Challenge the Process without Blowing Up
You’re surrounded by stagnation because last week’s great idea is next week’s dying system. Systems defend themselves and gradually grow stale until crisis confronts and changes them.
Every system was someone’s great idea once.
Managing is establishing and protecting systems that deliver consistent results. Managers rightly say, “This is how we do it.” Leaders do more.
Managers tweak systems to enhance efficiency. Leaders don’t tweak, they challenge. There’s the rub.
Every challenge confronts someone’s great idea.
How to challenge without blowing up:
- Give in. Allow others to challenge your ideas. Adapt your thoughts. Organizational problems have more than one solution. Leaders who can’t adapt end up ineffective and alone.
- Expect reciprocity. Team members who never adapt are on their own team. Don’t be bullied. Ask team members to share a time when they gave in and remained positive.
- Stay focused. Challenges feel personal because you’re challenging someone’s good idea. Keep the goal in mind. Unfocused challenges feel like personal attacks.
- Jettison baggage. Use the future, not a failed past, to defend new ideas. Every time you criticize the past you attack those who created it. Focusing on an unsatisfactory past invites defensiveness.
- Expect resistance. Don’t take opposition personally.
- Expose rather than hide. Speak clearly and candidly about intentions, assumptions, and objectives. Manipulation produces resistance.
- Passion during; chilling after. Show loyalty and respect if you don’t win. Don’t sulk in the corner with your toys.
- Remain optimistic about others. Believe team mates seek what’s best, even when they disagree. (Important note: Forget optimism if you have a team mate who never gives in. See #2.)
- Do more than challenge. If all you do is challenge, you’re a jerk. Support others, express gratitude, and have some fun.
- Don’t keep pecking on the same tree. Find a next step and move on.
Successful leaders challenge the process before crisis arrives.
What are the ways not to challenge the process?
How can leaders effective challenge the process?
Note: The expression, “Challenge the process,” comes from, “The Leadership Challenge,” by, Kouzes and Posner.
Well for starters don’t expect to win any popularity contests!
Shifting paradigms is a tough gig.
People want constant ease and comfort and feel the way to get it is familiarity.
Problem is our reality is constant change.
Think about it. I been on this blog for months saying 70% of employees in the USA leave work feeling no one cares about them. They steal 998 billion bucks a year from their employees. They have a 30% higher rate of coronary disease.
How many of you see that as a Leadership Crisis? I don’t see much response that many of you admit this is a problem.
Our education paradigm is a disgrace. Not sure exactly where we stand worldwide but it is something like 24th in math and 36th in science. Who thinks those results are great and acceptable for what we spend to get them?
Instead of joining me in reality not liking those results I will get more thumbs down’s with no explanations! Lame!!!
And this great blog is where the or some Leaders hang? Whew!!!!
I believe the first step is getting gut level honest about the results we are getting and they are ok or not?
If they are just keep doing the same things bringing those results. If results not ok be willing to throw out everything used to bring those results and do DIFFERENT!!!!
Barry Wehmiller and Khan Acafemy get different results in business and education. Check out what they are all about how bout it?
Hope you will join me in being part of the solution and stop being part of the problem.
As a Leader I choose to stand for something instead of falling for anything. You?
I stand for an honest assessment and a willingness to find and incorporate what others are doing that gets better results.
Shifterp back to Now!
Steal 998 a year from employers
Successful leaders learn to enjoy the process of challenging the process even as they grapple with making others unhappy.
That’s where staying positive about the intentions of others comes into play. It’s easy to get angry at people when we feel like they are being negative or resistant.
I do what I can to stay neutral about others intentions, then by their actions I can backtrack to see their intentions.
Observing actions are real, feet don’t lie like lips do.
And I get angry and frustrated but do not stay that way very long.
I feel the more I mentally focus on the solution the better.
Stay calm in your passion.
I was just thinking about the problem of emotion/passion in leadership. I think being excitable invites others to get excited and before we know it, we have forgotten the issue.
