“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
One of the highlights of my career is the opportunity I have to be part of a group of leaders that gets together on a quarterly basis. These are all extraordinarily successful people from a variety of backgrounds and industries. It’s one of the most engaging and education things I do.
Recently, that group was discussing change and what kind of things were currently causing that change to be difficult. A number of things were mentioned, but one of them stuck in my mind: the idea that oftentimes change gets derailed or becomes much more difficult because the change itself doesn’t meet people’s expectations, or the outcomes of the change are not in line with what people expected.
Certainly some of that is unavoidable. Things rarely go exactly the way we think they will, and unintended consequences are virtually guaranteed. But some of that gap between expectation and reality can be our fault as leaders.
When you’re trying to make change in your organization, do you really take time to talk through what that’s going to look like with those who will be affected? Do you talk about what you anticipate the end result to be in enough detail that they really get it? Do you talk about what you expect the process of making that change to look like?
Maybe most importantly, do you talk about what will be difficult? I think leaders are usually so focused on getting everybody excited about whatever change they’re advocating that they talk entirely about why the change is great and how fantastic it’s going to be. Most leaders don’t spend enough time talking about why the change will be difficult, where to expect roadblocks, or what kinds of things could go wrong.
I of course don’t mean that leaders should be negative. What I mean is that we have to be completely honest with our people about what kinds of barriers they’re going to face. If all we talk about is the positives, then the first time they hit a pothole it can be so jarring that the entire process falls apart.
Make sure you’re showing your people the whole path. Don’t just point out the good stuff and leave them in the dark about the bad. Put everything out there so they understand and so their expectations are in line with reality. Then get to work.