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Leading Change (And How You Might Need to Change)

Your change plan will work just great. As long as you flip the script.

And if you are willing to change in a way that you might not like.

Here’s the deal.

When leaders want to make a change, they figure out what they want to do differently. That’s a great first step.

Sometimes leaders figure this out on their own. Sometimes they do it with a team or maybe with the help of fancy consultants.

The leaders designing the change are usually both smart and knowledgeable about a lot of things. They know about business models, industry trends, organizational dynamics, and the nitty gritty of whatever it is that the place does.

But they almost always miss the most important part: the people factor.

And people don’t change quickly or easily.

Cookbooks, Diets, and Management

People don’t change simply because of new information.

If you only needed new information, that cookbook would have transformed you into a master chef.

The information in that diet and exercise program would have you in perfect shape.

And certainly that management book would have you winning accolades, awards, and endless calls from recruiters.

You know this already. So what am I going to tell you to change your view about change?

I’m going to remind you of something else that you already know, but that you are too ready to overlook.

I overlooked this too. Until I learned it the hard way. Maybe I can save you some grief.

Or at least get you to approach this fundamental truth with renewed vigor.

People Change

People change slowly. Which means your job as a leader is hard.

But that’s not even the real secret. The real secret is that you must change too.

You must commit to deliberate and consistent action. You must sustain that effort over time.

And that last part is a kicker. The more we spread an effort over time, the harder it is to maintain focus and energy on it.

Change requires lots of self-discipline. A sustained commitment. Consistent focus. Dealing with setbacks. Re-jiggering along the way.

That does not come easily. And it is not the “fun” part of leadership.

It’s fun to design things. It’s fun to generate ideas. To look at new possibilities.

All that vision stuff is why leaders wanted to become leaders. But the secret sauce is in the hard work.

Your Choice

The good news is that you have a choice.

You know the secret. You know that it works. You know that it’s hard.

But you also know that it’s totally under your control. Well, most of it anyway.

You know that you can focus on this un-sexy 20% of the “strategy” for change and get 80% of the results you are looking for.

Which means that 80% of your effort should go toward that 20% of the strategy.

See what I did there?

The old 80/20 rule comes into play twice.

First, your big fancy ideas, concepts, and strategies are made up of 80% careful wordsmithing, precise venn-diagramming, and multi-modal frameworking. Then there’s a little nod to the truth tucked in there somewhere, that change will be difficult and require everyone’s “buy in” or whatever.

That last 20% is really where the secret sauce is.

So, the second implementation of the 80/20 rule is to focus 80% of your implementation effort on that 20% of the plan.

That is your clear choice.

You know that change does not come quickly or easily.

You now can set aside the stuff that doesn’t work and you can focus on the stuff that does. Small, incremental changes sustained over a long period of time.

You can support and encourage your team. You can clearly state your long-term vision to remind them of why you’re aiming toward a certain type of change.

But more importantly, you can consistently remind them. You can make small changes that aim in that direction.

That may be a small tweak to the agenda of one of your regular meetings. It might be the way you respond to certain types of questions from the team. Maybe it’s a small new assignment for someone on the team.

These are little things. But if you, as the leader, keeping focusing on little things that shift, even slightly, in a particular direction, change will come.

You will be reinforcing your message through your actions. People watch for that sort of consistency, and this will help with “buy in.”

You will be demonstrating concrete examples of the change you seek. People can understand that much more clearly than any abstract concept.

You will be right there in the mix with them on small details. People respect a leader who is in the mix with them and not sitting back and issuing decrees from “above the fray.”

You will also be giving them time to adapt. To digest. To adjust. And most importantly, to begin to internalize the change and make it their own.

Because people taking ownership is what makes the change happen. And it’s also where new leaders are born.