The Engagement Fulcrum

Workplace has been traditionally a ‘tell’ environment. If you are not familiar with engagement-led models, how do you lead change when a ‘tell’ is not an option?

When working with people who are new to engagement models, the common themes tend to be based around all of some of the below:

  1. We’ll never deliver on time/on budget
  2. I don’t have time/am too experienced/other to have to learn new stuff
  3. I may mess this up and look stupid
  4. Engaging with Bob is going to be a whole world of pain I could do without

So let’s just stick with the ‘tell’, it’ll be easier to maintain control on all of the above.

Control and Engagement, not easy bedfellows. It’s like a seesaw. The more control applied to one end has an equal and opposite effect on the other end. The skill is managing how the control is applied so the other end reacts the way you want it to. Oh, plus emotions, that ever-present ingredient.

Seesaw Example:

  • High control = low engagement = end users get what they are given.
    seesaw underdog status - leahy

    How not to view the process…..!           (Source unknown)

    • Emotion: Impacts trust, loyalty, well being, employee satisfaction.
  • Low control = High engagement = end users expect to get what they want.
    • Emotion: Confusion, frustration; and I’ll be taking bets on ‘high dudgeon’ if things get really bad.

Find a balance. If you wish to engage, and I recommend you do, try this:

Always

  • Get your ducks in a row first. Be detailed and thorough when setting up your Framework of Influence.
  • Carry out mind-mapping, categorise the output, group into common themes. Use front-line knowledge and proven experience to help you do this. Also get these people to support you with a dry run, or soft landing if they are also part of the change. Incorporate feedback.
  • Maintain credibility with your end users and mind the 5P’s**

    influence, kinnarps gensler future of work

    (Source: Kinnarps-Gensler ‘The Future of Work March 2017)

  • Choose your attitude. Assume the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Prepare to be challenged; some cultures will engage most obediently, others will engage with hearty debate or eye-watering ‘black & white’ directness. None of which is wrong, except for offensiveness. Accept that different cultures have different methods, including their definition of ‘offensive’.
  • Be prepared to politely and firmly direct people back to the framework model. If asking for a swimming pool is out of scope, do not support conversations about how great it would be to have one.
  • Acknowledge if you need to hire someone to do the engagement for you. They will have tried and tested tools which work, and work well; do you really want to reinvent the wheel? After all, it was a long, bumpy journey between rolling over logs and using an inflatable tyre.
  • Remember: if you are leading the change, or asking people to change, you must adopt and embody those changes. People will look to you. Walk your talk if you want the change to both land well and be sustainable.

——

*Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance….but you knew that already, right?

 

.

Advertisements

Creature Comforts

Changing ways of working is about changing the mindset, adopting new tools and finding ways of what works for the individual.

I love caddisfly larvae.  This is probably down to reading Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Water Babies’ back in my dim and distant kindergarten years. The only time they are prettier and more charming than hermit crabs is when man interferes but I admire their ability to make a home for themselves out of selective detritus. Possibly a bit like the average desk user….

desk image - organised chaos

Many, many moons ago I had an allocated desk. It was a regular sized, regular desk, with a phone, a chair, a pedestal and a pinnable area.  It had just enough clear surface to house my laptop, my forearms and a re-purposed tile sample as a coffee mug coaster. My excuse was how my workload needed to be managed. There were a series of trays (in/out/pending/not sure), really big projects had really big files that sat separately. There were reference books; the company culture, company standards, a few novels I’ve been given but not taken home. The pinboard was covered in….stuff. In my defense, it was all work-related stuff; no family photos, no toys, no plants, no Star Wars figurines balanced across the top of the monitor in regimented chronological order.

At the end of the desk was a 2.5LM storage unit. It was full. Full of samples for old projects, printed reports, paper catalogues and trade magazines. There was even a pull-out filing rail holding a filing system for all work in progress or had been completed in the last 12 months. Once an active job had been completed, it would be filed. Every Christmas I’d go through the files and shred anything created before the previous Christmas. In effect, at the end of each year there would be 24 months of filing to go though.

Then there was the stuff in, on and behind my pedestal. Moods are fickle. Fancies vary. Where one end-user had seven pairs of shoes in her pedestal (not including the commute’s gym shoes and the pair of heels she had on her feet) mine related to breakfast fads and fancies, which happened at the office because, sometimes, caffeine just isn’t enough.

fb post - stuff on desk

A pretty bad FB update….the clothes were (slowly) en route to a homeless shelter.

One day I had an epiphany. It coincided with a lessened workload therefore space to think. So I chucked everything out. Everything.

