Five Change Leadership Practices for the Next Decade
As we move towards a new decade, my mind turns to the leadership practices needed to make transformational change a reality. These are my observations.
At the heart of the first leadership practice lies the notion of intent.
In seeking transformational change, what is your strategic intent? Do you measure and deliver what matters to your customers? Do you have a purposeful system that enables your organisation to gain rich data that fully explores your customers’ needs, wants, and interests? Do you use that data to create an offer that meets those expressed needs, and have you designed a delivery system that matches that offer?
Culture is about your modus operandi—your ways of doing. I am a fan of the saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” I also know that people are prone to habits—among which procrastination, rushing, self-doubt, and perfectionism can get in the way of delivering your intent.
So, my second leadership practice is creating a culture in your organisation to match your intent. In a nutshell, your culture must enable productivity. More particularly, you need a productivity system that encourages discretionary effort from your people. Valuing your staff and empowering their practice are two excellent ways.
My direct experience tells me that those ways usually generate discretionary effort, sometimes known as "going the extra mile." Without it, your employees may be bored or unenthusiastic about their work—and how will that help you to deliver your intent?
Professors Ivan Robertson and Sir Cary Cooper have been pioneers for workplace wellbeing for around twenty years. They promulgated the view that there are no taboo topics in the workplace; and over time, through honest conversations, positive change happened with their various clients.
So, the third leadership practice, which I still only see rarely, is about having honest conversations with your people. If you want a quick, short-handed introduction to the topic, have a look at the blog post by Hykie Breeze. It sets out four steps for having an honest conversation.
Better still, create the time to explore Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, and learn and practice tools such as the Ladder of Inference. Remember, neuroplasticity and the creation of better neural pathways!
Peter Senge also described in his book how to buildi a learning organisation. That is the fourth leadership practice needed for the new decade: practising the five disciplines of learning organisations.
In dealing with the many problems facing us all in the new decade, building a learning culture (one of the five disciplines) is a leadership priority—and one that cannot be ignored. I have worked with way too many organisations that have not rewarded continuous learning, have leaders who do not lead by example, where constructive and meaningful feedback is rarely given, and who have failed to hire curious people that stretch people’s comfort zones. I love the saying, "Your comfort zone will kill you," and I advise all my clients to drive for stretch.
As a starting point, focus on your immediate team by creating ground rules for effective team working. For that, I would highly recommend Roger Schwarz for work that inspires effective teamwork and the development of a learning culture.
My fifth and final leadership practice for the new decade concerns having clarity about the solution for change, and knowing who is pushing for change.
Two main factors differentiate change types—whether the problem is tame, critical, or wicked; and the urgency for a solution. Keith Grint is known for his work on wicked problems and clumsy solutions, and the role of leadership in such situations.
Wicked problems abound—healthcare systems, climate change, poverty, and reforming education for the future to name a few—and each impact our lives and work in many and varied ways. Different answers require different change strategies, because transformational change is adaptive.
So, can you accurately identify the difference between programmatic and adaptive change, and are you setting out on the best course of action?
Adopting these leadership practices and reviewing your outcomes and impact at the end of 2020 may well surprise you!