Keeping Change Alive

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Keeping Change Alive

For many people, keeping the change alive is the boring part. All the hoopla, brainstorming, and exciting new ideas are a distant memory. Now you are making sure the bugs are out of the system, the new technology works, people’s questions are answered, the work is moving you toward your desired goals.

This is a critically important part of the change process and one that gets neglected in theory and in practice. Many changes just fade away at this stage. No one notices because the change has become such a back-burner low priority item. And no one can learn from mistakes because no one is paying much attention any more.

If you want to truly implement organizational change effectively and avoid the resistance to change that can occur late in the life of a major project, then you must attend to this phase. Here are some ideas that can help.

    Getting Started on the Right Foot

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    Getting Started on the Right Foot

    We take change without migraines™ seriously. We truly know that it is possible to lead change without all those headaches. Here are a number of articles and assessment tools that focus on change management and resistance to change. We believe these tools for managing organizational change can help you support new initiatives. We encourage you to make copies and use them in your organization.

      Making a Compelling Case for Change

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      Making a Compelling Case for Change

      One thing sets successful change management strategies apart from those that don’t work – people believe a change is needed. In a study we conducted,we found that in 95 percent of the successful changes, those who had a stake in the outcome understood that something had to change.

      Making a compelling case for change is critical to your success. Everything else rests on your ability to get this message across. If you fail here, everything else is going to be harder. You will surely face resistance to change. And that’s not pretty. The change may take longer, cost more, give you headaches, and ultimately fail. Sadly, many rush past this phase and a pay a high price.

      Are you certain that most (if not all) critical stakeholders see – and feel in their guts – a compelling need to change?

      Here are some resources that can help you answer that question and make a compelling case for change.

        Getting Back on Track

        Featured

         

        Even the best plans can derail. Conditions change – changing market forces, new directives from headquarters, a change in personnel, a union election, and so on. In other words, resistance to change takes over. Managing organizational change is especially challenging during this stage.

        Three critical things to know at this stage:

        • Be able to spot resistance early and in its many subtle forms, and be able to determine if the potential derailment is caused by technical, financial, or human factors. These are common sources of resistance to change. If you know these, you can avoid many of the real headaches that come with change.
        • Ways to find out why things are going off track. If you judge
          wrong, you can either get people madder at you or waste
          some valuable time.
        • Strategies to turn opposition and reluctance into support.

        Here are some tools that can help.

        Tips for Delegating the Leadership of Major Change

        Early in the life of a major change, you will need to delegate portions of the initiative to various individuals, teams, and departments.  The handoff from you to them is critically important. If you fumble or if they fail to pick up the ball, everything is put at risk. Three things need to be in place in order for you to delegate effectively.

        1. They need to understand what this change is all about. Why now? Why this change?  Let them know “why” and “what” before you get into “how to do it.” The middle managers that will be leading portions of change need context in order to make good decisions. Without that understanding, they must make it up as they go along – guessing at why this is important and trying to intuit what’s most important every step of the way. Don’t leave this to chance – explain what’s going on.
        2. They need to understand what’s at stake. What’s driving this change – new competition, the need to respond quicker to challenges in your environment, fear that great performances today may not equal great performances in the coming years? What’s the risk if you fail? What’s the risk if you do nothing?
        3. They need to trust you (and other senior managers). If they don’t think you will see this through, they will probably do just enough work to keep you off their backs until you turn your attention to something else. You need to demonstrate that you are a capable leader. In other words, you will oversee this project from beginning to end. You will fight for resources. You will not be distracted by other new priorities.

