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change leadership

What to do When Leaders Don’t Lead Change Well

There are many studies that cite change leadership as the most important factor contributing to successful transitions. Over the the last three years in consulting, I have had the opportunity to test this assertion by observing how different organizations view the roles of change leaders.

Progressive organizations define the change leader’s role and ensure that all leaders are aware of the activities they must perform. The best ones define specific roles for senior leaders and managers that match their levels of seniority and spans of influence. Change capability is valued, invested in and rewarded.

Other organizations have a laissez faire approach to change leadership. The change leader’s role is defined by individual leaders based on their mindset and abilities. There is an unspoken organizational belief that leaders will know how to manage change challenges because of their senior roles and assumed skill set. Change capability is assumed, not an area of focus and not rewarded.

Unsurprisingly, the “they will know what to do” approach doesn’t work. Leaders act and behave based on their personal styles and skill sets, and therefore act inconsistently to challenges with varying levels of success. Mixed messages are communicated and confusion ensues, which leads to distraction, loss of focus and lower performance.

So, what do you do when leaders don’t lead change well? There are three options:

  • Build your leader’s desire and ability to take on the change role
  • Get another leader to take on the change role
  • Take on the change role yourself

Build your leader’s desire and ability to take on the change role
The upside of this approach is that leaders perform the leadership change role themselves. As long as they buy into the rationale for the roles and  perform the activities, their abilities will improve and benefits will be gained.

The downside of this approach is that mindsets are difficult to change and the leader my not value your rationale enough to change their behaviour. If so, there still is value in negotiating with them to perform some activities such as communication and removal of obstacles.

Get another leader to take on the change role
The upside of this approach is that another, well-skilled and motivated leader will effectively perform the leadership activities and produce immediate results. Natural change leaders understand the importance of change leadership and take pride in taking on the leader activities.

The downside of this approach is that you need to position the request in a way that avoids personal politics among leaders. Also, it can be difficult to convince a leader to take on a significant commitment that maybe outside their mandate.

Take on the change role yourself
The upside of this approach is that you have the most control of how the role will be fulfilled; you will guide how communications are made, obstacles are escalated and active and visible support is provided.

The downside of this approach is that you are not the best person to take on the change role and its support activities. Benefits will be realized but you may not have sufficient influence to manage issues and get problems resolved. You will also need to position your activities in a way that avoids personal politics.

Gaps in change leadership are common and contribute to many change failures. You have options to address when leaders don’t lead change well so that transitions are successful. The upside of all of them is they give you the opportunity to demonstrate your change leadership skills.

Phil

So, who is going to buy your book?

When I started writing my book, I had a clear picture of who would read it. They helped guide my content and formatting decisions, and knowing they are time-starved business people, anything that didn’t provide quick access to practical advice was deleted. At least 30 percent of my first draft was edited out because it was not adding value. As I wrote my publisher’s proposal, I realized there are other audiences that could gain from my book and that I would need to market to them when it becomes available. Here are my three audiences:

1. Leaders of Change (primary)
2. Teachers and Students of Change (secondary)
3. Cadbury and Kraft Enthusiasts (secondary)

Leaders of Change
Leaders and their teams working on big change
projects, including executive
sponsors (who fund and have overall accountability for projects), project
managers (who run the day-to-day operations), and team members (who have project-specific roles).

Teachers and Students
Universities that offer change management/organizational development degrees and MBA programs (most include change management courses). My book includes 100 mini-case studies (fifty good practices and fifty poor
practices), accommodates all four
learning styles, has recommended actions that promote lecture discussion and assignments,
and all content is based on practical experience.
Cadbury and Kraft Enthusiasts
Current and former Cadbury/Kraft employees. My book includes  forty-four mini-case
studies on Cadbury and Kraft, almost all of which have never been published.
It excites me that these audiences will look at my book through different lenses and focus on what they find useful. Regardless of your intended destination, the reader is in the driver’s seat.
Phil

Road Testing

Chip time of 4 hrs. 29 min. 46 sec.

