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How To Lead Through External Change


If you are leading an organization, you already know that change is part of the deal. Not only must you pay attention to the ordinary disruptions that are a normal part of organizational life but you have to be aware of external disruptions as well, learning to discern which of them are passing fads and which are likely to force significant change for your organization.

So, how do you set yourself up to lead well through a time of significant external change?

1. Be aware and be proactive.
Make sure you are caught up on trends affecting both your organization’s environment and your industry as a whole.  Read, study, talk to experts, enlist skilled consultants, find out what people are saying, doing, and thinking in your industry. Make sure you are aware of opportunities before they are missed opportunities!

2.  Listen to your intuition.
Intuition is simply the ability of our brains to sift through mountains of input, experience, memories and events at a subconscious level and from all that input reach a decision. Sometimes we can do all the research and listen to all of the experts and still find “I’ve got to go with my gut on this one”. The most visionary leaders are those who have learned to hone this precious ability, even when it saws across the grain of logic. Especially if you have a rich account of experience to draw upon, learn to trust your sense of things.

3. Listen to organizational dissonance.
In times of change and challenge, there is often a difference between what an organization says and what it does. Senior leadership may be doing or assuming one thing while those on the front lines are doing quite another. Who is right and who is wrong? What values are in competition? Who is responding to change? Who is resisting change? When you encounter dissonance it is your responsibility as a leader to sift through it and find out where the truth lies.

4. Pay attention to your top competitor.
What is your competition doing that you are not? How is your competition responding to external changes in your industry? What does your competition see that you might be missing?

5. Listen to your people.
The people on the front lines of your organization – employees or volunteers – are closest to the disruptions,  both internal and external. Ask them what they are seeing and sensing. Wander around, paying attention. Build systems and processes to elicit their feedback and thoughts. People on the front lines want to be heard and they want immediate feedback.

This is a big part of empowering them to belong, contribute, and to make a difference.

How about you?
What is changing outside your organization – in your community, competition, industry?
What are you putting into place to respond to these changes?