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In my opinion, the single biggest determining factor in whether a change initiative is successful or not is communication.  Communication across the leadership team, communication from leadership to managers and employees – and communication from people on the front lines back to management.

The challenge is that good communication is never a one-way street:  It requires that everyone in the chain has good communication skills, from the most junior intern right up to the C-suite heavy-hitters.

You may not be able to change everyone in your organization, but you might be surprised to find that improving your own communication skills can have a positive effect on those around you.  Here are some tips:

change management communication

Communication tips for everyone, no matter what their role in the organization:

  • Be respectful
  • Be a great listener (and acknowledge that you’re listening)
  • Remember that communication is two-way (listen and respond)
  • Speak so others can hear you (put it in terms your audience will understand and appreciate)

Tips for Recipients (individual contributors):

  • Ask questions to get the information you need
  • Communicate as positively with peers as with those above you
  • Speak so others can hear you (and pay attention to the channel they respond to best)
  • Listen so others will want to talk to you

Tips for Translators (supervisors/managers):

  • Listen – so your employees will talk to you
  • Take information from above and convey it clearly to those below you
  • Use positive communication to build teams (both the one you manage and the management team you’re part of)
  • Don’t overload your team – be concise, not overwhelming
  • Learn to ‘hear between the lines’
  • Understand company direction and help your staff understand it

Tips for Synthesizers (directors/vice-presidents):

  • Listen for clarity from above
  • Listen with compassion from below
  • Synthesize information into a ‘narrative’ or ‘story’ that helps you move your teams toward their goals
  • Use the right filter for what you’re hearing (understand the subtext)
  • Communicate so your boss will hear you (be strategic)
  • Communicate so employees will want to listen to you (be engaging)
  • Communicate to strengthen alliances with your peers (be a valued source of insight)

Sounds simple when it’s here in bullet points, doesn’t it?  But great communication really requires reflection and a conscious effort to understand the person (or people) to whom you’re communicating – it’s really about getting in the habit of making that effort on a day-to-day basis.

Published in News

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times:  "I don't care if [co-worker/subordinate/colleague] doesn't like me - I'm not here to make friends.  I'm here to make money."

While it's true that you don't have to be - and probably shouldn't be - best friends with the people you manage in the workplace, the reality is that it's hard to make a lot of money if everyone you work with thinks you're a jerk.  Take a look at the most successful people you know, and you'll see that 95% of the time, those people are experts at building positive professional relationships.

Why are good relationships so important?  For some roles, good relationships have obvious benefits:  Salespeople, for example, do best when they are adept at building positive, long-term relationships with almost everyone they encounter.  They'll sell more when they develop strong relationships with their clients; they'll get better access to those clients when they develop friendly relationships with their clients' gatekeepers (such as receptionists, assistants, etc.); and they'll have better success at keeping those clients when they build good relationships with the people responsible for post-sale customer service within their own organization.

But cohesive relationships deliver benefits to people in non-sales roles, as well - and in all kinds of ways.  Good relationships mean:

  • Your initiatives are more readily championed by people outside your department
  • Your particular area of expertise is accorded more respect within the organization (this is particularly valuable for roles in areas like HR or marketing, which are often not taken seriously by counterparts in the purchasing or finance departments)
  • Your subordinates are more willing to go the extra mile to support your initiatives or goals
  • You're more likely to get promoted because you're perceived as a 'team player' who can build consensus - and get things done

...all of which contribute to your stated goal of 'making more money'.

(Yes, there are some independent geniuses who manage to become successful despite having difficulty building positive professional relationships.  But how likely is it that you're the next Steve Jobs?)

So how can you ensure that you're building good relationships in the workplace, without spending your whole day chit-chatting with co-workers?  Just follow some simple guidelines:

Understand how you're being perceived.  I've worked with many people who think they're well-liked by co-workers and subordinates - but who are actually regarded as being aloof or overbearing.  You may think that your refusal to join the team for a Friday lunch makes you look like a hard worker, but the reality may be that it's making you look like you don't like anyone you work with.  Ask a trusted colleague or two for some honest feedback.

See the other side.  The best investment you can make in building relationships is to take the time to see the world from others' point of view.  Before you dismiss an idea or proposal, consider where the idea is coming from.  Is it possible that the person putting forth the proposal is seeing things from a new - and different - perspective?  Taking the time to put yourself in someone else's shoes may yield a fantastic insight or opportunity.  At the very least, it'll make you look like the kind of person who is interested in others - and that's an excellent way to build relationships.

