5 STAGES OF CULTURE CHANGE, The Beginning of Coaching for Safe Behaviors

“We can change culture, If we change behavior. If we change behavior, we eliminate incidents”

Denis Baker

We are all in a position of power—a manager, a team leader, or someone who has the ear of a leader—we can effect change.

Culture has a significant impact on everything from safety to employee engagement to productivity. In addition, it gives people a sense of belonging and self-worth in their workplace.

However, the stark reality is that organizational culture is a complex web of relationships, and as those relationships change and shift over time, everyone must embrace change. This will serve to maintain any positive change that has been affected and continue along a productive path. The ability to eliminate unsafe behaviors is determined by the quality of relationships we have with people. Regardless of your position or title, you are in the place of growing, developing, and improving people. And those people are relying on you to train, communicate, and coach them to perform their jobs or tasks safely. 

Coaching is a skill that every safety professional and leader must master. The implementation and integration of behavioral change is a crucial aspect of achieving a sustainable safety culture. 

Coaching facilitates a culture transition through the stages of behavior change to achieve safe habits. Effective behavioral change requires that we identify what we are changing, why we are changing it, how we change it, and then create a strong plan of action to maintain effectiveness.  

In this blog series, I will focus on creating a culture change through individual behaviors.

WHAT IS BEHAVIOR CHANGE?

Before we get too deep into how to change a culture, let me identify what behavior change is. Behavior change refers to the “transformation or modification of human behavior,” with a new or altered safe behavior being the end-point.

“To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior.”

Maxwell Maltz

I have identified five stages to achieve culture change. However, the process of implementing and maintaining change seems to be a spiral rather than a straight line. I have found that most people regress in the beginning stages, so constant and consistent coaching is required.

5 STAGES OF CULTURE CHANGE

Throughout my career, I focused my expertise on changing culture and ultimately changing behaviors. As a safety professional, when you first start at a company or facility, you must become familiar with the current culture, identify areas of concern, and identify a strategic improvement plan. Safety professionals play an integral role in a company or facility culture change. Therefore, you must be accurate in your evaluation and plan.

To get there, I have outlined the Five (5) stages to change a culture. While every company and facility is different, the culture change process is still the same. By following these five stages, you will help to ensure an actual culture change.

Setting the foundation

Before behaviors can be changed, organizations must identify the areas of focus needed to understand why the current behaviors exist. These areas typically include; missing policies or procedures, lack of training, leadership failure, et. Still, they may also be in the pre-contemplation, action, or maintenance stages. The current safety position is generally determined through active observations, listening, curiosity, and asking open questions. This knowledge will contribute to developing the organization’s safety strategic plan and creating the required coaching journey.

Contemplation

In the contemplation stage, the organization is “aware of existing safety issues and is creating a plan to address the issues, but has not committed to taking action. This stage can last for a long time as organizations struggle with dysfunctional employee behavior and the amount of effort, energy, and cost to create, change and implement programs and training. In the contemplation stage, the mindset of “We may” change or implement generally creates a delay in the path forward. 

Preparation

This stage combines intention and behavioral criteria. For example, an organization in the preparation stage may have reduced some unsafe behaviors but have not reached the criteria for sustainable, effective behaviors. They can be considered to be in the mindset of “We will.” Their intention and motivation are firm, and they plan to implement their change plan within a short period. 

Within this stage, the leadership will brainstorm possible approaches and solutions. Successful behavioral change requires identifying the right approach and protecting our upcoming changes from distractions and conflicting goals. Anticipation, planning, and engagement are crucial for maintaining safe behaviors. 

Action

Now the organization is committed to implementing programs and conducting training to begin the behavior change process. Organizations in the action stage are considered to be in the “I am” mindset and consistently implement their new behavior expectations. When clients are in this stage, they are likely to achieve fewer incidents and experience more robust safe behaviors. In addition, the Behavior Coaching Process (discussed in a later blog post) will result in even fewer incidents and help ensure consistent safe behaviors. 

However, once the action stage is entirely in progress, there becomes a risk of complacency and a focus on production, which causes employees to fall back into exhibiting unsafe behaviors. Keep in mind that the initiation of programs and training will be efficient, but the failure to be persistent in the expectations can create a culture backflow. 

Maintenance

In this stage, we want to continuously improve to prevent relapse, consolidate the gains attained during the past efforts, and increase safe behaviors. In my experience, this stage typically comes into play around 18-24 months. Cultures in the maintenance stage are considered in the “I still am” mindset and are considered to be in this stage when the new behavior becomes a habit. While in the maintenance stage, leadership and safety professionals are generally confident they can maintain the improved behaviors. However, they must be diligent in maintaining this change. There will be challenges and concerns. However, if the leadership has built an engaging culture, it doesn’t generally present a significant risk and can often get back on track and even create more robust, safe behaviors.

