Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using power to drive change.

The Fifth P involves how change leaders use power to drive the change they want.

When you aspire to be a change leader, there’s no such thing as a trivial act. Leadership is essentially a task of persuasion where every choice makes a speech. The only real power you have is your example. One of the primary tasks of the change leader is to always demonstrate the preferred way of doing things. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

Good leaders liberate the leader in others. They’re decision shapers rather than decision makers. They see their job as being very enthusiastic about the progress that’s been made while at the same time being eternally disappointed with the rate of progress. They know the desire to be liked is an unaffordable luxury because being a leader means knowing when it makes sense to take people over the top. No one will love you if you fail because you asked too little of them. However, effective change leaders seldom use their position power to force their will on others because they understand that force, the ultimate resource, maintains itself by being used sparingly.

Recognize that there are always people who can’t make the change. If they’re loyal, long-term, high-performing employees, they deserve other options. They shouldn’t be permitted to block the change effort, but they’ve earned the consideration of finding new roles, acquiring new skills, or receiving emotional support as they transition to new opportunities elsewhere. Not everyone who resists changing is to be won over. Some people are to be defeated. If the only way to change a person is - to change a person, act quickly. Take Machiavelli’s advice and don’t stand around with a dagger in your hand.

Study the impact the proposed change is likely to have on the people involved, including the losses they’ll suffer. Explore ways to emphasize the gains without denying the downside. Provide lots and lots of information. Acknowledge that people’s concerns are legitimate. Reassure them that their needs will be considered, but don’t make false promises. Provide as much security as possible. Provide people with the opportunity to influence the process of change and a mechanism for negotiating its impact

Talking about the anxiety that change brings makes people nervous, so it’s a solution that often seems worse than the problem. However, such talk is the key to dealing with anxiety. Once these self-doubts are surfaced, much of their power disappears as people discover they’re not alone in their fears. When they can talk it out, they don’t have to act it out. Resistance is an emotional process and using logic won’t talk people out of how they’re feeling. However, feelings pass and change when they can be expressed directly and authentically.

If you’ve ever tried talking to horses, you know that horses don't care about the words you use, only about your intent and presence. People are very similar.

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