I haven’t learned this one properly. One of my daily routines is to challenge the status quo. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most delicate processes to tackle.
Mainly because of the “past process was someone’s great idea…” most people get defensive if one of their ideas is challenged.
So I stop challenging by keeping quiet. I rather pick my battles than getting slapped in the face for trying to create a different future.
I respect your transparency and completely understand your reaction.
Here’s to keep on keepin’ on… cheers
Crazy- Liked your frankness yet disagree with a compromised formula. As responsible leaders, we need to pin-point the weaker process by disagreeing and suggesting the better ways politely.
Keeping mum or not commenting what would not be liked by the higher ups may put you in more problem by allowing more sucking and a danger of loosing a self-esteem.
We need to speak out and discuss the right process privately with convincing talks and facts in support. It’s better to differ and be instrumental in bringing the right process for betterment of your organization. It will fetch a right appreciation in the end. It is much more a self-satisfaction and the road to future progress within or outside the organization.
Good points. I was brief in my comment. There’s a lot if baggage within it.
Without guidance, I have had to learn the ways of “political correctness” the hard way. I have been burnt too many times for using the wrong word or a passionate tone.
Instead of coaching our people seeking to understand my perspective, what I get is the slap.
After hitting the lid so many times, I have chosen to pick specific issues to voice my opinion in order to conserve energy.
While leadership is about challenging the normal, it it’s also about taking care of my mental and emotional health in other to be able to serve others when needed.
Appreciate your views. I too have gone through such burnts in the past yet remained loyal to myself and tried to change the mind-set of seniors or the process per se.
I love this advice, Dan! As a young leader in an old company, I challenged a LOT of systems. I never understood why my ideas weren’t immediately taken up until I realized that my intense criticism of the system was in essence a criticism of those leaders and the legacy of the business itself.
Now as a group of young professionals starts up a brand new initiative in town, I’m learning more to give in on certain points, to express my ideas in terms of future success, and to be more collaborative on a deeper level.
One of the things I’m learning more about is collaborative vs. authoritative leadership. I think the older generation likes authority more and wonders if collaborative leadership can really get the job done. Thanks for your insights and story.
Leaders can effectively challenge the process but it must be done delicately. One of the neat ways I’ve seen it done is through pilots. We are piloting a new process. We keep the old process in place but we begin a new process on the side…independent of the old. The pilot last for a specific time, is monitored, measured and presented. The pilot is a way to challenge processes without insulting. Many times out of pilots come hybrid answers or maybe the reality that the old way was better. Pilots bring leaders together versus creating sides.
Nice list Dan, some of them had me in a a state of near salivation!. fro me keeping the emotion out is key – and that applies to both sides (as in as a leader managing your emotion and helping the other ‘side’ manage theirs).I’m also at the stage where I’m starting to use more ‘process’ to challenge the process – cloud based collaborative tools to monitor what is changing and who is changing it and to encourage and support constructive progress.
Really interesting. What tools do you use to monitor? I’d also love to hear how you have to implemented to make this monitoring an encouraging and supportive process (avoided the possible micro-managing/tracking blame fears)?
Many systems are from nature. Not someones idea. Nature’s systems survive. Some of the elements of the system change but the system reinvents its self then moves forward. Man made systems fail because they do not follow the rules of nature. http://www.orgsurvival.com/the-organizational-life-cycle/
Sounds like a Deist!!!!
I Concur with Deism!!!!!!
Shifterp back to now!!!
This was a very well said comment on how management is more than just bossing people around. Leaders need to be able to focus on the greater good. I’ve been working with managers that could take a thing or two from reading this and I’ll make sure to pass it along with them.
I think it’s very important to lay out the decision/problem solving process for why you see a need for the change. Make sure you know how you are going to measure success with the new change. Chances are the old way either had no measures for business success or they were the wrong measures; otherwise everyone would more easily perceive the shared need for a change.