CONCLUSION

Many of us have behaviors we would like to change. Understanding the stages of change and applying each one effectively and timeously will support a meaningful, sustainable, and, ultimately, empowering behavior change, resulting in improved safe behavior and fewer employees getting injured. My next blog will focus on effectively coaching leadership and employees to change behaviors through their mindset.

Remember, our actions determine the result!

“A change in bad habits leads to a change in life.”

Jenny Craig

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

You Won’t Be A Fool If You Approach Culture Change This Way

“Only a Fool Never Changes His Mind”

RICHARD BRANSON

Everything we do within our professional and personal lives involves change. Everyone one of us (regardless of our position or role) plays an integral part in changing culture.  

As people leaders, we need to know how to achieve our change without creating a toxic environment, and we must quickly identify and address all the blind spots (there are always many, never none). These two things will sabotage our efforts. 

In his book The Culture Solution, Mathew Kelly writes, “For too many leaders, culture isn’t important until it’s urgent.” And that’s often the case. For many, but maybe some (you know whom I am referring to), it’s not that you disagree that change is essential or it’s not that you don’t see the need to make changes. It’s simply that you are focusing on the bottom line. Why change anything if you are already successful? As a safety professional, I get these comments constantly. “We haven’t had anyone get anything in their eyes, or anyone complain about air quality, so why should we spend the money if there is no risk?”

Leading culture change requires patience and persistence. Patience, because it takes time. Persistence because cultivating a culture change requires a robust daily effort. With an intentional, persistent,consistent effort, you can cultivate healthier habits and behaviors that, over time, lead to a thriving, sustainable culture. 

Let me share some cultural insights with you:

  • Culture is most important to a company. 10:1 to the vision
  • People Leaders determine the culture
  • People follow your example
  • Moral authority to what say and back it up with life
  • Culture is the personality of the company

So how do we successfully form a culture? A thriving culture is formed through these basic approaches :

  1. Behaviors
  2. Symbols
  3. Systems

Behaviors 

  • focuses on serving those who do the work.
  • Know “Who does What and Why.”
  • Show your Commitment – always under-promise and over-deliver (Exceed Expectations)

Symbols

  • Not about the corporate office; it’s about the field
  • Not bout your position title; it’s about your ability to build respect and trust
  • Not about the money you make or the car you drive; it’s about adding value to your team

Systems

  • Quit belching out the bologna and bring home the bacon.
  • Success is always in the active stage to building a sustainable culture

SO WHAT/NOW WHAT

As leaders, we don’t want to be viewed as a fool because we were not successful in changing the culture. By the way, many organizations fail in their attempt to change the culture. It’s as important to approach the change in a manner that fully engages the workforc3 and creates respect and trust. If people don’t trust you, you can’t add value, and you become the FOOL!

“Change is the law of life. And those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

JOHN F. KENNEDY

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

The Way We Say Goodbye, Is The Way We Will Be Remembered

Honor the space between no longer, and not yet.

NANCY LEVINE

As I have grown in my leadership and tried to do everything I can to build a great legacy with family, friends, and work, I began thinking about the best way to be remembered. After many conversations with leaders in various positions, I realized my legacy is based on what we say and how we say it. 

It is “The way we choose to say goodbye.” If you dig a little deeper into that phrase, the statement doesn’t focus only on the words we choose. Still, it also considers your actions during your limited time.

When we look to leave, most of us will be remembered in work and life for just a few words or actions that made a difference to others. 

So how do we say a good goodbye? Here are five things to consider in your transition.Ma

Make sure you successfully handoff of the baton.

Four runners running a mile can complete the distance much faster than one man.

The fastest runner can complete the mile in 4 minutes, but the relay team can complete the mile in 3.5 minutes, with each runner going full steam. A proper passing of the baton is the most crucial part of the race. 

The US Relay Team was the most talented in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing but lost the race because the baton was dropped. 

When thinking of leaving and transitioning our position, we must be excellent at handing the baton to our successor. So here are some thoughts on how to pass your baton effectively;

  • The one passing the baton must keep running full steam until the baton is passed.
  • There is a temptation to let up because you are tired…almost finished, but you have to keep at full speed.
  • The one receiving the baton must start running before he receives it. The receiver doesn’t begin from a standstill but is already moving to gain speed. The intent is the one receiving is going full throttle, just as the one who is handing it off. Both runners must remain in the same lane. To step out of the lanes is to forfeit the race. The one receiving the baton cannot have a different agenda. The baton must be passed in a timely fashion. There are two distinct lines on the track that designate precisely the area where the baton must be passed. It can’t be extended indefinitely.
  •  There is a beginning. There is an end. If the exchange is handled correctly, it’s possible to gain a step in the transition instead of losing a step. Since the one giving is reaching forward, and the one receiving is reaching back, there can be a jump step gained in the transition if done correctly.
  • Once the baton is exchanged, the one passing the baton does not run alongside the runner coaching him but stops, catches his breath, and walks across the infield to cheer his successor at the finish line.

