The Commitments Leaders Make for Themselves as They Move Out of the Middle
This is the last in a four-part series of articles about the difficulties leaders have as they work towards transformational change within their team or organization. It is the last in this series but no means the last word about the muddled middle of a change process. Transformational change doesn’t come easy and leaders must be vigilant about the following five areas of personal commitment if they want to continue moving their team forward out of the middle.
Commit to circular behaviour. “Circular Behavior,” is somewhat akin to “Managing by Walking Around.” The leader commits to being visible throughout the organization. Here the leader is not so much concerned about vertical hierarchy but about helping individuals and teams connect the dots, or the spaces (sometimes chasms) between them. The leader inspires, encourages and energizes through the positive act of influencing (relates to others in a considerate, respectful and attentive manner; takes into consideration individual moods, interests and concerns; and builds rapport by being tactful and diplomatic) rather than the misuse of power (use of authority, control, rules, supremacy, and coercion); and, suggests ways to implement or clarify the “play book” for successful change. “Circular behaviour” is always important but it is crucial during the middle stages of change.
Commit to Re-energizing Self. A change process is hard work. At the end of the day leaders can feel a sense of accomplishment or discouragement. In both instances, and all those in-between where the highs and lows take place, the leader must find ways to re-energize self. Exercises that promote periods of relaxation, meditation, recreation, proper diet and sleep are critical to the leader’s personal wellbeing. The leader is of no use if burnt out; only when h/she is on fire with passion and excitement will he/she pass the fire onto others. To move beyond the middle, leaders must take time to take care of themselves.
Commit to Resilience and Patience. Along with re-energizing self comes resilience and patience. Resilience gives one the capacity to bounce back from difficulties. Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay and difficulties without getting angry. It is synonymous with tolerance, restraint and self-reliance. Resilience and patience are important characteristics when the leader doesn’t see movement or there appears to be a set back from progress. One CEO put it this way, “Two steps forward, one step back. Resilience and patience is the practice of the day.” The leader must re-commit to resilience and patience as he/she moves out of the middle.
Commit to Continued Self-Learning. When leaders move forward from the middle, they need to remind themselves and others that the process requires continuous learning. There is a saying that “nothing stays the same because things are always changing.” The corollary to this is “learning and change are inseparable friends.” If this is the case, then leaders must keep tuned into the learning process and tease out what new things they are learning as the team or organization moves forward. They also, in the process of moving forward, may become stuck once again or mired in a tangled mess of conflicting messages or dynamics that slow down movement. It is during these times leaders could call upon a coach or mentor to help them get back on track and sort through the lessons learned.
Commit to Squelching Unwanted Rumors and Myths. My experience shows that when leaders are about half way through the change process myths and rumors may become more prevalent. All organizations have myths and there will always be rumors. In fact, when people look back on their work career, they often point out the many myths and rumors with a sense of humor. Many of the rumors and myths are harmless, but when they impact the vision, purpose, values, goals and priorities of the organization and effectively slow down the change process, they need to be squelched. Often the rumors start because there is a lack of communication among the key players within the organization. The best way to avoid rumors is to not let them start. Leaders need to keep communications transparent and clarify any misunderstandings through team meetings, coaching or through his/her “circular behaviour”.
Summary: We have learned through this four-part series 1) what happens when teams or organizations become stuck half-way through transformational change; 2) why people are reluctant to change when caught in the middle (or the muddled middle as I like to call it); 3 what leaders can do to help the team or organization move out of the middle; and,4) the commitments leaders must make for themselves as they move forward.
Re-vitalizing the team or organization mid-way through the change process focuses on strengthening a sense of “Esprit de Corps” by:, energizing everyone, bringing people back to the core (vision, purpose and values), encouraging open and transparent communication, nd promoting effective coordination and collaboration. To move forward the leader needs to commit to her/his own circular behaviour, health and wellbeing, resilience, patience, self-learning and squelching unwanted rumors.
Richard Fontanie, MSW. FCMC
Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader
Morgan, Harkins, Goldsmith, The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching
Kouzes, Posner: The Leadership Challenge
Secretan, What Great Leaders Do –