When it comes to leading change, there are three things that leaders get wrong (over and over again).
- We underestimate the time required. Your change effort will take longer than you think and longer than you want. Why? Humans are involved. William Bridges taught us this long ago. Everyone has a unique marker event and pace of acceptance and adoption of the new way. Smart leaders think, “How can I help people embrace this change?” rather than “Why won’t these people just change already?”
- Our focus is too narrow. We think in terms of change management instead of change leadership. Change management focuses on the structure or system. Change leadership widens the focus to include change management along with a focus on culture and leadership.
- We don’t start with people. Our organizations live or die by how engaged our people are and how well and willingly they contribute to the enterprise. Change efforts that fail to embrace (and leverage) this reality are doomed to fail or be more expensive, time-consuming, and distracting than they needed to be.
There are three things we can do to demonstrate we take change seriously.
- Create as much clarity as you can. Communicating what is going to happen, why it’s going to happen, how and when it’s going to happen is critical. Maybe you can’t share everything. And, we’ve learned that a) nature abhors a vacuum, and b) sharing what we can on a regular basis keeps people from filling the vacuum with misinformation and anxiety.
- Make culture a priority. Some boats and ships are more sea-worthy than others. We can make our organizations more “change-worthy” (Thanks, Pat!) by ensuring that our change efforts start with our people and culture. Cultivating the soil before we plant ensures that the seeds we are sowing will take root and grow. Is your culture “change-worthy?” What do you need to do to help keep people engaged and contributing as you weather the seas of change?
- Develop leadership capacity. Who do you rely on to create positive disruption? Who do you rely on to keep people engaged? We need to build our leadership capacity to lead through change. Your best leaders can be enticed away in times of change. Involving those leaders in building and modeling the next-gen change leadership behaviors and practices you want to cascade not only keeps them engaged; it creates a positive influence on your organizational culture and a conduit for communication that sustains alignment as you move through change.
Strong change leaders not only push the limits. They get people to willingly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly engage and contribute. To do this and lead serious change we need to take change seriously.
We’ve developed a Change Leader’s Check List to help organizations gauge their readiness to lead through serious change. If you’d like a copy or would like to talk to one of our team members about helping you with your change initiative, email us at LeadOn@giulianoassociates.com.