"If change is so easy, why don't you start?"
Peter Block in Flawless Consulting
Block's quote highlights how easy it is to ask for change, to want others to change, or to look outside of ourselves to address the change around us. "If only that person would change, then I would be much better off;" "Management is lost, they need to do something or we won't last." When it comes to organizational transitions, statements like these become commonplace. We often look to others to do the changing.
Last week, I wrote about Leading through Change and what it takes to navigate change from the perspective of the leader. But change doesn't just affect those "at the top," it affects everyone in the organization and everyone has a role in the transition either going well or poorly. By looking outside ourselves, we loose the opportunity to lead the change; we relinquish any control over what happens during the process and the change then happens to us.
To most effectively navigate change, no matter your place in the organization, it begins with you. Most of us have heard the famous Ghandi quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world," and there's a reason it's well known - it works. We may not have a lot of say in the overall strategy the company is implementing, but we have a lot of say in how we personally handle the change.
Here's five steps to effectively lead the change:
1) Get clear about the change the organization is making.
This is critical to leading during times of change. Taking the time to understand where the company is currently, and where it is headed is critical to leveraging your strengths during the process. Here are good questions to ask when getting clear about the organizational change: What is the current situation of the organization? What are the intended outcomes of the change? What is the office climate?
These questions shape the "big picture" of what's happening and help to frame the understanding of your role in the process.
2) Get clear about your situation
No matter what the change is around you, it's important to know what values you hold and how you "show up" at work. With the clear understanding of the organizational change happening around you, ask the following questions: What is my current situation in the organizational change process? What do I want my situation to be? What contributions am I able to make to the change taking place?
3) Identify the actions that you can take
In order to "be the change," it requires building on strengths and taking actions that will build on current competencies. What are my strengths? What actions can I take (or what skills can I build) to move from the current situation to the situation I want to be in? When naming the actions, be sure the actions connect to the overall organizational goals.
4) Write down your goals and do the work
Harvard Business School studies have shown that 91% of people that write down their goals and build accountability into goal achievement reach or exceed their goals. Writing down the actions you are going to take and building in accountability (which can be checking in with peers/colleagues, timelines and checklists, etc.) buoys your leadership during the change process. You will see marked improvement and advancement and so will those around you.
5) Get feedback
When going through your own change process, feedback is critical as it provides insight into how your actions are noticed by, and are impacting, others. It helps you know if you are on track in achieving your goals and moving forward as you intended to. As you receive feedback, it is important to revisit and rework your goals as needed to achieve the outcomes you set for yourself.
The above steps can serve as tools or a process in thinking about managing organizational change and how to lead the change. By looking inward and taking ownership over the organizational change, you can retain a level of control and lead from where you are in the organization, regardless of position.