Leaders and managers, change initiatives, and learning from the exit interview : more questions from Robert Morris

By William Seidman Several weeks ago Robert Morris interviewed me at length for the “First Friday Book Synopsis,” and I’ve been sharing parts of that interview here. Today: developing effective leaders and managers, how to lead change initiatives that “stick,” and the useful truths that sometimes emerge during the exit interview. Morris: At Cerebyte, how are effective leaders and managers developed at all levels and in all areas? Seidman: We use our Wisdom Discovery process with “positive deviants” (or star employees) from several organizations to define what it means to be a great leader and how to become this type of leader. These best practices are put into our persuasive technology to guide users through a series of learning activities that develop their leadership capabilities. It is just amazing to watch how people grow in these programs. They speak differently, act differently and even stand with more confidence. It is a great feeling to help people move into the leadership realm. Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original expectations. In your opinion, what are the most formidable behaviors to change and how best to overcome them? Seidman: The single biggest barrier to change is revealed when an organization’s leadership is insufficiently committed to the change, to seeing it through to success. Many executives seem to want the benefit of a change without being willing to do the work required or handle the resistance. This shows up generally in an organization’s unwillingness to allocate the time and resources required to learn the new capabilities, and most acutely, at the end of a quarter when there are financial pressures and all change initiatives are dropped to make the numbers. In our terminology, transactional pressures undermine transformational initiatives. In most people’s language, the change is just a “fad of the week.” There just isn’t a twitter version of change or performance improvement, no matter how much people want one. Morris: During exit interviews of highly-valued employees who have accepted a position elsewhere, most of the reasons for leaving are associated with their supervisor. In your opinion, how best to respond to quite legitimate complaints? Seidman: The best way to fix any turnover problem caused by supervisors is to improve the supervisors’ leadership capabilities. Using our approach, even in very high turnover environments such as fast food, turnover drops drastically and satisfaction with management increases. This happens because we separate the supervisor’s role as content expert from their role as supportive leader. In most cases, supervisors don’t know when they should be telling someone something versus encouraging exploration and growth. As a result, supervisors increasingly become “tellers” of information, which turns out to be very dictatorial and discouraging for employees. By having the expert knowledge supplied from the positive deviants and provided through the persuasive technology, we can reduce the load on the supervisor, enabling them to learn a few — very focused and effective — support tools. We also help the supervisor become consistently more transformational by guiding them to be more effective at understanding and managing the conflict between their daily transactional role that tends to drive employees away and the transformational role that tends to grow employee loyalty.]]>

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