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Employee Engagement Tip #9 – Inside the Circles of Change

I love Blue Ocean Strategy. Having won the first sailboat race I crewed because the skipper chose a blue ocean start, the metaphor works well for me. The authors, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, recently made the cover of the Harvard Business Review with their latest research on leadership and employee engagement ( The linkages between three employee groups in their articles gave me pause. What is the overlap between the vision casting Senior Management group, the controlling Middle Management group, and the executing Front Line managers?

What I found inside the circles were two words, listening and encouragement.

Senior management must listen to build trust and buy in. The 2009 McKinsey research showed that in the midst of the last recession, workers wanted the following: a) control over their work and b) senior management who cared about them. These were more important than higher wages or security. When people feel their input is considered, they raise their level of trust. And trust is crucial for organization transformation buy in. Middle management needed to spend more time coaching Front Line managers and, as all us coaches know, listening is critical to successful coaching.

Everyone needs stretching and the best way to be stretched is through encouragement. Encouragement is a form of faith, letting individuals know that you believe they can successfully leave their comfort zone. Too often these consultant initiated transformation recipes are delivered from the top with an implied threat of “do it or else…” Such change often generates a form of fear because recipients hear, “Your actions are bad today and you better change or else.”  Hardly the recipe for successful change, yet still the dominant sales approach used.

The article has many other great points on how large organizations need to approach cultural transformation. The process is the same even without the scale implied in their work. Just keep listening and encouragement in the overlaps and the process will definitely go smoother.

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