Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528


The Future of Conversation

I had the unique opportunity to hear Brian David Johnson, Futurist for Intel, last evening and I am thrilled that I did!  The key question he addressed was “How do we change the future?”  The answer he provided was both optimistic and affirming: We change the future by changing the story we tell ourselves about the future we will live in.  The future is indeed made by US– and we need to create a vision for ourselves of what that future will look like: what do we want and what do we want to avoid?

He went on to say that creating that vision requires listening and conversation: learning from others, particularly the younger generation. This point underscores the critical importance of effective conversation skills.

I invite you to join me Sept 4-5 for Fierce Conversations: a foundational, hands one workshop that will introduce you to transformational ideas and principles that will shift your basic understanding of conversations and the power they hold in leadership, relationships and results. This workshop is based on the work of Susan Scott’s breakthrough book: Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time.

Contact me for further information!  Are you ready to “get Fierce”???

Are You “Change Curious”???

If so, I invite you to join me for a stimulating and thoughtful 5 session conversation about “change” and how to manage it more effectively. Of course, there are those who think “managing change” is an oxymoron or rather like “herding cats”!  What has your experience been and are you interested in learning how to handle “change” more effectively?

I invite you to register for my course “Change Management: Planning and Implementation”  offered through Portland State University, starting June 16. The topics include:

  • Organizational Change: Current State/Tnhinking
  • Change Management Models: Comparisons and Case Studies
  • Change Management “Real Play”: Real life Change Management success case study
  • Change Management: Tools and Activities

What past participants have said about this course can be summarized in this piece of feedback I received: “You rock; I’ve already been able to apply what you’ve taught. Great instructor/information -great tools, great readings, great content.”

How about you?  Click on this link to learn more and register:





Go to this link for more information and to register

The Wisdom of Engagement

Just what is “employee engagement”?  Kevin Kruse [Forbes, June, 2012] defines it as “…..the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” Indeed, this deep caring employees have for their work results in what Kruse calls discretionary effort which is going the extra mile without being asked, anticipating what needs to be done and doing it.

So how does an organization benefit from “active employee engagement”?  Fierce, Inc., states in its recent white paper, The Financial Rewards of Employee Engagement, that “organizations with engaged employees enjoy higher returns” and notes that employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization.  It is clear that employee engagement is a key contributor to organizational success.

So what are your strategies for increasing employee engagement?  If you would like a copy of the Fierce white paper and to learn how i can support your employee engagement efforts, please contact me:

Boomers and the Job Market: There IS Hope!

In my previous posting, I addressed the growing number of individuals over 50 who are asking “What’s next?” because their current careers have stalled or are ending. The biggest fear that my “over 50” coaching clients have is not being able to land  a job in this very volatile job market.  I believe that just as our perceptions of “work” and “retirement” are changing, our perceptions of the job market must also change.  The shifts in the  job market really work in favor of the Boomer crowd and this idea is clearly supported in Nancy Collamer’s book Second Act Careers. Reading this book tells me that it is time to expand our definition of the”job market”. Consider Collamer’s observations:

  • Technology has completely revolutionized how, where and when we work-I think we all know that is true!
  • The options for flexible employment have improved and diversified-an increasing number of companies are offering telecommuting/work from home alternatives
  • The costs of running your own business have decreased dramatically , and the global reach of the Internet has made it possible to sell to anyone , anytime, anywhere.
  • We are fast becoming a nation of freelance workers-This trend is an open invitation for Boomers to do project work without the daily demands of “going into work.”
  • The Internet provides us unlimited access to information and training 24 hours a day.

Baby Boomers rejoice! In the same way we were the social revolution pioneers, we are now the pioneers in redefining “work” and “retirement” and “careers“!

“I’m Over 50: What’s Next?”

