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Leadership Strategies and Wedgewood China

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Change is hard. It's hard in the best of times and hard in the worst of times. Just ask the company that has made Wedgewood china for generations. Not many brides are yearning for fancy plates or little figures to gather dust on tables; today's newlyweds like their stuff simple, slim, and trim.

Wedgewood, Waterford, Baccarat, Limoges and the like, used to be coveted treasured gifts for June wedding lists. Now Pottery Barn and even Target are "today's" buyers targets. When change comes it is best if we "get with the program".

Every myth and fairytale through all cultures shows us the way out of the old and into the new. Some changes are slow and ease up to surprise us, like aging. Often we are lulled into thinking the way it is will continue forever....until the first gray hair or tiny wrinkles just under the eyes. Then there is the other fast, sudden, change. A big wind comes to blow things away, or a routine medical test shows blight in the body, or the doors are barred at the workplace and a sign says "Out of Business".

Mostly we are forced to change. Some folks are willing; the larger majority go kicking and screaming into the future. We hear strands of sentences about life not being fair, blaming the boss, the government, lovers, mothers, or the guy next door.

Leaders do their best job when they teach those they lead how to tackle change and use it as their ally. Conscious change, creative change, sustainable change can be taught. It is the smart company that will give its employees the tools and techniques for "learning change".

Change means conflict; so be prepared for anger, upset, depression, back stabbing, finger pointing, revenge, whining, secrets, gossip, pot stirring, and disappointment; at least, at first.

Here is a road map for helping change get past the negatives and turn it to the positive in half the time.

When we move from the "NOW" to the "NEW" the first job is to stay pointed in the right direction; that means facing toward the future, uncertain as it may be. The natural human tendency is to look back at "the good old days". Memories have a way of shading and coloring the past when fear of the future is in the mix. There are always mosquitoes in paradise; you don't need to talk about this, just know it.

Leaders, be prepared to hear how perfect the past was, how everything worked easily and fluidly. Don't waste your time arguing the case. Just know this is the natural human way to look for safety and security.

Keep your focus on the new. Harness the workplace tensions and conflict by sharing your vision. You are the lighthouse, just keep pointing the way. Soon there will be a critical mass that will turn with you to what is next. There will be some traction and euphoria about getting on with it, getting the job done.

This is the "seduction time". Pay attention!

As soon as it looks like you have it nailed, the behavior patterns from the past will jump up with loud warning sirens and bright flares of warning. Then, sorry to say, all but a unique few will slide down the slippery slope of "What if", "It can't really work" We better go back to committee".

This is the true test of the leader. Sliding back to the bottom of that slippery slope is when all the behavior patterns learned in childhood surface that were there for security and survival. This is when conflict is the worst. Some retreat to hide under the covers. Others will fight and argue about anything and everything. This is a time when fearful people will do whatever they can to keep things the way they were.

Your job, as a leader and a teacher, is to help your employees find the way out. This is the best teaching you can offer them.

In changing times the real winners are those who can OBSERVE their patterns of behaving; just by observing, change begins. Next is to UNDERSTAND where the behavior came from; then the change becomes long term and sustainable. Finally, help them go for the big guns and TRANSFORM the behavior. Transform is a fancy word for real, forever change.

Once you implement the OUT Technique (Out, Understand, Transform) the routes from now to new become a quicker ride. There will still be the moments of chaos and conflict. However, the depth of despair and the duration of angst are shortened.

The really good news is that trudging through conscious change the first time makes it easier to do again and again.

Once change happens there are a few surprises in store. The desire for simple, slim, and trim shows up in how projects are structured. The need for committee after committee to approve a new product or service gives way to easier methods. There is a fluid manner of operating that limits stress.

And, please remember; for the June brides on your list, make sure you give them what will take them into the future; wine glasses that, if they break do not cost an arm and a leg, dishes that are light and sleek, sheets that dry in half the time, and go green wherever you can.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SYLVIA LAFAIR
Dr. Sylvia Lafair, Author, Leadership Educator, Executive Coach for over 30 years is an authority on leadership and workplace relationships. She is President of Creative Energy Options, Inc. Visit www.ceoptions.com and www.sylvialafair.com .

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