        Create an Informal Contract

        A very good way to hand off the assignment is to develop a simple contract with the leaders who will be assigned to plan and carry out various parts of the change. This contract should include:

        • Common understanding of outcome
          Make sure that you and the people or groups you delegate to have a common understanding of what is expected. Explain your picture of success. What will it look like? How will you know when you are successful? Robert Mager, who wrote extensively about creating good goals and objectives, said that a clear goal was one that “if you met it on the street, you’d recognize it.”
        • Specific milestones and completion date
          Explain how all of you will be able to measure success along the way. What are the metrics you will use? If you don’t have a good answer for this question, then turn to the people you are delegating to and develop clear measurable milestones in collaboration with them.
          Let your people know how much detail you will need as they go along. Some leaders want to be in the loop every step of the way, while others prefer minimal up-dates. Make sure these leaders know what you want.
        • Resources
          Ask what they will need in order to meet these targets? For example:
        • People. Who do they need in order to be successful? Perhaps they will need access to an engineer in another location or a marketing whiz from across the country.  
        • Money. What’s the budget for their portion of the project?
        • Access to other stakeholders. Ask who else they will need to talk to in order to be successful. Often these will be your peers, and you can be the link that opens those doors.
        • Access to you. Discuss the best ways for you to stay in touch. Tell them the best way to contact you when they have an urgent question.
        • Protect their time. These people are probably already overworked. You can’t simply add another major project and expect it will get done. You’ve got to be willing to re-adjust priorities. If you don’t, you risk seeing projects either die or come in well beneath expectations.
        • Anticipate Glitches
          With the help of the people to whom you are delegating, brainstorm things that could go wrong. (Don’t pretend that this time will be different than all the others. Plan for the unexpected.)
          Identify those glitches that are important to address today. Discuss what you can do to protect against that glitch occurring in the first place? What are the early warning signs that something might be about to occur? What contingency plans will you put into place to avert a major problem?
        • Review
          Make sure that everyone is clear about all parts of this contract. Thank people for coming — and then get started. This simple process gets major changes off on the right foot and can save you many headaches, broken reputations, and potential failures. Good luck.

        © 2008 (revised 2019) Rick Maurer. This originally appeared in the e-book, Leading from the Middle. www.rickmaurer.com

        Are All-Hands Meetings Worth The Bother?

        . . . or any other big meeting for that matter?

        I’ve attended a lot of dreadful big meetings. Sometimes they’re called all-hands meetings, town halls, or something else. These big meetings usually involve almost everyone in the organization.

        I wondered if other people had the same cynical reaction that I did to these meetings. So, I conducted a survey. I invited people on my mailing list to answer the three questions listed below, and I got 144 responses. These are men and women who are leaders at all levels in their organizations, consultants and educators, and others who just seem interested in the human part of making organizations work.

        Here is a link to the white paper I just wrote. In addition to the summary of what I learned, I include verbatim comments from people who responded. Those comments are like a master class in what we ought to pay attention to when we are considering putting together big meetings.

        http://rickmaurer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/All-Hands-Meetings-White-Paper.pdf

        I hope you find this paper useful.

        –       Rick Maurer

         

         

         

        This post appeared first on EnergyBarTools.com

        Missing the Handoff in Big Projects

        A batteries not included post

        Energy can quickly drain out of a big change for a variety of reasons. But I heard a new one recently.

        I was interviewing a senior person in an organization regarding a study I am doing on Batteries Not Included™. She said that they did a great job Making a Case for Changes and Getting Started on the Right Foot, but something happened as projects tried to move to the Implementation stage. Their batteries just seemed to give out.

        Then it hit her that the problem wasn’t lack of talent, motivation, or clear goals, it was much simpler. The leaders and change teams who handled Getting Started on the Right Foot did their jobs well. And, the organization assigned good leaders and teams for the Implementation stage as well.

        Handoff for Major ProjectsBut, the hand-off from one stage to the other was the problem. I told her that I was imagining a relay race where each runner was a speed demon but they never practiced handing the baton to the next runner. Speed along. Stop. Pick up the baton. Speed along. Stop. Etc. etc.

        Here are some tips that might help if you face a similar challenge.

        1. Keep the same leadership intact from Getting Started through Implementation. You might even keep the same planning team in place. Consistency can be very important with big projects, especially those that last over a number of months.

