REINVENT CONTINUOUSLY: IDEAS FOR ACTION

Excerpted with permission from the 3rd Chapter of “Uncommon Greatness: Five Fundamentals to Transform Your Leadership” by Mark Miller

Note from Bob:  My friend, Mark Miller, has done it again!  Mark has written another “Must Read” book for every leader who is committed to continuously to increase their Leadership Effectiveness!  And if I might be so bold, if a leader is not committed to increasing their Leadership Effectiveness they shouldn’t be leading!  As you will see below, today’s post is the third of 3 Parts!  

If vision is the fire motivating a leader and an organization to move into an unknown future with confidence, the wood for the fire is found in this third Fundamental: Reinvent Continuously. For the best leaders, Reinvent Continuously is a practice, a mindset, and a personal discipline.

Following are three strategies for you to consider to help you increase your proficiency on this fun and high-impact Fundamental:

  1. Think Different – Posted on March 11th – Click HERE to read.
  2. Cultivate Creativity – Posted on March 14th – Click HERE to read.
  3. Lead Change – Posted Below:

LEAD CHANGE

The nature of change has changed. Change in the modern organization is nonlinear, interdependent, iterative, and never-ending . . . and the number of changes being implemented at any given time can be overwhelming. This new normal has created a blizzard, often with whiteout conditions for leaders and frontline associates. How does the leader respond? It depends.

Different types of changes require different interventions. There is no longer a linear process for leading change. Successful change requires more of a systems-thinking approach. Leaders must stay grounded in the realities of their organizations and the change initiatives they launch more than ever before. They must judge the readiness of their organization for the next change. They must discern the impact of recent changes. Leaders must consider the historical context. You must decide when to iterate and when to stay the course. You must determine how much support is needed for a particular change and what form that support should take. You need to be attuned to the spirit of the people—when do they need to hear the vision again? Do they need to hear it differently? You must gauge the energy of the organization and deputize others to help keep the change flames burning.

Change is not a burden to be carried by the leader; it should not be viewed as a distraction or something to be endured. To create and sustain productive and purposeful change is the ultimate responsibility of every leader. We must become masters of the art of organizational change. Following are some key actions leaders can take to make change a reality.

Maintain Dynamic Awareness

To respond well to this onslaught of competing inputs, leaders must maintain deep knowledge regarding what is happening in their organization at all times. Dynamic Awareness requires the leader to constantly shift their focus to determine where to invest their energy and resources. Done well, Dynamic Awareness is proactive, empathetic, continuous, and immersive. Dynamic Awareness is essential for every leader, but it becomes critical when in service of a desired change.

There are three questions that can help you strengthen your Dynamic Awareness when applied to your change efforts.

  1. What’s happening?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What should we do about it?

Dynamic Awareness (and these questions) should be applied to four essential elements required for successful change: communication, leadership, support, and experimentation. Being Dynamically Aware will tell you which of these components you must focus on at any given point in time to drive the change forward! Without Dynamic Awareness, successful and sustainable change will always remain just out of your reach.

Communicate Tirelessly

Our team has been researching the topic of organizational change for the last few years, and our formal work will not be completed for another year or more. So, I’m not sure exactly what will make the final list or the language we may ultimately publish. However, I am confident based on what we have already learned that communication is a key driver of successful change efforts.

As you can imagine, communication in the context of change takes many forms. There are at least three required types: vision, encouragement, and progress.

The vision needs to portray a preferred future. The destination should have benefit for the organization and, by extension, the people. Whenever possible, these future benefits should energize people. Next, the vision needs to be dynamic as opposed to rigid. The bigger the change effort, the less likely the vision will manifest itself exactly as it was originally cast. The leaders need a spirit of flexibility as they describe a developing picture of the future.

Change is typically hard. Combine this with the fact that the burden of implementing the desired change in many cases falls on the frontline employees, and you have a perfect opportunity to lift the spirit of people with your encouragement. The leader’s words carry a lot of weight—use them wisely.

If you cast a compelling picture of the future and people choose to follow you, they will expect progress reports. You have a perspective many in the organization do not. You can see across your industry and across departments; you have forecasts and projections that the majority do not see. Regular progress updates will bring energy to your change efforts.

There’s at least one more factor for consideration as it relates to communication during a change effort: strategic repetition.

Chick-fil-A employees are known across the country for their hospitality. One signature phrase that encapsulates the spirit of the culture is “my pleasure.” How did this become the norm in three thousand independently operated restaurants? In part, strategic repetition.

