Change isn’t easy. This seems to be the battle cry for so many leaders and new initiatives! How many times have we announced this to people with whom we work and how many times have we heard it from others? Change isn’t easy, but that awareness alone doesn’t help. Here are three truths about change:
- Provide the why and the how
- Change is best managed on a daily basis with small, incremental steps
- It is about people, not things
Why and How:
People are happier and more engaged when they know the “why” behind the assignments they are given. Fullan talks about moral purpose and moral purpose give people the “why.” People feel part of something bigger than themselves. They want to contribute.
Effective leaders explain to people that what they are being asked to do contributes to the bigger picture. That each task, each role, each person is important, essential. And explain WHY that is so.
In addition to knowing the “why” people want to know the “how.” They want to know how this change is going to affect them. What will be expected of them? How does their day change? How does your expectation of them change?
Effective change leaders provide a coherent picture—that means they connect the dots so everyone sees the bigger picture.
Change generates big questions and concerns. How should leaders proceed? Baby steps. Change can’t be scheduled as a certain part of the day or as an activity. It needs to be embedded in the daily work of people—it needs to become the daily routine. People should be provided with explanations, but more importantly, the change and accompanying behavior need to be modeled for them. They need to hear constructive feedback that is supportive and immediate. Just like a baby’s first step, in the beginning they need support, someone holding their hand, but pretty soon they are walking and then running on their own.
Hate to mix metaphors, but think of the butterfly effect. It is the concept that small causes can have large effects. Attention to detail during the baby steps has a large impact on how the change efforts progress.
People not Things
It is easy to forget when we are leading a change effort that we are talking about changing people, not things—not just a process, people. People should not be treated like pieces on a chess board that we can move and use as we like.
If you are trying to change your culture, you need to change how people interact. If you are trying to change outcomes, you need to change what people have been doing and how they are doing it so they achieve the new outcomes. Change is about people not things. You don’t have to reason with a thing. You don’t have to provide an explanation to a thing. You don’t have to engage with a thing or make them feel important and valued. You do with people. Two rules:
- How would you want to be treated? What would motivate you?
- Empower people. Let them know they are important.
Some big ideas:
- Make sure the changes are necessary and will result in better outcomes for both the people you are asking to do the work and for the organization as a whole.
- Collect data and identify the problem and clearly define it. Too often leaders find themselves in the middle of a maelstrom of confusion and address a problem, but not the right problems or they rush forward with a solution that makes sense and sounds good, but it doesn’t address the real problem. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.
- You don’t have to do everything alone and by yourself. Invite people in to help. Model how people work with each.
- Create a plan with final outcomes, milestones and a timeline. It should be flexible, while at the same time providing structure and direction.
- Realize people will have different needs and be at different skills levels. Differentiate your support to meet the different needs.
- Share and explain the plan and your expectations. Give the why and the how.
- Embed desired behaviors into the regular day using baby steps first.
- Make sure people have the resources needed to implement the plan.
- Create an effective plan of professional development that includes monitoring and feedback, and supports the change.