We all know that leadership is a foundation stone for successful change. But what happens when leaders lose their nerve?
It’s easy to get excited about a new project. Leaders can get swept up in the initial enthusiasm for the change, and then be overly optimistic about delivery timelines and benefit schedules.
But as the work starts, challenges will inevitably be encountered. Obstacles and roadblocks that weren’t expected, will arise making progress slower and more difficult than planned. What looked easy in the beginning, seems much harder in the middle.
“Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work”.
As the reality of the nature of the change hits home, leaders can become anxious and uncertain as they see momentum waning and milestones slipping.
It is at this point that project deliverables start to be de-scoped, activities re-priotised and the project team is often restructured.
However, this is the time that change leadership really needs to come to the fore.
Change leaders have two options: they can lose their nerve, or they can confront the challenges head on.
Whilst it is hard battling through the ‘middle’, bravery and tenacity pay off.
As former American President John Quincy Adams said:
“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.”
Apart from the traits of perseverance and courage, there are some practical things change leaders can do:
1. Be clear on the project’s goals and what every person in the team needs to do to get there. Don’t get side tracked by interesting, but irrelevant matters
2. Ensure these goals are able to be delivered in a meaningful and relevant timeframe, so that the team can show regular progress
3. Highlight the progress being made and ensure it is visible to every team member. Celebrate this progress in a way that is meaningful to each team member, and share this success with your stakeholders
4. Know where your and your team’s efforts will produce the most effective results. This is the old 80/20 rule. Focus on where you know you will get results
5. Work to eliminate the friction in the system that makes the change harder than it needs to be. This may involve removing bureaucratic processes and unnecessary activities
6. Make it safe to fail so that the team is encouraged to try new things and new ways of working. Otherwise the team will be discouraged from trying to find better and faster ways of achieving good results
7. Be open with your team about what is working and what isn’t working. Seek their input on how the team can work better to produce more effective results
Remember, change happens. So make it work for you.
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