Change Leadership

Lest there be any confusion, let’s make sure we’re on the same page: Leadership, by definition, means that you have followers. If no one is following you, then you’re not leading. You may be following your own path, marching to a different drummer, or dreaming the impossible dream; but you’re not leading.

The second thing about leadership, and this is frequently overlooked, is that those who follow you must want to. In other words, it must be of their volition. It can’t be because they’ll suffer the consequences if they don’t.

This is particularly relevant for organisational change initiatives. Despite all the research and the plethora of publications on change, far too managers still don’t “get it”. They still think that they’ve got it all right, and everyone else has it all wrong. They think that they are the exception.

They see the advice to “walk the talk” as a necessary evil, and so they grudgingly do as little as they think necessary in order to get what they want.

They believe that employees have to be bribed or coerced into accepting the changes that they want in their organisations, and that if these people were more cooperative, then life would be a lot better for all concerned.

And you see, it’s precisely because of that attitude that people don’t want to follow. Would you follow someone deliberately who felt that way about you?

In a study last year of 276 mid- to large-sized companies in North America, Towers Watson found that a mere 25% experienced sustained gains from their change programmes. The failure by the other three-quarters was attributed in part to the inability of those companies to train managers on how to lead change, this in spite of the fact that 87% did receive such training.

One reason cited by middle and line managers was that leaders at the top were ineffective at communicated good reasons for why change was necessary. This is an area that is often mentioned by consultants as being of import. In some cases, this has made a difference. The truth is that you can communicate your reasons for wanting to change with the skill of a candidate for the House of Commons, but if the people in your organisation don’t agree with it, it matters little.

So, there must be another reason why managers who were supposed to have been trained to be change leaders somehow failed to fulfill their roles.

What are some other possibilities?

One surely has to be that the training itself was flawed in some way. Perhaps this has been your experience. Maybe you’ve found it to be too theoretical or utopian. Maybe it didn’t seem relevant to you; or maybe you were just like the managers mentioned earlier in this article: you weren’t fully committed to begin with. You were looking for a way to hedge your bets – to fake it until you made it.

There’s no Holy Grail for successful organisational change, and there’s no magic dust that you can sprinkle over your employees that will suddenly make them fall in behind you and embrace the changes that you want to make.

You have to be all the way in because, if you’re not, then you’re all the way out.

Want to learn more about change leadership? Contact me today.

Leave a comment...

If you found value in this blog you might also be interested in one or more of these…

Are meetings really the cornerstone of organisational life?

Ask a group of managers at random; which activity wastes most of your time and causes you the most frustration and most of your audience will say “meetings.”

Everything new replaces something

A discussion about the need for a simple approach to key messages