Change Smart = BrainSmart
If you ask Dennis Collins, the VP and General Manager of three radio stations for Jefferson Pilot in South Florida, what his main job is, he will tell you. “I’m a full time CHANGE agent. It’s hard to imagine the daily pressures placed on Business Executives with regards to CHANGE. Everything is changing: the market, the competition, the product, the technology, the consumer’s taste. Everything except the people working for you!”
With the corporate office constantly warning Dennis “Change is in Air”, he did lots to prepare for it. He brought in consultants, who helped his team write change slogans, play change games, discuss change for endless hours and even designed the most elaborate business change plan that Dennis in his thirty years of radio had ever seen. But guess what? Nothing happened. Employees, from executives downward, wandered the hallways like business as usual. “I was frustrated and worried,” confides Dennis. “We were living in a ‘nice guy’ environment, where everybody wanted to be accepted, liked and just did not want to rock the boat.”
Dennis decided to Call in Richard Israel to assist in his change initiative. The first task was to have all staff acknowledge that change was needed. Everyone in the company received a copy of ‘Who moved my cheese?’ This was a quick read and had a simple message for all. “Change or else”. Next the top team were taken off site for a day long workshop. Each division, i.e. Accounts, Sales, Production, and Promotion were given time to present their respective ‘Current Reality Situation’. We wanted to know ‘just how things are’. People tend to distort reality at this stage. Excuses abound as to why things are the way they are. A common ploy is to portray the current situation as much better than it really is. Simple as this seems, reporting the current reality takes effort, time and honesty. Each department then did similar exercises, but this time they presented their attractive future--how they would like to be at the end of the financial year, only six months away. These department presentations paved the way for the whole team to develop a group Change Map. This map showed where they were (current reality) as a company and where they wanted to be (attractive future). A Mind Map (a powerful graphic technique that provides a key to unlocking the potential of the creative brain) was constructed by all the team players as the summary of the days findings. Laminated copies were made of this Change Mind Map and placed on each executive’s desk as a constant reminder.
“Things began to happen. We had two sales teams that had been at each other’s throats for years. They requested an off site joint meeting with no management present and I agreed,” continued Dennis. Richard chaired that historic meeting which proved to be a turning point. “It was all a communication problem. How easy it is to be misunderstood and how simple misunderstandings grow and fester,” stated Richard. The two sales teams came back, renewed and realigned. Soon they were working together and making joint calls! “We ended the last quarter of 2000 with spectacular results. In fact the corporate office is still talking about us in glowing terms to this day;” claims Dennis.
Brain Smart leaders understand the need for clear goals that are understood by all and that have group ‘buy-in’. Open communications that flow up and down the organization and the ability for all to listen to each other with big ears is critical. No wonder Dennis Collins has earned the name ‘Change Wizard’ by his peers. Dennis shows us all that CHANGE is something we can all confront and make-work in our favor in these turbulent business times.§
- Richard Israel