        2. If you must hand off leadership, then do what runners do – practice the handoff. How do you do that?

        • Anticipate and list all of the places where people could drop the baton.
        • Come up with a specific step-by-step plan that you will executive to avoid those problems. Don’t be satisfied with platitudes like “we’ll communicate,” “we will key our eye on the ball (or baton)” Be specific.

        For instance: Here is why the baton usually gets dropped. To avoid that, the two leaders and their teams need to meet to identify when the handoff will occur, what the handoff will look like, who will monitor the shift in leadership, and how will we get back on track if we do happen to drop the ball.

        3. Come up with a Plan B just in case someone drops the baton.
        Those tips are simple. That’s good news. But it will demand that you pay attention to the movement around the track.

        Good luck.

        Resources: My Batteries Not Included™ study is yielding some fascinating and practical results. If you’d like to be part of helping test the Batteries Not Included™ Assessment, I could use your help. Just send me an email (or give me a call) and I will set up a time for us to run through the assessment. rick@rickmaurer.com Thanks.

        My newsletter will cover progress on Batteries. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up. It is free, of course.

         

        This post appeared first at energybartools.com.

        Values At Work Begin With You

        A batteries not included postYou are already living your values whether you’ve ever thought about them or not.

        When someone asks your employees, “What’s it like to work here?”

        Or a potential supplier asks, “What are they like to work with?,” you will hear about the values that others see you using.

        That is worth paying attention to.

        Too often, organizations come up with a list of impressive sounding phrases and not much else happens.

        I recall watching a recorded preflight announcement from an airline’s CEO telling me about their strong commitment to customer service. My experience so far that morning told a different story. . .

        A computer company touted its promise to provide “an exceptional standard of excellence and performance.” Perhaps that’s why I often had to wait on hold for over an hour to get a problem solved. . .

        A chemical company touted its attention to safety, but workers on the floor showed me precisely where “things could go boom.”

        I applaud the desire to create compelling values for an organization. But, they need to be much more than fine sounding works – they must become guiding principles.

        Here is a way that I believe will help you avoid the cynical response from employees, suppliers, or customers when they hear your values.

        But first, a special note to leadership teams: People are watching you. If they see you sticking to some values when it would be easier to simply ignore it, they will notice that. And, if they see you talking about some value but your actions are at odds with that guiding principle, they’ll not only notice that they will tell others.

        Begin with yourself or your team. Starting small is better. That will allow you to talk and test your thinking before making big announcements. 

        Here are a few important steps.

        1. What values would your stakeholders say you are living by today?

        This lets you know how close you are to values you may think you’re already adhering to. You may hear things that surprise you and might prompt you to create a value statement that could improve performance in some critical area.

        2. Think of your values as guiding principles.

        Identify the values that you believe you and your organization must adhere to in the future.

        3.  Create a crucible.

        These values need to be put to a test of a refining fire before you ever “go live.” Consider what it would mean if you were to promise to live by a particular value. Where is that value likely to be tested – and how will you respond?

        4. Consider your work up to this point as a first draft.

        Start using those values to guide your actions in important meetings. See if the values help you make better decisions. See where it is hard to apply any particular value. And then revise your draft values as needed.

        5. Once you’ve put your values to a real test, tweaked, and refined your list, then consider bringing others into the conversation.

        My suggestion is to repeat Steps 3 and 4 with these other people. Give them the opportunity to test out these values and allow what they learn to influence your own thinking.

        Ready to get to work?

        If you need a sounding board or an unbiased coach to facilitate a strategic work session, please reach out to me. You can learn more about the types of presentations and work sessions I offer here.

        I wish you well.

        This post appeared first on energybartools.com

        From Grumblers to Allies: Reaching Consensus with The Energy Bar™

        Are you a leader who needs the whole-hearted support of people who don’t report to you? In a survey I just completed, I found this to be a huge problem. The people whose support you need could be your boss, other executives, the board, customers, or even a gatekeeper.

