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?