In addition to my organizational client work, I am a Certified Professional Coach with expertise in redesigning careers. I am hearing the “I’m over 50, what’s next?” statement with increasing frequency. The average age of my coaching clients has been inching upwards in recent years and along with the changing age demographic comes the changing perspective of retirement and, indeed, work itself. What I am seeing in my coaching practice represents a national trend and has given rise to the term “encore career”, defined as “one that lets you earn income and make a social impact” [Forbes, 2013]. I could write at great length about the factors contributing to the “encore career” phenomenon and will save that conversation for a future posting. What I want to emphasize here is that if you find yourself in this age bracket, asking the “What’s Next” question, you certainly are not alone!

Helping a client address this question requires an introspective approach resulting in a shift in thinking and action. Among the topics we explore:

  • Personal Perspectives: “Retirement” and “Work” redefined
  • Career Retrospective: “What Have I Done and Why?”
  • The Future: “What Do I Really Want In This Next Phase Of Life?”
  • Exploration: “What Are My Options?”
  • Plan of Action: “What Is Practical?” “What Are The Steps To Making It Real?”

Having just turned 65, I have been reflecting on my own professional journey……my joyful conclusion? I am presently pursuing my “encore career”…….I have learned a lot along the way……now it is your turn! Let me help you define your “encore career”!

Leading By Asking Questions

When I work with leaders I am surprised by their inability or desire to ask questions when faced with decisions or problems.  This phenomenon is described in a book I discovered several years ago:

Change Management and Employee Engagement

In previous blog postings, I have addressed the importance of transparent and frequent communication when implementing organizational change. Communication is only half of the “change management equation”. The other half is “employee engagement”, a concept deemed so important that an entire recent Fast Company article was dedicated to the topic.

The author of this article, Julie Moreland, cites a Gallup study that analyzed the impact of high employee engagement last year. Two significant results stand out from this study: “those organizations that score in the top half of employee engagement have double the odds of success of those in the bottom half…..those in the 99th percentile of engagement have four times the success rate.” [Moreland, 2013]. The other result is equally as impressive: the cost of ignoring employee engagement.  Again, citing the Gallup research, Moreland reports that low employee engagement is estimated “to cost the US economy roughly $370 billion a year.”

Based on these findings, it is no surprise, then, that employee engagement is crucial for positive organizational performance. Moreland reports that Gallup found high employee engagement impacts “nine key performance outcomes”. Among them are:

  • 25% lower turnover [in high turnover organizations]
  • 64% lower turnover [in low turnover organizations]
  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 22% higher profitability
  • 21% higher productivity

I believe that in the same way employee engagement positively impacts these performance outcomes, it also can be related to the resistance that is a byproduct of most organizational change. Research has shown that resistance is the number one reason for failing change initiatives [Prosci, 2009, 2012].  Thus, the question is posed: What is the relationship between employee engagement and resistance to change? I would argue the relationship is an inverse one-that is, during times of organizational change, the more employees are engaged with the changes that are occurring, the more the resistance to those changes will likely diminish.

Fierce, Inc. lends support to this argument  in its white paper, “What Employees Really Think About Best Practices: Survey Uncovers 3 Things Employees Crave”. The results of their 800 participant study conducted across multiple industries revealed:

Transparency: Nearly 50% identified lack of company-wide transparency and too little involvement in company decisions as key areas of concern.

Autonomy: The freedom to make appropriate decisions ensures employees remain focused and engaged.  Nearly 50% of the respondents identify the most beneficial practices as those which encourage accountability, development, and individual empowerment within the organization [Fierce, 2012].

It is apparent to me that organizational success is predicated upon effective employee engagement and is absolutely necessary for successful organizational change management.  The change management equation is now complete:

Communication  +  Employee Engagement = Success in Managing Organizational Change

Change Management and Leadership: A Contradiction

There is a lot of buzz about the definition of “change management” and “change leadership”. The debate about the two concepts seems to focus on whether they are one in the same.  I agree with those who claim that “change management is task oriented and focused on managing the process, tools, and techniques [Grady, 2013]”. “Change leadership” on the other hand can be defined as the “ability to anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility and empower others to create strategic change [Warner, 2009]”.  Distinctly different definitions and when it comes to actually implementing organizational change initiatives there seems to be, in my opinion, a contradiction in how a “change leader” should act/be involved. Let me explain.

