Transform your Organization! 5 Characteristics of Successful Change Agents

What is it about great leaders that make them so effective at facilitating change?  Is it luck?  Goodwill?  We have the answer right here!  Below we've identified some of the most common characteristics of successful change agents:

  1. They're Flexible.  Leaders have a clear vision of the goals they wish to achieve.  However, they understand that sometimes things don't go exactly as planned.  Rather than get upset by that, they adjust.  Their flexibility allows them to quickly react to unexpected fluctuations in the marketplace while still accomplishing their objectives.

  2. They're Great at Mobilizing Others.  Change doesn't happen in a vacuum; it requires the buy-in of upper management, peers, and subordinates.  Great change agents understand this; they effectively communicate the benefits of change to those involved so that others are similarly motivated to make the transformation a successful one.

  3. They're Persistent.  If you want to make change happen, you can't give up at the first sign of resistance.  Instead you need to continue by remaining focused on the overall goal.  Successful change agents realize that not everyone is ready for change at the same moment, but they are patient and persistent until their objective is accomplished.

  4. They Take Responsibility.  Some people shirk at the notion of responsibility.  Not so with effective change agents.  They take responsibility for the success or failure of their change initiatives and are energized—rather than discouraged—by any challenges that confront them.  This attitude makes them resourceful and confident in the face of obstacles that might flummox others.

  5. They Are Strategic.  Change isn't accomplished overnight.  Great change agents understand this, develop a strategy for achieving the transformation they seek, and then take steps to achieve it.  They couple discernment and timing to strategically accomplish their objectives.

What to Do If You've Been Put on a Performance Improvement Plan

Nobody enjoys being put on a performance improvement plan (PIP).  However, if you are put on one, it's a great idea to know how you should proceed at work going forward.  Read on to learn how best to navigate a PIP:

  1. Own It.  Avoid making excuses or denying responsibility.  Instead, be open to criticism and accept that you're going to have to haul up your sleeves to change your manager's perception of you.  Unfortunately, people tend to get defensive when they're given a PIP, and their negative attitude does nothing to help their cause.

  2. Establish Clear Metrics.  A PIP is going to detail areas for improvement.  Rather than signing a PIP that is murky in this area, ask for specifics.  For instance, let's say you're a salesperson and your manager is displeased with your recent sales.  Rather than signing a PIP that says you need to obtain higher sales, ask your manager to put his expectations in writing.  Does he want you to increase your sales by 10%? 20%?  You're going to want to know what the benchmark is so you can focus on exactly what you need to achieve.

  3. Ask for Time.  It never hurts to ask for additional time to achieve your performance goals.  If your manager has set 3 months as the deadline, consider requesting 6.  Change isn't accomplished overnight and the more time you have to meet your goals, the more confident you will be of your ability to do so.

  4. Have Positive Expectations.  If you've been thinking about changing jobs, this is probably a great time to be proactive about it.  However, if you like your job and want to remain there, have positive expectations.  All too often, people believe that once they receive a PIP, they're doomed.  However, this can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Instead, believe in yourself and your ability to meet the objectives established in your PIP, and you can overcome this. 

Entity-Relationship Model 2/3

In the last article we have talked about attributes in the entity-relationship model.  We know that attributes describe entities, but another important thing for modeling a real-world system is describing the relationships between entities.  For example, if we have the Teacher and Class entities, we know that a teacher can teach multiple classes, and that one class can be taught by one or more teachers.  This association between a teacher and a class is called a relationship.

In the entity-relationship model, a relationship may also have some descriptive attributes.  However, each relationship must be uniquely identified by the participating entities.  This means that you can not have multiple relationships of the same type between two entities.  Relationships can be divided into groups by the number of entities which are participating in it.  The most common are binary relationships - which means that two entities are participating.  There are also some other kinds of restrictions when dealing with relationships, and the most significant are mapping cardinality and participation constraints.

