Change Masters: How They Lead for Success ... continued

by Ph. D., CSP, CPAE

Commitment to Values Helps Build and Sustain Trust in a Cynical and Competitive World

Leaders must scrupulously guard their organizations' integrity so that employees have a basis for pride. Then managers can step forward and declare their own feelings about the values of service, not as a strategic position in the marketplace, but as a personal ethical necessity.

– Ken Macher

To win business in any industry, aggressive business goals are established. Living up to those commitments remains a challenge. Trust is a critical but fragile asset that has long-term payoffs for leaders, for their people and for the organization. In a cynical and competitive world, trust must be built and managed. Instead of avoiding problems, effective leaders manage the promise and deliver experience of their customers and colleagues. They confront problems quickly and keep managing the expectations of others. When disappointments occur, use them as opportunities to show that you are a problem solver, not a problem evader.

You need clarity on your own non-negotiables. You need to know what you won't budge on, or you'll be buffeted by the winds.

– Curtis R. Berrien

For change leaders, values and integrity are always in. Live your organization's core values as you make your way through the change journey. Core values help direct your strategic choices. They are both your anchor in the rough sea and the lighthouse that helps illuminate a positive and principled course. It is your foundation for anything you build. It is what you stand for and what you hold yourself accountable to maintain no matter what the cost. This provides the internal measuring system leaders need to be consistent and build trust. This firm foundation allows you to stand up to the tough decisions all leaders face.

Always do what is right. It will gratify most of the people, and astound the rest.

– Mark Twain

What would you put on "your page?" How do you regain trust when you have lost the confidence of others?

Change Leaders Sell the Need for Change—Be the Music!

Only the paranoid survive.

– Andy Grove, former Intel CEO

We need to be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who give us money. I remind people every morning we should wake up afraid and use the terror as a motivator. The customers are the folks that at the end of the day are really in control. ... Customers have a bigger voice online. If we make a customer unhappy, they can tell thousands of people. Likewise, if you make a customer happy, they can also tell thousands of people. With that kind of a megaphone in the hands of every individual customer, you had better be a customer-centric company.

– Jeff Bezos, CEO of

Kurt Lewin described the change process as unfreezing-moving-refreezing. Your job as leaders is to unfreeze the status quo before you sell any strategic change to your people. When you wait for a crisis to be your catalyst for change, you seldom have the resources or time to do it well. Resist trying to sell people on new solutions when they don't even have an awareness of the need to change. Keep asking yourself, "What can I do to generate an awareness of the need to change while they still have the time and the resources to make change work? How do I become an eye-opening translator of the advantages for strategic, service-driven change?" While noting the cost of doing nothing, sell the value and hope involved in embracing change as a way of life. Music in a movie creates anticipation. As leaders, you are called to be the music for your people. Remember, fear and hope are both good motivators.

Restlessness is destiny calling.

– Ian Percy

What threats and opportunities are you aware of that can help get your people to drive strategic change? How can you create the music to sell your strategic change goals?

Use Experience and Lifelong Learning to Drive Change

Some teachers shine a light that allows growth to flourish, while others cast a shadow under which seedlings die.

– Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

– Alvin Toffler

If you are going to break the grip of the past, you must seize control of the schools. Change leaders will continue to value experience, but they won't value employees or leaders who rest in their expertise. Change is driven best through learning. The best leaders want to attract new employees with the right skills and help existing employees refocus and retool their skills. Everyone talks about learning organizations, but they forget that the best organizations value learning and unlearning. They must learn new competencies and unlearn habits that constrain them. If your people are committed to maintaining yesterday's skills, they are not available to learn what will help them create tomorrow. You need to be the Chief Learning and Unlearning Officer.

Learning is not compulsory, but neither is survival.