  • Filing? The business had more computers than people, a network and our team had online filing. Who needs to keep paper copies, too? It all went. All in one go.
  • Trade Mags? Scan & electronically file anything you’re going to use, URL bookmark companies/products of interest, register for online magazine issues and chuck the paper copies into the recycling bin.
  • Samples? I used them once in a blue moon. Off it all went to the local primary school to help out with their arts and crafts.
  • Trade catalogues? They change every year. Trees give you oxygen, you should love them above the printed page. Recycle what you have and never accept another paper catalogue or price list again.
  • In/Out trays? This turned into an A5 notebook for actions to complete.

These days, I have reduced further still.  Six months ago I was getting through a standard A5 book a quarter. These days I’m working on reducing this to one book per half year as I wean myself off the unbelievably cathartic, deeply satisfying and emotionally rewarding act of crossing items of a list. Admittedly, sometimes with lots and lots of crossing-out along with accusations of having a marginally psychotic gleam in my eye. I blame the caffeine.

asana monkey thing

There have been years of trying different task management platforms, of looking for ways to combine a preferred way of working with whatever is available (and free), all in an effort to streamline effectively – and not have to carry everything around.

There’s an online project management tool now replacing that A5 book of mine. It cross references by task and by calendar giving multiple ways to track progress. It rewards every ticked item with flying unicorns, narwhals, hummingbirds, rainbows and some kind of flying monkey-buffalo thing. Silly? Possibly. But it does give one an enormous sense of gleeful satisfaction.

These days, everything is on GDrive. Nothing is kept on my laptop. The obvious positives are that I/the team can always access everything – and we can work anywhere.

One of the more challenging aspects about workplaces is that people ‘nest’ their desks, like I used to; it marks their territory and gives them comfort. Generally, a heavily personalised/covered desk is a sign that the end user will find any change to their workplace challenging, even if they get to keep their desk. It is hard to let go of all the ‘me’ that surrounds them; but letting go is liberating and confidence building.

I like caddisflies not just for their larvae’s case-making abilities but also for the fact that they start in one medium (water) and move to another (air). They are not constrained by what they are born into but are released as they grow. They let go of that which becomes unnecessary and take flight.

 

How Workplace Change is Like a Novel.

How you engage will impact the acceptance of change – it’s all about how you tell the story.

Long ago and far away I had a boss whose mantra was ‘Do it right, do it once’. This is critical within workplace change. This is because we are dealing with human frailties; each participant brings a different variable to the table.

Now I’m not saying design by committee; reducing everything to the lowest common denominator is a non-viable investment and delivers more disappointment than joy. What I am saying is: know how to engage.

Change is effectively a story about a journey that creates itself in the telling.  Confused? Walk with me a while….and let’s explore two tellings of a story that changed the world.

Story 1: It’s a story about a huge battle. There are swarming crowds of humanoids having a fight, lots of yelling, slashing, and strange, war-machine type things. There’s a big stand-off at the end between two of them, they both die. The end.

Do you care? Neither do I. Life is too short to invest in something that can’t be bothered to invest in you.

Let’s try that again.

Story 2: It’s a story about the innate goodness of people, of friendship and how a journey walked together forms the tightest of bonds. It’s about characters that slowly reveal their sometimes bruised lives, letting us connect and learn what forms their motives and inspiration to continue against all odds. They walk to stand against the absolute horror of oppression and murderous tyranny. They speak to you of the possibilities of a life not worth living while showing you the way to vanquish it. And 63% remember story 5% remember statswhen characters die, you grieve.

They are the same story told in different ways. Story 1 lands you in at the end. There is no context. It does not let you connect with characters and root for someone. It treats you like a commodity.

Story 2 treats you like an individual, introducing you to characters, experiences and emotions that you can identify with. It lets you immerse yourself in the tale. And once you have connected – it stays with you after the final page. That’s why this tale spawned a vast global market (and on reflection it’s a pretty good synopsis of a good number of other books or films that stick with you).

And this is what we get when applying this to a workplace change context:

Scenario: A business has traditional approach to workplace, everyone has a desk. Managers have offices. Space is territorial. The business direction is to expand headcount within the existing building footprint. Significant changes are required to meet business objective.

Workplace Strategy: Based on data analysis (utilisation studies, compliance assessment, densities, headcount forecast, business strategy including IT and Personnel). Decision-maker level meetings take place to discuss opportunities, including relocating headcount to regional (and significantly more cost effective) offices, risks and impacts per options. The Decision-makers arrive at a decision (for this exercise let us assume this excludes regional relocation) based on cost efficiency and speed of delivery, and the new workplace is installed. The employee’s engagement is limited to the grand reveal – and the glories of the rumour mill.