Every year for a decade, when Chick-fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, addressed leadership at our annual meeting, he said, “When someone says, ‘Thank you,’ what do we say? ‘My pleasure.’” The first couple of years, Mr. Cathy provided the response. In the years that followed, the audience knew the answer and would, in full voice, say, “My pleasure.” During a change effort, strategic repetition is critical. What change have you been willing to champion personally for a decade?

Expand Leadership

Change efforts fail for many reasons. Two of the most common are that the change loses the energy required to see it through or that the organization lacks the patience to stay the course. You probably know this; many organizations suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Leaders as a group are very easily distracted.

One strategy to combat both pitfalls is to Expand Leadership. Ultimately, for the change to become embedded in the organization, you’ll want everyone to buy in. But to get to this point, the first place to begin is among your leaders—preferably those in your inner circle. There are a few very pragmatic reasons to start with them.

If people have questions about the change, they will typically not come to you. They will go to another leader lower in the organization. You don’t want these leaders to say, “I don’t know.” You want them to be ambassadors for the change.

Given the sheer number of changes, you, as the point leader, cannot lead every change effort. You will need others to step up to this task. You may publicly deputize them or appoint them so everyone knows they have your support, but you can probably not “own” the day-to-day issues associated with every change.

Finally, it will be much easier to sustain the energy needed if you have delegated and empowered another leader to champion a specific change. You also inject additional energy into the process if you ask for periodic reports on progress. Change requires energy; leaders are the source of that energy.

Provide Support

Every change effort requires support. This is a big topic with many different elements. What determines the types of support? The nature of the change and the needs of the people. Here are some examples: training, resources, tools, technology, information, coaching, metrics, ongoing communications, and more. By the way, what is required during a change effort can change over time. You may think you have it figured out before you even launch the project. Then, once the change hits the street, you realize adjustments are necessary. You may discover that something entirely different than anything you imagined is exactly what the people need to move the change forward. This is one more example where the Dynamic Awareness of leaders is required for long-term, sustained success.

Identify a major, or even a more modest, change initiative currently underway in your organization. Go to people from three different levels who are actively involved in implementation of the desired change. (Be sure to include someone from the front lines.) Ask them one question: What additional support do you need to make this change effort more successful?

Experiment Often

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to spend some time with folks from the Stanford Design School (the d.school). Some of their professors have served on several of our research teams over the last decade. One of the things I love about the philosophy they teach at the d.school is the concept of test and learn. A willingness to experiment is essential for successful change.

The larger the change, the more loosely you should hold the methods and the plan. Things change, the world shifts, and you need to adapt. If you fail to iterate often, you will probably fail.

The caution here is to not fall prey to the ADHD I referenced earlier. Some ideas take time to implement and even longer to embed. In the beginning, nothing is easy, and success may be hard to discern. Yet again, this is why the leader needs Dynamic Awareness. When is it time to tweak the plan or change the process? When should the team be challenged to stay the course? These are important moments in which judgment is required. Even if the answer is stay the course . . . for now, this does not mean that future iteration is off the table. The best leaders always reserve the right to get smarter. They listen, learn, observe, and repeat the process over and over again.

Look around your organization in search of a change project that is floundering, maybe even stuck. Talk to the people leading this specific change project. Ask them three questions:

  1. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
  2. Which of those insights could you apply now to restart, redirect, or reenergize this work?
  3. What additional support do you need to move this work forward?

What’s your favorite part of leadership? As we’ve already established, all the Fundamentals must be present at a baseline competency level in order to lead well. But I’m guessing you’ll have one of the Fundamentals you enjoy the most. For me, to Reinvent Continuously is the most fun and probably the most rewarding.

Without reinvention, our vision will not be achievable. As mentioned earlier, your current systems, work processes, and behaviors are perfectly aligned to the outcomes you are achieving. Chances are high they were not designed to support or move you toward your future vision. The challenge you and your team face can be summarized in a simple question: What needs to change in order to make progress toward our vision? Nothing improves without change.

If you are thoughtful, strategic, and diligent regarding your reinvention efforts, the people you serve and the organization that employs you will ultimately thank you. Don’t fear change . . . create it. Reinvention is the fuel of progress.

Note from Bob:  You can order Mark Miller’s incredible book, “Uncommon Greatness: Five Fundamentals to Transform Your Leadership” today by clicking HERE

 

Mark Miller

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Miller is a Wall Street Journal and international best-selling author, communicator, and the former Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. Mark’s leadership journey at Chick-fil-A spanned 45 years, and today, he serves as the Co-Founder of LeadEveryDay.com Mark began writing almost twenty years ago, and with over one million books in print in more than twenty-five languages, his global impact continues to grow.

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