Are You In?

It's the sign of the times that Starbucks has launched their new Shared Planet Program. They are inviting us all to do our part to realize their goal of 1 million community service hours donated this year. For your pledge of just 4 hours of work they will give you a free cup of coffee. (Want a date square with that?)

It's a noble effort - and a fine marketing campaign for Starbucks. They pose the challenge and then ask the question - are you in?

We're in interesting times in North America and that question begs an answer from all of us. It's a question about commitment; for Starbucks, it's a challenge of putting your sweat-equity where your coffee-lovin mouth is.

Starbuck's definition of 'in' goes something like this; If you want the freebies that we're handing out, you gotta anti-up with a promise of lending your time and talent to saving the planet. Not a bad trade if you ask me. Saving the planet, like an organizational transformation effort, will take everyone's full participation to make it happen.Good for them!

So, let me ask you - what do you do when your company announces a change? Do you go All In?

I've observed an interesting phenomenon in some companies. Soon after the rumours begin to fly about some upcoming, unpleasant change, many of the leaders begin to vanish. They just seem to disappear. They're 'in meetings', taking vacation days, working at home with a perpetual 'out of office' messages on their email. For their staff it appears that they've just 'left the building'. And when you do get a rare glimpse of them, they're sporting that 'don't ask me' look on their faces.

They are anything but all in.

Now it's natural enough for leaders to feel the same fear and worry that their people feel. Natural maybe, but like giggles in church, not helpful to those around them. The vacuum created by the physical and emotional absence of leaders during times of challenge and uncertainty leave people more fearful, more sure that the bad news leaking out through the rumours is bound to get worse.

When fear is high, people need leaders to lead. They need to 'talk to' and 'touch' their leaders more often than usual. They need that calming effect that the presence of a committed leader brings to an uncertain environment.

So, as a leader, what can you do when the task is BIG, you are as scared as the rest?

Be Real - Remember when Dan Rather appeared on the Late Show right after 9/11 and was asked how he was feeling about reporting such a tragedy? He teared up - and his approval ratings skyrocketed. He didn't try to hide his emotions, but shared them instead. Authenticity rocks!

Be Present - Stay visible, walk around, talk to people, ask how they're doing. No one expects you to have all the answers or respond like an emotionless robot. If you don't know what to say in some instances or how to answer a particular question, be honest and say - 'I don't know'. And then do your best to get and share up to date information.

Be Empathetic - Daniel Goleman, author of Primal Leadership has enlightened us all to the power of empathy - that response that says - I see you, I hear you and I get how you're feeling right now. I may not be feeling exactly how you feel, and I may not be able to do much to change your circumstance - but I get what your experience is right now - and I care.

That's what it means to me to go all in during a change effort. It means bringing your whole self to the game. It means focusing on the needs of others and doing your part to keep the effort moving forward.

There's no time like a new year to brush up on your leader skills. Call me if you'd like to experience a coaching program that can help you do just that. And, if you're interested in having your team learn some powerful coaching skills as well ...don't wait. Grab everyone and Go All In!