I can tell you now that people who have limited (usually zero) experience of a non-traditional working environment will not have a clue how to use the new workplace.  Where is their ‘home’ for the day? Where are their friends sitting? Where does the boss find their team – and ensure they are actually working? Where do they find the boss? Effectively, where is my ‘tribe’, where is my leader?

It’s Story 1 all over again: the end user is a commodity; the concern was to complete a piece of work and short term financial gain. Someone, somewhere gets some glory (hence the grand reveal) and everyone is dragged along for the ride. I have witnessed instances of resistance and conflict caused by this method.

Badly landed workplace change will result in it being declared a non-viable option, a failure. The end users have been trained that agile working means their worth to their employer is diminished, this will affect morale. Be mindful of your well-poisoners, they can instil an equality of misery more swiftly and effectively than you can instil a positive view of the new workplace.

There is little you can do to come back from a Story 1 method. The emotions associated with work have been negatively impacted; damaged. And people have been bluntly, clumsily, told what to do with the expectation that they will obey. Trying to persuade people that something they have experienced, and been hurt by, is actually a good thing, no really it is – is nigh-on impossible. It’s the old ‘fool me once’ adage in action.

Let’s invest in a scenario that will work:

The powers that be decide on the same workplace strategy as before. Behind the scenes selected stakeholders from across the business (respected, level-headed influencers with a balanced outlook) are approached to be part of the concept working group. Group members include the key stakeholder and appointed workplace strategist/consultant. The group establish a communication strategy.

The Board then make an announcement to all employees, outlining why the change is happening, what the framework is, and when it will start. Why is important. Provide context and understanding. Representatives (approachable, responsible, possibly resistant to change because, let’s face it (and to quote my school chaplain) ‘there’s none so devout as a convert’) are sought for change workshops. Expectations are managed. Frameworks of influence defined. Then you ask a simple question….and listen.

Just. Listen.

This workshop is not about you, it’s about them. It’s a ‘safe place’ where they get to voice their likes, dislikes, frustrations, hopes, fears. Listen to the tone. See who holds the floor and the ear of others. Are there any introverts in this group; with 30-50% of the

Photo: Quietrev.com

Photo: Quietrev.com

workplace[1] being introverted, one hopes so. Identify where there may be challenges – within the workshop group, the end users and the business’s processes. Nudge the conversation back on course, gently nipping rambling in the bud. Use your skills to obtain quality information.

Then, protecting anonymity as best you can, feedback the barometer; Personnel may need to develop management skills or change performance measurements. IT may need to get some investment PDQ. And exactly what is going on with the coffee machine on the 3rd floor?

Do this in each workshop, defining the parameters of each workshop on the outset. The first three drive out the workplace plan.

The second three, are to establish a ‘Charter’ of workplace use. This requires a different selection of people and includes ‘training the trainers’. This ensures a wider inclusion specifically including line managers – after all, how are they to support people in the brave new world if they are learning how it works themselves?IMG_3166

The ‘Charter’ is essentially how end users want to use their workplace. Is it ok to leave used coffee mugs on the meeting tables? Can we have the desks cleaned for us? Can I use my earphones? What about personal phone calls? Should the sofa area be bookable?

The Charter will be unique to each area of the business, it is critical that the end users lead this, thus reinforcing their feeling of ownership and contribution to this change. The Charter will be guided by the culture and moral compass of the business and the employees. Your role is to facilitate the conversation, to enable managers to feel confident leading the change post-completion, and to ensure timing of completion coincides with that of the workplace installation.

This is Story 2. Relationships have been forged. A journey travelled. We’re all in it together (including the bosses), we have not only survived but we have influenced direction; we have been heard. And when the big finale comes, we are ready for the dawn of a new day, for those first steps into a new workplace and we feel able to live here. We know how we are expected to behave. We understand our community.

And like many a good novel, there is an epilogue:

It is also critical that the leadership understands that the existing culture will take time to change so agile working is the norm. Changing the workplace is just the beginning; the workplace behaviour change will need to be regularly coached for many months after completion until the change is absorbed into the culture. Where habits return to the old method this is because the change “[Began] with a vision or story, but [failed] to put in place the management tools that will cement the behavioral changes in place.” [2]

[1] Susan Cain, www.quietrev.com and author of Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/07/23/how-do-you-change-an-organizational-culture/