Do you look to yourself to change last, not first?

Consider this scenario: you’re been asked to lead a transformation in your workplace.  What’s one of the first steps that you take?  Is it to sit back and identify how your team members or colleagues need to change?  Or do you think about how you may need to change?

For most people, myself included, it’s easy to recognise what we think needs to change in other people, and much harder to identify it in ourselves.

And yet, if we are consciously leading change, we need to be prepared to change ourselves – our mindset, operating style and management behaviour.

There’s no doubt that being a change leader is daunting.   There’s a myriad of challenges – complexity, ambiguity and often, conflicting priorities – to name a few.

To be successful you need to be able to work across boundaries, be open to new ideas and learnings, innovative, authentic and resilient.

And you need to embrace the notion that successful organisational transformation, requires not just change for team members, but personal change for yourself.

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, who have studied why many crucial change efforts fail, found that one of the core problems is the gap between what is required and a leader’s own level of development.

As they state in their book, Immunity to Change: “…it may be nearly impossible for us to bring about any important change in a system or organisation without changing ourselves (at least somewhat)…”

Understanding what personal changes you may need to make through the change process goes beyond pinpointing new technical skills.  It’s about delving into the meaning that drives your behaviour, and the mental models you are applying to the decisions you are making.

To do this, start thinking about your ‘leadership moments of truth’; that is, those actions that you take (often unconsciously), which define how your leadership style is viewed by colleagues, peers and team members.

It includes, for example:

  • What you pay attention to
  • What you prioritise
  • How you react to issues and when things go wrong
  • What you say, and what you do and don’t do
  • How you allocate resources and rewards
  • How you recruit and promote

Look for red flags. For example, are there times when your behaviour is inconsistent?   Are you playing favourites with people in your team?   Are you living up to commitments?  Are your behaviours authentic and values driven?

From there you can start to identify triggers for your behaviours. Those triggers may be situational or people related.  When you know what triggers an unhealthy behaviour it becomes easier to start to address.

Starting to identify areas of focus isn’t easy, as we can be blind to our own behaviour.  Don’t be afraid to ask for support.   A trusted friend or advisor, a mentor or business coach may be very helpful in helping you reflect on your behaviour and to create the necessary insight that is a pre-cursor to personal change.

So next time you’re asked to lead a change, start with thinking about what you may need to change in yourself.  The outcomes from doing this may surprise, and hopefully, delight you.

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