I Forgot to Share My Why…

By Book, Featured, News

In 2015, I walked away from a steady job and an awesome team. People said I was crazy. Hell, I questioned at times whether or not I was crazy. In many ways, it broke my heart to leave Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. And at the same time, it was completely necessary ...

To be honest, I wasn’t at an intersection of walk or don’t walk. Rather, the choice I was facing was, “How fast should I run?”

Everyday, we hear the world is changing. But the strategies we use to lead our companies through change and innovation don’t seem to be changing at the same speed. There are plenty of battle scars to prove it: Gallup reports 70% of all change initiatives fail and that the US economy loses up to $150 billion a year due to failed IT projects. For me, this reality created a burning desire to help.

It wasn’t just about the stats though—I was also focused on the hard-working, well-intentioned people who are hurt when things go wrong. All they want to do is make a difference, and all I want to do is support them in their pursuit.

So, I left. Convinced that many of the conventional methods for supporting change were missing the mark, I set out on a journey to write a book and build my own Change Leadership company. To kick things off, I felt it was important that I get vulnerable by sharing a journal of stories and experiences about my own successes and failures. This is how People Before Things was born.

In the spirit of being vulnerable: I had no clue how hard it was going to be to write a book.

It’s not that I routinely suffered from writer’s block; those that know me would tell you I’m never at a loss for words. Instead, I had so much to say. This made it extremely difficult to organize my ideas and explain myself fully, without developing a doorstop of a manuscript.

The rewriting process was painful. I definitely threw away more than I ever expected I would.  And if I'm honest, I have a bit of insecurity about the book not making a difference. I know there are many brave authors who say, “I don’t really care if readers like it or not.” For me, the stakes are much higher so I can't take this position. Change is hurting many organizations and people, and I want to help.

So, here we are ... People Before Things is finally done! The book is a reminder that our customers will never love us if our team members don’t love us first. And how we treat people during disruptive change determines if they’ll love us. This disruption comes in many forms, ranging from technology implementations to redesigned organizations to new policies and procedures.

I believe that change isn’t an end-user problem; it’s a leadership opportunity.

An English poet and writer, G.K. Chesterton, was once asked, “What’s wrong with the world today?” His answer was, “Dear sir, I am!” That’s what People Before Things is all about. It starts with leaders who are willing to accept responsibility for the conditions needed to be successful with change.

I hope you enjoy the book. More importantly, I hope it makes a positive impact on your organization. Onwards and upwards.

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Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.

I Like to Lie a Lot

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.” - Pablo Picasso

I was having one of those afternoon “summer jam” kind of days; driving down the road with the music blasting and my sunroof open. Admittedly, I wasn’t cool enough for vintage Metallica or Led Zeppelin IV. No, I was a 40+ year old man checking out Ed Sheeran’s album, X. On it, he has a song called "Don’t." I was really intrigued with the lyrics the very first time I heard it. I think we all have the propensity to enjoy a good break-up song now and then, and for me, this was one of those moments. The lyrics are pretty cutting. The chorus especially got my attention…

A few days later, my wife Kristine was in the car with me. My new favorite song came on. So, I turned it up and subjected her to a few bars of my terrible falsetto as I sang along. The chorus kicked in and I belted out, “I like to lie a lot!” She started to chuckle and asked me, "What did you just sing?" I turned down the radio and simply said the words this time. Kristine quickly corrected me and said, “I don’t think those are the lyrics. I think he’s singing...Ah...lamlahlah.” Of course, I got defensive and asked, “Why would those be the lyrics?! The whole song is about a lying woman so maybe he’s saying he likes to lie a lot because a) he’s either lying about her story or b) she likes to lie a lot and is a dirty cheat!” This debate lasted a few days. Later, we confirmed that Kristine was in fact correct.

It’s funny how one line in a song could change the whole meaning or intent. And for whatever reason, that's what happened to me with this song. It’s not funny, however, when the same type of thing happens in the workplace, is it?

Sometimes we are certain someone said something or had some specific intent - and it causes us to spiral for a few hours or even days.

Have you experienced something similar? Have you ever been in a meeting where you are sure your archrival took a jab after you gave a team or project update? Or what about an email from an internal stakeholder who made some comment that sounds like an attack on your follow-through skills and work quality? How about a “fly-by” critique provided by a boss as (s)he was running to another meeting? How many times have misunderstood communications disrupted your good chi?