Positive feedback is more effective than negative confrontation.  Almost everyone works better - and harder - when they feel they're being appreciated rather than horsewhipped into compliance.  Criticism doesn't deliver better results, and it doesn't provide the opportunity for the kind of positive interactions that lead to strong relationships.  And a sincere 'thank you' for a job well done will be remembered for longer than you think.

Be generous.  Doing a favor for a colleague today - whether it's spending a little extra time to put together some numbers for a project they're working on, or agreeing to provide a college reference for their son or daughter - may not deliver an ROI in the short term, but are the building blocks of a strong long-term relationship that can deliver tremendous benefits down the line.

Remember, your career is a long-term endeavor, and your professional world is smaller than you think.  Investing in positive relationships is a little like making sure you save a little bit of your salary every month:  it doesn't seem like much on a daily basis, but over time it adds up and makes a huge difference.

Published in News
Monday, 25 February 2013 17:26

More about ADRA TLC Advantage

Looking for professional coaching services for high-potential managers, but don't have tens of thousands of dollars in the budget?  It's time to think about ADRA TLC (TM) Advantage!

Published in News


First professional coaching system for manager-level employees


NEW JERSEY, March 5, 2013:  ADRA TLC Advantage, the first professional coaching program designed specifically for high-potential, manager-level employees, was launched today by leading change management consultancy, ADRA Change Architects.

"High-performing manager-level employees and their employers can reap huge benefits from professional coaching in the workplace, but it's often seen as too expensive," says Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA.  "We've created the ADRA TLC Advantage as a way to give these high-potential employees access to professinoal coaching - but in a more affordable way."

ADRA's Technology Leveraged Coaching (TM) uses a proprietary online system to help manager-level professionals establish goals, solicit feedback from peers and experts, and understand how to integrate key learnings and feedback into their day-to-day activities and long-term career goals.  Programs are personalized and provide online and real-time access to professinoal coaches - all at about one-fifth the cost of traditional high-level 'executive' coaching.

"ADRA has been providing coaching services to senior executives at Fortune 500 companies for more than 20 years, and we know that coaching delivers tremendous benefits to both individuals and the organizations in which they work," says Cohn, author of ChangeSmart and Taking the Leap.  "We knew that providing coaching to manager-level employees could deliver similar benefits - it was just a matter of finding a cost-effective way to provide it."

The ADRA TLC (TM) Advantage system offers two tiers of coaching so clients can choose the one most suitable for them.  As Cohn says:  "We see this as being something an individual can pursue on their own as a career investment, or that companies can provide to groups of top performers as a way of investing in their workforce in the long term.  In either case, it's a great way for managers to move to the next level."


For over 20 years, ADRA Change Architects has delivered executive coaching, leadership and management consulting to Fortune 500 organizations across the US.  Practice areas include strategic change planning, implementation and communication, coaching, presentations and training, all designed to facilitate business transformation that has a real impact on the bottom line.

For more information, contact:

Beth Banks Cohn, President

beth (at)


Published in News
Thursday, 14 February 2013 04:43

It's Okay to Need a Coach, Part 2

Coaching isn't just for senior executives: 

Last time, we talked about how engaging a coach to help improve professional performance isn't a sign of weakness, and that all super-successful people use coaches to help them excel, whether at work or at the Olympics.

But you don't have to be an Olympic-level player to benefit from professional coaching.

Many of us think that 'executive coaching' is only for very senior executives who need to be groomed for top positions.  In fact, almost everyone can benefit from coaching - as long as it's tailored to your career stage and level.

You know that if you want to move to each 'next level' in your profession, you're going to have to commit to ongoing learning:  You may need to take courses, update certifications, participate in seminars or workshops, or take on new challenges that force you to learn all kinds of new things.

Coaching can be a helpful part of this process.  For example:

  • If you're in your mid-to-late 20s and are transitioning from junior management to middle management, coaching can help you project a more confident demeanor that reduces concerns that you're 'too young' for a promotion
  • If you're at a middle-management level, coaching can help address the gaps that may be preventing a move to the next level (i.e. if you haven't yet had hands-on experience with managing a large, diverse team or if you're better known for implementation than strategic planning)
  • If you find yourself stalled at midlevel within an organization, coaching can help you reboot or reposition in order to drive momentum

In other words, you may engage a coach in your 20s to help you formulagte a plan for the next 3-5 years; engage a coach in your early 30s to help take you to the next level; then engage a coach in your late 30s to give your career another boost.

