#034 - CHALLENGES of CHANGE. There are many challenges to any change. One of the greatest tests of your leadership abilities will be how you, as a leader serving others, will help manage change. Join Dr. Charles Boyer for a discussion and helpful hints to navigate change.
Hello and welcome to Keys for New leaders, a podcast Serving Leaders Serving Others. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie, and that’s most certainly YOU, my friend. Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve joined us for this podcast. Serving Leaders Serving Others is what we’re all about. In this series of podcasts, my goal is to serve you, the leader, helping you serve others through sharing ideas, helpful hints, suggestions, inspiration, insights, encouragement and sometimes a laugh or two to lighten the load along the way.
This is Episode #34, where we will take a good look at some of the CHALLENGES of CHANGE. And there are many challenges to any change. ANY CHANGE. One of the greatest tests of your leadership abilities will be how you, as a leader serving others, will help manage change. It’s long been said that change is the only constant, yet so many people approach change with various stages of fear and trembling. Much of that fear and trembling can be avoided or at least alleviated by some careful consideration and positive action on your part, my friend.
I’ve had my share of changes lately. Maybe more than my share, but I’m still kickin’ (as my Dad used to say), and it hasn’t been too disastrous after all. Here’s one recent example: my computer went haywire several days ago, and I was afraid that all my files had scampered off into cyberspace, never to be seen again. Well, the fixit man was able to get the computer up and running again, and was able to retrieve all my files that - it turns out - were safely backed up on an external file storage service that I had forgotten about. So, my worries were really needless, weren’t they? And, the upside of it is that I finally got off my do-nothing stool and decided it was time to shop for a new computer.
And then I ran across this gem: “Never be afraid of change. You may lose something good but you may gain something even better.” Wow! How timely! That was just what I needed to hear - the right words at just the right time! My old computer was good and it has served me well, but I may be gaining something even better. What a positive way to look at a negative situation!
Oh, there are many challenges ahead, to be sure. Change - any change - is uncertain. Change can be threatening. But you can manage many changes with a positive mindset and a bit of creative thinking.
I worried that some of my files may not transfer to the new computer. And - I’m going to have to take time to learn some new ways to work with the new computer. In fact, I’m doing that right now. That little gremlin of doubt was sitting on my shoulder and whispering “can’t” and “don’t” in my ear. Well, at some point, you just have to ignore that little gremlin and make up your mind that you can do something positive about it, whatever that is.
My files may not transfer? Well, what can I do about that? The answer is - a lot of things. I backed up all my files on an external server, copied down all my passwords, and made a few copies of some special files on thumb drives. So there, gremlin, I’ve done what I can to make sure my files don’t get lost. And, I have to trust the computer techies who are going to help me do the file transfer from the old to the new computer. They know what they’re doing. I don’t.
Having to learn a new computer system? Well, why not? I learned to work with the old one, so I can surely stand to learn a few new techniques on the new one. And if not, there is help available at the computer store, an online help service, or from my grandkids, for that matter. So there, gremlin, I’ve done what I can to assure myself that this old turkey can learn something new after all, and that help is available if I need it. I’m giving up something good, but I just might gain something better!
Another CHANGE situation is taking place at church, where both a new Senior Pastor and an Associate Pastor have been appointed. Lots of big changes coming, and there some who are worried that the new pastors will bring about those big changes, and that the work of the former pastors will be undone. Maybe, but I doubt that many of those worries will actually take place. Previous changes of leadership have not brought about the doom and gloom that some people are predicting. There have been a lot of new beginnings at this church, and there will be many more. After all, this church was started in the 1890s, and it hasn’t disappeared yet. Again, I go back to that gem of a statement: we may be losing something (or someone) good, but we may be gaining something (or someone) better. Think positively!
The way you manage change will test your leadership abilities like nothing else. Let’s start with a couple of things that you SHOULDN’T do. If you’re in a new leadership position, you shouldn’t try to make lot of changes all at once. To put that in a positive way, you SHOULD proceed slowly with making changes, and get all the support you possibly can from your colleagues along the way.
A good example of what NOT to do was described by a friend of mine as being a “bungee Dean,” one who has a bag of few tricks, bounces in to a new position, makes a bunch of changes all at once, and then bounces back out to repeat that same bag of tricks somewhere else. Going to a new position as leader requires a lot of your leadership abilities, your people skills, your patience and perseverance, and a few more that you’ll discover quickly along the way.
It’s definitely NOT for the faint of heart, but then being a leader who serves others isn’t always a piece of cake. And by now I’m sure you know that and have experienced your share of it, and then some!