 I think that’s some excellent insight on baton passing. So, an effective goodbye begins with a successful handoff

An effective goodbye in leadership transition must be the #1 priority of the present leader.

When you are going to make the transition, it has to be your #1 priority. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, said this, “From now on, choosing my successor is the most important decision I’ll make. It will occupy a considerable amount of my time every day.” He spoke those words in 1991 -Nine years before his anticipated retirement

The successor should have some good years to run the organization.

Back to Welch again from his book STRAIGHT FROM THE GUT, Jack said, “I wanted to pick someone young enough to be in the job at least a decade. While a CEO can have an immediate impact, I’ve always felt people should live with their decisions, especially their mistakes. I certainly have. Someone with less time may be tempted to make some crazy moves to put his stamp on the company. I’ve seen too many examples of that.”

Say goodbye to everyone but leave an open line to your successor.

Jeffrey Immelt, who is the successor to Jack in General Electric, said, “The most important thing Jack can do right now so I can take the reins is leave. I can always call him and ask for his advice, but physically the business can only have one leader.”

Walk away, giving your organization the best chance for future success.

You want to walk away and give your organization the best chance to succeed. 

Dan Cathy, CEO at Chick-Fil-A, said this,  “When the rate of external change continually outpaces the rate of internal change, disaster is imminent.” 

When the rate of external change continually outpaces the rate of internal change, disaster is imminent

DAN CATHY

In other words, when we on the inside don’t keep up with the transition on the outside, it’s only a matter of time we are not going to be successful in life. 

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

I am not in the transition process; however, many of my colleagues and friends are either considering retiring or leaving their current position.  

Talking with people got me thinking about the transition process. And as a result, I encourage all of you to consider this information. Any transition requires a game plan. Start thinking now.

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

CONSIDER THESE 5 INSIGHTS TO YOUR LEADERSHIP APPROACH IN 2021

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.

TAYLOR SWIFT

If you read my recent blog, “Goal Setting Questions Determine the Path Forward,” then you understand the benefits of putting together well-described goals by following the questioning process below.

Xwhere you are now, or your current reality
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish line
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish line

Well, I thought I would piggyback on that topic and share how I will approach 2021. Sure, I have put together 4 goals for 2021. However, in the last few days, I’ve had my inner self (vision) sitting on one shoulder and my outer self (reality) sitting on the other shoulder. Both gave me positive and annoying feedback on how to approach the new year. I know, it sounds weird, but this content came from them.

Being a leader in 2020 has been challenging, but we should be amazed because we have gotten through it. However, as a leader, you should be thinking of your approach in 2021. Things have changed, things will change, and new challenges will come in to play. So we need to embrace this reality and prepare to answer the question;

How do you approach your leadership in these times?

2020 didn’t turn out anywhere near where I thought it would. I hadn’t even the slightest clue the economy would fall, jobs would be lost, and travel would be minimal. I’ve said this before, my daughter’s family moved to Athens, Greece, in January, and we haven’t been able to go and visit. They haven’t been able to come back to the U.S., and my wife and I had to go through Christmas without our grandkids (we face timed). Our hearts were broken! 

I don’t expect 2021 to turn back to how it was before the crisis, but I think we need to think differently and be willing to take a different approach in our leadership. Don’t get me wrong, necessary leadership skills are still valid, but our approach must embrace the current conditions and embrace change. 

Leaders who lead in the real world tend to find success than leaders who lead in a world that doesn’t exist. No one knows the future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. And while I have no superior insight into the future than you do, I have identified these 5 insights as my approach to 2021. 

1.     Uncertainty

The future is uncertain. Reality says that has been true since the beginning of time. Right now, nothing is predictable. Think about it, a new government and a continual crisis, who knows what will take place.

Leading through uncertainty—requires a whole new skill set. With the future being uncertain, you must lead with agility and flexibility. Those two attributes will allow you to identify change and make the necessary adjustments. 

2. Instability

Uncertainty is one thing. It removes your ability to see what’s ahead.

Instability is different. Instability means the present circumstances are volatile and unsteady. The most effective way to lead through instability is to identify the most traction and utilize your resources to maximize the outcome. The best way to create future momentum is to pour resources into anything that’s producing current momentum. That’s why restaurants are beefing up takeout and drive-thrus. 