The mapping cardinality constraint specifies, for a certain type of relationship, the maximum number of relationships in which a certain entity can participate.  For a binary relationship, the following options are possible:

  • one to one
  • one to many
  • many to one
  • many to many

For example, if we have a one-to-one relationship between Person and Passport, this means that a person can only have one passport, and a passport can only belong to one person.  Consequently, if we wished to store data about dual citizenships in our database, we would use a one-to-many relationship between Person and Passport, which would mean that a parson can have multiple passports, but still, a passport can only belong to one person.

Another type of relationship constraints we have mentioned is the participation constraint.  This constraint specifies the minimum number of relationships in which an entity needs to participate.  In the E-R model we can distinguish between two types of participation constraints: total and partial.  We say that the participation of an entity in a relationship is total if every instance of that entity has to participate in at least one relationship of that type.  This kind of constraint is also called "existence dependency", because an instance of that entity cannot exist without being in a relationship with another entity.

In the next article we will talk about one of the most important concepts in database modeling - keys (superkeys, primary and foreign keys).  Keys are closely related to the concept of uniqueness of entity instances, which we will discuss in more detail.  Once we understand this, we can continue with learning about the entity-relationship model, and make a simple model of a university.

5 Tips for Working with International Clients

Due to technological advances, it's more common than ever to have clients who are located overseas.  To ensure that your relationships with your international clients go just as smoothly as your domestic ones, we have some tips for managing your clients abroad.

  1. Remain Open-Minded.  Your international clients may have different viewpoints, habits, and traditions from you.  Rather than reflexively dismissing their cultural norms as being inferior, be open-minded.  Acceptance and a positive attitude will go a long way toward furthering your relationships with international clients.

  2. Avoid Stereotyping.  Stereotypes exist about every culture.  Rather than viewing your clients stereotypically, see them as unique individuals.  As you know, the United States is hugely diverse and viewpoints can be markedly different--this holds true for other cultures as well.

  3. Interpret Communications Carefully.  Your clients' first language probably isn't English.  As a result, it's possible that your international clients may not communicate as clearly as you'd like.  Rather than assuming that you're interpreting what they mean correctly, ask if you're uncertain.

  4. Pay Attention to Time Zones.  Be respectful and avoid scheduling conference calls for 4AM in a client's time zone.  Understand in advance that because of the different time zones, you typically won't get immediate responses to your communications.  For that reason, it's really important to hammer out details at the beginning of an assignment, so you don't find yourself at a stopping point in your project while you wait 24 hours for clarification.

  5. Determine Payment Issues in Advance.  Do your homework before you accept a job.  At a minimum, you're going to want to determine what the currency exchange rates are, how you intend to be paid, and which processing fees are involved.  Use this information to set your rates accordingly.

4 Companies that Do Corporate Social Responsibility Well

According to a Reputation Institute study, our willingness to buy, recommend, work for, or invest in a company is driven 60% by that company's reputation, rather than our perceptions of the products or services it sells.  In large part, that reputation is determined by how a company approaches corporate social responsibility (CSR).  Read on to learn about 4 companies which really do CSR well:

  1. Xerox.  Xerox encourages its employees to participate in community causes through its Community Involvement Program.  In 2013, for example, the company budgeted more than $1.3 million for the program, and over the years, more than half a million employees have participated.

  2. Starbucks.  Starbucks consistently shows up high on lists ranking companies that do CSR well.  The reasons for this are many, but most often, Starbucks is lauded for its commitment to sourcing products ethically, minimizing its environmental footprint, investing in education, and encouraging volunteerism.  Starbucks is also a supporter of Ethos Water, which provides clean water to over a billion people.

  3. The Body Shop.  The Body Shop has financed many CSR initiatives.  Since its inception, the company has contributed money to support the work of groups who help victims of domestic violence, aided in the protection of tropical rainforests, and raised money and awareness for HIV and AIDS.

  4. Microsoft.  Again and again, Microsoft has been commended for its dedication to corporate social responsibility.  The company has helped many nonprofit organizations while encouraging employees to give back to their communities through its annual Employee Giving campaign.  Additionally, Microsoft launched Microsoft YouthSpark, an initiative with the goal of providing education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities to young people throughout the world.  The company is also particularly dedicated to promoting human rights and addressing global environmental challenges.