Change can be hard to deal with, but there are some positive things you can do to make the change easier. The most important point is to acknowledge and accept that change is happening. That may not sound too important, but it sure is. It also helps to accept that change is a normal part of growth, and that it can bring positive outcomes. That can be one of the most difficult things for people to accept. Many people do not like change or adjust to it well. If you’ve ever worked with someone who is a “status quo” person or a “stuck in a rut” person, you know how difficult it is to manage change. Been there, done that, as the saying goes. It’s up to you, one who leads by serving others, to help people see that change can be a positive thing. After all, if it weren’t for change, we’d be stuck with a lot of ugly caterpillars rather than beautiful butterflies.
Leading change is a complex and challenging task that requires a whole lot from you: vision, strategy, communication, action, evaluation, empathy, energy…. Well, I could go on and on, but I think you get the point: It “ain’t“ easy, my friend. It takes all you’ve got and then some.
Leaders who successfully embrace change are those who …
· Share a compelling, clear purpose
· Look ahead and see opportunity
· Look for boundary-spanning partnerships
A 2021 Forbes article by Tracy Brown discusses several “how-to” steps to leading change. Here are just three of them:
· Be authentic
· Be inspirational
· Be proactive
All good things – and more - to BE. But remember that there is a lot of action to be taken behind those words. Read the article, and give some careful thought to what’s required of you to BE all those things.
And, as just a small sample of many possibilities, here are three of the most common steps and tips that can help you lead change with your team:
1. Develop a change vision and strategy. You need to define the direction and purpose of the change, as well as the roadmap and milestones to achieve it.
2. Communicate the vision. You need to share the change vision and strategy with everyone who will be affected by or involved in the change.
3. Empower broad-based action. You need to remove barriers and enable people to act on the change vision.
Well, there are lots more articles, books, how-to lists about change management, and more opinions than you can shake a stick at. The lists are wonderful – great suggestions from some of the best thinkers in the business, and I encourage you to read through more than a few before you begin making any changes. The main problem with most lists is that they don’t include a lot of the actions that make the point possible. It makes the process seem so simple, yet it isn’t at all.
For what it’s worth, here are a few more suggestions from Professor Boyer, Dean of the School of Hard Knocks, based on many years of collecting my share of leadership lumps. In truth they’re not all that different from the points made earlier, but these are written in plain, unvarnished language without formalities in mind:
1. Reverse Engineer the change you want to make. Begin with the end. Just exactly what IS the change that must be made? Write it down as clearly and concisely as you possibly can. Re-think and re-write, and re-think and re-write AGAIN until the end result of the change is crystal clear. Don’t skimp on this step, or you’ll pay dearly for it later.
2. Then, plan backwards from the end. What is the next-to-last step that must be taken to get to the end? And the next-to-next-to last? And the step before that? And so on. It’s a long process, but a vital one. Again, if you try to skimp on this process, you’ll pay for it later.
3. Ask yourself – what could possibly go wrong with this plan? Put on your best negative hat and go at it. Remember, people are reluctant to change. Then, change hats. Put on your positive hat and ask yourself – what’s right with this plan? If you end up with a longer NO pile than a YES pile of thoughts, excuses and arguments, go back to Number 1 and re-think the plan.
4. If you’re not worn out already, it’s time to start talking about the change plan with your team. Notice that I said START talking. It takes a lot of time and effort on your part. Here’s another gem of a quote I found: “One of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming other people think the way we do.” Wow! That sure says a mouthful! Let me repeat that: “One of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming other people think the way we do.” Everyone needs to know what the plan is, why it’s necessary, and what the end result will be. Very clearly, and in no uncertain terms. And the unasked question that will be on everyone’s mind is: “What’s in it for me?” You need to be able to answer that question – clearly, concisely, and confidently. If you can’t, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
5. When you’ve communicated the change plan clearly, concisely and confidently to your team, and they are ready to make the change, it’s time to begin to take action. What’s the first step? How will you empower your team to do whatever is needed to take that first step, and the next one, and the next one? And how will you keep them moving towards that goal? It’s up to YOU to empower THEM.
Seth Godin wrote: “Our job is to create a change, to make things better, to show up with something that was worth the effort it took to create.” Change is worth your best effort, my friend.
And now, here are three questions for you to think about and answer for yourself. There are no wrong answers. The only right answers are those answers that are right for YOU. And here they are:
1. How would you respond to this: “It isn’t the strongest that survives, it’s the one most adaptable to change.”?
2. When you have encountered strong resistance to change, how have you dealt with that resistance?
3. If you could change just one thing for the better, what would that be? And … where would you begin?
The Special Key for this episode just has to be the Key of “C” for Change. Never be afraid of Change. You may lose something good but you may gain something even better.
In the next Episode, we’re going to talk about one of the most important characteristics that any leader must have: PEOPLE POWER, the ability to lead others by encouraging and empowering your people. Think about what it takes to be a great coach, a great teacher, a great conductor, a great leader, and chances are you’ll find that person is also a great people person.
Got a question or comment? You are most welcome to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to hear from you, and now that my computer is working well again, I’ll be sure to answer you promptly.
Until next time, take care and stay safe and well, my friend, and keep changing – for the better, that’s for sure!