It is gratifying that the e-book Rewiring Excellence: Hardwired to Rewired is being so well received. In writing the book, we were very careful to outline how to decide which actions can benefit from rewiring and which ones are best to leave alone. The key question is “How is it working?” If the desired outcomes are being achieved, it is best to leave it be. If the desired results are not being achieved, it makes sense to look at the action, methods, tools, and so forth to see what can be changed to achieve them.
In healthcare, clinical trials are constantly being done. The purpose is to try different ways to treat a patient to achieve a better clinical outcome than is currently being achieved. There are times when, despite the very best work being done, a trial will not be successful. There are times when the treatment will be tweaked along the way to see if a better outcome is possible. Finally, there are times when the clinical trial will lead to a different, more successful treatment plan. If people did not have the courage to look for different methods of treatment—to try new things—many of the diseases in the past would still be with us. Most of us have lost someone and later wondered if today’s advances could have saved their life. In every era, people have had the desire to make things better. At times “better,” though an improvement, is still hard. Leadership is similar: We should always be looking to make things better. These efforts might be referred to as “operational trials.”
In writing Rewiring Excellence, we looked at measurable outcomes that have not moved or have declined since 2016. We found that in a perfect, unchanging environment, some actions people have taken for years would still work. Guess what? We are not in that world. For example, a recent occurrence is that people accept a job and then do not show up for day one. This means that now, onboarding must start even before what is considered new employee orientation.
We learned that there are more people new in leadership roles than there were in the past. The Great Resignation created a less-experienced leadership team. And because so many people took on the manager role during the pandemic, they received less formal skill development than is normal. We learned that what is being asked of managers, many of them new, is too much.
When people new in leadership are asked about their greatest concern, they say it’s that they are not as good as they want to be. Yes, they want skill development; however, if not done in the right manner, it can have a negative impact. A manager can leave development sessions more stressed, not less.
A few tips on how to approach rewiring in your organization:
- Find bright spots and learn from them.These exist in almost every organization. Even if employee turnover is high, there are usually areas with results that are better than others, even though they have the same senior leadership team. When working with an organization with over 100 locations, we studied how the workforce viewed corporate headquarters. The data showed a wide variance. Some locations perceived corporate as great, some as good, some as fair, and some as terrible—same corporate, many different perceptions. By studying the data, it became clear those locations in which the employees viewed corporate as great were taking steps that others could learn and do.
- For areas not achieving results, take time to diagnose without jumping to a quick conclusion.For leaders and staff, look at experience levels. It usually takes less-experienced people longer to do things. This impacts productivity, service results, and other outcome measures. We recently surveyed managers in a large organization. Their top two “wants” were help in scheduling of staff and help in understanding the software for financial monitoring and planning. The survey allowed the organization to go where the managers actually were versus assuming what they wanted.
- Take a personalized approach to development. A key chapter in Rewiring Excellenceis around adjusting leader skill development. Despite the increase in spending on development over the past decade, the needed results have not been achieved for many. What we learned in our diagnoses is that development needs to be individualized. Group sessions are helpful. But they cannot achieve what individual sessions achieve. I have been involved in minor league baseball for many years. While the players receive group sessions, the magic is in the individual coaching.
- It’s better to do fewer things “always” than to do a lot of things “sometimes” or “usually.”We need to make sure what we’re asking people to do is truly doable. As many people know, I am a recovering alcoholic. On December 25, 1982, I entered the rooms of recovery. If they had said, “Never drink alcohol again,” I could not have fathomed it. What they said was, “Don’t drink today.” My one day at a time has added up. What sounds good from a stage, on a video, in a book, or in a column is often hard to put into practice once a person goes back to their workplace. Create a safe environment where people can share what is doable and what is not at the present time.
- Leading people through change is not easy. Share your own vulnerability.Often someone will look at a person in a leadership role and assume being a leader came easily. The leader may make it look easy; however, the skill set took years of experience and a commitment to self-awareness and skill building. We are all “cracked,” but the cracks are where the light of life comes in. A leader shared with me that a person in her department had told her about a parenting situation. The leader then shared her own experience and cried in doing so. Her willingness to be vulnerable had a very large impact on the situation.
In summary, rewiring long-established actions is not easy. At times it takes courage. It always takes hard work. Remember to be kind to yourself along the way. Enjoy the day. Live in the present—for each day really is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed.
For a free download of Rewiring Excellence: Hardwired to Rewired, available until October 15, 2023, click here.