In these unstable times, when you find momentum, keep fueling it. And keep the options open.

3.     Economic Unknown

People are spending like there’s no tomorrow and saving money at historic highs. Others on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum go broke. Who knows what’s going to happen next? And the U.S. presidential election throws an extra measure of unpredictability into the mix.

How will I approach the economic strangeness in 2021? I will prepare for a season of savings and charity. You can’t give what you don’t have.

4.     Opportunity

Opportunities always exist in a crisis. Innovation is born out of a crisis. A crisis is an accelerator of new ideas. The current crisis has generated changes such as; the emergence of the home as the new hub for fitness, schooling, work, shopping, entertainment, and church. The very obstacle you’re fearing might be the most incredible opportunity you’re facing. It all depends on how you approach it.

Obstacle or opportunity? The future belongs to those leaders who take advantage of opportunities. 

5.     Internationally Grow Yourself

I saved the most important until last, but the best thing you can do is deepen your personal growth for the year ahead. John Maxwell said, “We see the world NOT as it is, BUT as we are.”

I think the best things in life won’t ever come to us (believe me, I’ve approached much of my life that way). No, what I’ve found is I need to grab them. I don’t expect them to roll downhill to me, but instead, I have to climb the hill and grab them.

Every problem or crisis introduces one to themselves. It brings out the best and worse of us. 

The number one catalyst in growth is identifying growth areas. In life, it’s not what we get that makes us valuable. It’s what we become in the process that brings value to our lives. Action is what converts human dreams into significance. It brings personal value that we can gain from no other source.

So how do we intentionally grow ourselves? Here you go.

  • Take action
  • Re-affirm your values
  • Evaluate your character
  • Experience your inner fulfillment
  • Read books 
  • Listen to various podcast
  • Identify a mentor
  • Consider being coached 

If you want to grow yourself, your growth will thrive in these difficult times. Invest your time and effort to grow yourself intentionally. The results will be astounding!

If you would like to strengthen your leadership, teamwork or simply grow yourself, then please subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the space below and click on thee orange sign-up box.

6 Safety Leadership Attributes Most Effective in Changing Behaviors

“Its easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

MARK TWAIN

In our attempt to become effective safety leaders, we must build strong relationships, respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. In my years of growth as a safety professional, I’ve learned through trial and error how to build real relationships with the workforce. These relationships resulted in respect and trust. In a recent survey to 50 hourly workforce employees, I asked the following question; 

“what leadership attributes would be most effective in convincing you to consider changing your actions and behaviors.” 

With the responses, I was able to identify 6 keys attributes safety professionals need to exhibit to convince workers to change their actions and behaviors.

  1. Clarity: Communicate the “why” of each expectation and requirement – We must be clear and concise in our expectations and requirements, but to ensure buy-in, you must present why these instructions are critical to the safety of each worker. People want to be “in the know.” They want to know where they are headed and what you expect from them so they can deliver. 
  2. Relationship: Connect with your workers – Many safety professionals are enforcers and don’t focus on conencting and building relationship. This causes tension and disrespect. Be present with your people. Please don’t leave them wondering who you are. They are looking for you to connect with them and build a working relationship. Learn names. Acknowledge people as you walk around. Recognize that life is going on outside of work. 
  3. Confident humility: Humble yourself and empower your workforce for success – Be competent and confident in your role, but lead with humility. Be decisive when necessary, and illustrate your knowledge by the reality of your decisions. Ask for suggestions and consider all solutions when looking to implement or change requirements and expectations. Safety professionals make mistakes often. I know I do!
  4. Encourager: Cheer on your workforce – While walking the work area(s), be on the lookout for those who are exceeding expectations and give them the recognition they deserve. Let those who are meeting the minimum requirements know how much you appreciate them following the rules and meeting your expectations. Encourage those doing the right thing that they are setting themselves up to go home the same way they came in. FOr those not exhibiting safe behaviors, ask them “why”, explain the expectations and “why” and encourage them to commit to working safely.
  5. Courage: Challenge your workforce – When problems occur, challenge your workforce to identify solutions. Creativity and innovation drive buy-in, which results in progress and safe performance. Have difficult conversations when necessary, and always get a commitment to do the right thing. People want to know where they stand and where they might need to improve.
  6. Passion: Let your workforce know you care for them – LOVE what you do or LEAVE! Exhibit unlimited energy and enthusiasm for your people, purpose, vision, and the values you embrace. Passion will drive buy-in and respect. It will inspire the workforce to consider doing the right thing. The safety profession is about people. When workers realize your passion is for their safety, and not just a job, they will be more prone to do what is right. Don’t be shy about your passions; let it shine through, and people will follow.

