How Leaders Inspire Change
Moving is hard work. Whether you’re moving your office across town, your filing cabinet to the next room, or just your body up off the comfy seat you’ve been warming for a few hours, it takes effort and energy to create change.
The most intense 10 weeks of my life happened when my husband and I moved to San Diego in 2004. He got a new job and drove down almost immediately to California to start work. I stayed back for a few weeks to put our house on the market and pack up. My days were filled with work, good-bye parties, realtor appointments, trying to find housing in San Diego online (using dial-up!), making travel arrangements, and keeping our yard looking nice for showings. My nights (long nights) were spent packing and cleaning the house.
Meanwhile, we’d also previously booked a trip to Australia right in the middle of all this, which we were not about to give up. I got the house completely packed (even the toilet paper was boxed up) and flew to California to meet my husband for a few days. From there, we went to Australia for 10 days, flew back to Portland, stayed with family overnight, and then loaded our belongings into a U-Haul and drove straight through to San Diego (26 hours). When we finally unloaded the truck and fell into bed in our new home, we slept 15 hours straight.
Moving is hard work! And it’s not just furniture that’s hard to move—people are hard to move, too. And the more people you’re trying to move, the harder it is to get change started. It’s not too hard for me to peel my butt off the couch and go get some exercise; it’s way harder to get my entire family to do so. It’s not too hard for you to come up with a plan that will revolutionize your organization; but getting the whole company to adopt it? Way harder.
It’s easier to be a visionary, or even a pioneer, than a leader.
Do we need visionaries? Yes! We need people who can clearly define what’s wrong with the status quo, articulate what needs to change, and vividly describe the bright possibilities on the other side of revolution. Do we need pioneers? Yes! We need people who take the initiative, delve into unchartered territory, take risks, and are willing to try new things all by themselves. But being a visionary or a pioneer is a solo endeavor. To create change in a group requires leadership.
So, if you are leading a group, how do you move them? Here are three tips:
1. Get crystal clear on what you want. Where are you moving TO? Often, we don’t know what we really want, we just want things to be different. We have a vague idea that things could be “better.” What exactly needs to change? And more importantly, why? What underlying value is being violated by current circumstances? How will things look and feel differently once your team moves? You must be able to paint a picture of exactly what it is you want, and why, to yourself and your team. To be a leader, start by being a visionary. But don’t stop there…
2. Get crystal clear on what your group wants. Every team has a culture. Every team has a set of values. Usually, those values are unstated and subconscious. They may or may not line up with the “Mission Statement” management has developed for the organization. In fact, sometimes they are the complete opposite! (That’s a problem. But not the subject of this article…) Trying to lead your group in a direction that doesn’t make sense to them or violates their values is like trying to manually override autopilot. It takes a ridiculous amount of sustained strength and force to change direction, and the second you let up, the group instantly reverts back. Instead, learn to see things the way your group sees things. It’s much easier to move people forward when they want to go.
3. Frame what you want in terms of what your group wants. Here’s where most people fail. They don’t drill down deeply enough to figure out why their group would want to move. What’s in it for them? Maybe it seems obvious to you. But if they aren’t moving, it’s not obvious to them. Spell it out in graphic detail. Show your team that by moving forward, they get what they want.
If you’re pushing your team forward without buy-in, you’re not a leader. You’re just… pushy. And you’re wasting your time and energy. Don’t squander your time or the talents of your team. Learn how to communicate your vision in a way that makes team members jump on board!
I’ve said that moving is hard, but you know what? It’s actually getting moving that’s hard. There’s this wonderful thing called momentum. Once you overcome the friction that is locking your team in place, change can come rapidly! Find the right approach that gets movement started, then enjoy the wild ride!