If you do an Internet search on leadership and change management the results might surprise you. First of all, you’ll find thousands of citations returned but perhaps that’s to be expected. I was a bit taken aback by the sheer number of academic programs, institutes and centers that are researching and instructing on leadership and change management. But what really surprised me was the fact that you could get a PhD in Leadership and Change Management from a number of institutions. I made a note to go back and see which programs “transfer” real world credit.
Change is hard. But before we even get to the hard part we have to acknowledge that change is necessary. Sometimes the necessary part smacks us in the face. The industry we’re in suffers a seismic shift and our top and bottom lines drop precipitously. Our key people start leaving. Our employees are going through the motions and have no enthusiasm for what they’re doing and it shows. But sometimes the need for change is much more subtle.
Since I’ve started working as an executive coach I’ve thought a great deal about how I can be a resource to help an executive get out of his or her own way and take action toward change.
As a coach I can help an executive:
· Get clear about goals. Sometimes an executive feels pulled in a number of different directions and is receiving conflicting advice. Talking it through can help the executive sort out what’s really important and stay focused on that.
· Identify blind spots. I can help an executive figure out those behaviors that may be hurting performance that he or she doesn’t see. My commitment is to be completely honest and give direct feedback but within the context of being in service to my client; I am totally and completely on his or her side.
· Stay on track. I can help my client be accountable to what he or she has committed to do or gently inquire about why they are not fulfilling the promises he or she made – even those only the two of us know about.
· Feel supported. When I was an executive I often felt alone and didn’t feel the support for any of the difficult changes I needed to make. And therefore I always found something more important that needed my attention.
But before any of that assistance kicks in my client must recognize the need for personal change. What I’ve learned is that most people pay lip service to the need for change but they really don’t believe it. When it gets hard, I’ve heard things like:
“I’m too old to change the way I do things now. Just give me the answer.”
“ I hired you because of all your experience. If you can’t use that experience to offer suggestions to me, then I don’t really need a coach.”
“ I want you to show me how to fix my staff.”
“I’m too busy and too stressed to worry about this right now. I’ll change when I get a chance to breathe.”
How does one grasp and accept the need for personal change? Well-known leadership and management expert Dan Rockwell, in his March 20, 2016 blog Leadership Freak, offered one of the most thought-provoking exercises I’ve seen. He called it “A Life Changing Experiment Anyone Can Do:”
- Find an advisor with the following qualities:
- Your advisor knows and understands your values and your strengths.
- Your advisor has your best interest at heart.
- Your advisor has a measure of success in the pursuit of a meaningful life.
- Your advisor understands constraints like time and money.
- Your advisor knows you’re looking for daily behaviors for one week only.
- Commit to do whatever your advisor tells you before you ask and before they respond to your question.
- Ask your advisor a question: “What could I do this week to live a more meaningful life? I’ll do whatever you say.”
- Question Variations:
- Develop new relationships?
- Deepen current relationships?
- Becomes a better leader?
- Move my career forward?
- Encourage my team?
- Fulfill my vision for my life?
- Question Variations:
I did it. I found it scary and humbling! The experience shook me out of my complacency for sure. And reminded me that we all need to change something. And change is hard. But not acknowledging the need for change is sad and limiting and results in a career – or life – that is diminished in some fundamental ways.
What do you need to change? If you can really answer that, half the hard work is done.