        Your success may rest on your ability to influence those people. But leaders told me that isn’t so easy. Here are a few comments about these potential stakeholders:

        “. . . is extremely busy and stressed”

        “. . . lots of initiatives being rolled out (right now)”

        “. .. (my) access is limited”

        “. . .He is not passionate about what I’m passionate about.”

        “. . .competing priorities”

        And the list goes on and on.

        And the price of failure to gain support can be very high. People said:

        “. . .I could lose my job”

        “. . .it could inhibit long-term success”

        “. . .the project will fail”

        “. . . it could get in the way of a huge, multimillion dollar project

        “. . . it could damage trust”

        And this list goes on and on, as well.

        How do you earn the strong support of people who don’t report to you?

        Let me use The Energy Bar™ to show you what to you could do. (If you aren’t familiar with The Energy Bar™, please take a look at this 3-minute animated video: www.rickmaurer.com/energybar)

        People told me they needed stakeholders to be strong supporters. That’s as far to the right as you can get on The Energy Bar™. You’re asking them to be allies, champions, spokespeople, living embodiments of the goodness of this new idea. That’s a lot of support to ask for.

         What Support Will You Need?

        The Energy Bar™

        Resistance                                                                                                  Support                                                                                                                           !_________!___________!___________!___________!___________!_____X______!

        Opposition          Grumbling        Indifferent      Interested       Willing             Ally

        Before you can try to influence people to support you that strongly, you’ve got to know where they are today. According to the results of my study, many of the critical stakeholders are far from being an “ally” on The Energy Bar™.

        Where is Their Energy Today?

        The Energy Bar™

        Resistance                                                                                                  Support                                                                                                                           !_________!___________!_____X______!___________!___________!___________!

        Opposition          Grumbling        Indifferent      Interested       Willing             Ally

        They are on the resistance side of the bar. Perhaps they’re indifferent to what you have to say. After all, they’ve got their own priorities, their own budget battles, their own dreams. So, they aren’t necessarily against you, they just don’t care! If this is where they are, that’s important to know.

        The Energy Bar™

        Resistance                                                                                                      Support                                                                                                                           !_________!_____X______!___________!___________!___________!___________!

        Opposition          Grumbling        Indifferent      Interested       Willing             Ally

        But perhaps they are farther to the left, and the resistance is a bit stronger. They are grumbling. When they hear about your idea, they roll their eyes or think, “Here we go again”, “It’s another flavor of the month”, or “What’s she been smoking this time?” If they are grumbling, you need to know that.

         

         The Energy Bar™

        Resistance                                                                                                  Support                                                                                                                           !_____X___!___________!___________!___________!___________!___________!

        Opposition          Grumbling        Indifferent      Interested       Willing             Ally

        Perhaps they are way over to the left. If so, they are likely to oppose you with vigor. There could be a lot of reasons for that. Perhaps they’ve got their own priorities or their own pet projects that they want to keep alive. Perhaps they’re afraid that your idea will harm them personally. Or – and this is a tough one – maybe they don’t trust you.

        You must learn where their energy is today. Granted, you might not like what you see, but without that information, you’ll be flying into a storm without radar. You’ll just be inviting trouble.

        Acting on That Knowledge

        Once you know where they are on The Energy Bar™ and where you’d like them to be, you can create a plan. If the gap is pretty wide, like it is in this example, big things will probably be equally big mistakes. Avoid big events. Take Ringling Brothers off your speed dial for now and keep your strategy simple and small. You need to look for ways to start moving energy from left to right, step-by-step.

        Although you need them to move all the way over to Ally on the bar, think about the opportunities you have coming up where you could move energy in incremental ways. For instance, a weekly staff meeting, the regular conference call with all the regions, informal one-on-one phone calls, hallways meetings either by chance or choice – no “event” is too small to consider. Any of these events can be an opportunity to move energy from left to right.

        Here’s what to do.

        1. Define a realistic goal for the next event. Just moving a potential supporter from grumbling to indifferent could be a big step. Or maybe it would be realistic to move them from indifferent to interested. You’re not going to ask them to do anything other than get interested in what you have to say.

