Three Key Phrases That Can Drive Change

The ability to drive change is a critical skill for all leaders and support teams, or as we like to call them during transformation, Alignment Leaders® and Change Partners. In every significant change or transformation, understanding basic principles of human nature can help you create optimal outcomes as you seek to change the direction of your people and your organization.

Here are a few key phrases that have helped me start conversations with Alignment Leaders and Change Partners to help them be more effective in leading their change initiatives:

If you weren’t in the meeting, the meeting didn’t happen. Leadership team meetings are often the place where change starts to happen and from which the cascade of sponsorship and communication begins. Imagine being part of a leadership team that met while you were taking time off, and then this leadership team aligned around some new direction or change. You weren’t present for the dialogue, you don’t know what the alternatives or trade-offs were, or what objections were raised and debated. Although this scenario can’t always be prevented, you can create a plan to get this missing team member up to date and aligned. This means taking time to be in dialogue with that person before we ask them to sign up for the change or communicate with their team.

People support what they help create. This is one of the foundations of Socio-Technical Systems theory. It’s the people closest to the work that understand best what the opportunities are, what the obstacles are, and where the system is mis-aligned (work, structure & governance, information & metrics, people & rewards, etc.). Getting them involved directly in the change process helps ensure not only that the team makes good trade-off decisions, but also encourages them to become champions of the change, who can then explain the rationale and advocate for change throughout the organization.

Pay now or pay later. This can be applied in so many ways, from putting in the time and energy up front as you work to drive change, to addressing problematic issues immediately. So many teams are reluctant to make the time to become aligned on their strategy and clarify the case for change. Often, this requires taking the time to work through the trade-offs and enabling the team to articulate why they chose those trade-offs. A few days of effort – literally – is often all it takes to create this kind of alignment. We can either pay now – by making the time to have those 24 hours of conversations over a few days or a few weeks – or we can pay later as we go back and forth debating how we got to a quick decision and whether or not we want to reconsider some aspect of it.

This paradigm of “pay now or pay later” should also be considered in daily operations. Leaders often fail to provide timely constructive feedback before it becomes a pattern of unacceptable performance or behavior. Is it more effort and disruption to address the issue early, or more effort and disruption to address it later? Either way, you pay.

These pithy phrases can help open the door to good conversations. Use them to help your Alignment Leaders and Change Partners be more effective in the effort to drive change, and also in influencing their teams to work with, and not against, human nature.

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