The change management literature is almost unanimous in supporting the idea that senior leaders need to be involved in change management initiatives. According to the literature, some of the change management tasks requiring direct senior leadership involvement include:

  1. Creating a Change Vision for the organization
  2. Becoming a “champion” or “sponsor” for a specific change project/process
  3. Establishing a change structure or methodology for change initiatives
  4. Modeling the behaviors/actions required by the new change
  5. Soliciting and acting upon feedback from others in the organization
  6. Participating in any necessary training required for the change to be successful
  7. Being sensitive to the “people side” of change and recognizing that not all adopt change at the same time and at the same speed

All of these tasks suggest that the “change leader” needs to be more involved on a daily basis with the change activities being promoted/implemented inside the organization. If so, does this not contradict the definition of “change leadership”?

It is, in my opinion, critical for leaders to understand their strengths when it comes to fulfilling the role of “change manager”.  I find it highly unusual for one to be effective at both leading and managing. It is therefore, important for a leader who is involved in change to:

  1. Fully understand the skills of those who are part of the leadership team
  2. Select the right people to carry out change management tasks
  3. Willingly delegate to those people

While these actions are critical for change success, it is as important for the “change leader”to maintain some visibility during the change process and to continually model the change management vision that has been established.

The “change leadership contradiction” can be managed through maintaining the careful balance of delegation with needed leadership presence during change.


Change Management and Fierce Accountability

Dr. Sarah Stebbinsstebbins-logo-0114-2

As I have worked with organizations managing change, I see clearly the interrelationship of poor communication, change management and lack of accountability, an important component of change resistance.

Two significant pieces of research [Prosci, 2012; Fierce Inc., 2012] focusing on company “worst best practices” and change management best practices reveals:

  • Less than one third of study participants believe their company is willing to change practices based on employee feedback.
  • 98% of respondents believe a leader’s decision making process should include input from the people impacted by the decision and 40% feel leaders and decision makers continuously fail to ask.
  • A key factor to successful employee autonomy is organizational transparency.
  • The extent and quality of communication inside organizations is the single most important contributor to change management success.

Having witnessed firsthand how the “victim mentality” can set in when employee engagement is overlooked or not encouraged, I share these research findings with my organizational clients.  They recognize the truth in these results and are committing themselves [from C-suite to front-line worker] to developing the skills/mindset critical to creating more transparency and accountability. Doing so results in more successful change management.

Fierce, Inc., offers programs for developing these critical skills. One of the Fierce programs is Fierce Accountability which develops a high level of accountability making change management more successful.

I invite you to experience Fierce Accountability!  I am holding a session May 8 here in Portland. Not in Portland? I can bring it to YOU!

Contact me for more information! I look forward to hearing from you!

Desire: An Important Element for Successful Change

In my last posting, I said that successfully leading change requires good self analysis.It is clear that leading change clearly begins with us; how we react and addressing what is getting in our own way of accepting/implementing the change.

Inherent in that discussion is “desire” or the motivation for getting on board with change.  Certainly doing our own self-analysis will help us better understand our own motivations for accepting change and here is a key question:  How do we as leaders of change address employee “desire” or “motivation” for change?

Prosci, in its ongoing research of change management best practices, discovered in webinars  conducted July 2011 and March 2012 that 69% of participants identified desire as the largest biggest obstacle to overcome when implementing change. Prosci states “… is ultimately a personal decision to get on board and support a change. While this decision can be influenced, no one can make an individual have desire to support the change.”

In its work, Prosci has identified 3 key areas that can help create employee desire for change:

  • Identifying and emphasizing the organizational motivators for change
  • Identifying and emphasizing the personal motivators for change, i.e., answering the question: What’s In It For Me?
  • Garnering support of peer leaders and mid/senior leaders

An overview of a communication strategy that can help you address these 3 areas will be the topic in my next blog posting! Stay tuned!