The Two-Step of Change Leadership

I love change.  Or so I thought.

A few months ago I made an offhand comment to my husband in mixed company,

“I love change!” I declared.

What came back was an incredulous look, “No you don’t.  You hate change.  You only love change you initiate.  You hate it when it happens to you.”

To which I could only say….. “Oh.  Right.”

As a leader I can be so focused on driving change for an organization that I forget how it feels to have change roll over you.  That is how it feels, isn’t it?  Change that comes at us can feel like a speeding Mack truck rolling over our hopes, our plans, our best intentions, our routines.  Change comes and our sense of security, stability and well-being vanish.

The Difference between Leading Change and Coping with Change

But I do love to drive change.  What does that means?  It means I like to bend the world to my vision of the future.  I like to design the future according to my preferences.  I like to anticipate what is on the horizon and create something now that will serve that future time well.

Leading change is different from coping with change.

Recognizing that big difference is a key factor in equipping teams and leaders to manage and navigate change. 

Leading change means you are in a position with some authority to make a series of decisions about other people’s lives.  It feels different to the change leader than it does to the change leader’s team. Being in control of decisions about other people’s destiny is a responsibility to take seriously.

Change leaders out there, it is wise to remember this!

A Lesson in Change Leadership

Here are a couple change insights to keep in mind as you lead and navigate change in your organization and on your teams:

Change leadership requires a complicated emotional dance; ours and theirs.

The emotional stories of the leader and the team are necessarily different.

 Be aware of this difference and make intentional space for it.

When we lead change, we have to step through our own emotions while simultaneously equipping others to navigate their fears, excitement, anxiety, curiosity and anger.  Yes, anger.  We feel all kinds of emotions when we move through change, and leaders would do well to realize that the emotions that arise when you are reacting and responding to someone else’s change are different from the way we feel when we are leading change.

We need to create two spaces:

Ø  A space in which we can be listened to, and

Ø  An environment in which we can listen to and facilitate our team’s change process.

These two practices will help you navigate through both your experiences and theirs:

1.      Find a trusted colleague you can talk with regularly.

This should be a peer with whom you can discuss your own personal experience and from whom you can seek counsel, as you help your team navigate the change successfully.  The change you experience personally and the one you are leading are different.  Make space for both experiences in your conversation.

2.      Make space to listen to your team.

Facilitate conversations that both share information (even the fact that you don’t have information is information!) and seek to discover their questions.  Be prepared to:

Ø  Listen.  Really listen, honestly and openly.

Ø  Reflect back that you have heard what was shared.

Normalize the feelings:  they are valid.

Ø  Ask questions about what will best equip them to move forward through the change.

Ø  Ask what their questions are.  Their unanswered questions will keep them from being engaged and energized.  You need to know what they want to know more about.

Note: It is typically not wise to try to answer those questions as they are asked.  Collect all the questions first, and then answer them.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to point toward a positive future.  To be able to help the team and organization frame what the New, Future Reality will look like.  Conversations that ask and answer questions begin to shape a common vision.  When the vision begins to be shared by a team’s collective imagination, you are on your way to creating the future together.

Sucker-punched: Why Watching for Blind Spots is Mission-Critical

Bright Spots:  the places in our world where success is being created, where things are working well, where we are getting things right.  Being aware of our Bright Spots, and paying attention to what works and why, helps us better learn how to map a path toward success in the future.

Blind Spots:  the places where our failures and foibles, liabilities and lost opportunities lurk.  Blind spots are the aspects of a situation we are unable to see or understand.

Question: Why would anyone want to learn about their Blind Spots?

Answer: So that you don’t get Sucker-Punched.

I have been sucker-punched by a Blind Spot and I lived to tell you about it.

Here is what I have to say:  It stinks.  (I could be more colorful.)  And it can really cost you.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to learn the landscape of your Blind Spots.

I encourage you to practice these Blind Spot Banishing Skills, so that you don’t have to “learn from experience” (a nice euphemism for “I got Sucker-Punched”.)  How to see your Blind Spots:

Blind Spot Banishing Skill #1:  ASK

Be Curious.  Ask questions that are calibrated to help you discover the pitfalls and perils that lie just beyond your awareness.  Questions like,

Ø  “What am I missing that others are concerned about?”

Ø  “What are 3 different ways I could be looking at this situation, and what would you suggest I do differently based on those other points of view?”

Ø  “How might other people be interpreting my actions? What am I doing to contribute to these impressions?”

Blind Spot Banishing Skill #2:  IMAGINE

Think about the situation from the points of view of others who are impacted or involved.

Ø  What do they believe is true about what is happening?

Ø  What facts do they have?

Ø  How might they be interpreting those facts?

Ø  What experiences do they have that contribute to their different beliefs about the same events?

Blind Spot Banishing Skill #3:  RELATE

Build relationships with both confidantes and detractors.

