I’ve spent the past six weeks buried in a research project. I wanted to find common traits among leaders who are able to lead LARGE changes in their organizations.
To clarify: hiring a gardener is a small change. Adding a new layer of management is a big change. Switching one Sunday School room with another one is a small change. Getting rid of Sunday School entirely is a big change.
Through a fair amount of research, and careful observation of a local organization that has successfully undergone at least four significant changes in the past dozen years or so – here are some things leaders like that have in common:
1. They’re able to focus in on a specific change to make, and communicate that change very specifically. One of my new favorite quotes is this – Make sure you’re solving the right problem.
2. They accept risk and even embrace it when necessary. It’s not that these leaders are careless. It’s just that they realize that the greater the change, the greater the risk. It’s unavoidable.
3. They have a healthy understanding of “routines.” They know when routines are helpful, and when routines are getting in the way.
4. They know how to get commitment from people affected by the change. They’re able to go beyond getting agreement; leaders like this go for passion.
To the handful of leaders who read this – don’t be afraid. If your organizations aren’t working, then do something. Talk to someone who has been where you are, and has broken through to the next place. Move your office. Change your work habits. Get a few insanely creative people around you, and put up with their weirdness. Stop doing something that doesn’t work that well, but you keep doing it because it’s familiar. Get one or two people in your life you can be brutally honest with, and who’ll do the same for you.
Love everybody, but invest most of your time into people who you believe are the future of what you’re supposed to be doing. Love everybody, but minimize your time with people who don’t get your vision.
To the handful of leaders who read this – are your next six months going to be spent hoping for something new, or making actual changes?
Changes are hard. They’re risky. You can always leave your organizations the way they are, and things will probably be OK.
But I’ve noticed something about the people who read this – “OK” isn’t really what we’re after, is it?