Exhibit these six attributes, and you will build strong relationships, gain respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. Accomplishing this will reduce risks, prevent injuries, and make a difference in others!

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

WHAT WILL YOUR LEADERSHIP LOOK LIKE IN 2020

“Don’t Fool Yourself; LEADERSHIP IS HARD!”

In my effort to cultivate and grow my leadership, I find it challenging to stay the course and achieve what I read, witness, and teach. In fact, I often find myself telling people one thing and doing the exact opposite. Doing that can hurt those you lead, coach, mentor, or teach. If you don’t improve, you will ultimately lose respect, trust, and, eventually, the ability to influence. 

As 2020 approaches, I decided to evaluate my leadership abilities and identify those things I do well and those areas where I need to improve. The last four years have been a personal leadership challenge for me. I’ve had a job change that put me in a role with no direct reports and limited my decision-making authority. I’ve had to learn to lead differently. The term; “influence without authority” has become an actual reality challenge for me.

During my self-evaluation, I identified my top 5 strengths in leading others and having a strong influence on the decision making process.

1. I am a very HIGH ENERGY AND PASSIONATE leader in the areas I believe in.

2. I am willing to embrace CHANGE, even if I don’t entirely agree with it

3. I am PERSISTENT in my approach to achieving my desires, goals, and objectives

4. I am CONFIDENT in my decision making but open to ideas and suggestions

5. I am a strong ENGAGER of people

It is always good to identify your strong points, but it can be challenging to identify areas for improvement. The way I approached this was to reflect on 2019 and the many conversations, suggestions, and feedback I received throughout the year. I am always asking for feedback (although many times I don’t want to hear it or I have an excuse) 

Based on my evaluation and reflection, I will focus on building and improving the following five leadership traits in 2020. 

1. Being Clear in My Communication – I will work to enhance my communication approach through tone and word choices. Working to pull my feelings and frustration back and undoubtedly transfer my thoughts, ideas, and expectations. I will explain the “why” more often and ensure people are well informed. People want to be “in the know.” People want to deliver expectations, but can’t be successful if we don’t clearly and successfully communicate. They also want to know what the rewards are for good work and the consequences for sub-standard work.

2. Build Stronger Relationships – Relationships are critical to leadership. Strong relationships build trust and respect and offer the opportunity to influence. I will work to be present with my customers, leaders, and the workforce. I will reach out for general conversations and make sure I follow-up with the right people. I will work to show how much I care about all facets of the business. It is said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” They are looking for you to care for them and build a working relationship. I will work harder to learn and remember names and recognize that life is going on outside of work.

3. Humble Myself – I am am very confident in my role but must be better at leading with humility. I don’t know everything and always make the right decisions, but I will work diligently to illustrate my knowledge through the quality of my choices. I will recognize all persons, regardless of position, and work to realize that no one is any more important than anyone else. I will demonstrate this through my actions and interactions. I will let each know how important they are by involving them and getting their brains in the game.

4. Be a Stronger Encourager – I will continuously look for and recognize the great work people are doing. I will express my gratitude and exemplify the positive difference they are making. I will encourage them for their actions, the work they perform, and the value they add.

5. Have Courage – I understand creativity and innovation drive progress and performance. I will make bold decisions, push back when needed, but fully support the final decision. I will have difficult conversations when necessary, and I will do the difficult right things.

With a new year and new decade roll into place, I feel like it is the optimal time to increase my influence and achieve more than I ever have. I don’t know where most of you fall within your leadership needs (unless I know you). Still, I believe the results from my self-evaluation will encourage many of you to look within yourself, identify areas of improvement, and make the necessary changes to become a stronger influencer and more effective leader.

Change Takes Effort and Time. Are You Committed to See it Happen?

Change doesn’t result from one giant step, but rather it slowly appears after many small steps.”

Denis Baker

Change is a word found in everyone’s vocabulary, regardless of the language. It’s easy to pronounce, easy to spell and is used as a noun or a verb. The word can refer to; making a difference, doing or using something different, reflect your or someone else’s’ desire or actions, and is used to refer to money. However; change in life and business is an overlooked prospect in people. It is one of the most challenging things to embrace. People tend to push away change rather than embrace it.

If you want to make changes to your business, culture, or your people, you need to ask yourself this question:

“Am I willing to give the required effort and time to this cause?”

Making a significant change is at least a three to five-year effort, if not a 7-10-year commitment. If you’re not willing to stay for the necessary time, don’t start the changes. Many organizations expect change to occur quickly. That’s not going to happen. Signs of change are seen relatively quickly; however; for every step forward, there will be three steps backward. 