        2. Take a look at how you typically handle yourself during one of these events and ask yourself, “Can this strategy shift their energy?” Lots of meetings are filled with slideshow presentations. If that sounds like you, then ask yourself, “Will my hundred and fifty tightly-packed PowerPoint slides actually move their energy from Grumbling to Interested during that teleconference?” If not, then try something else. Subtle changes in how you run a meeting can make a big difference. One of my clients decided to cut his typical large deck of slides down to five slides. That was a big deal. It left a lot more time and space for conversation and engagement. Even if this extra space doesn’t result in conversation, it does allow people to digest and think about the topic at hand.

        3. Figure out how you will know if energy has actually shifted. I saw an eager young manager make a presentation to colleagues from across his organization. It was clear that he cared about his idea and that he had spent a lot of time preparing his slideshow. But by focusing on his slides instead of his audience, he missed some critical information. Within minutes some people moved to the back of the room to get coffee. That’s OK, but they stayed there and talked to each other. One guy in front of me was doing a crossword. Others were texting. He missed all of that. At the end of his 45-minute presentation he asked, “What do you think?” The room was silent. He stood there for a few seconds and then walked off the stage. Just looking up a few times would have told him where energy was and where it was moving.

        4. Let’s say your event was successful. The next question is, how are you going to build on this energy and keep things moving? It is sad how many planning meetings generate lots of enthusiasm and ideas, but aren’t followed up by tactical plans that build on the foundation that was just laid in that meeting.

        I truly believe that if you pay attention to The Energy Bar™ throughout the life of a project, you will find yourself building strong support and avoiding much of the potentially damaging resistance. I wish you well.

         Resources:

        The Energy Bar™ video. This is a 3-minute animated video that explains this simple tool. Many have told me that they were able to begin to use The Energy Bar™ simply by watching this video. www.rickmaurer.com/energybar

        How do I find out where energy is today? I use something I call “the list” to find out where support and resistance is today. In fact, I never work on a change project with a client without finding out what’s on the list. The Magic List is a short e-book that will show you why it is a practical tool and how to use it. https://rickmaurer.com/magic-list/

        I continue to post ideas for applying The Energy Bar™ in this blog.

        Questions or comments? Send me an e-mail or give me a call. rick@rickmaurer.com or 703 525-7074 (US)

        • Rick Maurer

        Rick Maurer works with leaders who can’t afford to have resistance kill their plans. He is author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance and other books on leadership, influence, and change.

        How You Can Shift Energy in Your Favor – or Not!

        (Part of The Energy Bar series #12)

        People tell me how challenging it is to run meetings and conference calls that get people energized and engaged. So, I started thinking about all of the approaches that I’ve actually seen work. I asked, what are the common elements in successful events as varied as large meetings that engage hundreds of people, small team meetings that accomplish things, teleconferences, and those simple pick up the phone and call someone else exchanges?

        I identified six things. Let’s start with two of them:

        1. People see the need for this event. I continue to be surprised how often people are invited to “events” and have no idea why this topic is worth discussing. (I use event to describe anything we do in an effort to influence others; that could be a meeting of 500 or a short phone call to just one person.)
        2. The “right people” are invited. I know that some in my field believe that whoever comes are the right people. Maybe, spiritually and morally that’s a good thing, but it’s not how real organizations work. You need people who can make decisions and act. Once you start loading up events with people who have no power to make decisions (and that includes that row of people sitting at back table just watching), then you risk sapping any potential positive work that could result.

        I picked these two for this post because they are a great starting point for making events worthwhile.  Here is an easy way to see if what I am saying matters. Simply pay attention to the meetings (including phone calls) that you are asked to attend over the next few days. If these events seem to hum along nicely, then ask yourself: do people know why these meetings are important? And, do they know why they were invited to take part?  I think you’ll find that those two items matter a lot, and that they are overlooked with surprising regularity.

        (BTW, I will cover the other four items in my next two posts )

        I’d love to hear your thoughts.

        Click to see a three-minute animated video on The Energy Bar.

