For Common Sense, Defy Common Sense.
In last month’s column, I shared some things that are common sense, but they aren’t always common practice during a change. For example, we should use our people’s ideas during a change, consistently model the change, and make the change “their” idea, sincerely. But we usually don’t.
Why do we leaders get it wrong? I’ve identified a few reasons:
- We’re experts at solving problems. Our careers have blossomed, in part, because we’re good at finding solutions. But when we’re leading a change, we can’t go to our people with all the solutions; that’s top-down change…they’ll push back. Instead, if we want the change to last, we have to sincerely seek their ideas, use their ideas to find a solution.
- We know a lot about our business. This is a must. But our people know more about the idiosyncrasies of our business…how things actually work each day (and what won’t work). Our ideas for the change are likely naïve. We have to recognize this and act on their knowledge of how things work—not primarily ours.
- We’re good process managers. That’s great because change is a process. But change is also a decision…a decision made by every single person in our organization. For a change to last—even with world-class processes—our people must decide to change. And neuroscience tells us that every decision humans make requires both reason AND emotion. When we see change as a process alone, and we don’t understand the need to also bring out the best decisions from our people, we fall down.
- We’re great communicators. Our communications skills—upwards, sideways and downwards—help us most days. But our reliance on “communications” (the kind we normally think of…using words) is off kilter during a change—when communications is 90 percent action and only 10 percent word. We can have the greatest arguments for a change—well-worded rationales—but if we act out of line with the change, game over.
Is this common sense? That our skills at problem solving, process management and communications, and our business knowledge…that these things we’ve gotten pats on the back for and been promoted for…that they can actually work AGAINST us? No.
Bottom line: If we want common sense to prevail during a change, we have to defy what’s normally common sense for us as leaders. As I’ve learned, it can be an out-of-body experience. And as I say on the cover of my book, “We as Leaders Must Change for the Change to Last.”
Let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.