I’ve had a fantastic but challenging career. Through the years, I’ve become noted for my ability to change or implement a sustainable and robust culture. However; one of my significant career failings is that I began a positive change in many companies, but left before it was fully implemented. Many of my former employers have expressed their frustrations in my leaving before completion. 

A couple of years ago, I was talking with several executives at a potential employer about the changes they wanted to make in their organization. These changes included; culture, leadership ability, and teamwork. I asked, “How long are you willing to invest in these changes?” I received silence and stares. After about 3 minutes (seemed like an hour), one of the persons spoke up and said;

“Oh, I believe we are all aware that change will take six months to a year, and we are willing to fully support the effort during that time.”

Want to know how I responded? I’m sure you do. I looked at the person straight into their eyes and responded with this; 

“With that thought process, change will NEVER occur in this company. Moreover, I am probably not the right person for this position.”

I looked around the room and was met with faces of complete and utter shock! After I took a moment or two to view their facial expressions, I continued to explain why I disagreed with the person’s thought and shared my six principles of change to the group;

  1. Change starts with a vision, the idea must be communicated and embraced by the entire organization.
  2. Change creates motion and motion generates friction.
  3. I pointed out that 20% of the people will embrace the change, 50% will be undecided, and 30% will resist change. 
  4. I stated problems would come up and the only way to successfully address them is to be transparent in your dealings with people.
  5. Another critical aspect of change is ensuring open communication where people feel free and safe to share their thought and ideas. 
  6. A successful transition requires employee involvement and buy-in to eliminate the feeling that they have no control in the process.

I explained to the group that each of these steps took months, if not years, to fully implement and get total inclusion in the change. I explained that I believed the change would take at least 3-5 years, if not longer, based on the leadership ability, sense of urgency and commitment.

I ended my conversation by saying, 

“If six months to a year is all the time you’re willing to commit, don’t even get started with the changes. Nothing will happen in six months, and it will be a waste of time and resources.”

The VP of Human Resources looked at me and said,” Well, Denis, you have created some pretty deep thoughts, and I feel we need to discuss your comments as a group.” I was then walked out of the room and given a handshake as I left. 

One of my biggest lessons in executing change is to realize if you get in the middle of making changes and then bail, it’s like leaving a patient on the operating table. A doctor would never quit in the middle of a heat transplant. If you execute change and leave, your leaving people hanging. You’re just messing up the organization’s efforts. It will move the change process back by months, if not years. 

It’s the person filling your position who will suffer from your lack of commitment. At some point, they will have to deal with a big mess. When the next person creates his or her’s strategic plan and drafts up a vision, the organization will be reluctant in moving forward.

I once asked a pilot how he turns around a big plane in the air. He told me that it takes some time. “You can make almost a 90-degree turn in the air, and the plane can handle it, but your passengers will go crazy.” He said even a 45-degree turn is rough on passengers, but they don’t usually notice a 30-degree turn.

That’s why it’s so essential that you’re willing to stay with the organization long enough to fully complete the change. You can make a bunch of small yet significant changes over a long period. People won’t even notice. It’s when you try to make substantial changes quickly; people get upset and may not support your plans.

Slow the pace of change and be patient; success takes time.

Just ask Hank Aaron. On baseball’s opening day in 1954, Milwaukee Braves rookie Hank Aaron didn’t get a single hit in five trips to the plate. He could have quit that day. However, five outs didn’t define Hank Aaron. He batted another 12,359 times during his career, and he eventually broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

Remember this, success is not defined by how you start, but rather how you FINISH!

LOVE – HATE – DISCONTENT What’s Your View of Our World?

Recently, I was on a flight trying to get some sleep before arriving to meet up with my colleagues for a series of meetings. Usually, I prefer to take the first flight out so that the chances of a delay are reduced. However, I live 2 hrs from the airport and a 6 am flight is pretty darn early. So, I settled into my window seat and put on my headphones drifting off to the sounds of Ray LaMontagne. As people boarded, I realized very quickly that my flight was going to be a challenge. Two ladies sat behind me. And apparently, they began their early morning with several Bloody Mary’s.

Both women were VERY loud, vulgar and the one directly behind me would continuously slam down the tray and kick my seat. Her timing was impeccable! Every time I fell asleep, she did something to wake me up. Frustration began to settle into my soul. I would continually turn around and give her the evil eye, trying to get her attention to stop. However, I think it encouraged her to do it even more. I eventually fell asleep but awoke when she violently pulled the top of my seat backward. She was in haste to go to the bathroom and lacked a complete disregard for others around her.

