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Leaders Leading Change: Are they Walking-the-Walk or Just Talking-the-Talk?

senior sales leader leaning against a glass wall looking at the camera happy with the changes she is successfully leading her sales organization through as a result of the skills she built in the leaders leading change training program


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In a recent post, We introduced the first two elements of an effective change leadership programme, Crafting a Consistent Change Message and Communicating the Message Frequently.

Today, we will be covering the next two elements of an effective change leadership programme; Model the Expected Behaviour and Cascade the Change Message and Behaviours Down.

  1. Crafting a Consistent Change Message
  2. Communicating the Message Frequently
  3. Model the Expected Behaviour
  4. Cascade the Change Message and Behaviours Down
  5. Hold Each Other Accountable
Once you’ve developed a consistent change message, your next step should be to consider the changes and challenges you are faced with. Remember, with a change leadership programme, you are asking people to change their behaviour. Below are a few questions to guide your thought process through this idea of implementing a behaviour change throughout your organisation:

  • How can we work together more effectively?
  • How can we communicate more effectively?
  • How can we model behaviour differently?

Model the Expected Behaviour

Change is difficult, and frustration can manifest itself through infighting among the functional groups at the next level down. It’s not unusual for teams to be at complete odds with each other. Now, that doesn’t usually happen unless two other things are happening: one, the leadership team is allowing it to happen and is not intervening, and two, they're not modeling the expected behaviour.

The second item is how the leadership team is being perceived as leaders. Leaders and senior managers need to model adult behaviours. Often, this is a time for self-reflection. We conduct an exercise where prior to that workshop we survey the next level of management and ask them how they perceive the leadership group behaving. We do it in a way that’s methodical. It’s not open-ended. We collate the information anonymously so that neither contributors nor leaders are singled out. It is nearly always an incredible eye-opening experience. Leaders think this, but the people that report to them think that, leaving you with the question of, what are we going to do about it? This assessment is not a one-time event; it should be conducted at least annually to progress your change leadership programme and approach.

Cascade the Change Message and Behaviours Down

The next part of leading change is changing the conversation between leaders. We teach senior leaders in organisations to have different conversations with their direct reports, who were still two levels above the field. Those people had different conversations with their direct reports, who were one level above the field.

We develop verifiable outcome questions around the different processes we’re building. The expectation is that managers and leaders at all levels are going to be taught to ask verification questions. We as leaders should be meeting with our direct reports on a consistent basis, asking them what they see that suggests people are adopting these behaviours. We need fact-based evidence that change is taking place.

When one leader walks into the room and says all the right things and here’s why we need to do this, and then another leader walks in and says, “We’re here because we have to be here and let’s get through it,” it sends two completely different messages to your organisation, pointing to the significance of modelling expected behaviours and cascading your change message down along with it. While leading change, what you do within your organisation means just as much as what you say to your organisation. Create your expectations, model behaviours and continue to spread your change message throughout your organisation.

Our next post will complete our list of the five essential elements of an effective change leadership programme.

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