Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 9th 2017 Contents FEBRUARY 9 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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How leaders can make change work
British statesman, Harold Wil-
son, once said, "He who rejects
change is the architect of de-
cay." We've all heard change
is inevitable, that everything
around us is in a constant state
of change. So, why is it that employees often
One reason is they overestimate the value of
what they have and underestimate the value of
what they may gain by giving that up. This is
according to authors James Belasco and Ralph
Stayer. People become comfortable with the
status quo and they fear change. This fear often
stems from a fear of failure. That is why part
of our job as leaders in managing change is
creating an open environment where people
feel comfortable talking about their concerns,
as well as a culture where failure is OK when
working through change, as long as lessons are
learned from it and mistakes are not repeated.
There's an engineering principle that says
that whenever there is movement there is
potential for error. Even when you're driving
down a straight stretch of highway at 80 kilo-
meters per hour, you will find yourself slightly
adjusting the steering wheel back and forth
to stay on the road. Even with the best-en-
gineered vehicle and the best-engineered
road, you have to make course corrections.
The leader's responsibility is to see error as
an opportunity to use as course correction data.
As human beings, we are creatures of habit
and our brains are hardwired to avoid making
mistakes. But making mistakes is an inherent
part of transition and change.
Change leadership creates an environment
that mitigates the fear of change and instead
creates a strategic advantage out of being flex-
ible with change. It starts with expectations
and is sustained by trust.
Here are three things you can do to be a leader
who makes change work.
1. Anticipate mistakes
Leave room for mistakes when your team is
working through change. You have to expect
that mistakes are going to happen when things
are in transition. Be the model to your team that
mistakes are OK; even big ones. If you go into
a fit when an employee makes a mistake, they
are going to become less willing and able to
cope with important changes in the business.
2. Kill the myth of perfection
High-quality production is important,
but don't dwell on perfection. Balance the
pursuit of quality with an equal emphasis on
being able to manage error. Focus on cultivat-
ing what's working and honour your people by
positively gossiping about their performance,
rather than dwelling on details and small im-
Excellence comes from personal mastery.
Personal mastery comes only through repeti-
tion and practice. Therefore, if you're working
on a change initiative which is not routine, and
most people are experiencing it for the first
time, don't expect excellence. Instead, look
for fit-for-purpose. Ask yourself, "is this level
of quality adequate for this to work for now?"
Eventually, when the change is completed you
can push for excellence, as it would become
routine by then.
3. Build trust and loyalty
Trust---and, ultimately, loyalty---is developed
by taking the blame and reflecting the praise.
Despite this truth being intuitively understood
by professionals, this is still a concept that
many managers find difficult to embrace. As
the leader, you are responsible for taking the
heat when mistakes are made.
Here is a story narrated by Dr Terry Paulson,
one of Crestcom's faculty members.
"This man was just starting out his profes-
sional career in IT as a systems administrator.
In his second week on the job he took the entire
network down for the whole company. He was
working at his computer when all of a sudden
he heard things coming out of other cubicles
that were not constructive; and he knew at that
moment he had made a big mistake.
He went directly to his boss and said, "I think
I've made a big mistake." She, being an ap-
proachable manager, began to ask questions to
collect information. "Tell me what happened."
Midway into this discussion comes her
boss---one of those loud, angry types---holler-
ing down the hallway. Into the office he storms,
red-faced and yelling. The guy who made the
mistake is sitting there watching his boss get
yelled at for his mistake. He's only been on the
job two weeks, so he's sitting there thinking I'm
history. I'm fired for sure.
For 15 minutes he watched as his boss got
yelled at for his mistake and not once did she
even mention his name. She took the entire
heat of that confrontation. Finally, the big
cheese began to run out of steam and said,
"This mistake should have never happened!"
To which she replied, "It did and I take full re-
sponsibility for that. That's my area of respon-
sibility and every minute we're spending here
is time we're not getting the system back up."
When the big boss leaves, she takes a deep
breath, and turns to the guy and says, "Don't
do that again, please! In fact if this happens
frequently we will have to have a different kind
of conversation. Few people have the courage to
own up their mistake. You did and I appreciate
that. Now let's get back to work. How do we
get this rectified?"
And from that day forward, she had the
hardest working most loyal employee in this
guy. He did everything he could to not let her
down, and to this day he still says she is the best
boss he has ever worked for. And he certainly
never made that mistake again!"
When you're inviting people to go through
change, you're still responsible. You don't
delegate that responsibility.
And always remember: all improvement is
because of change; but not all change is an
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