         

        What the Magna Carta Could Teach Corporate Leaders

        This month marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, a document that provided rule-of-law protection for the people. Lord Dening, a 20th Century British jurist, called it “the greatest constitutional document of all time, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”

        (On the New Year’s Eve of 2013, the United States Archives put an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln on display on January 1, 1863. As visitors entered the hall, they first passed one of only four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta. It is almost impossible for me to describe the experience of standing in line between those two important documents.)

        Daniel Hannan, writing in The Wall Street Journal (5/30/15) said, “The bishops and barons who had brought King John to the negotiating table understood that rights required an enforcement mechanism. The potency of a charter is not in its parchment but in the authority of its interpretation.” Hannan mentions other lofty documents, such as the constitution of the U.S.S.R. that also promise rights such as free speech. “But, as Soviet citizens learned, paper rights are worthless in the absence of mechanisms to hold rules to account.”

        That got me thinking about corporate vision and values statements. They often promise so many wonderful things – attention to diversity and inclusion, trust, teamwork, and so forth – but that’s where it often ends. The organizations might live by some of these values when it is convenient, or until conditions change. (Do you remember Enron, the company that became a poster child for corporate malfeasance? Run a Google search on “Enron’s values” and you will find one of the most inspiring set of values statements you could ever hope to read.) Here is a taste of what they wrote:

        Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated.

        Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.

         I have never seen a serious enforcement component to well-meaning values statements. (Here is where I would love to be proven wrong. Please comment if you know of organizations that back their stated values with “rule of law.”)

        If you are thinking of creating a new set of values statements (or are a consultant who is going to help a client take on that task), don’t get swept up in the moment of creation. Talking about the possibility of bringing lofty ideals to life can be heady. And that’s great. Demand, however, that equal attention be paid to enforcement. Remind yourselves of the Magna Carta.

        What the Magna Carta Could Teach Corporate Leaders

        This month marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, a document that provided rule-of-law protection for the people. Lord Dening, a 20th Century British jurist, called it “the greatest constitutional document of all time, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”

        (On the New Year’s Eve of 2013, the United States Archives put an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln on display on January 1, 1863. As visitors entered the hall, they first passed one of only four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta. It is almost impossible for me to describe the experience of standing in line between those two important documents.)

        Daniel Hannan, writing in The Wall Street Journal (5/30/15) said, “The bishops and barons who had brought King John to the negotiating table understood that rights required an enforcement mechanism. The potency of a charter is not in its parchment but in the authority of its interpretation.” Hannan mentions other lofty documents, such as the constitution of the U.S.S.R. that also promise rights such as free speech. “But, as Soviet citizens learned, paper rights are worthless in the absence of mechanisms to hold rules to account.”

        That got me thinking about corporate vision and values statements. They often promise so many wonderful things – attention to diversity and inclusion, trust, teamwork, and so forth – but that’s where it often ends. The organizations might live by some of these values when it is convenient, or until conditions change. (Do you remember Enron, the company that became a poster child for corporate malfeasance? Run a Google search on “Enron’s values” and you will find one of the most inspiring set of values statements you could ever hope to read.) Here is a taste of what they wrote:

        Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated.

        Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.

        I have never seen a serious enforcement component to well-meaning values statements. (Here is where I would love to be proven wrong. Please comment if you know of organizations that back their stated values with “rule of law.”)

        If you are thinking of creating a new set of values statements (or are a consultant who is going to help a client take on that task), don’t get swept up in the moment of creation. Talking about the possibility of bringing lofty ideals to life can be heady. And that’s great. But consider demanding that equal attention be paid to enforcement. Remind yourselves of the Magna Carta.

        How You Can Tell When People Are For or Against You

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        (#11 in The Energy Bar series)

        When I talk to clients about the importance of knowing whether their ideas are going over or not, many of my clients agree, but ask, “How can you tell?”