I realized sleep would evade me. I took out my laptop and continued to listen to music with my noise-canceling headphones. The two of them were loud enough that I was able to hear their conversations (even with my noise-canceling headphones). I tried to ignore them, but the topics began to intrigue me. They were talking about politics, their hairdresser, husband, and boyfriend. I heard them bring up the cashier at the store and the “idiot” that made them miss a green light because he was on the phone (I would agree with them on that one). They talked about the ladies they were meeting for their birthday weekend and how annoying they were. They talked about how long it took the flight attendant to get them their drinks (I was praying she forgot). And this continued for the duration of the 3 hr flight.

As I sat there and went through all of his, I began to think about how people view the world we live. And I realized it’s all based on our perspective and the influences surrounding us.I thought about the phrase “love is, actually, all around.”

If you spend time pursuing social media, the web, CNN or Fox News, I believe you’d find that the current state of affairs is one consumed with hate and greed. Ethical values are hard to come by in the workplace, politics and within personal lives. It seems people with integrity are few and far between and that the underlying message to the young and old is that ” the world sucks, and then you die.”

I think the advent of social media and an increased interest in the 24 hr. news, we, as a society have become obsessed with the shockingly evil things that take place. The good in the world is rarely highlighted.

In the words of Hugh Grant’s opening monologue in the movie, “Love Actually,” he says this;

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinions starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate and revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually, is all around.”

As a frequent business traveler, I spend a large part of my day in and out of airports, traveling between cities, hoping to make my connection and eating high fat “travel” food. Airports provide a chance to catch up on phone calls, answer emails and work on projects. It is also a great place to people-watch.

Airports offer a simple look into society and the variation found in individuals. There are people happy to go on vacation and people frustrated because their travel plans have changed. There are some who’ve had too many drinks (remember the ladies behind me?) and others experiencing deep sadness as they travel to attend the funeral of a loved one.
One thing I’ve learned from the airport terminals and from sitting on long flights is that “love is actually all around us.”

I realize that we are not as bad as social media and the news make us out to be. Sure, I believe the world has changed. Our moral compasses have been compromised, and ethics and integrity have taken a back seat. However, in the modified words of Hugh Grant, mothers and fathers love their kids, grandparents cannot get enough of their grandkids, people will help others, and our hearts are generally kind. We do love each other, regardless of how we look, dress and the color of our hair. We ultimately know what is right and choose to make our own decisions. We are happy and sad, but we lean on family and friends to support and encourage us.

There is still a moral compass upon us, and we are a society based upon ethical business practices through the integrity of others. When someone is wrongfully influenced, leaders will arise to bring about truth and honesty. Although society has evolved over the years, I am determined to see the good that is all too often consumed with the sensationalism of hate.

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

ACHIEVING CHANGE IN AN UNCHANGEABLE ENVIRONMENT

I recently began a new job with a large organization. The organization is somewhat unique to me because it consists of two legacy organizations each made up of multiple companies. Each organization operated independently until recently when ownership decided to merge the two legacy organizations into a single corporation with shared visions and goals.

“Change is achievable in any environment, as long as all layers are iniated in the change process.” – Denis Baker

I was hired to help create a transformational change where safety and health are Fotosearch_k27534040integrated into the entire operational culture. I believe this is the only practical method for achieving safety and health goals and ultimately an incident-free culture. Safety and health should never be “first” or a “priority,” but rather a core value integrated into the culture of the organization. You see, priorities change, values do not and first is not always. I often use a pie analogy to visualize this. The pie is divided into equal pieces, with safety and health having an equal slice of the total pie. No more, no less, but equal.

Whether your profession is safety or finance, the successful process of change is the same. Here are 10 principles to follow when initiating change. Execute these, and your efforts will be made fruitful.

1. Have compassion and understanding. Regardless of circumstances, change is scary, and you represent a terrifying unknown. Every location I visit, after we complete the professional introductions and small talk, I am met immediate resistance. And most will try and distance themselves. When I begin touring, asking questions and making suggestions, encounter looks of concern or frustration and often hear, “but that is not the way we do it,” or we’ve always done it this way.” To help soften my perceived impact, I often encourage their suggestions or solutions. This creates a great team-centered environment that allows them to consider any of my initiatives. Probably, the most important thing I’ve come to realize, is their reactions aren’t personal; they are just responding to an uninvited change.

2. Reach out and connect with those affected by the change. Success in anything cannot be achieved without effective relationships. Before a relationship can begin, one must first connect with the person or group. Do this by identifying common ground. Look for small wins that build respect and credibility.  In the beginning, change can be frustrating for both sides. It will be tempting to simply brush off questions or concerns, because you may feel it is easier to just do it. And it is. However, I BEG YOU to RESIST that urge! No doubt we want quick results, but you’re better off starting slow and finding common ground. Find opportunities for one-on-one interactions. For change to be successful, connecting with those affected requires consistent, realistic, heartfelt conversation.

