By Mark Buchan
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What Keeps Leaders Up At Night?
One of the most important parts of a leaders role in organisations is making change happen. So why does this particular area of leadership cause such problems to even the brightest of leaders? The success of any change is largely dependant on the people within the programme and you don’t need to pay a consultant a large sum of money to tell you that, it’s what some might say is “common sense”, but where do managers or leaders of change go wrong?
The “Soft” Stuff is Hard
Many leaders take the approach that an organisation is like a machine and as a result may often treat the people as they would parts of a machine. When dealing with people we need to understand that they are not levers or wheels that can be cranked or turned. So how should we treat people who are part of the organisation and are resisting the changes that we, as leaders, know will be for the good of the company? The answer lies in what many people refer to as the “soft” stuff, the people centred approaches.
My personal feeling is that many organisations do look to collaborate with their people in making change happen, but all too often this collaboration is nothing more than a sales job of trying to get them on board with the vision. So the vision becomes the focus with everyone looking to generate excitement, energy and urgency around the vision for change. More open minded leaders involve their people in the creation of the vision but miss out one crucial step before people can come fully on board with the change.
What’s been missing?
The vital step that needs addressing before moving on is allowing people to let go of the past. Followers of Kubler-Ross may recognise this stage as grieving, the letting go of what was. With every beginning must come an ending and likewise with every ending must come a beginning. If we have not worked through the emotions of the ending before embarking on the beginning then you can be sure that trouble is in store.
So how can we appropriately deal with the ending?
As leaders we need to be understanding of the people element which means validation and affirmation of the very real emotions that change brings up for people. Give people time and space to process the emotions and learn their learnings and make their meanings. This is all part of the learning cycle, so trying to short-cut the cycle is denying people their right to feel sad, angry, frustrated, defeated, bitter or whatever. The best thing to do is to have a good old fashioned Irish wake – where everyone can eulogise about the past and the good old days but then move towards a future of their choosing. In short trust your people to find their way with you as a guide and they will remember you as a compassionate and considerate leader.
About The Author
Mark is an independent change management consultant who specialises in change at both the organisational and personal levels. To learn more about Mark and his experience click on any of the links below.