The idea isn't to have to engage a coach for 20 years straight, but to access coaching just as you would any other professional development or learning opportunity.


Published in News
Sunday, 27 January 2013 06:43

It's Okay to Need a Coach, Part 1

It's like a personal trainer for your career

It's funny:  We know that successful athletes rely on coaches (sometimes a whole team of them) in order to become good enough to compete at the Olympics - heck, many of us engage personal trainers or nutritionists in order to improve our physical health or bolster our motivation.  But when it comes to our professional health, we often reject - or don't even consider - engaging a coach to help us improve our performance at work.

personal trainer for your career

But here's the truth:  Ask anyone who's been really successful in their work lives and they'll tell you that, somewhere along the way, they asked for help.  Maybe they had a mentor to work closely with; maybe they hired a media trainer; maybe they went to Toastmasters to learn how to speak confidently in front of a group.  What none of them did was assume that they could reach the top all on their own.

So why don't more of us think of engaging a coach when we're ready to take the next step in our careers, or when we're concerned our career growth is stalling and don't know why?

Because we tend to think that asking for help with our professional performance means that we aren't working hard enough or smart enough; we see other people making it look easy and we think that if we just come in a little earlier or stay a little later, maybe we'll finally be recognized for the geniuses we really are.

Sure, working smarter and harder can make you stand out from the crowd.  But it's not enough.

For many people, the biggest barrier to the success they crave lies in the 'perception gap' - the gap between how they see themselves and how they are perceived by their colleagues and managers.  For example, a director-level employee may think s/he is overachieving because s/he has exceeded sales targets for the past 3 years in a row, and is understandably confused as to why a promotion hasn't yet been forthcoming; his/her managers, however, may be reluctant to grant the promotion because they have concerns over the director's ability to manage a larger team effectively.

This is where engaging a professional coach can make a big difference.  The right coach can:

  1. Help identify perception gaps, and offer solutions on how those gaps might be closed
  2. Provide more objective (and possibly honest) feedback than a person might get from a direct report, co-worker, or even a manager
  3. Offer a sounding board - don't underestimate the value of having someone with whom to talk through some of your career goals, concerns and frustrations
  4. Offer suggestions around books to read, exercises to do, and professional development opportunities which can either provide new skills, new perspectives or new horizons
  5. Help you understand whether your current job will in fact provide you with the career path you really want - or whether you need to make a move

And remember:  Just like no one had to know you hired a golf pro to help you brush up before the big corporate tournament, no one has to know you hired a coach to help you be a superstar at work!


Published in News
Sunday, 16 February 2014 00:00

Ignoring History Won't Make it Go Away

A few weeks ago I took part in a workshop session with other change leaders and coaches.  It's always interesting to hear how other people approach organizational change - you never know when you might learn something new - but I found myself disagreeing wholeheartedly with one participant, also a change management consultant.

"I never spend time reviewing an organization's history," he said.  "That's just wasted time.  I'm here to help them move forward, not dwell on the past."

beth banks cohn change management

While I agree with the last part of his statement - as change management consultants, we're supposed to be helping companies move forward into a changed environment - I don't believe that it's productive to ignore an organization's history.  What organizations can achieve is dependent upon their people, and people are the sum of their experiences, their history - they can't just reinvent themselves at 9 am on an arbitrary Monday morning and pretend their past experiences never happened.

In fact, you wouldn't want them to.  Much of your employees' value lies in their past experiences, both at work and in their personal lives.  Their education, their life experiences, their relationships with their team members - all of these can be positive assets as you move forward with change.

At the same time, of course, an organization's history can sometimes be a hurdle:  An ingrained resistance to change, old feuds between key departments, a non-productive attachment to outmoded business processes - all of these things can become obstacles to successful, productive change.

Burying your head in the sand is hardly ever a successful strategy

But ignoring these obstacles won't remove them from the path to change - and in fact you may be missing some key insight that could help your change strategy be more successful with less effort.  Here's an example:  You create a chanjge plan and issue edicts to various departments of the organization.  The purchasing department and the marketing department have had difficulty working together in the past, but you've decided that It's A New Day for the organization and proceed with your plans, assuming everyone will pull together - you don't have time to go into that history with them.  Except that 3 days before the change is supposed to take effect, you discover that the purchasing department hasn't released the funds the marketing department needs in order to properly communicate the change, and now you have to delay your change efforts for a month while the mess gets sorted out.  The organization loses money every day the project is delayed - and even more important, the change effort loses momentum while everyone waits around.

