New leaders have a special opportunity to involve their team during their first few months in a new role. Psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote that “unfreezing” someone’s thought processes could lead to new behaviors, and new leaders can improve their effectiveness by applying this information through the “Power of Surprise.”

The following are four examples of this principle and questions to encourage you about the next steps.

“Connect the dots”

I vividly remember my first day of employment at American Express, which was also my first job after college. The branch manager came to my office in my first thirty minutes. He expressed confidence in me, (even though we had never met), he told me that my job was to help build the best office in the company by hiring talented people, and that he would stop by from time to time to give me feedback on how I was doing. He “connected the dots” of my entry-level role to his personal mission and the belief that I had a critical and responsible role to make it happen. He only invested ten minutes of time, but his return had a positive effect on my performance and that of hundreds of colleagues, as I shaped his behavior during my career.

“Show the gloves”

John Kotter, a prominent Harvard professor and author of books such as The Heart of Change and What Managers Really Do, writes that there are eight steps to leading organizational change: increase urgency, build leadership teams, achieve the right vision, communicate to achieve the acceptation. , allowing action, creating short-term profit, don’t stop and make it hold.

The principle that best applies to “Power or Surprise” is “Increase urgency.” Kotter believes that there is a greater acceptance of the need to change when people see, touch or feel the problem.

He illustrates this principle with an example of a manager who investigated the use of gloves in a large company in its manufacturing process. He found that each plant ordered 200 varieties of gloves from various suppliers for prices ranging from $ 3 to $ 20. Instead of preparing a lengthy report, he collected samples from each plant with the price tags in place, brought 200 pairs of gloves to his next staff meeting and placed them on the table. The team’s response was: “This is crazy! We have to change it!” And the manager had a solution in mind, it goes without saying.

“Aim for the heart”

I worked with a senior manager in the early 80s who thought that patting on the butt was a sign of team spirit. Needless to say, an employee eventually filed an internal complaint.

He was willing to quote company policy, legal liability, social norms, and disciplinary consequences, which likely would have led to a reluctant apology and reluctant compliance. My partner, however, took the path of surprise by asking, “Would you approve of someone patting your daughter on the butt in your office? The first response was anger, but after a long moment he said,” Never I saw it that way. and I will never tolerate it being done again. “

“Your greatest strength may be your greatest weakness”

A person’s greatest blind spot may depend on an overdeveloped strength when entering a new role. For example, a person with a great deal of knowledge of labor relations law may see the response to growing employee complaints as hiring more attorneys. I met Anne, who had exactly this background, at a large global company. She prepared a business case to hire more attorneys based on the ratio of complaints and second-stage lawsuits to existing staff. However, her experience in handling complaints blinded her to having to uncover the root causes of complaints and reduce their number.

Finally, the power of surprise is just another tool in your toolbox. Here are some questions to ponder as you think about applying the “Power of Surprise” as a new leader:

o How can you connect the dots for people and teams in your own workplace?

o Where are the gloves in your organization? What can your version of the “gloves” show, illustrate, monitor to build the case for change?

o How will you use language creatively to target the heart?

o How will you know if your greatest strength is your greatest weakness?

The first few months in a new role are an opportunity for leaders to create learning opportunities for their team. The “Power of Surprise” offers a unique way to influence people and accelerate organizational change.

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