Leading Through Change

This may come as a surprise to some people but change is hard for most of us. It’s also hard to explain exactly why but for those of us who struggle with change we prefer “things” to stay as they are. At least things that affect us personally. 

I for one am not completely against all change, I know lots of people who I wish would change. Change how they talk, what they think, how they look…I mean who doesn’t think the world would be a better place if everyone was exactly like me…or maybe you. 🙂

Since that’s unlikely to ever happen it would benefit all of us if we were a bit more open to change and the differences that come with it. 

Leaders drive change…or at least they should. But many leaders don’t realize how difficult change can be for their people. The leader knows it is a good idea (primarily because it’s their idea) but their people’s initial reaction is frequently one of loss. 

Leaders need to understand that the majority of people feel a sense of loss whenever change happens in their lives. Even if something better is around the corner it’s human nature to focus on the familiar thing we won’t have anymore. People who can’t let go of the familiar, even to receive something better, limit their potential for growth. 

Leaders would do well to keep that in mind and be sure they aren’t just ordering change. They need to be selling change. Especially the benefit of the change. If you’re in a leadership position and you don’t think it’s your responsibility to sell change then you may be in a leadership position but you’re not leading.

If you’re in a leadership position and you can’t think of a benefit to the change then you shouldn’t be changing. And the reason for the change should never be “because I said so.” 

Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” Changes made by an organization’s leadership team should be in the direction of the organization’s vision and mission. When it is then the change becomes much easier to sell. If it isn’t then please reread the previous paragraph. 

Authentic Leadership requires a leader to be aware of their team’s struggles with change and communicate the need for change with compassion and empathy. Anything less and the leader will potentially create followers who work to make sure the change isn’t in the right direction. 

On a another subject…I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

The Process of Thinking

I’m a big fan of processes. I tell salespeople all the time that there are two ways to sell, by process or by accident. 

Doing things by process allows you to do things much more consistently. Having a process makes it easier to transfer skills from an experienced employee to a newer, less experienced one.

I believe in the power of planning and when people ask for my help with planning I share a well thought out eight step planning process. Things done by process are simply done better. 

Except when they are not. 

Some companies have processes that are so good they haven’t changed them in years. There is a story about a young accountant in the UK in the late 1990’s who was in his first annual budget review meeting. There was an item in the budget for “screens” and the amount was substantial. He asked what the screens were for and no one seemed to know. The line item had been there “forever” so each year they added a percent or two for the item and they moved on. 

Well the young accountant was more curious than the more experienced people on the team so he did a little investigating. He determined that the line item first appeared in the budget in the early 1940’s so in fact it wasn’t there forever. It turns out the “screens” were first purchased to place on top of the manufacturing plant’s smokestacks. Apparently there were planes from another country flying over England at night. They were using the fire at the bottom of the smokestacks as targets for the bombs that were dropped from the planes. 

The young accountant did some additional research. He discovered that it had been a good many years since that other country had sent bombers over England to destroy their manufacturing plants. And yet screens were still being replaced each year because it was part of the company’s process. 

And that’s when processes are not so good. 

When a process, no matter how effective it may have once been, is allowed to replace thinking a host of problems can ensue. 

Most leaders would tell me that their processes are well thought out. I’m sure that’s true but leaders shouldn’t be asking themselves if their processes are well thought out. The question every leader must ask, about every single one of their processes is, how old is the thinking that developed the process?

A process should never replace thinking. No team member or employee should ever be discouraged from questioning a process. Every process can be improved. Every process exists in a changing environment. To assume that any process never needs to change along with it’s environment is a very dangerous assumption. 

So think about every process that exists within your organization. Do you know how it came into existence? Do you know if it is still needed and why? Do you know when it was last updated? Do you know the last time anyone even thought about the process before mindlessly following along without even considering why they were doing it? 

If you can’t answer every single one of the questions with a high degree of specificity then you may have an opportunity for real improvement in your organization. Question every process and don’t stop until you have an answer. It’s likely those answers will bring improvement with them.

Never let a process, even a good one, keep you from thinking about how it could be improved. If you stop thinking you may one day find that even though the bombing has stopped you’re still hearing imaginary planes overhead.