Leading Change: Why is it So Difficult
(and So Easy for Some?)

Is it possible to convince people to change? Many of the successful leaders I know will say yes, and leading change is much easier when you understand and practice a few key principles.

First—there is a difference between leading change and managing change. Change management uses tools and processes to conduct projects. Leading change involves setting a course, establishing a culture and motivating your people to follow.

Second—people make decisions (including the decision to change) with two distinctive modes of thought:

  1. Abstract thinking: we have to know the facts and believe in the rational argument (believe it).
  2. Narrative thinking: we have to be able to imagine ourselves in the story, creating a new story with ourselves acting out the suggested changes (see it).

Leading change becomes much easier when leaders use a well-formed argument to convince us of truth and a good story to illustrate how the proposed change plays out in real life.

Create a Compelling Vision

A compelling vision is critical for successful change. It not only sets the change initiative in motion, but it sustains its life during execution and long after its implementation. The leader’s vision is founded on an assessment of the way things are, points out the things that need to change and paints a picture of the way things need to be.

Corporate change may involve new products, new markets or a new company image. It may pertain to expansion or downsizing. It may be as basic as upgrading policies, procedures or systems.

The leader’s vision adequately explains the need for change by helping people understand the risks of maintaining the status quo and the benefits of making changes. The staff needs to be drawn together in unity, to not only collectively accept the change, but play an active role in it.

Other managers are commissioned to promote the change and engage their people in the process. This involves extra group communication, where things are explained, people are heard and their concerns are acknowledged. A collective spirit of seeking solutions is critical.

The vision-setting stage is where a leader is especially focused on being credible and available to build as trusting an environment as possible.

What do you think? How do you create a compelling vision when leading change? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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