Magazine article Talent Development

Claim Your Change Power

Magazine article Talent Development

Claim Your Change Power

Article excerpt

Whether you're a leader or a follower, you are a force of change.

Consulting all over the world, I've helped many companies through the process of change. I've seen disillusionment, fear, blaming, "stuckness," and dependency. I want it better for us: I want each and every one of us to claim our change power.

Whatever roles you play at work or at home, you are a force of change. Mail clerk or CEO, salesperson or factory worker, leader or follower, wife or husband, young or old-you are an active participant in the changes around you. You can choose your thoughts about what's happening, and you can choose your actions. It's possible to develop practices and a point of view that will help you thrive in change.

Your beliefs are crucial. In fact, beliefs are often more important in change than techniques. Techniques work when you think to use them; beliefs influence your choices whether you're conscious of them or not. Note that there are two different kinds of beliefs: "say beliefs," the beliefs you talk about having; and "do beliefs," the beliefs that actually drive your behavior.

The role of formal leaders

Old belief: Formal leaders must drive change and act as role models for the perfect and preplanned change process.

New belief: Leaders are co-learners.

A few years ago, I met with a group of union stewards to brainstorm how to better involve associates in business processes. After a heated debate, one of the stewards said, "We're wasting our time. We can't change until they (senior management) change." But a few days later in my meeting with senior management, an executive said in frustration, "We can't change until they (the workers) change."

One of the most often mistaken beliefs about major organization change--the kind that requires new roles and relationships--is that one group must change before others do. If organizations were fully mechanical and rational, perhaps that would be possible. A leader or group of leaders would plan a change and communicate it to others. The leaders would put systems, structures, and rewards in place to get full alignment. Then they'd educate and support everyone in changing their behavior. Those seers would be role models of courage, appropriate behavior, and rationality.

But expecting such perfection from leaders is unrealistic. The reality is that many of the demands of new markets, a global economy, and shifting technology are new to all of us. They require new leadership skills and behaviors, new worker skills and behaviors, and new interaction among all players. Leaders can't play the change game alone.

Leaders, too, must have space to learn. Very few people in formal leadership roles were schooled in the Internet. Few had role models to teach them the leadership skills needed in what futurists Stan Davis and Chris Meyer call "the blurred economy." Few planned to lead a global workforce encompassing baby boomer pre-retirees, Gen Xers, Nexters, telecommuters, and others.

To expect perfect leaders under those conditions is to immobilize the organization and its leaders. Perfect is an expectation that goes with the common, yet erroneous, belief that stability is normal and change is the exception. In truth, both stability and change are normal.

If you're a formal leader--someone with significant control over resources and strategies--you can support change in important ways. For instance, look for opportunities to nurture new (even crazy) ideas long before they move into the mainstream. Once a plan for change has been put into place, you can communicate it to the rest of the organization-- even though you may not have all of the knowledge and skills to see it through.

Whether you're an associate, a follower, an employee, or a team member, you have a right to expect formal leaders to be committed to the changes they espouse. You have a right to expect formal leaders to be aggressive learners, so that they can play strong and wise leadership roles. …

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