“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
I was visiting with a member of our leadership forum recently and when the topic eventually turned to problems with some of the leadership team, he said, “Hopefully that changes over time.” Sorry, I said, but hope is not a strategy. It’s code for I won’t or don’t know what to do, so I’m just not going to do anything.
Unfortunately, that’s the attitude a lot of leaders take. There are lots of reasons, but, in many cases, a feeling of being overwhelmed is the primary culprit. They don’t know where to start, they’ve tried before & failed, etc. So they just sit, paralyzed, hoping.
So what can leaders do? I don’t have a magic formula, and I certainly can’t try and address everything in a non-dissertation-length blog. But here’s 3 ideas that might help.
Why are you trying to change? Any time you want to make change in your organization, the other people in the organization have to support it, or at the very least, not fight it. Why should they back you up? For example, let’s say you’ve decided you business needs to focus its attention on growth. That’s never really been something you’ve done before – you’ve just taken orders as they came, expanded as necessary, etc. Now you’re going to go out and get after it. Why? Why do you want to grow? Maybe it’s so that you can better serve clients. Maybe it’s so you can provide more opportunities for your people. Whatever the reason, there has to be a reason. And most importantly for your staff – what’s in it for them? Regardless of how loudly people proclaim themselves to be “team players”, in reality as a human being we want to know why we’ll benefit from change. Make sure you communicate it.
You get what you measure. This isn’t a new adage, but too many people ignore it. I know organizations that are brave enough to attempt to make change, then don’t make any effort to measure the impact. The result is a whole bunch of work and no idea whether you’ve been successful or not. I can speak from personal experience – very few things are more demotivating than doing a whole bunch of work, finishing it, and then realizing you have no idea whether or not you really accomplished anything because you didn’t measure what you were doing. One caveat: make sure your choice of metric encourages the behavior you want. For example, there is an argument in this country over the idea that because schools in this country measure test scores, students learn how to take tests rather than how to think creatively. The point is, measure something, and make sure you measure the right thing.
Accountability. Somehow, people have to be held accountable for whether or not they are pushing the change you want. One thing I think is mandatory is that whatever people are responsible for must be in writing. Put it on paper, give everybody a copy, post it on the wall, whatever. Another thing is external pressure. If you have to verbally report what you have or haven’t done to someone, your pride kicks in and you take action. Make sure somebody those responsible for making the change happen are specifically reporting to someone, preferably in the presence of their whole group. Finally, whether it’s monetary or something else, there have to be rewards for success and consequences for failure. If the impact on me is the same whether I succeed or fail, my human nature will end up just picking whatever is easiest.
Change doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen. Are you using a strategy of hope?