Leading Through Change: Moving From If to When
Leading through change only happens when leaders change the narrative from IF to WHEN, but it’s a big leap. Leaders are particularly prone to relying on if-then logic to calm their fears in times of uncertainty and risk. Unfortunately, they come to believe that logic will magically solve the problem, but it actually holds them back from moving the organization forward.
“If you bill two more hours a week, we can meet our budget goals.”
“If we cut costs by 5% we can still give bonuses.”
“If you get your chores done, you can go play with friends.”
“If you follow through next time, I will trust you more.”
A Culture of Analysis Paralysis
It’s a cultural norm. Leaders convince themselves that more information, more analysis and more discussion will somehow take away the fear and anxiety associated with accountability. But nothing changes. Your “IFs” get more refined, but somehow the result you are looking for never comes.
Run the numbers one more time, see if anything changes. Review our list of pros and cons to see if the right choice reveals itself. Send that book subtitle to another focus group and maybe there will be a clear winner (yeah, this is personal). And still, nothing has changed, until you start leading through change.
How much time have you spent trying to slice and dice the data, hoping that you will get a different answer, or that somehow the answer will magically change the outcomes you are looking for? How many times have you beat your people over the head with “If, then” scenarios, hoping they will change their behavior just by knowing what’s possible?
So why aren’t your providers billing two more hours a week yet? Why aren’t your costs down? Why aren’t the chores done? If you’re not leading through change, nothing will change.
Seven Steps For Leading Through Change By Turning IF into WHEN
- Acknowledge your fear of change.
- Be honest about the story you are telling yourself.
- Own the fact that they they won’t change their behavior until you change your behavior.
- Remember that the organization is more important than your comfort or the comfort of that squeaky wheel you keep accommodating.
- Put the organization above your own fear of conflict.
- Line up your resources to mitigate anticipated risks.
- Move forward with courage and conviction.
Change Your Narrative, Change Your Results
A great tool to apply when leading through change is Compassionate Accountability®. Leaders who apply this method don’t get trapped in the world of IF. Once there’s enough data to make a decision, and when more data won’t change things, these leaders change their narrative from IF to When.
“When you bill two more hours a week, we will meet our budget goals.”
“When we cut costs by 5% we will give bonuses.”
“When you get your chores done, you can go play with friends.”
“When you follow through next time, I will trust you more.”
Changing the narrative moves into the arena of commitments, deadlines, consequences, and follow through. The conversation moves from hypotheticals to real behavior. Conflict inevitable. That’s OK. Because when you lead through change, you cultivate a trusting, compassionate and positive work culture that can have constructive conflict.
It’s not compassionate to try the same thing over and over while getting the same results.
It’s not compassionate to wish, hope, cajole, threaten, and beg people to change their behavior while things keep getting worse.
Compassionate Accountability keeps the most important thing the most important thing, and moves people toward that goal with safety, curiosity and consistency.
Right now, in several different organizations, we are helping leaders apply ORPO, our formula for compassionate accountability, to a variety of complex change initiatives. Leading through change conversations vary from difficult budget decisions, to last chance performance conversations, to apologies that are long overdue. In each case, by changing the way in which these conversations happen, leaders are executing change with surprisingly positive results.