Learning to Implement Change Well is my Leadership Struggle

I have ideas and am fond of being in charge.  I enjoy the feeling of challenging the status quo, improving processes and refining vision.  I don’t mind rubbing people the wrong way if I feel like it is for the right reasons.

The problem with my attitude is that implementing change requires people.  Efficiency and effectiveness need engage and positively motivated people.  You will never be at your peak if the people working for or with you feel unappreciated or if they feel you think they are dumb.  So here are some lessons I’ve learned and am learning.

1.  Proverbs 27:14 – If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.  Delivery is so important; maybe of paramount importance.  Even if you are delivering beneficial information, if you deliver it poorly, it will be received as a curse and its value will be invisible at best or intentionally disregarded at worst.  Start with positive feedback.  Outline the value that exists and define the value that is being missed.  With a clear understanding of the value of your “blessing,” it will be much easier for your audience to accept the advice/blessing you are giving them.  Starting with the change, then outlining the value makes you sound like a know-it-all.  I put this first because it is probably the area where I am worst.

2.  Respect the work that has already been done.  This one is trickier than you think, and as someone subject to various leaders, the thing that rankles me the most.  Change is necessary and in a healthy organization, it is inevitable.  Often, the best people for ensuring successful implementation of your changes are the very people who have brought the organization to its current point.  It behooves a leader to retain the knowledge capital held by these people.  It allows them to design strategy rather needing to inimately learn the minutae of a process.  A real easy way to open the drain for knowledge is to make the people in your organization feel like their past efforts were subpar.  Don’t tell them that everything that happened prior to the new strategy was a baby phase or a lucky, reactive phase.  Even if you think that is true, it is offensive.  Your knowledge leaders only hear the words “baby,” “reactive,” and “lucky.”  They want to hear “successful.”  Like with point one, praise successes and discuss future value.  Talk about where the organization is going in terms of where it has been rather than saying, “It was this, but/and now it will be this other thing.”

3.  Proverbs 28:26 – Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.  I am not the holder of all wisdom, nor are you.  Even on topics where I am clearly the comparative expert, there is a chance that you know one bit of information I don’t.  Furthermore, it could be that your perspective is not skewed by exposure, so you may be able to see new things that my exposure and routines have blinded me to.  Listening to counsel even when you feel certain is wise.

4.  Relax.

5.  “He that cannot obey, cannot command.” – Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1734)  In almost all circumstances, as a change leader, I am subject to someone else.  It is of paramount importance that I honor that person even if I deeply disagree with them.  Honoring them doesn’t mean deciding not to implement change the leader disagrees with.  It means implementing in a way that does not undercut or demean the leader.  This means not talking poorly about the leader with third parties.  It means submitting when it is required and submitting in such a way that is not sarcastic, condescending, villifying or demeaning.

5.  Whenever possible, have fun.

6.  Sometimes, you have to offend people and risk losing them.  This is usually my option #1.  Call me Simon Cowell.  It should be only the result of carefully evaluation and attempting other methods.

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