Leading Organizational Change in a Divided World

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. Nelson Mandela

Effective leadership across an organization is the key differentiator to maintaining competitive advantage and organizational performance. Creating organization culture that supports ease in communication, dealing with conflict, collaboration and mutual respect establishes success for the organization and loyalty from leaders and their staff. Yet, creating a cohesive culture is harder now than ever given that our 24/7 news cycle and polarized politicians seem to be scaring everyone to one side or the other of value-laden issues.

Organizational culture is impacted by society’s brewing fear and discord.

Today’s leaders are challenged when members of their workforce view change and tasks from very different lenses resulting in increasing fear and discord.

Leaders who have grappled with these challenges include Abraham Lincoln, Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela and Sheryl Sandberg. Every leader faces cultural challenges, these four leaders demonstrate the strategies that differentiate those who can surmount cultural hurdles and build engagement thus preventing the organization from sinking into divisiveness. Success requires building emotional intelligence, managing change and influencing in a manner that creates a sustainable environment where people can and will communicate and build bridges.

Four strategies that differentiate successful leaders are:

  1. Intentional & Positive Strategy
  2. Accountability
  3. Common Language – Unified and Integrated Use of Assessments
  4. Inspiring Purpose

Intentional and positive strategies call for evaluating your organizations state with honesty and clarity. What’s really going on? What are the first level staffers, seeing, feeling and hearing? State your intention to the workforce to pay attention and continue to build a positive

and engaging workplace. A positive outlook opens new neuronal pathways so unexplored opportunities become available. With hope, new energy and creativity is invited. Keep your eye on the ball and on any initiatives. Show the staff this is a reliable change, not a flickering thought that will be gone by next week.

Accountability to the change at all levels of the organization is essential. This is often the most forgotten step, perhaps because it can be uncomfortable to hold people accountable. Ignore it at your peril! You and your change will be tested multiple times. It’s key to notice and respond to those challenges to show you mean business.

Common Language follows from a unified and integrated use of assessments. When leaders and employees are using development and engagement language in a common way, there’s tremendous power to calibrate workplace engagement. This language comes from trainings and from the assessments used. We suggest you carefully chose the assessments to be applied in your organization and then intentionally work to build language that’s used in common. Assessments to consider include:

    • Personality – such as MBTI or Emergenetics, and consider topic specific personality assessments such as the Change Style Indicator and the Influence Style Indicator.
    • Skills – in terms of managing yourself and responding effectively to others, there’s no substitute for the EQi!
    • 360 for leaders. To build personal and interpersonal awareness and expanding skills the EQ 360 is powerful. Other good assessments include CCL’s Benchmarks. Additional specific value can be gained from more targeted 360s such as the Discovery Leadership Profile and the Emerging Leaders Profile.
    • Change – the Change Style Indicator, CSI, serves organizations powerfully by helping people understand their personality differences in how they respond to change and then being able to adjust their approach and expectations realistically.
    • Influence – the Influence Style Indicator

The Change Navigator focuses on the emotions of individuals as they navigate change and the stages of transition. It’s a powerful way for a team to take their pulse and understand how they’re doing individually and together. Different emotional responses show-up when Resisting change and to emotions that lead to Resilience.

Emotions that lead to Resistance Emotions that lead to Resilience
Anxiety Purpose
Confusion Enthusiasm
Frustration Optimism
Fatigue Confidence

Source: McKinsey Quarterly

Change Navigator © 2013, 2015 Discovery Learning International – All rights reserved.

Inspiring Purpose is supported by giving super respect to all involved in your organization. Super-respect introduces new awareness and connectivity.

Successful leaders will use their skills to understand the diversity of their workforce and how to approach change and influence their staff and co-workers. Then they will apply emotional intelligence skills to accomplish the desired behavioral change.

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Influencing for Change in a Divided World

Leaders are role models; people will follow your example.
Is that a good thing?

Divisiveness in the external world is impacting organizational culture. When family members question sharing holidays because they don’t want to hear each other’s differing views, it is certain similar impacts are happening in the workplace. This creates a clarion call for leaders to proactively build an environment that supports connection over separation. We are discussing this vital topic in our webinar.