        The late Kathie Dannemiller facilitated planning meetings of 500 or more people. She told me that she looked for “the shift”. That’s when the energy in the room shifted from indifferent or hostile to interested and willing. Kathie was a no-nonsense person, so woo-woo was not part of her approach to things. Yet she said that she could always just tell when it happened.

        She told me that younger colleagues would often whisper to her, “It just happened, didn’t it?”

        That information usually is right in front of us.  But when we are paying attention to our slides, our notes, wondering if the A/V set-up will work like it’s supposed to, or if the guest speaker will make it in time, it’s really hard to pay attention to people’s reactions simultaneously.  (Take a look at my blog post, How Gorillas and Parasols Mess Up Meetings.

        Here is an easy way to get better at reading the room.

        Start with someone else’s planning meeting. This gives you the luxury of sitting back and watching. Without all the responsibilities that go with running meetings, you’ll start to see things you may never  noticed before. As the eminent philosopher, Yogi Berra, said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

        Note how the audience is reacting. Do they appear engaged — or not?

        • Are they literally or figuratively leaning forward or away?
        • What types of questions are they asking? Are they playing it safe and asking polite questions that won’t rock the boat – or their careers? Are they challenging the leader? Or are they silent?
        • Are they multi-tasking, or even leaving the room?

        Think of their energy as a continuum, constantly moving toward either support or resistance.

        If you do this a few times, I think you’ll become more attuned to the most subtle movement of energy in groups. And that awareness should make it easier to pay attention to people even when you are trying to juggle a lot of stuff.

        If you haven’t seen the 3-minute animated video on The Energy Bar, please take a look. The Energy Bar makes a good lens for looking at what’s going on in meetings of 500, teams of ten, or even that phone call you’ve got with your boss in a few minutes.

        I wish you well.

        Shift the Energy Before It’s Too late

        (#10 in The Energy Bar series)

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        Jim Blasingame (the Small Business Advocate) told me a great story about energy. At age 27, he landed a job in sales with Xerox.  He met with the local head of a manufacturing firm. Jim said his own head “was packed with product, pricing, and strategy.”  He went on to say, “. .. any listening and probing techniques he had learned were no match for the cargo of content” that he was dumping on this guy’s desk.

        The prospective customer stood up while Jim was in mid-fevered-sales-pitch , stretched his arm toward the door, and signaled that the meeting was over. When they got to the door, Mr. K brushed him off by saying, “Well, Jim, you’ve certainly given me the business.”

        But what Jim did next was priceless.

        Jim stood outside that door “. . . with his words detonating in my brain.” He thought for a few moments, and knocked on the exec’s door again. With all the humility he could muster, Jim said, “Mr. K, I am sorry about what just happened. May I please start over?”

        The exec replied, “Hello, Jim – come in and let’s talk about business.”

        Jim continued to work with Mr. K for many years.

        BTW, you can read Jim’s fine and entertaining article about this called Gold Mining Tool of Professional Salespeople.

        Let’s look at this story using The Energy Bar. (Click the link to watch the 3-minute animated video about this tool). Mr. K was probably indifferent or barely interested in seeing a new salesperson. Instead of accepting that’s where the energy was, Jim dumped his “cargo of content” on this executive acting as if the prospect was actually interested in Jim or what he was selling.

        On quick reflection, Jim realized that he had blown it. Now, as a result of that sales call, Mr. K’s energy was probably somewhere far over on the resistance side. Unless Jim did something differently, he might never see that potential customer again.

        By acknowledging that he had blown it, he opened the door to further conversation. Had he done anything else: waited a week and called again or sent a brochure about a product he had forgotten to mention, he would have just made matters worse. Being contrite allowed Mr. K to be generous and forgiving. And that winning combination of good energy on both sides was the start of a strong working relationship.

        Jim knew what to do. He knew how to listen and probe for more information. What saved him was his ability to quickly realize that he alone caused the resistance, and took the risk of immediately taking responsibility for what happened and asking for forgiveness. This allowed Mr. K’s energy to shift. (Didn’t make it shift, but allowed it to shift.) As Yogi Berra may have said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”