Most executives experience frustration when trying to drive necessary changes in the way
things are done; to take business in new directions; or even to continue down existing paths. As a business coach, I help clients through these issues.
I recently watched a client botch-up implementing a change in their business. As I watched my client ignore my coaching, I realized I had watched the same story line unfold in many other companies. All I had to do is change out the names of the CEO, company, industry, and employee group. The story reads something like this:
- Change in the industry causes the owner/leader/CEO (“leader”) to sense that things need to change in the company.
- Without a formal plan or fully organized thoughts, the leader starts tinkering with ideas out loud, scaring key people.
- The leader does not like the responses received and may even get aggressive with a few people.
- The leader goes back to the management team convinced something needs to be done and creates a little bit of a plan, but runs off ready to pounce.
- Meanwhile, key employees who do not like change start banding together to discuss how the leader does not appreciate how hard they work and has lost touch with what is going on. The defense against change is building.
- The leader enters the room with a fresh Power Point presentation and a big smile and presents his case. Most people stay quiet because their belief is that in a few months the boss will forget about this, and things will go back to “normal”. Just in case it does not go away, a few people that feel honest (and brave) today speak up and share their opinions, which are different from what the boss presented. This, of course, infuriates leadership. Some heated discussion ensues, and with the leader declaring that this how things are going to be, the meeting ends. Many attendees leave confused as to whether the leader has really thought this through.
- Leadership leaves angry and cannot understand what just happened.
Have you ever experienced this?
I find there are 3 issues that hinder implementing change in business which causes leaders to unconsciously derail their change initiatives:
- Trust – People don’t believe a leader is capable of making the key decision, don’t believe he gave the decision enough thought, or don’t feel that valid concerns have been heard. Worse and most common, the leader has a history of changing course midstream or not following through on decisions.
- Clarity – Inability of the leader to help the team see what he/she sees. When the team asks questions, answers are evasive or shallow. It is also important to give people the necessary time to allow them to process what you are telling them.
- Weakness – Employees will pounce on this. In my experience as a business coach and leader, employees will spend more energy attacking weakness and trying to change a decision than to overcoming obstacles to execute a decision. In general, people like doing things the same way and staying comfortable.
I am sure you looked at my 3 issues and said, “Yeah, that was pretty obvious.” However, I cannot tell you how often I point these issues out to leaders only to have them tell me, “I know, but I can’t deal with it.” For some reason they would rather avoid the conflict of addressing the issues head-on than deal with years of ongoing performance issues caused by not following through on their decisions. The trust issue is the hardest one. Leaders violate trust without realizing it, and when you try to call them out, they have trouble understanding what others clearly see. For example, you recommend changes to a recruiting process, and they tell you how great they are at recruiting, so changes are not needed. You then bring them data that proves that in the last 5 years they have had a 100% failure rate in hiring the right people. All the people they hired are mediocre or downright poor performers. Their response to your data should be, “Good point, let’s go with a different process.” Instead they give you an “ego” response like, “I have a profitable business, so I must be doing something right.” They do not realize they have lost trust because the receiver hears, “Forget the facts, my ego is more important than making my company better. I do not find your ideas important. I do not respect your point of view, and since I do not have a good answer and I am the boss, you just have to go away.” As soon as that happens, you feel disrespected and no longer trust the leader.
In summary, if you have a history of experiencing too much pushback when trying to implement the necessary changes in your business, look in the mirror. You are probably unconsciously suffering to some degree from one or all of the above issues.
To learn how a business coach can help to improve your growth potential, contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7213.