Running my first marathon was an incredible experience.  The best way to describe is captured in an email I sent just after the race: 


At 2
miles my shin splint and vastus lateralis (upper thigh muscle) injuries
resurfaced but they were less intense than before and manageable. At 9 miles I
started getting intermittent ‘Charlie horse’ pains in each leg. By 12 miles I
had full-on, non-stop Charlie horses. They were agonizing. I shortened my stride, which allowed me to keep
going. The only time they subsided was during the walking parts of my 10 minute
run & 1 minute walk rotations. At 15 miles both legs locked up and I had to
walk like I was standing on stilts. I saw another runner doing squats so I did so while punching my legs to get them going. At 16 miles the
tendon in my right leg started to spasm, pulling my toes under the sole of my
foot. It was so bizarre, like I was running in a ballet stance or like one of
those Looney Tune mice trying to sneak away. So painful. The last 6 miles were
tough but no worse than the 6 before it, which I saw as a positive omen. My
legs locked a few more times before my 100 metre finale.

As I turned the last
corner, the crowd spurred me on and I started running faster (from really
slow). I looked at the sky and let out three Braveheart screams, fists
pumping with each one. People started laughing and clapping and then my right
leg locked again. I started hopping on it as it started to trail the rest of my
body. It unlocked for the last 50 meters allowing me to run over the finish
line.

Any experience provides learnings from things that went well and those that could have been better. Here are mine:

Accomplishments
  • Kept to my race strategy including beginning at a slower pace (difficult to do) and consistent refreshment
  • Adjusted my approach once problems arose, experimenting with different remedies
  • Achieved my goal

Mistakes

  • Condensed my weekly running mileage into fewer days. The spikes of training overworked my right leg resulting in injuries. Sometimes efficiency leads to lower effectiveness
  • Extended weekly long runs beyond my training program. A 24.9 mile run that was supposed to be 20 miles triggered my shin splints
  • Ignored early signs of injury while training. I didn’t act upon my data, which resulted in lower performance on race day. Later, I went for laser treatments based on a friend’s recommendation, but it was too late to regain full health. 

Parallels to My Book

  • Stick to my plan as long as it’s working
  • Ask friends for help. They are amazing and can help in more ways than I think
  • Keep going. The finish line is ahead

I know I gave everything I had. As David Lee Roth said, “You do the best with what you’ve got.” My goal was to achieve one marathon and then focus on shorter distance races. After the race my plans remained unchanged.The next day, I mentioned to my wife Barb that maybe some day I would consider running another marathon. The day after that, we talked about the possibility of us both running a marathon in May 2012. The following day, I printed out a 29 week training schedule for a 4 hour, 4 minute and 25 second finish time. It starts on Monday.

Phil

Create the Plan, Work the Plan, Change the Plan – Part 2

As I was rereading my old notebooks, I discovered that the ‘Change the plan, work the plan, change the plan’ quote is actually ‘Get a plan, argue a plan, get a better plan.’ It’s fascinating how time affects your memory. Both seem true but my version feels more like an ongoing way of working versus a one-off task.

It’s been 15 weeks since I shared my first plan. Some steps have been added and others have been modified. Here is a list of the changes:

  • I chose to write the first draft of my book direct to the page and then enhance it based on notes recorded throughout the many change projects I have been a part of
  • Extending my blog’s distribution is a new step based on advice from some gifted and experienced authors
  • I will be requesting feedback from trusted friends and peers on content, structure and title. This step precedes my original one of holding a focus group of potential readers. This and the ‘consider illustrations’ steps will come after I secure interest in my book
  • All my research recommends hiring a professional editor to sharpen my draft before promoting it. The old adage, ‘You only have one chance to make a first impression,’ comes to mind
  • Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means I will need to secure an agent to represent me and my book
  • Further steps I will leave open for now. One author wisely said, “Be flexible with your work if you want to be published.” It’s good to have an open mind.

It’s exciting to see my plan change over time. Completing each step gives me a more informed perspective. I’m sure my plan will change again, which is a good thing.

Phil

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