6 Fatal Beliefs in Leading Change

Leading an organization through the process of change (whether it be a new strategy for the business, implementing a new way of doing business or changing the product line) requires a different set of leadership skills than growing the business.

1.It’s important what the CEO says.

Nothing could be further from the truth. People only care how the CEO and senior management act. When they act differently, the people will get the true message of what’s expected. The people have heard all of the unfulfilled promises and rhetoric before. The number one rule in affecting change is to act the way you want the organization to act and they will. Actions are reality; speeches are just words.

2.Don’t communicate anything until you know everything.

Ambiguity is the cancer of change. Not knowing anything means everything is bad because the mind tends to create the worst possible scenarios when left to its own. Telling people what you do and don’t know helps them deal with the ambiguity and helps manage the grapevine.

3.People don’t want to hear bad news.

They may not like what they hear, but knowing the truth allows them to make decisions about their lives and careers. Bad news is at least concrete and tangible and can serve as the foundation for a good decision.

4.Firing people demoralizes the organization.

Only if you handle it wrong or fire the wrong people. Firing people because they can’t meet the quality requirements or don’t live the values and beliefs of the culture only strengths the organization and makes people feel better about themselves: “If they are keeping only the best, I must be one of the best!”

5.If you build it they will come.

They may come to visit but they will not stay. People will “own” only what they have participated in creating. If only senior management participates, you have only the viewpoint and commitment of senior management, and their viewpoint tends to be radically different that the rest of the organization’s.

6.The CEO should never say, “I don’t know.”

It’s vital that the CEO communicate what he/she knows and doesn’t know. It’s not realistic to think that one person has all the answers. During the process of change people are seeking the truth more than the answers. It’s important to say “I don’t know” as long as you make a commitment to get back to the people when you do have the answer.

Leading change is about building a trust-based relationship with the people. The foundation of trust (and all relationships) is communication. Actions, not words, are the currency of communication.