We need all kinds of people to help us understand the way we come across.  I have learned some of my best lessons in life from people who were not the easiest for me to be around.

Ø  Create the conditions for people you disagree with or lack chemistry with to be honest with you about how you come across.  Their insights are a real gift.  Really!

Ø  Have candid conversations with confidantes as well.  A confidante is someone who can give you hard feedback, and you, for whatever reason, can hear them.  They will give you invaluable insight, particularly if you ask in an intentional, open way.  And because they “get” you,these people are often able to explain how to apply both their feedback, and the feedback you get from your detractors.

Blind-Spots are great until they cost us.  It is so easy and comfortable to be unaware of how we come across with what we say and do. However, moving through life blissfully unaware of a lurking liability is not the way for a leader to succeed in the long run.

So, stay open, be curious, invite new insights, and build relationships with people that are both easy and challenging for you to connect with.  When we show others we are open, curious and care about how we come across, you will find they are more willing to share with us that one piece of advice that might make all the difference between success and failure.

If you have a story to share about how you Banished a Blind Spot, I invite you to share it with me.  I would love to use it in an upcoming Lessons Learned the Hard Way series.  

You can email your story to me at jennifer@voltageleadership.com


You’re there again…sitting with the team or the boss or maybe a client or colleague and want to make sure you don’t miss anything important. Later, as you review the meeting notes, you may be struggling to understand what they mean. How can that be? After all, you were there and wrote the notes. Though some of the notes may resemble a really impressive collection of doodles, meaningless symbols or some foreign language. Other than this meaning that you were supposed to attend medical school, it is a very common affliction we could call “Notus Incompletus.

You almost never need to write everything down that’s said in a meeting; in fact, you probably shouldn’t. Writing too much during a meeting can keep you from being totally engaged with the conversation happening right in front of you. However, you do want to capture the important themes and to do’s from the meeting.

Fortunately, Voltage Leadership has some helpful options for making your notes super-efficient. Try one of these strategies in your next meeting:

  • One Summary Sentence. If one person is speaking, then, you only get to write one sentence to summarize what they said. This forces you to process the information they shared (as opposed to automatically writing it down) into what is meaningful to you.
  • Make Each Meeting Point a Single Word. Try to distill each person’s point into just one word. Often, a person is really only trying to express one main point, even if they use copious words to get there.
  • Only Write Down Questions. When you have a question, write it down. When you get the answer, write that down. That way, you have a record of everything you thought was important enough to ask about.
  • Go Last - Wait until the end of the meeting to take notes. What did you learn? What do you need to take action on? If you had to get someone else up to speed on this meeting, what would you tell them?
  • Be Present for Whomever is Speaking. If you’re having trouble focusing on the topic at hand, try focusing on the people instead. Set a goal to give every single speaker your undivided attention.
  • Ask if You Really Need to be there.  You don’t have to be rude in order to get out of a meeting. Ask the organizer if you are really needed in this meeting? If are not essential for the meeting but need the information, ask if you can read through someone’s notes after the meeting.
  • Develop a Team member by Sending Them.  Make sure the organizer is not expecting you to bring something your proxy won’t be able to provide. You can catch up later on what you need to know.

Give these note taking methods a try to find the one that works for you. We hope they'll help you become more focused and engaged during your meetings.

For a more detailed discussion on getting the most out of your meetings, check out our radio show, VoltCast: Illuminating Leadership.


Overwhelmed.  Frustrated.  Or both.

I sit across the table from leaders and hear these common refrains time and again. Either the comments are autobiographical or they are directed toward others:  their peers, team members, direct reports, the CEO.

“I have too much on my plate.”

“There is too much on the horizon.”

“So much is changing so rapidly in the marketplace, that I feel my brain can’t keep up!”

“They don’t move quickly enough.”

“The thinking isn’t right to meet our need right now.  They need to be focused on different things.”

“Where is the accountability: the sense of urgency?”

“Why can’t they think more strategically?”

Leaders at every level wrestle, in different ways, with these same questions:

  • What do I keep?
  • What do I give away?
  • How do I decide?

We need to choose wisely what to delegate and what to keep.  Deliberate Delegation.

When choosing which assignments to give and which to do, I recommend beginning with these 3 questions:

  1. Is the assignment too large for me to accomplish alone?
  2. Does this work present an opportunity to develop others?
  3. Can someone else do this better than I can?

If you answer “yes” to any one of these questions, the task is one that could be delegated.

The next step is to know if it should be delegated.

Once you know you could delegate something, you then need to assess if it is wise to delegate this particular task.  What is the risk? To capture the risk, ask the next two questions:

  1. How urgent is the task?
  2. How important is the task?
  • If something is Very Urgent and Very Important, proceed with caution.  You may not want to delegate this one, unless your team is seasoned and successful.
  • If something is Very Urgent but Not Important, it is a great task to give away to build skills on your team.
  • If something is Not Urgent but Very Important, you have time on your side.  This is a great opportunity to develop your team; building skills, trust, experience and confidence in their work and in their relationships with you and one another.

