Monday, July 10, 2017

The Complexity of Change

Leaders love to talk about change. It is one of their favorite words. The minute a leader starts to use this word they become excited.

The difficulty with the word change is that most leaders assume the listener knows what they mean by it. During numerous executive coaching sessions, I have pointed out to countless leaders that saying the word change does not mean we understand what the definition is of the word change.

In the beginning, I point out that the word change really carries two different meanings. The first meaning of the word change is to start a process where by we as leaders want to improve something. For example, we could change something like a system, a process, or the structure of the company. The goal is to improve what already exists so that it is more effective or more efficient.

However, some leaders use the word change and what they are really trying to communicate is not improvement, but instead transformation. The goal is to create something new and different. In this case, they do not want to change, i.e. improve, a system, but would like to transform the current system into a new system.

So, in the lexicon of leadership, the first thing most leaders need to do is pause before they speak. They need to ask themselves the following questions: 

Am I asking this individual or group of people to do something better? 

Or am I asking them to do something different? 

Starting from this  point of clarity, leadership communication is always more effective.

When I coach people, I routinely encourage leaders and managers to not use the word change. Instead, I encourage them to use the words “improve” or “transform”. Then, the meaning of the word is clear from the beginning.

This week, pause before you start talking about change and make sure you know which definition of the word you are using. Then, be consistent as you move forward. Confusion never helps people change. 

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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