– W. Edwards Deming

My great uncle used to say on the farms of Illinois, "It's easiest to ride a horse in the direction it is going." In short, part of promoting strategic change is letting people know which way the horse is going so they can develop skills that are necessary for the ride. My great uncle added a little tension of his own: "If the horse is dead, get off it." In practical terms, do your part as a change leader to redefine loyalty. Make it clear that you won't be able to guarantee the jobs of people whose skills are no longer needed. You can promise to give them an early warning on strategic changes while encouraging and supporting their efforts to develop the skills they will need to stay part of your team.

We must right size and right skill.

– Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM

Whether you hire people with new skills or promote development within, successful companies address the development of new products or services and new knowledge in an integrated approach. To keep learning and hiring for competencies, strategic training becomes a marketing weapon. In short, build a learning culture that strategically prepares your workers to be ready for the future you are creating. I would add an adage to my great uncle's collection: "Since it's hard to know if your horse is dying, have at least two horses. In fact, in today's world, have a herd." Frightened employees without the necessary skills fight change; employees with the skills that are needed embrace change as an opportunity. Encourage everyone in your organization to invest five percent of their time in developing strategic competencies. Model what you preach. Take time to share what you are learning on your own journey.

One thing worse than training employees and losing them, is not training them and keeping them.

– Dr. Ed Metcalf

What strategic training do our people need to be ready for future changes? How can I better model lifelong learning as an executive?

Kill the Myth of Perfection on the Road to Excellence

Everything looks like failure in the middle.

– Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Every change process goes through frustrating stages on the way to fruition. Forecasts fall short, unexpected obstacles pop up, momentum slows, customer demands change, significant errors surface and the critics get louder. Change leaders must manage through the miserable middle. They stay with the changes through the bumpy times by managing expectations, surfacing problems quickly, making appropriate adjustments and continuing to cultivate the change process. Organizations burdened with a myth of perfection have a difficult time.

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

– Wayne Gretzky

In this age of constant change, your commitment to quality is no longer an option; it is your entry ticket into the global economy. Quality is the way successful organizations do business. As a leader, continue to fund statistical process control, honor and reward successful quality initiatives and share and promote best practices. But don't let your pursuit of perfection in doing things better create a risk-aversive environment. You can't support innovation without building surprise, adventure, and flexibility into your organization's culture. Tomorrow's leaders will balance their commitment to quality with an equal emphasis on strategic risk-taking. Leaders must support eliminating errors in established processes while still encouraging and capitalizing on errors that further strategic change. Kill your version of the myth of perfection.

It often happens that I wake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.

– Pope John XXIII

We all make mistakes. But what really makes mistakes expensive is not admitting them right away. Business culture teaches us never to admit to our mistakes but to bury them instead or to blame someone else.

– Katie Paine, Founder and CEO of the Delahaye Group

The only places that perfect people exist are in educational movies; that's because they have a script and can practice it until they get it right. While you pursue the perfection quality goals aspire to, you are being asked to take quantum leaps into a world without any roadmaps. Don't be so concerned about doing things perfectly that you settle for perfecting outdated processes and wait too long to embrace innovative, transformational change. Candor and admitting mistakes are both true signs of effective leadership.

I never worry about action, but only about inaction.

– Winston Churchill

There is a basic engineering concept worth noting: With every movement comes error. Catching that error early and making necessary course-corrections in response to those errors helps make progress towards any destination possible. In the same way, every change involves early error. Avoiding making those errors or hiding the errors that result can hasten the demise of once successful organizations. True winners in the great game of business win and lose more frequently than the losers, because they stay in the game. To be successful, take the trap out of excellence by striving for quality without having to wait for the perfect thought, the perfect action, or the perfect time.

Don't get engrossed with things over which you have no control, because that will adversely affect the things that you do have control over.

– John Wooden

The leader's most important role is to instill confidence in people. They must dare to take risks and responsibility. You must back them up if they make mistakes.

– Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS

What are you doing to surface hidden errors early? What are you doing to support heroic efforts?

Copyright © Terry Paulson, All Rights Reserved

About the Author
Terry Paulson

Dr. Terry Paulson is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, national columnist and author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Your Actions into Results. Learn more at

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