The source of this sharp discord is often based in value differences and that is what makes many so intransigent. For example, if someone believes it’s only right if people are treated X and someone else says no X – 3 is plenty for some people, emotional responses will be triggered. It’s likely both perspectives can be well argued, but they are hard to hear for the person disagreeing. This can lead to cliques and factions just when you need people to spark creativity in one another because they can think differently. What can a leader do?

Leaders need to start with evaluating their workforce and organizational culture. However, before they can evaluate others, leaders must first be personally accountable. Ask yourself how attached you are to your point of view and your opinions – are you open to hearing very different perspectives? When a position is important to you, can you listen and have a coherent discussion with a colleague or staff person who disagrees? Or do you just walk away? Leaders are role models; people will follow your example. Is that a good thing?

Now discern how your workforce is doing by reaching out and actively listening. You might create a task force to lead the effort. Ask questions and take notes in order to respond.

How are you and your team mates getting along?”

Are you having full discussions or do you stop in order to avoid conflict?”

Are there people here you’re avoiding that you used to work well with?”

On a scale of 1-10 where is our trust level riding these days?”

Give them a sense of how you see issues being discussed, and tell them how you feel. “I feel ___ because _____.” Then actively listen and role model how to respond to one another. “It sounds like maybe you feel ___ because ______.”

Talk about what you are learning while using all your smarts – IQ and EQ. if there’s an elephant in the room, expose the discord in a manner that keeps the conversation safe for exploration. That means that above all else everyone is treated with respect. Leaders are responsible for insisting on a safe environment that maintains the value that while disagreements happen, there can also be very solid areas of agreement. You want your staff to be able to move on from the difficult conversation and continue their work together with a willingness to listen and share.

Once understanding is gained on workforce connectivity, leaders need to guide the desired change that can expand collaboration over separation. In doing so, success requires understanding the personalities of leaders and staff related to making changes. Data helps guide strategically targeted interventions. The Change Style Indicator® (CSI) identifies three styles of change. Through this assessment people find they are Conservers (prefer to accept the structure and make incremental change), Pragmatists (will explore the structure and support change that is functional), or Originators (comfortable with challenging the structure and preferring expansive change). These are big differences, and it is quite possible all preferences are represented in your workforce. To implement the change successfully people preferring each of the change approaches need to be brought on board. Without doubt, it’s tempting to say “Just do it!” The problem is that quick dictate can’t change internal states that are leading to the divisiveness. A defined viable path needs to be created. The foundation of change is strengthened with mutually agreed values, such as everyone deserves to be respected. Then use flexibility to gain buy-in and changed behavior from the whole staff through process that influence change and show how with emotional intelligence skills.

Throughout this process leaders are influencing people to change their behavior. No one can make someone else hold different values or communicate differently. What leaders can do is invite changes, demonstrate the inclusive language, hold staff accountable and use many other strategies to influence success. Once again, data helps. The Influence Style Indicator™ guides leaders and staff to understand the approaches they now use and to recognize how to expand their repertoire of influence strategies. Leaders charged with building rapport and engagement need to select influencing approaches that walk their talk. Two orientations are possible – advocating or uniting. Then having chosen the overall approach the specific styles a leader might employ are rationalizing, asserting, negotiating, inspiring and bridging. It is easy to argue that for a change such as building collaboration through improved communications and patience that inspiring and bridging are the best strategies. However, use caution in narrowing your style. Check out the preferences in the workforce. For example, sometimes assertiveness is required to set boundaries for what is acceptable.

Emotional intelligence skills contain the wherewithal to actually make the changes once leaders have selected their change and influence strategies. Making cultural shifts of this importance can well call on all 16 skills of the EQi. The most impactful are:

  • Emotional self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Impulse control
  • Assertiveness
  • Optimism – and Happiness

These are skills that can be learned, sharpened and tailored to specific circumstances. Many of our books and other articles show you how.

Demonstration of super respect, with reciprocity, makes the fundamental difference. This introduces new awareness and connectivity. Successful leaders will use their skills to understand the diversity of their workforce and how to approach change and influence their staff and co-workers. Then they will apply emotional intelligence skills to accomplish the desired behavioral change.