Now, there's something to be said for leadership encouraging employees to come to a change strategy with an open mind, and to try not to bring 'baggage' into the process.  But to pretend that the history of an organization - and that of its individual employees - doesn't exist only ends up being counterproductive.


Published in News

I recently worked with a coaching client, a senior executive at a mid-sized pharmaceutical company.  "I don't understand it," she said.  "I work hard, everyone likes me, and I've met all my targets for the past 5 years.  But I just can't seem to get promoted to VP, while other people who I know aren't performing as well as I do are moving past me up the ladder.  What's going on?"

closing the perception gap

Having worked with her organization in the past, I knew what the problem was:  Yes, she had a reputation for reliably delivering against targets.  But what she called 'working hard' was perceived by her co-workers and direct reports as 'obsessive and unable to let things go', and her desire to be 'liked by everyone' was seen by management as an inability to make the big decisions if she were put in a VP-level role.

The gap between my client's perception of herself and the way others perceived her was getting in the way of her career - and she's not alone.  Over the years, I've seen many people get stalled in the same gap.

So what can you do about it?

Closing the perception gap

No matter where you are in your career, knowing how the people you work with perceive you - and that it's the way you want to be perceived - on a day-to-day basis is crucial to being able to get ahead.

It's not just about being able to get that next promotion, either.  In my experience, the 'perception gap' can be your biggest obstacle when it comes to getting your projects completed on time, on budget, and with a minimum of headache.  When you're encountering resistance to your efforts to push a project through, you may not realize that you're in the middle of a perception gap.  You may be reading their resistance as concerns about budgets or timelines; in reality, it may be stemming from their concerns about your credibility within the organization based on their (possibly unfounded) perceptions of you.

You may never be able to close the gap completely, but you can make it lot smaller.  Here's how:

1.  Recognize that there is a gap.

It doesn't matter how self-aware you are or how honest you are with yourself:  There is going to be a gap between how you see yourself and how others see you.  Your self-perception includes information and experiences from all facets of your life; your co-workers only know the you they see at work.

2.  Understand that the gap isn't necessarily negative.

You may in fact be harder on yourself than others are.  My client, for example, had never taken accounting classes and assumed 'everyone' thought she was deficient in reading financial statements.  Her co-workers, in fact, had no such concerns - they thought she was perfectly capable.

3.  Solicit honest feedback - in writing, if possible.

Approach one direct report, one peer, and one senior manager with whom you've worked for at least a year and ask them for insight into your strengths and weaknesses.  (Tell them that you're looking for honest answers as part of your personal growth.)  What do they think you're fantastic at?  What do they think you struggle with?  What skill or trait do they most admire about you?  What characteristic drives them most nuts, or do they think gets in your way?  I guarantee you'll be surprised at the responses.

4.  Look for patterns.

If one person criticizes something about you, you can safely ignore it; but if everyone has the same criticism, it's time to at least consider they have a point.  So examine what your three co-workers had to say and look for consensus.  Anything that all three mentioned - as a strength or weakness - is probably a good indication of how most of your co-workers see you.

5.  Determine what's perception - and what's reality.

Maybe all three of your co-workers said that you seem to be a workaholic who doesn't know how to relax, and that sometimes alienates you from your team.  Now you have to ask yourself whether you are a workaholic - or whether you've just been trying to give that impression because you thought it was a positive trait.

6.  Create an action plan.

This can be the toughest part of the process, because it can involve changing yourself - or changing your job.  For example, if you're being perceived as a workaholic, but know that you're not, you may simply have to stop talking about how much you worked on the weekend all the time.  On the other hand, if your tendency to be a consensus-builder rather than a top-down leader is being perceived as a negative trait, you may want to consider finding a new job in an organization that values consensus-building.

The bottom line is that the more you know about the way you're being perceived within the organization, the better you'll be able to manage your career in the long run:  You'll be better eqipped to work effectively, and you'll be better positioned for long-term success.


Published in News


Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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Change is a fact of life today in business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to carry out successfully. ChangeSmart™ is a framework, a way to approach change. It is a roadmap for success.
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