Most organizations we encounter – whether they are in the Public, Private, or Social sector – know that change is a never-ending, continuously updated process. The very best of those organizations institutionalize change, knowing that innovation happens best at the moment of peak success.
It’s best not to wait to institute change leadership until change is necessary, but sometimes that is exactly the position in which we find ourselves. There are two fail-proof indicators that change has to happen, and happen now.
The first reason for immediate change is when the gap between who we are and who we say we want to be is an obviously huge one.
It’s rare that we will be exactly who we want to be, as a person or as an organization made up of people. Congruence is a lifelong pursuit. But there are times when the gap is just too big to ignore.
Let’s say we are a person who says “I want to be deeply committed to my family, spending all of the time with them that I can”. But when we honestly examine our lives, we find that the pressures of work or other outside pursuits have resulted in our missing a string of family birthdays, soccer matches, dance recitals, and graduations. There’s a gap there – one we must address.
Or our organization claims “Our people are our priority”. But we have high turnover, there is a nasty, backbiting culture in place, and when we dare to survey employee engagement the results are discouraging.
People can survive and even thrive in tough turnaround situations. But it’s tough to last fifteen minutes when the gap between who we are and who we want to be is wide and there is no plan in place to narrow it.
The second reason for immediate change is when we are experiencing competing values clashing to the point that we can’t ignore them.
A medical practice has older partners who are trying to maximize their earnings and market share and have the time to do so since most of their children are grown and gone. The younger partners have kids in high school and want to have a practice characterized by work-life balance. A not for profit sees huge potential for increasing human services – this will require more fundraising and more staffing…but also a cost-cutting initiative.
When we are facing canyons between our aspiration and our reality and between the values on our team there is bad news and good news.
The bad news is that the change that is necessary is likely to cause the experience of loss for some people involved. It may be positional, financial, or motivational – but there will be “winners” and “losers” in any kind of significant change initiative.
The good news is that everyone in the organization will be aware and desirous of some sort of change because the tension and pain of continuing with the status quo is too high, or will be very soon.
This is the point where leaders earn their pay. Recognizing the need for change, defining that change, mobilizing the people and resources necessary for the change, managing their own anxiety and that of others, telling the truth even when it hurts – this is the real stuff of leadership.
Navigated with courage, the end result is a change where the organization wins and the team is more energized and engaged than ever.
This kind of change leadership is what TAG specializes in. Every day our consultants and coaches are engaged in supporting leaders and organizations in the process of change, helping them to anticipate landmines, craft winning strategies, and consolidate gains for the common good.
Image cred: forbes.com