“Before you try to convince anyone else, be sure you are convinced, and if you cannot convince yourself, drop the subject.” – John Henry Patterson
There is an aspect of change that’s critical to success but often goes unnoticed. We spend time working on elaborate plans and great looking strategies. We develop really insightful metrics to measure if what we’re doing works. But we often skip an important step – are we, as leaders, really supportive of change?
When I ask people that question, they usually give me a funny look, and then say something to the effect of yes, of course we’re supportive, we’re the leaders. As I watch those same leaders attempt to drive change, however, two failures tend to stand out.
They don’t really believe it can succeed. One of the core elements of making successful change is understanding that your beliefs about whatever situation you’re in drive your behavior. If you don’t actually believe you can make change, your behavior will be such that you’ll eventually prove yourself right. We’ve talked about that idea before (here and here, for example) and it continues to be at the root of change failure across organizations. That leads to the second failure.
They aren’t really supportive of change. Being supportive doesn’t mean you get everybody together, read a bland, sleep-inducing press release announcing the change, then send everybody off to implement it while you go back to your office. Supportive in the successful change sense means not only telling people about change (hopefully with at least a little bit of passion) but continuing to reinforce it, continuing to publicly talk about why it’s important, continuing to be personally involved in it. You don’t get to make a one-time announcement and walk away.
As you & your business continually address change, ask yourself: Am I really supporting this? Am I actively involved in making this happen? If you’re not, why? Is it because you really don’t believe it’s possible? These might seem like simple questions with obvious answers, but the reality is that there is a lot of change out there that is failing because the leader can’t honestly give the right answers to those questions.
Change is hard for every organization. It’s a lot of work and takes sacrifice. It’s even harder when the leader is a barrier. Get out of the way and get things moving.