With these questions in mind, you can make an informed decision about what to keep and what to give away. This is where Deliberate Delegation actually begins. But what are the steps to the process of effective Deliberate Delegation? Check back next week to find out!


Well, well, well – now that’s a deep subject. How to stay ‘well’ during intensely busy times is even deeper.

In our leadership practices with busy professionals from all disciplines, we often notice that one of the first things that seems to go away is meaningful self-care. As Stephen Covey points out in his excellent book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 7th Habit is “Sharpening the Saw.”

The analogy is simple. You expend energy to get results. The tools you utilize are finite. They are not inexhaustible.

You cut wood. Your primary tool, the saw, starts to break down at the point of contact. Even 100,000-mile spark plugs need to be changed after 100,000 miles to retain their “spark.” Nevertheless, the primary tool we utilize to achieve results, people, seems to be thought of in this way…inexhaustible.

It can be very harmful for organizations to miss this point. It seems obvious, yet engagement and turnover statistics often show it isn’t. It’s like driving a car in one gear all the time. Eventually the gear, at the point of contact, grinds down causing the transmission to slip. Many in management say “keep your foot on the gas and gun that engine” attempting to ignore the obvious. That is that their “cultural gears” are slipping and their people are expending energy but aren’t getting enough traction to achieve results. How about you?

Take this simple wellness self-assessment. Honestly rate yourself on a scale of 1-5, on these dimensions of life:

Key: 1=Not Concerned, 2=Somewhat Concerned, 3=Concerned, 4=Constantly Concerned, 5=Freaking Out

a)      Physical –  Regarding my physical well-being I am (record number)

b)      Mental – My mental capabilities may not always be available at their best level (record number)

c)       Emotional – I feel emotionally drained or unavailable to others most of the time (record number)

d)      Spiritual – My inner being feels disconnected from the rest of my world (record number)

If you scored 12-15, its time to get real about meaningful self-care. Stop and change your spark plugs. If you scored 16-20, its time to reverse course or prepare for a transmission overhaul in the emergency room.

Those who believe this is hogwash are like people driving a car without a spare tire, or those unfortunate soles who keep driving on that weird little spare tire. They are announcing to the world, “See I am 100% certain I will not get stuck.” That is until life happens and the tow truck loaded with EMTs needs to come and rescue them.

If there is any one thing that can have the greatest, most immediate positive impact, it is creating time to get physical (whatever that means to you.) It almost doesn’t matter what the physical activity is so long as you reverse the course and do it now. You can do the ‘physical therapy’ now or later and if you do it later, it could be ugly.

The Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual benefits are too numerous to mention here. But needless to say, people who are healthy in these areas are happier, more resilient, more engaged and more productive employees.

Well now…. isn’t that something?


I am always amazed at the number of people who cannot wait until the weekend, the next month, etc.  They discuss how their job, their boss, their peers drive them crazy.  I think of these folks as serving time.  I once worked at a large organization where people would say they only had 15 more years until they could retire.  I would say, “15 years!  You could have several great careers.”  They replied, “Yes, but I would give up my pension, my vacation, my seniority.”  To me, they were giving up 15 years and just serving time…which is guaranteed to no one.

I propose an alternate approach.  How are you investing your time?  You may not love the situation you are in, but what are you doing to improve yourself?  A recent report by The Jenkins Group said that 42% of college grads never read another book after graduation.  In 1978, Gallup found that 42% of adults had read 11 or more books in the past year (and 13% had read more than 50!).  Today, Pew Research Institute finds that just 28% reach the 11 books mark.  Pew also found that in 2014, 23% of Americans did not read a single book.

Are you still learning?  What was the last great book that you read that got you out of your comfort zone?  (For me, it was Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Eblin.)  What podcasts or YouTube videos do you learn from?  Who do you share these lessons with?

I love the quotation, “the only difference for you in five years will be the books you read and the people you meet.” 

·       Who are you networking with?

·       What value do you bring to them?

·       Who are you mentoring or coaching?

·       Where are you volunteering?

These are all investments in time; however I firmly believe that you will wake up in five years from now doing something you are passionate about.  Thus, I hope you will call someone and set up an appointment for lunch and really listen to their ideas.  I think this is a great investment in time.

Here are some of my favorite recent books and podcasts to give you some ideas:


·       TED Radio Hour

·       Harvard Business Review IdeaCast

·       RadioLab

·       Stuff You Missed in History Class


·       Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Elbin

·       Anatomy of Peace by Arbinger Institute

·       5 Gears:  How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

·       Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

What are you interested in?  Go find a book, podcast, or YouTube video on the topic.  Next, discuss the book with a friend and start to apply the practices.  Investing time will provide a jolt of inspiration for your leadership.