As a human being, I've misinterpreted people's words, too...and often. As a leader, I’ve mediated such disputes. And as a consultant, I’m already coaching clients through similar situations. It’s amazing how much time and energy is wasted on common misunderstandings.

Here's the thing: measuring intent is impossible. And at the same time, when someone says something, it takes great discipline to accept it for what it is. Unfortunately, tone and word choice can cast an ugly cloud, which prevents us from seeing the full picture. Psychologists have proven that judging intentions is fruitless given the fact that most people don’t even understand their own motivations. However, there is a lot of scientific research which reminds us past behavior is the single best predictor of future behavior.

Said another way, judging actions is more effective than judging intentions.

But before you start tallying up how many times your archrival has "slashed your tires in the parking lot," let me share a powerful tip. I once had a boss who used to say,

“Objectivity is lethal.”

For me, this was such great advice. In my professional life, the more I can be objective about a situation or keep a situation focused on objective criteria, the easier it is to build trust and followership. I won’t lie - it's sometimes difficult and requires effort. I find though that by repeating that line ("objectivity is lethal") in my head when I’m starting to judge intent and tone, it helps tremendously.

Now that I’m finished with this blog, it’s time to jump back into summer jams. I still think, “I like to lie a lot,” is a better chorus. Next song to figure out: “Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. "Wrapped up like a…” What are they saying?!?

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Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.

The Grass is Always Greener…

By Inspiration

"Our thoughts create our realitywhere we put our focus is the direction we tend to go." —Peter McWilliams

A few years ago, I needed some good advice. At the moment, I probably didn't know it. I was getting a haircut from a close friend of mine, Rodger, who has always been an important mentor to me. Rodger has opened four very successful salons in Denver and has always focused his business on providing a high-end experience for all of his customers, who in return, are loyal fans for life. However, his business savvy isn't the only thing that impresses me about him. While he is a great leader to his team and rarely has morale issues at work, what makes Rodger so special is his balance. In addition to being a successful businessman, he's a dedicated husband and father and even though he's quite successful financially, he believes in hard labor and does many of the day-to-day tasks himself that are required to maintain and improve his home. He is also as wise as anyone I've ever met.

On this particular Saturday morning, I was sharing with Rodger that my wife and I were not content in our new home. We were frustrated. We moved for the 4th time in 5 years but were never able to find the perfect place for our family, and our new house was no exception. One house wasn't modern enough; one house wasn't convenient enough to the things we like; one house wasn't close enough to the kids' activities. Rodger quietly listened and when I was done spilling out my heart, he said,

"You know, Chris, the grass is always greener..."  He paused for a moment and then finished, "...where you water it."

I looked up in the mirror. By now, he had stopped cutting my hair, put his hand on my shoulder, and finished dispensing his advice, "Think of what you could do in your life if you applied the energy you are using to find something better on what you can control and how you can improve." This was a game changer for me personally and professionally.

How many times have you ever thought, "If I were working on that project, would I finally get noticed for my talent?" Here's another common one, "If only we had the necessary resources, we could make a huge difference in the company." Where else is the grass greener in our corporate lives? I'm sure some of us have said, "If I were the manager of this team, I would ensure that guy was being held accountable and our results would be better than they are today."

Do you notice how these statements are related to Rodger's advice? By applying your energy to conditions that are out of your control or may never happen, you expend the energy you need to dig in and focus on improvement. Most importantly, you lose the opportunity to enjoy the many assets & gifts that are right under your nose and could be leveraged to make a huge difference in other people's lives and careers.

Where will you water the grass this week? Will you work on building a relationship with a key stakeholder that hasn't been happy with your performance? Will you ask a teammate for help on an important task that you haven't been able to complete? Will you ask a teammate if (s)he needs help? Will you lead with your actions, even if your job description doesn't call for you to be a manager right now? Will you focus on things you CAN control and will that focus lead to greener pastures?

Our family has lived in our home now for our 3rd year based on Rodger's advice. It's not our dream home; we live on a semi-busy street and; some of the 80's architecture is as bad as it gets. However, we get to walk everywhere from restaurants to grocery shopping, and our kids love the familiarity of the neighborhood. Most importantly, our house is full of love and we're using the energy that we would have focused on finding something else to dig in, enjoy life and our family, and to make this home the best it can be.

 

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Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.