There has never been a time when the need for leaders to pursue positive change has been more crucial than it is today.
That’s not to say that change has never been important in the past. Every age presents unique opportunities wrapped in a package of seemingly insurmountable problems. Imagine a world without freeze dried food, cordless tools, memory foam, cochlear implants, or scratch-resistant eyeglasses. You can thank the creation of NASA – and the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union – for the technology that made those things possible.
Every organization, institution, and community is uniquely equipped to deliver exactly the results it is delivering today. The problems we face – from business competitiveness to government effectiveness to community and cultural revitalization – require positive change to make things better. None of them will solve themselves. They all need leaders.
Napoleon said that “a leader is a dealer in hope.” She and he must also be a teller of truth. Without that, followers are unprepared for the struggle necessary to turn hope into reality. Here are six messages followers need to hear from their leaders about the necessity and difficulty of positive change.
- Change isn’t going to stop. The uncertainty you feel won’t fade once the immediate challenge is met. New opportunities and threats will arise every day. The competition will continue to innovate. Those we serve will continue to demand more. Global events will create upheaval. Change doesn’t influence the world. It is our world.
- You are going to be uncomfortable, and that is okay. Change by its very nature pushes everyone out of their comfortable habits. You will be unsure of your actions and decisions. It will likely take you longer to accomplish your work because you haven’t mastered the tasks. The organization needs you to accept and embrace this truth: If there is no discomfort there is no change. It is a byproduct of the process.
- Those with the greatest capacity to make change work have the brightest future. Simply being good at your job is no guarantee of success or even relevance in the future. There used to be switchboard operators, gas station attendants, and train caboose men. Farms are now plowed using driverless tractors controlled by GPS satellites. Your job is not immune to obsolescence, and it is up to you to continually learn and grow.
- You will be pushed to go further and faster even though you believe you are going as far and fast as you can. None of us ever knows exactly how fast and far we can go until we are pushed. We do know that the external environment demands that we be faster, better, cheaper, and friendlier in order to flourish. Keeping the pace of change in check isn’t an exact science. Speak up when you are overwhelmed. We’ll listen.
- You won’t always have input into what changes are made. Yes, we need your ideas, value your questions, and know that we talk a lot about participation. There are, unfortunately, times when decisions about the direction we’re going can’t or shouldn’t wait on everyone’s input and agreement. In those situations, I will work to provide the opportunity for you to influence how changes that affect you are implemented. Even then, there are likely to be situations where you – or even I – won’t have any input into what changes are made and how. I need you to trust that I am looking out for everyone’s best interest and support the decision and change.
- I struggle with change, too. There are days when I wonder if I am doing the right thing in the right way. I know that I need to say, “Good idea” more than “that will never work.” I believe that you want to do a good job. I need to improve at viewing your questions as an honest attempt to help us all succeed rather than resistance. We all need to help and trust each other more.
If you want things to be better, they have to be different. For that to happen there must be positive change led by people who care enough to tell the truth.
Randy Pennington is author of the award-winning book Make Change Work. He is a hall-of-fame speaker and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit www.penningtongroup.com , email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 972.980.9857.