Leading change: It’s what they see you doing
As the leader, you can instruct your team, (especially those leading change), to think big, integrate, be accountable, communicate effectively, embrace the unknowns, etc. For sure, have the change plan up and ready and well communicated.
However, as Andy Phillips the ‘change guerilla’ and fan of small improvements recently noted Change Management Is Not Enough. His point is that changing the system usually won’t do it – that culture has to change too. And, as change comes by different degrees, so too culture matters.
That said, the best parenting line is:
‘It’s not what you tell your children, it’s what they see you doing.’
No matter what their view of us – love or not – our children constantly look to us for cues.
The same applies to leaders and staff in organizations.
So, if we do something different that’s effective, (i.e., it resonates enough with people that they themselves do something different), the thing you chose is more likely to be about culture change.
And, it has to be something people will see you doing, not just a line in your next speech.
The absolute best model of this is the much-heralded Richard Branson. As I always ask in my leadership training sessions, “What do you think Richard Branson is doing when his latest stunt is featured in the press? He’s communicating to the people of the many Virgin brands, here’s the attitude I want to take in building the Virgin brand.’
You’ll note that he gives many speeches, but it’s the action-oriented activities that get media coverage. The activity may seem a bit over the top, (space travel!), but it’s the attitude that matters.
The same applies to leading change in your organization. The bigger the change, the more it calls for your people to see you doing something that represents where you want them to go.
So, what action do you pick? Where do you begin? Here’s a simple way to practice this approach: To paraphrase Gregory Bateson, “Change is happening all the time; our role is to identify useful change and amplify it”.
Find where people are already doing something different, (there’s always someone), and amplify it by doing it yourself as dramatically as your nature will allow.
Next, repeat the exercise with an even bolder amplification of where you want people to go.
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Art by Jerico S.