“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi is attributed with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It turns out he didn’t actually say that, but it’s not a bad simplification of what he did say. Gandhi knew that change is difficult, at times even overwhelming, and pragmatically, he knew two things:
Five-year-olds are a source of great wisdom, if only we listened more often for the lessons they can teach us. In response to an earlier bedtime imposed by her mother at the start of the school year, Elizabeth said, “Mommy, last week we changed what we eat because Daddy is on a diet. Yesterday we had to get out warm clothes and put away my sandals. And now you want me to go to bed at a new time and go to school every day. I’m just too tired to change one more time.” Continue reading →
‘Planning for change’. It’s showing up in more job descriptions. Even when it’s not in the job descriptions, it’s inherent in the job. Change is part of every leader’s work these days. We’ve talked in these blogs about being cognizant of the importance of thoughtful change management as you plan for changes. But there’s a big step many leaders forget to take before plowing into their planning. When is the last time you seriously asked the question, “Are we ready for this change?” Continue reading →
Change communication – a topic that makes confident leaders into puddles of uncertainty. But not Aaron. A financial services company was installing new trading software. It would significantly change their work processes, standardize many currently autonomous decisions, and result in some layoffs. Aaron, the CEO, had worked tirelessly with his staff to assure a credible communication plan was crafted, emphasizing why the change was needed: a vision for growing the company and the software easing that growth, along with much better regulatory compliance tracking. Aaron had not shied away from the question of layoffs in the communication plan. The plan carefully laid out the numbers, broad timing, how people would be treated, and the desire to absorb as many as possible into other positions into the company. Finally, the communication plan covered an overall plan for the implementation of the new software, including training. Aaron planned to talk about the software implementation at each of the company’s bi-monthly all-employee meetings. He felt pretty good about the company’s communication plan. Continue reading →
Now there are two words that don’t belong together – comfort and change! Authors O’Connor and Fiol, in a 2006 article titled ‘Handling Emotional Reactions to Change’, cite research that links common negatively viewed emotions to change: fear, insecurity, loss of control, separation or isolation, frustration, and anxiety. Hardly sounds like the dictionary’s definition of ‘comfort’: ‘something that adds to one’s ease of living’, does it? Continue reading →
“Here’s the situation,” said Steve, the CEO of a medium-sized health care organization with multiple locations. “We’re not dealing with just one enormous change at a time any more. We can’t fully adapt ourselves to one before we have to get everyone ready for the next one. And there are three more – that we know of – waiting in the wings and dependent on the success of the current ones. Even though we try to do a good job of change management, and bringing people in on the changes, we can’t slow down the train to be that deliberate with each change. We’ve got to become unconsciously competent at absorbing change.” Continue reading →
Whether it’s a retiring CEO, or a company reorganization, or a promotion to a new role that creates a need for a leadership transition, the word ‘seamless’ can rarely be applied to what happens during these changes. At best, the seams may fray once the handoff has happened; at worst, the two pieces of fabric never got stitched together before the handoff took place.
Even in a well-planned transition, it’s a tough time. In one very well-orchestrated transition we observed, the new CEO put a lot of effort into assuring the new CEO was brought in months early and was well-educated about the organization and his role. The retiring leader introduced her successor to people who would be customers, staff and peers; she explained carefully both the work and the strategy that was behind it; she described what some of the known challenges were. Yet when the new leader took over, it still took him a long time to be as effective as was needed, even though he was working 12-hour days. And the Board wondered why, after all the careful transition planning and salary overlap they had authorized, it was taking him so long to get up and running.
My colleagues and I frequently hear senior executives express concern that they aren’t able to stay on top of the endless stream of new books and magazine articles focusing on topics pertaining to successful leadership. Most recently, one of my executive coaching clients said, “I know I would benefit from doing more reading, but even with the best of intentions, I never seem to find the time!”
This comment prompted me to attempt to capture the essence of successful leadership in a manner that even the busiest executive would likely have time to read. Here, then, is what I’ve come up with—the top ten leadership practices for the “people side” of the organization, particularly during CHANGE:
The Rockefeller Foundation’s stellar CEO, Judith Rodin, shared with interviewer Rahim Kanani her thoughts about managing large-scale change in a Forbes online post (April 23, 2012). She observed that a great strategy for an organization is only part of the picture, noting the difficulty in executing on the strategy: “culture eats strategy for lunch”. She didn’t benignly say that culture could help or hinder a leader’s ability to execute strategy. She said that when strategy – the herald angel of change – is pitted against the policies and norms and ‘sacred cows’ that make up organizational culture, it is culture that will swallow the strategy. If the culture is risk-averse, or treats change as a management fiat, it does not bode well for successful strategy implementation. So how do you assure that when your strategy is served at the table of your organization’s culture, the digestion process is a smooth one? Continue reading →
How often have you tried to implement changes in your organization, and run into the cement wall of resistance, or the mud puddle of confusion, or the high hurdles of political agendas? Implementing significant changes can feel like running an obstacle course, or worse yet, running it blind.
We tend to think of the forces working against change as capricious spirits that can neither be understood nor tamed. But the truth is that these forces are predictable. Continue reading →