At the heart of all leadership is the journey of change.
As a pastor, manager, team leader, or business owner we never leave things as they are. This speaks to the reality of the white post. Some folks think If you have a fence post and you paint it white it will always be white. A moments reflection reveals the flaw in such thinking – a white post will not remain a white post as time marches on – it will grey and crack and peel – the white post requires refreshing and renewal to ever be a white post. This reality surfaces the never-ending need for renewal and reform. The march of time calls for change efforts by those who own their fence post. Effective leadership is the process of tending to those things that must be refreshed, renewed, renovated, or re-engineered.
Over the next few weeks we are going to post some of the most important maxims of wise change leaders. These are short statements based on the long experience. So, let’s get started with our first three nuggets of change wisdom:
1. Sell the problem, not just the solution. Wise change leaders know that the first responsibility of leadership is to define current reality. This is the task of waking people up before moving people out. The selling of the problem is how we create urgency for any proposed solution. When we begin with a solution or a vision and fail to sell a problem, people look at us with that puzzled look that asks – Why is this solution needed? Help people to see with brutal honesty the condition of the fence post.
2. Face the loss, not just the gain. Every change journey begins with an ending or endings. Loss is inherent in every change journey and the wise change leader helps people to face the fact that the taking hold of what’s ahead means the letting of what we know. There is no way to gain an exemption from this reality. Change work is always at some level grief work. The wise change leader never loses touch with the deep emotion of such work and seeks to journey with people in facing the loss of the grey post that some have grown to accept and even love.
3. Shape the vision, not just the plan. Wise change leaders know in their bones that a plan is not a vision. A clear and compelling picture of the ‘why’ for the change is essential to unlocking motivation for the plan. Of all the mistakes made in leading change this is one of the most common – thinking our plan for the change can serve as the vision for the plan. Shape and share the winning aspiration as a clear picture of the preferred future. Show them the picture of a wonderfully white fence post, then lay out your plan.
As you think of your current context of leadership how are you doing? Are you taking time to sell the problem? Are you helping people to face the gains to be made, BUT also empathizing with the losses that will be experienced? Are you shaping a clear and compelling picture/vision that informs the plan for change?