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Why Can’t People Just Listen!


snoringI have been in the business of leadership development, change management, and executive coaching for quite some time. Through the years, I have often heard CEOs, senior leaders, managers, supervisors, teachers, wives (including mine), husbands, fathers, mothers, mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law (mine included) as well as sons and daughters (including my own) say something along the lines of “I don’t know how many times I’ve told you that you should do this or that, but you just don’t get it,” or “you just don’t care,” or “you just don’t listen,” or “it’s hard for me to understand why you are so stubborn, and I don’t know how to get you to listen to me and change.”

Ask yourself, how many times have you used a statement such as, “You need to change for your own good,” or “If you would just listen to me,” or “How many times have I told you to stop doing that.” Last week, I was sitting and having a conversation with a successful, small business owner and friend. In our conversation, she complained about her employees and proceeded to say, “I have been telling them to do it this way but nothing happens, and we deal with the same quality issue over and over again. What is it that I’m doing wrong? Why can’t they just change?” In the middle of the conversation, I found myself disengaging from the here and now and thinking back to a similar situation in my own life where I was the “cause” of the complaint. Read More

Simple Principles of Planned Change


planned-changedAs I think about planned change in organizations, I think of it as a conscientious decision which is made by some entity in the organization with the authority to bring about change. The change may be reactive and triggered by a current problem, situation, or business opportunity—for example, implementing a new MIS system because the old one is not robust enough to meet the current needs of the organization or the change may be proactive and based upon a vision or future desired state—for example, expanding internationally and opening ten company-owned distribution centers in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.

In most cases, the “mechanical” elements of the change are easily identified and the reason for the change is clear to an organization’s sponsors—the money may be allocated for its funding; a flow chart or critical PAT chart describing what the activities are may be in place as well as a timetable for the implementation of the change; and there may be a list of preferred vendors to provide the technology, expertise, and training to successfully achieve the expected outcomes from the well-thought-out implementation. All these planning strategies should guarantee “smooth sailing,” but in many cases, smooth sailing becomes “tough sailing in stormy waters” and this is due to the lack of a planned “commitment process.” The planners of the change often fail to develop and implement such a planning strategy. Read More

Change Management: Stability is Just an Illusion


change-stabilityThere is an immense amount of information about change and change management in books, case studies, newsletters, magazine articles, and blogs, etc. There is not much new to be said about the topic, but in this blog I would like to share some of my thoughts and reflections. When I think about change, I think about life and the constant unfolding of our existence. Nothing stays steady, everything morphs.

As humans, we spend our lives structuring our time, giving meaning to our experiences, staying viable by fighting entropy, and maintaining our relevance. In some ways, organizations experience the same process. They are organisms or systems that exist for a reason and that gives them meaning. An organization has processes, procedures, plans, programs, timelines, and meetings that provide structure to the life of the organization. There is a core “input-throughput-output” process that makes an organization viable as well as processes that address problems that may be threatening to the organization. Organizations also have processes that keep them relevant in the eyes of their customers and society at large. So, what is it about the concept of CHANGE that, in most cases, provokes a strong reaction, often with negative implications, in most people within organizations?
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Technology and Change Management


change management, technology changeFor the last 20 years or so, I have watched how organizations have turned to “hi-tech” in order to address a variety of problems or challenges in a rapidly changing, highly turbulent, and competitive environment where they have to operate and succeed. Globalization has opened the doors to new competitors as well as to new markets and lower labor costs. Companies around the world have been engaged in what I call the “Golondrina Factor” which literally means the “Swallow Effect.” They move their plants from country to country in search of the lowest labor cost, most favorable taxation, appropriate infrastructure, and adequate accessibility to ports or airports, but when a company moves, they leave behind high unemployment which can often cause violence and other social problems as a consequence—which is what happened in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Ciudad Juarez, and many other cities around the world.

The rapid pace of change is also triggered by the incredibly fast change in technology. Companies rely heavily on technology in order to increase efficiency, reduce labor costs, improve product quality, allow 24/7 communication with their plants, divisions, or stores around the world, and create “virtual” teams to address problems or tackle opportunities. I have noticed with several clients in the retail and hospitality industries that applied technology has become the key strategy that they rely on in order to compete and succeed in the marketplace. Retail stores and restaurant chains use technology to increase sales and customer loyalty as well as to manage labor costs and deployment, etc. As technology evolves, the life cycle of technology solutions becomes shorter and can make current solutions obsolete even before they are fully implemented which, consequently, creates a constant state of disruption and organizational anxiety.
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“You Can’t Always Get You Want” The Principle of Symmetrical Reciprocity


symmetrical reciprocity, executive coaching orange countyWhile in graduate school in the early seventies, and when the human potential movement was at its peak, I decided to participate in an intensive, week-long Gestalt therapy program at the Esalen Institute. At that time, Esalen was the most avant-garde place for living and breathing the essence of the movement. The facilitator was Dr. Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy. During one of the sessions, while he was doing a one-on-one intervention with one of the participants, Dr. Perls raised the question, “What’s in it for you?” The session continued and then Dr. Perls came up with another phrase “You mean to tell me that you do it for nothing…nobody does anything for nothing…we all want something.” These phrases have stayed with me for decades and have influenced my approach in my consulting and coaching practice.

I have simplified these phrases into a perspective and thesis that any sustainable relationship is based upon what I call “symmetrical reciprocity.” Whenever we engage in a relationship, we want something out of it; there are no “freebies,” and when we start feeling resentful, taken for granted, used, or that we are treated unfairly, it is symptomatic that our needs, expectations, or fantasies are not being met to the extent that we believe they should be based upon what we feel when we give. Everything we do with others is an exchange, and when the exchange is perceived as “uneven” by either party, the unevenness will begin to undermine the relationship. Read More