Leading organizational change can be daunting and while it likely will never become a favorite task neither does it have to be your crucible. During research into the leader’s use of story to conduct change, I discovered three essential practices. Know Your Approach to Leadership Knowing your approach deals with two things: Your personal approach to leadership and your approach to leading change. While not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive I encourage leaders to determine which of the following four leadership approaches is most natural to them: Builder, Crusader, Developer or Entrepreneur.
Builder type leaders build a great organization; it and not people are the priority.
Crusader oriented leaders are consumed with a cause; the cause is greater than either people or organization.
Developer oriented leaders develop people and are highly relational. They too can successfully lead organizations but may do so with a greater value for those they lead.
Entrepreneur leaders gather people to an idea; it is what animates them and through it they relate to others.
To accomplish their work leaders move into and out of these domains but will tend to exert greater influence in only one of them. Because our leadership approach reveals how we instinctively relate to members, I’ve found that before undertaking a change initiative leaders must get clear about this facet of their leading. The second essential practice for leading change is to have a firm grasp on how we approach change.
Know Your Approach to Change How leaders approach change is as important as the change they envision. Here are four that work regardless your leadership approach:
Communicate: First, realize that people don’t reject change as much as they resist being surprised. The three C’s of change are simply communicate, communicate, communicate.
Consistency: Second, in making a change if it isn’t necessary to remove the practice you want changed then don’t; merely add the new one. This gives those who need more time the time to adjust and those ready to move forward the path to do so.
Contact: Third, periods of high change demand high touch. That is, you and your leadership team must not only be accessible but pro-active in giving assurances with your words and presence.
Confirm: Fourth, acceptance of any proposition is made easier when people know that their values are being honored. As members evaluate our change efforts to determine whether their values are supported or threatened we’re given the opportunity to touch those values and provide the concepts and language needed to discuss the meaning of the change. These efforts are given greater meaning when leaders take it upon themselves to know the story of those they serve.
Know the Story Simply put, conversation in organizations is on two levels. The first merely reports activity and are the reporting stories that informs you Mike went skiing, Susan was sick, etc. Not particularly remembered by those who hear them they pass into what was just another day. The second are those that by bearing some essential truth provide structure and meaning for our interactions. Think the “HP Way” or Ray Kroc’s message of consistency for McDonalds. These structuring stories speak of values; they form the organization’s heritage and even become the shared understandings to which everyone is expected to subscribe.
Stories not only create identity for organizations but define it for individuals as well. Our fondness for narrative makes us ready receptors for cultural stories as from them we extract what eventually becomes the components of our selves. To some extent this same fondness is at work in our appropriating organizational stories, especially if there is agreement with our personal values. The result can be a sense of “fit” and affinity with the organization.
While this doesn’t mean we will like everything our organizations do, it underscores that we will resist change to the organization when its story and our own share similar values. We do so because our personal identity and that of the organization are similarly grounded.
There are instances when the organization’s story must change but these, I suspect, are few. Usually, the leader’s role is to restate the original story, bringing the organization back to the values that made it successful. Need help? Call 916-235-3197 or schedule a free consultation.