Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Change and Creativity

In my client change management work, I have been struck by the fear people attach to ‘change’. There is so much concern about the change itself that there is the inability to look ahead to life beyond the change event.  I do understand the reasons for this situation and am not critical of it at all. Having gone through two major life transitions recently, I have experienced both the fear and the ‘coming out the other side’.  The lessons I learned from these experiences are profound……the most significant lesson I learned is shared here.

Research tells us that the top 3 life changes that cause the most fear, anxiety and stress are: Job loss, Ending of a relationship and Moving.  In the last 12-18 months, I have gone through two of these life events.   Having come out ‘the other side’ of both, I am now experiencing the highest level of creativity I have had in a very long time. My work, projects, and music are all benefiting from this creative ‘renewal’. In addition, my circle of friends/colleagues is expanding at an amazing rate-these individuals truly represent/reflect me:  ever evolving and ‘renewed’.

So as I come into this Holiday Season, I am filled with gratitude for this gift….one that I pass on to you!

Happy Holidays!

When Professional Development Initiatives Don’t “Stick”….

In a recent e-mail exchange with the leader of a new organizational client, concern was expressed about how professional development initiatives, once started in the organization, diminish over time. I have discovered that when this situation occurs, the impact can be more than financial: emerging cynicism towards such initiatives can be an obstacle to successfully implementing future professional development activities.

In my opinion, these programs/strategies which are so critical to internal leadership development, employee retention and engagement should be pursued with the same commitment, long term vision and resource allocation as other strategic initiatives important to an organization’s success.

Can ‘professional development’ truly become an organizational cultural attribute? YES! The CEO’s of two past client organizations told me on separate occasions “Professional development is what we do”. In other words, they recognize that the long term viability of their organizations depends on a stable, well trained work force. Even during lean times, professional development is not eliminated.

The keys to sustaining professional development initiatives are found in answers to these questions:

  • Does ‘professional development’ appear as a recognized organizational value?
  • How does our current workforce match the future needs of our organization?
  • What will we do to close the gap between current and future talent needs?
  • How can can we instill in our employees that ‘professional development’ activities are an integral part of their overall performance?
  • How can we maintain  professional development as a value even during lean times?

I would love to learn how you and your organization are answering these important questions! Contact me and let me know!



5 More Tips for Successful Leadership

6. Invest in employees as you invest in yourself

*Their development is every bit as important as yours! Doing so will yield tremendous results for you, the employees and your organization both now and in the future

7.Increase employee engagement

*This single most important cost free action will increase retention, drive innovation, solve problems and improve the bottom line!

8. Maintain balance

* Your health, which is your greatest wealth, depends on it!

9. Model transparency and learn the skills to make it happen

* The costs related to lack of transparency in organizations are staggering both in terms of human capital and product/service…..transparency=organizational well being!

10.  HAVE FUN!

* If your work is not fun, find something that is…..your followers are watching!

So….how do these 10 Tips resonate with you? Contact me and let’s talk!

The Year May Be “New” And………

I respect the celebration of the New Year as it is an important opportunity to reflect and set goals…that said, I pose this question for your consideration: Does ‘new’ only happen once a year? As I observe my world, I see that ‘new’ is not an event. It is an ever evolving part of life…I need only watch a sunrise, the ocean waves coming ashore and the changing seasons to know that this is true! On a micro level, I find it easy to reflect on the past, i.e., the time I have spent that I cannot recoup. When I do, I completely forget that for every moment in the past, a new moment is occurring. So then the question is: What choices do I have for living that moment?  I have come to the conclusion that embracing the newness of every moment and knowing that how I live in each moment is a choice, is what brings joy and richness to my life and work.

As you celebrate this New Year, how will you also celebrate each new moment?

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”!

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!