Sunday, May 01, 2011
Courage to Change
Change is hard.
Sounds simplistic to say, but it's a profound human truth. We do not like change.
Change is upsetting, stressful. Change brings out our fear of the unknown.
Wouldn't life be great if we did not have to change? The truth is, though, we do change. We will change. It's inevitable. Life demands it.
So, turning our lens on organizational change, how do we lead and manage change? So much has been written and said, you may wonder if there is anything new that can be added. Perhaps the best path is to find and present the wisest sayings from those who have already blazed the trail. Giants such as:
John Kotter: Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there. They cause change (by creating a sense of urgency). They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.
Margaret Wheatley: Successful organizations have learned that the higher the risk (and the greater the uncertainty), the more necessary it is to engage everyone's commitment and intelligence.
Reinhold Niebuhr: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Perhaps the most important piece of wisdom ever uttered about change is the famous line from Jack Welch: "Change before you have to."
Working with a client recently, one that wants to change but is encountering strong resistance among its own leaders, I had an aha moment. Even executive-level, well-paid, and successful men and women do not like to change.
Feeling like a Yoda of Change, I found myself saying: An earthquake and a tsunami sweep away the rich and poor alike.
Then, standing solidly on Welch's shoulders, I said "You must find the courage to change before you have to."
My client, a room full of managers from across the organization, was suddenly galvanized. They knew that courage was the key. But they wanted to know how to turn it into action steps?
I offer the following:
C = Conquer fear: Connect with everyone in the organization. Get everyone on board.
O = Open the kimono: Share the vision with everyone so they know where the company needs to go.
U = Upwardly influence: If your VP is wavering on the changes that are needed, call them on it.
R = Rally the hearts: The great Margaret Wheatley once observed that when people care, they can be counted on.
A = Appreciate the wisdom in the organization: Margaret Wheatley once wisely said that the wisdom resides in the organization. The people know what needs to be done and how to do it. Leaders must listen.
G = Get everyone in the room: The OD legend Marv Weisbord once wisely said that organizational change depends upon "getting everyone in the room," meaning that everyone knows that they have a voice and will be heard.
E = Engage and empower: Kotter says that everyone must be empowered to solve problems and move the change ahead.
With courage, change can be made. It will be hard. But it can be done.
Posted by Terrence Seamon. For more ideas on change and how to manage and lead it, contact Terry and schedule him to speak to your teams.