevitable – change creates drama in most organizations. However, you have a choice as to whether you deal with change effectively or let it spiral out of control  – controlling you and creating unnecessary drama! Leaders need to be able to present a unified vision and convey support if they expect their people to embrace change. Indifference can lead to a rapid demise of the change effort. As a leader invoking change, make sure you provide:

  • A vision for how the change will impact the individual, team, division and organization
  • A firm commitment to change goals, while accepting input on the details
  • Specific, achievable objectives along with plans for achieving them
  • A roadmap for success with realistic timelines, budgets, and owners
  • A communication framework to support change adoption
  • Opportunities for people to give feedback during and after the change

Admittedly, organizational change is complex, but we often make it harder on ourselves than it has to be. Just as in the board game Clue, it is easy to engage in false assumptions that can lead our people down the path of suspicion and drama – away from the truth and the ultimate win. The result? A whole lot of ambiguous thinking regarding the application of structured, human-focused, change within the organization.

Here are just a few examples of how we can easily fall victim to false assumptions over our own realities:

People Resist Change: Actually, not always. People frequently seek out drastic changes in their lives and voluntarily embrace them. People do, however, resist being forced to change.
 How change is presented and managed will impact its success or failure far more than the change itself.  Most of us respond far better to change when we comprehend a valid reason for it – without solid justification, most people are likely to resist anyone who tries to force change upon them… and cause drama along the way.

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You can bet that if you do not set and manage expectations, drama will invite itself in for an extended visit. When people do not know what is expected, they will create their own expectations – and they most likely will not align across the organization. Disagreements and controversy ensue, causing chaos and distraction from driving positive results.  While setting and managing expectations may seem time consuming, the cost – in time, effort, and drama – of not doing so far exceeds that of being responsible and clearly letting people know what you expect of them.

Before you, as a leader, can hold people accountable for outcomes, you have to let them know what success looks like and what you expect to see as a result of their efforts.  If everyone knows what is expected, the focus is on driving for results and monitoring against set standards. The benefit of setting and managing expectations is twofold:

  1. Clear, concise expectations drive actions and decisions.
  2. Explicit expectations are a primary driver of success.

If you fail to create an environment where expectations are well understood and respected by your people, you are highly unlikely to develop a high-performing organization… or deliver strong business results.

Expectations are like the rules in the board game Sorry! When everyone knows the “rules” or “expectations”, some may try and cheat (like my husband, who can’t stand to lose), but the other players will hold the cheater accountable. When no one knows the rules, it is impossible to be accountable, much less hold anyone else accountable to anything.  Organizations are no different – if you want your players to know how to play to win and hold others accountable, you are responsible for setting and managing expectations.

When setting expectations, consider these four principles:

1. Clarity

Expectations should focus on outcomes, not activities. Leaders often make the mistake of attempting to direct the process that will be used, rather than focusing on the desired outcome. As a leader, you should be responsible for identifying the goal, while the employee (or the team) is then responsible for developing how to meet or exceed expectations.

2. Relevance

Relevance helps define the “why” of what is expected. If employees have complete understanding of the importance of what they are asked to deliver, they will be more committed to the result because they see how it fits into the big picture, as well as how their efforts impact the company.

3. Simplicity.

Simplicity creates a sense of grounding for both individuals and teams. If you identify what is expected in simple, straightforward terms, there is a clear understanding of exactly what is expected.

4.  Consistency

After setting expectations, you must maintain a consistent approach to managing expectations that can be applied in most situations. This facilitates a sense of unity and equality, and will bolster morale across the organization.

Now, let’s consider three important components to managing expectations:

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Gossip is as old as mankind, and if you have drama in the workplace – you more than likely have gossip. They can be found in nearly every workplace, these conspiratorial conversations that are more often than not unverified, unsubstantiated, and occasionally unseemly. It can be the type of chatter that can appear, at face value, as harmless speculation or good-natured teasing,  but if left unchecked, has the potential to severely impact your ability to generate positive business results. Leaders need to recognize that gossip can have a profound effect on their bottom line, and that not having a strategy to handle it could be a recipe for disaster.

It may sound like a harmless, unavoidable by-product of corporate life, but left unchecked, gossip can wreak havoc on company morale and efficiency. A negative work environment is a less productive work environment. Gossip can create an uncomfortable atmosphere –  not only for the person the gossip is about, but for everyone in the workplace.

Gossip can often become likened to the old childhood game of “Telephone”, where one person starts the spread of information, and by the time it reaches the last person, it has evolved and changed into something entirely different. Some gossip may have truth to it, while other information carried on the gossip relay may be false. Either way, gossip is a harmful means of communication and should be avoided.

Here are just a few destructive results of gossip in the workplace:

  • Wasted time and lost productivity
  • Severe erosion of trust and morale
  • Hurt feelings and the possibility of reprisals
  • Miscommunication leading to conflict, missed opportunities or misinformation
  • Heightened fear or falsely raised expectations
  • A “toxic” work environment

Now that you understand the serious impact that gossip can have, what can you do about it? First, you need to understand that you are not likely to completely eliminate it. However, you also need to understand that how an organization deals with habitual gossip can be mean the difference between growing and thriving… or disintegrating from within. Understanding the effect it has on achieving your organization’s goals and objectives, your goal should be to limit gossip to the greatest extent possible.  Below are some tips for controlling gossip in the workplace:

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We have all experienced workplace drama in one form or another. It can be unpleasant, irritating, and disruptive  – often preventing organizations from effectively meeting their goals.  As a leader, you are responsible for maintaining a productive, drama-free workplace. You rely on people to do their jobs in such a way that results are successfully achieved. Because you work with people to get things done, you are likely to experience drama in the workplace. It can sometimes feel like an experience similar to the television show “The Nanny” – the kids (your organization) are spoiled and/or unruly, and you are the Nanny – responsible for teaching the foundational skills that lead to organizational success. However, in the workplace (just as with dysfunctional families) the gossip, complaining, and backstabbing leads to full blown negativity that will result in increased turnover and absenteeism. How you manage drama within your organization may determine your ultimate outcomes.

It may feel personal at times, but as the “Nanny”, it is your job to get the children back in line, ensuring they learn and engage in appropriate behaviors that will create positive results for the organization. For the next few weeks, we will explore several ideas – hopefully providing you, the leader, with a toolbox to ensure that you are in a position to eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) drama in the workplace. If you successfully manage the drama, you are much more likely to see the positive results you desire.

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