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Manager’s Corner™: When You Raise The Bar, Your Team Will Trip Over It by Liz Weber, CMC, CSP

I feel bad for a few of my clients. They’re at that point in our leadership training and coaching projects where they’re actually doing what they should have been doing for years. And it’s not easy.

Changing behaviors and implementing new policies, new personnel actions, and new initiatives is difficult. In addition, changing behaviors that have been learned and honed over 5, 10, 20 or more years takes time. It rarely happens right away or on the first attempt. It takes practice to refine and correctly implement the correct new behavior at the right time and in the right way. And, when attempted, the new behaviors are often not implemented well many times before they’re finally implemented well on a consistent basis. Changing behaviors often takes months, if not years.

So, with all of the failed attempts, missteps, and just plain old screw-ups, it’s easy to see why so often clients will say things such as, “Things are worse now than ever before!” “People are anxious and uncomfortable.” “I’m afraid to say anything to anyone!” Every one of those statements is understandable…and desired.

Wait. What? Why are they desired? Why am I not asking myself: How could our training have gone so terribly wrong? When clients make comments such as the above, it’s an indication the process IS working. When things feel worse than before because of actions being taken, the client’s leadership team is changing and progressing. Members of the leadership team are finally doing what they should have been doing for years. However, because many of them are doing things at the same time, it’s shaking things up with more visibility and speed than if just one manager were to make changes on his or her own. And the entire organization feels it.

When leaders and team members intentionally think about and change their behavior and performance, they often go through a process similar to cleaning out the garage or a closet. Things get messy before they get organized. The leaders and team members have got to pull everything out. They’ve got to assess their inventory of behaviors. Determine which to keep, which to eliminate, and which to strengthen. Then they have to put the remaining skills back together in a way that makes sense for them and works in the right way at the right time within the organization. It’s not easy. However, change rarely is.

When people and organizations start to implement behaviors and expectations to improve communication, clarify expectations, and hold everyone (top to bottom) accountable, the leadership team is essentially raising the bar for performance. However, when leaders raise the performance bar from where it’s always been to where it needs to be, people will trip over it. Many are not used to having to think about clearing the performance bar day-in-and-day-out. They’ve been sauntering over it for years. So now that the expectations for everyone have been raised, there will be stumbles. There will be missteps. There will be leaders and team members who fall flat on their faces. If you’re lucky, there will be many who trip. Because when they trip, they’ll pay attention a bit more and learn how to clear the bar smoothly the next time.
Copyright MMXIV – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP* – Weber Business Services, LLC –
* Liz is one of only 13 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designations; the highest earned designations in two different professions.

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