Just as you count down to the end of this year and envision better days, the news gets grim.
Covid roars back, threatening to disrupt your hoped-for return to near-regular routines. What are you doing now? Will you give in to anguish and frustration?
Because you are irrepressible, you refuse to give in to anxiety and helplessness. Instead, you move forward with plans to make sure your organization is agile and resilient. You begin to think about ways to equip your business to withstand uncertainty and thrive within it.
Consider this: Successful organizational transformations rely on leaders’ openness to personal change. Why? Because how you lead and what you can achieve depends on deep and long-held assumptions about organizations and leadership.
Outdated beliefs can limit the effectiveness of your plans to fortify the organization for the demands of these difficult times.
Throw away the assumptions that are narrowing your prospects
You, like everyone else, have assumptions about organizations and leadership. These often hidden beliefs form frames that guide what you view and how you act. So they become the limits of what you can accomplish.
By suspending your assumptions, you remove boundaries and free yourself to consider new perspectives and options for change.
For example, think about how you see your business right now. You, like many leaders, can think of your organizations as a compilation of discrete units such as finance, marketing, human resources, etc. It is not so simple. This perspective is too narrow and limits your leadership and weakens your ability to achieve the results you desire.
Your organization is more than the boxes on your organizational chart. And to lead effectively, you have to go beyond moving those boxes and trying to control what’s going on inside.
Reconsider your perspective on the organization
Consider thinking of your organization as a system. A system has many interrelated parts such as purpose, structures, people, standards, policies and processes.
Additionally, the organizational system is dynamic and changes as people move in and out, the business environment creates new demands, and goals and strategies evolve.
Assess where you stand
As you let go of the organizational chart mentality and consider the complex and dynamic nature of your organization, ask yourself where you fit in this picture.
Old-fashioned leadership executives put leaders at the top and outside the system. This view assumes that the rulers manage and control the system from above. They base their leadership on power.
For example, the leaders who delegate the responsibility for changing the organization to the service of human resources enter this camp. Likewise, leaders who hire expert consultants to change the organization usually assume that they are exempt from change processes.
They set the agenda and delegate tasks. They hold those who carry out the plans accountable for their desires.
They can seek expert advice from consultants on a change strategy. However, they delegate the responsibility for executing the plan to others who report to them.
These leaders try to stay in control of change without taking much responsibility for ensuring success.
But wait – and if you change your perspective.
Instead of seeing yourself outside and on top of the system, see yourself as part of it. With this perspective, you realize that you alone cannot force change. While you have a strong impact on organizational culture, it also affects you and your ability to achieve results.
Rather than considering your role as a puppeteer pulling the strings from above, you come to realize that you are only a key player in the whole.
Shift your perspective from control to influence
You may be wondering how you can lead without complete control of the system. The answer to this legitimate question is that you will lead by influence.
You are only as effective as the strength of your relationships. And your success depends on your ability to inspire and coach.
You must be prepared to mold the values you claim and live up to the expectations you have for others.
You may experience some discomfort as you move from control to influence. And you may need to learn some additional skills. But over time, your increased efficiency will dispel your discomfort.
Engage in personal change
“Okay,” you say. “I am open to these changes. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m ready. How to do ? ”
While you may optionally choose to enlist the help of an executive coach, there are some crucial steps you can take on your own first.
Identify and overcome personal barriers to change
Start by asking yourself some simple questions that will help you prepare for change:
- What, if anything, scares you about these personal changes?
- What are you clinging to unnecessarily?
- What are your values and how can you build on them more fully as you lead this change?
Take stock of your abilities to lead differently
Next, review your abilities to influence systems change:
- Do you know how to lead through collaboration rather than command and control?
- Are you able to form coalitions across the system?
- Do you consider the positions of others before defending your point of view?
- Do you consider communication, building trust, stakeholder engagement and promoting progress as the most important aspects of your leadership role?
This brief inventory is only a partial list of the abilities you will need to be successful.
Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. And create a plan for how to acquire the abilities that you may be lacking.
Accept that personal change is a process, not an event
Going from a controlling leader to an influential leader is hard work. You are unlikely to achieve this personal transformation overnight. Humbly accept that you may fail from time to time. Give yourself grace and learn from your mistakes.
And never forget your end goals: to increase personal and organizational resilience to meet the demands of this brave new world.