“Be the change you want to see in the world…”
While an inspiring (if misquoted) quote and the mantra of change agents universally, there are some serious challenges in the fine print of this theme for some of us leaders.
In BEing that change I want to see in the world, I’m responding, reacting and choosing from that place. I’m getting it done, making waves and causing change. There’s big impact all the time- directly and in ripples, and nearly always in a good way. From it comes fulfillment for me (and some adrenaline, too) and growth for others.
This is great as a consultant, as I’m often brought in for this very purpose- to offer/uncover/strategize ways forward to shift it all. On it. Got it. Love it.
As a leader of or in an organization though… it’s definitely a bit different.
Modeling the mindset and behaviors you want others to follow is key. And yet, when they are coming from a place of non-change (don’t see the need, don’t want to, don’t have the impulse…) a funky dynamic starts to happen which we can miss altogether if we’re not paying attention. In BEing the change as a leader, you’re stirring pots, setting the bold new direction, creating the game-changing strategy, challenging the box in every interaction and going out to get the new opportunities for the organization to rise to.
Except they might not.
Here’s the rub- the reason you’re so valued and appreciated (if not also regarded with a dose of discomfort) is because “you are making it happen”- that’s your role- which means that they don’t have to learn how to initiate change on their own. They can just let you do that scary part, and then step into the opening you’ve created. But what happens when you’re not there to initiate it?
See if you recognize this pattern… You come in to make change or get things going, you do so full-out, push the boundaries, set new standards and rock their world until “my work here is done” or “I’ve outgrown them” or you’re just plain crispy, and then you move on to another project, place, etc. where they need you more and you can make that big difference.
In your wake, the question remains in each of those places- did you CAUSE change or actually LEAD it?
In causing it, your change-agent way pushes people out of their comfort zone, which can result in a few different scenarios…
A) It can stick- they love life outside the comfort zone, rise to it, and the whole organization’s pattern and standard for growth changes (our fantasy).
B) It can make them dependent on you manually pulling them out of that comfort zone over and over (tired, anyone?).
C) It can cause them to step out so uncomfortably that they retreat back in when you’re not there, ultimately impacting no lasting change at all (that head against the wall sensation).
To lead change means to influence people to step up and out of their comfort zones, but then to choose to do that repeatedly until they “get” the wonder and possibility of life/opportunity outside that box they were in before. The test of your impact as a leader should be what they choose to do in the moments when you’re not there to initiate it.
Easier said than done, and MUCH easier to just be and make the change yourself, right?
So the question of the day is… How to LEAD change? Check out Tap Into Greatness and the immersive experiential version too, if you haven’t yet. Meanwhile, start with some awareness. Own the fact that you’re the change agent, and ask yourself what you can say/do/ask to make life outside the box more compelling than in for folks you’re leading. Pose the “why step out,” question in a compelling way, and start getting them to answer it. We all know you’ve already answered the question five different ways in your head 10 minutes ago, which is why they’ll be painfully slow in answering for awhile. Yet until they do, it’s still just your idea and you being the change for them.
So shhh, ask again- a few different ways and really give them some (maybe uncomfortable but necessary) pause to answer it, instead of answering every time for them. Have them imagine and inquire into the possibility on the other side change. They can do this, and want to deep down, or you wouldn’t still be there. Let’s just start with that, and then we’ll build…