When you're managing in the middle of an organization, with bosses above calling the shots, it's not uncommon to be asked to lead a change that you don't agree with.
Usually the attitude of that boss – should you dare to reveal your concerns – will be: "Tough luck, suck it up."
Consultant Kevin Eikenberry was a little more helpful – or at least more detailed – in his blog, suggesting there are three different varieties of this situation, requiring different responses:
- You dislike the change for ethical, legal, or moral reasons.
- You dislike the change, which is based on changes in law or regulations your organization is expected to comply with.
- You dislike the change, which was made inside the organization.
When your concern is ethical – the changes seem morally wrong or even unlawful – you have to probe, determining whether you properly understand the situation. It is possible that with a full understanding, your qualms will prove misguided.
But if that isn't the case, he says you need to be guided by your values. That means asking yourself, "If I have to lead this change, can I work here?" Perhaps you can. But perhaps you have to leave. He urges you to not ignore your ethical concerns but to wrestle with whether it requires an act of conscience.
If you disagree with the change but it's government policy, Mr. Eikenberry says, you need to grin and bear it. It is, after all, the law. And you can advise your team – where others may also disagree – of that reality.
"Be careful though. While it is easy to shift the focus and 'blame' the required change on the government, and while it can be helpful to be transparent and share that you don't like the change either, those approaches won't lead to much more than compliance with the change," he warns.
And compliance, he notes, is a low bar. You usually require more than that. "If you stay in the victim mode of blaming the government for the change, you have no chance of getting a team engaged and owning the outcomes," he adds.
Most frequently, however, it will be an ethical decision, driven by others in your organization, that doesn't seem right to you. Mr. Eikenberry suggests these six steps:
- Give it a little time: If there is time before implementation is required, allow that interval to give yourself a chance to calm down and perhaps gain a different perspective. Time heals many wounds. It may not seem so bad a few days or weeks from now.
- Ask for more information: This may seem scary, since it can reveal you’re not totally on board. But again, be open to the fact you don’t totally understand the change or reasons for it, and your perspective could change. “Make your intentions clear – you want to understand the change well enough to successfully communicate it to others. Learn more so you can do that,” he says.
- Understand “the why”: It’s vital to understand why this the change is being pushed. Perhaps you will see things in a new light afterwards. That will allow you to implement the change more effectively than if you lacked such understanding. You are better prepared to lead with confidence.
- Recognize the source of your concern: Seeking more information may not sweep your concerns aside, but it can help you clarify them. “This is important, because with this understanding you can put your concerns in perspective. There are typically many pros and cons for any change. With more perspective, you may be far more successful in supporting the change,” he says.
- Influence the outcome, if you can: Perhaps there’s still a chance to sway the decision or, at least, its implementation. It may be set in stone, but the preceding four steps allow you to suggest alternatives with a greater understanding.
- Implement the change: Mr. Eikenberry feels that you will now be in a better position to carry out the directive you have received.
The need for consistency in marketing
Advertising executive Steve McKee asks if, without the aid of Google, you can state the current slogans of the following well-known brands: Pampers, Gillette, L'Oréal, Chevrolet, Louis Vuitton, Ford, Coca-Cola, Amazon, Sony, and AT&T.
He suspects you can't. Indeed, you probably failed his quiz badly.
"Whenever we conduct this exercise with clients, most get only one or two correct, and many none at all. The point? These are 10 of the biggest advertising spenders in the world, and we don't know their slogans. That's their problem, not ours, but it's also instructive. It never ceases to amaze me how the principles of branding mirror the principles of human engagement," he writes on SmartBriefs.com.
Human engagement requires trust and consistency. We actually have a long-term connection to these brands and a good sense of what they stand for. But in the eagerness for a snappy turn of phrase, they keep changing their slogans and with it, potentially their reputations. You need to be true to your brand over the long haul.
"Consistency is as essential as it is unexciting, and the lack of it is a hallmark of struggling organizations. One of the reasons slogans perform poorly in advertising-awareness testing is that brands tend to change their campaigns long before they're fully exposed to the marketplace. And in our research among Inc. 500 companies, we found that frequent campaign changeovers correlated highly with stalled growth," he writes.
He warns that when you start over with a new advertising slogan, you are starting over. And that's not necessarily a good thing, particularly if it stems from boredom, turnover at the top, or change for change's sake.
Tricks for checking your phone less
Here are some tricks that marketer Josh Spector offers on Medium to help control compulsive use of your mobile phone:
- Stop checking it in your car; stick it in the glove compartment, if that helps.
- Stop looking at it when TV commercials come on, since, like him ,you may not put it down when the show returns.
- Put it on a charger or across the room when reading or watching TV.
- Turn off notifications.
- When surfing idly, give yourself a deadline to stop.
- Stop checking your phone when in a line.
- Create buffers in the morning and evening – no-phone times. He stops using his phone an hour before sleep and doesn’t pick it up until he has finished breakfast, about half an hour after rising.
- Put your phone away after posting something on social media rather than waiting eagerly for a response.
- Once you have checked e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn and whatever else you keep tabs on, don’t begin that cycle again.
- If you have trouble estimating time for the tasks on your to-do list, break the item down into sub-tasks, which research shows provides a more accurate forecast, blogger Jonas Fischer notes.
- Blogger James Clear warns about survivorship bias: We try to pick up tips from companies, executives, or athletes who have been highly successful, but we fail to check for other organizations or people who followed the same approach and failed. Their inability to survive prevents a proper evaluation of the method.
- We’re told that weak ties – people we aren’t very close to – can help with job searches. But new research on LinkedIn usage, where people have connections of differing intensities, shows that strong ties are more helpful in generating leads for jobs, interviews, and offers. Weak ties can offer suggestions, but they prove less fruitful, perhaps because they don’t know the individual as well.
- Mamie Kanfer Stewart, founder of Meeteor, which helps build team collaboration, points to an organization that starts meetings by having everyone say how they feel on a scale of one to 10. If everyone is six or lower, they cancel the meeting.
- Finalists for the 2017 Business Book of the Year (sponsored by Financial Times and McKinsey & Co.): The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History by David Enrich; Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein; Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought by Andrew W. Lo; The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant; Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao; The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Scheidel.
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter.