Talk is Cheap... Change is Hard

Leaders are paid to create change. Our vision calls for change, the journey is about change, people ultimately have to change – new priorities require new behaviors, the culture often has to change, the success metrics usually have to change, and the leader always has to change, too. Can you orchestrate changes like these?

The discipline of executing change is often referred to as “Change Management.” There are many different approaches and templates to make change happen. Here are a few of my observations after decades of trying to create positive change.
Leaders underestimate the power of inertia. Most people don’t like change. Leaders seem to forget this. For us, the rationale for the change we are advocating is so clear we believe the current change effort will be different. It makes so much sense, the logic goes, certainly, people will gladly and quickly embrace this change. Rarely does that happen. Leaders who create real and lasting change must invest time, energy and effort, often for years, to make change happen.
Clarity facilitates change. The clearer the leader can be regarding the desired change(s) the greater the likelihood we can make it happen. We not only need to be clear on the vision, there can be no doubt regarding what we want people to do. Clarity is the lever that overcomes the inertia I mentioned earlier.
Communication enables change. As the rate of change increases, so must the rate of communications. Change creates questions. Leaders must answer as many of those questions as possible. Many times, we can anticipate the questions people will have and proactively answer them.
Listening can compress the adoption curve. People want to be heard. This is never more true than when a change is called for that effects them. Determine the various constituencies and seek them out. If you do this early it will save time. If you start without their input, the change may move at a snail's pace. Then, in an attempt to speed the process, you’ll end up talking to them anyway. Do it earlier than later. 
Small wins can create big momentum. Momentum is tricky. When you’re initiating change, you’d love to have it on your side. Success breeds success. Many people are reticent to change because they aren’t sure they can be successful in the new world. When you can showcase others who are successfully navigating the change, it will build confidence.
Leaders who can’t create change, can’t lead for long. This is a big deal. At a macro level, a leader needs both good ideas and high levels of acceptance to create effective change. (See my post, The Most Powerful Leadership Equation Ever.) If we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of believing we’re paid for good ideas. That’s just not true. Good ideas, unrealized are of no more value than bad ideas. If you want to excel as a leader, you’ve got to learn to make change happen.
The good news… you can LEARN to lead change. Your competence will not be determined by your DNA or title or ancestry or gender or age. You can do this. When you do, your influence and your impact will soar![GLS_Shield]
What are you currently trying to change?

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John Archer

9 years ago

Some years ago I read a short book regarding the impact of Change on different personality types. The author stated that when it involves Change people's emotional reaction to Change general falls within two categories; 1. Intentional Change, and 2. Imposed Change.
Intentional Change emotional responses are usually experienced by the decision makers of the Change. Their emotions are far different because essentially they have some control over those Changes.
Imposed Change emotional responses are usually experienced by those that are outside the "decision ring" and can feel a certain sense of "this is being done to me" which can evoke an entirely different emotion; and can exhibit itself through different levels and time frames for acceptance and ownership for themselves.
Even good Change can feel bad at the beginning especially for those that had no part in the decisions.

Jon Stallings

9 years ago

Great post Mark. My Wife and I just reached the one year mark as lead pastors of our church. We were the fourth lead pastors in 5 years. - So for us it was change in the idea you can trust leadership. We have also had to change the culture of how we operate as a church. We are moving from a Lead Pastor driven ministry to delegating as much as we can to the congregation. We have learned that communication is key to keep us moving in the right direction. We are constantly vision casting. Something else we have learned is that even with good momentum, change can be slow. We want to change but we also don't want to leave anyone behind.


9 years ago

Thanks, Jon! I'll offer just one word of encouragement... you mentioned not wanting to leave anyone behind - you will. Don't put too much pressure on yourself in this arena. If you lead well, not everyone will follow. Have fun! Mark

Talk is Cheap… Change is Hard – Great Leaders Serve | kwalitisme

9 years ago

[…] See on […]

Austin Watts

9 years ago

I am trying to change myself. I know that's where all change begins. I just finished The Hear of Leadership. Our Operator recommended it.
It forces me to look at my own heart and examine if changes need to be made. Thanks Mark!

Five Blogs – 30 April 2014 | 5blogs

9 years ago

[…] Talk Is Cheap… Change Is Hard Written by: Mark Miller […]

Kathy Mitro

9 years ago

I am currently trying to change the current method of food establishments tossing perfectly edible food in the bin for want of it reaching a stage beyond perfection. We must insure all food that is still edible be donated to feed our hungry by mandatory freezing and subsequent donation to food banks and pantries.


9 years ago

Kathy, thanks for sharing your passion! Mark

Great Leaders Serve | By Mark Miller | Top Ten Posts from 2014

8 years ago

[…] Talk is Cheap… Change is Hard – Leaders invest most of their time working to create change. In this post, I share six observations about change management. […]


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