3. Influence the influencers. Influence those who have influence, without neglecting the others. Pay attention to group dynamics and identify the influencers. Identify who they are, and get to know them immediately. Learn what they value and be transparent in addressing their needs, concerns or wants. Just remember, you can’t do or control what you don’t control.

4. Expect resistance and don’t ignore it. Resistance is always present for any change, especially culture change. Don’t think it will go away on its own, it won’t. In fact, if left unattended, it will multiply and infiltrate the entire organization. Once this occurs, your job just got tougher. Meet with the discontent. Put your pride aside and listen. Address each issue as it comes up, but don’t make any promises or commitments you can achieve. If that happens, you just lost all the trust and respect you’ve been working to achieve. Gain buy-in by understanding the reasons getting buy-in for your vision and goals for change. Realize that most of the resistors are the influencers.

5. Communicate your values. In the safety profession, it’tempting to withdraw when you encounter conflict, but you have to do the opposite. You’ve got to overcommunicate. Look for ways to demonstrate your values as you explain your vision. You want to reassure people that your principles are positive and show where your values align with theirs. The key is to be steady, positive and consistent.

6. Learn from other leaders. How do others achieve change? Read, ask and network, looking for ways and ideas that might work in your situation. I often tell people to go with their gut. Meaning, if your intuition is saying yes or no, then follow that “gut feeling” and move forward. As we say in the safety profession, “steal shamelessly.” Great leaders learn to steal the best ideas. Remember, their approach or tactics are vetted and proven.

7. Go forward boldly. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. (Just be sure to fix them faster than you make them!) Stop and assess yourself, your process and your progress often, and course-correct as needed. Mistakes are inevitable. Keep it moving.

8. Prioritize and act. Identify the one or two areas where you will receive the greatest benefit and make that your priority effort. However, always evaluate your progress, the level of reception, the level of effectiveness and be ready to make changes as needed.Remember you are the change agent, you must be willing to change.

9. Create wins for the organization. Never underestimate the power of early victories. They give people confidence to keep pushing forward, even though turning the ship is hard. Achieving an early win builds momentum. People trust leaders with a proven track record. They will accept changes from people who have led them to victory before. Remember, it is easier to steer a moving train than stop it.

10. Identify and equip other leaders. If you want to sustain change and start building momentum, you must start developing and equipping the leaders. This is something many organizations fail at. We take the best worker and make them the leader. Great principle, but horrible execution. We tend to neglect the coaching and training needed to make that person successful. Look for those who rise to the top and pour into them your coaching and mentoring efforts to see them become the best leaders possible.

When I am looking for a job, I tend to identify companies where change is needed. In Fotosearch_k21722018fact, I have been a crucial part of at least six organizations where a cultural change was required. I approach each opportunity by implementing these 10 principles. Execute these 10 principles and watch change take place.

What Message Are You Sending? PART 2 of 3 – 11 Rules and Etiquette for Crafting and Sending Effective Emails

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The way you craft or respond to an email determines the effectiveness of your words. That drives the intended outcome and creates the influence you desire.

When replying to emails, consider these ten (11) suggestions:

  1. Organize your words and paragraphs to make it easy for readers to follow and understand.
  2. Reflect on the email content before replying. Your leadership effectiveness is reflected in your response.
  3. Don’t automatically hit “Reply All.”  This should only be used when needed and with extreme caution.  You should only use “Reply All” when everyone on the “TO” list requires your response.  Most of the time, it is sufficient to only respond to the person who sent the email.
  4. Be Careful with the “Bcc.” The “Bcc:” option allows you to “blind carbon copy” someone on an email without any of the other recipients knowing. It can be useful in some cases when you wish to keep email addresses private.
  5. Avoid Cursing. Cursing in an email is just wrong. Don’t do it. Swearing in an email comes off as being ignorant or showing a lacking intelligence.
  6. Use proper grammar.  Don’t write like you speak. Remember, emails are forwarded all the time.
  7. Respond Regardless. Everyone would deserve a response, even if the email were mistakenly sent to you.  A simple, “I got your email,” or “I think this was addressed to me by mistake” will let the sender know you got the message.
  8. Be leery of tone. Each person interprets email tone differently.  A well-written email can easily be interpreted as a negative with the use of various words.  Many people use all caps. Doing this implies YOUR YELLING AT SOMEONE.
  9. Don’t Be Cute There is no room for cuteness or EMOJI’s, inappropriate pictures, etc.
  10. Include a professional signature. Include; your full name, title, work address and phone number.  When using a quote or image, be careful that it does not offend.
  11. Read it, then reread it. Read and re-read your email. Make sure your grammar, spelling, and choice of words portray the intended tone and message.