The Leadership Change Gap
An important function of leadership is to engage others in your vision for the future. The vision, regardless of what it is, will likely mean those you lead will experience some form of change. How much of an impact that has on productivity and the acceptance of the changes needed depends on a number of factors. In this post we will take a look at the gap that often exists between where you, as the leader, are in the process and where the people you are leading are in the process.
I have worked in several large organizations as they underwent significant change, and have observed this gap repeat itself over and over. Even when the change expert reminds the leader that they have been researching, analyzing and adjusting to the change for some time, often the people outside of the executive team have little or no awareness of what is being contemplated. The gap, then, is that place where you as the leader are in the change, and where the rest of the people in the organization are in the process. This gap is then magnified because the bumps in the change process are reflected in the experience of not just employees but in the experience of the customers.
Recently, I was in the local grocery store that had changed to a new point-of-sale system and on this busy Sunday afternoon, the glitches in the system were creating a chaotic effect. The staff members, who are generally quite laid back and calm, were clearly experiencing stress and expressed this to customers. The system created multiple errors that had to be corrected, the line-ups were getting longer and slower and the staff were frustrated. This is not an unusual scenario when change is introduced without closing the gap. It is one that is played out in workplaces often.
The only way to reduce the gap is to change the way we approach change. This is done primarily through changing our communication style within the organization. Leaders often spend a lot of time thinking about how to communicate a change in the organization. The key to closing the gap is to think about changing when you communicate. This necessitates an open form of dialogue early in the process. And that will take many leaders outside their comfort zone. In our next Evolve Executive Coaching blog post we will talk about leaders operating outside their comfort zone. What do you see as your biggest communication challenge going forward? How have you changed your approach in the last eighteen months?