Most leaders charged with initiating significant change focus almost exclusively on factors outside themselves – the talent they have to upgrade, the cost they have to take out, the performance they have to turn around. The underlying dangerous assumption is that they are already equipped to effect needed change. Unfortunately, when it comes to successful organisational change, failure continues to be more common than success.
Leaders who are cautious of the ever-present risk of failure will often apply countless resources to planning out the perfect change management initiative. To raise the odds of success, the place leaders need to begin their transformation efforts not just within their organisation but within themselves. Few leaders would disagree that personal transformation is an important building block of any successful change effort. Unfortunately, too many leaders want transformation to happen everywhere but within themselves, at unrealistic speeds, and with minimal effort.
During times of disruptive change, leaders are far more likely to be triggered. The loss of control, the interruption of power, and the fear of failure are heightened. In response, leaders, often unconsciously, respond reflexively with behaviours that reveal their struggle to adapt to the very change they are championing.
For executives to succeed leading organisational transformations, they must begin with their personal transformation, and that starts with identifying and receipting. Here are three important steps to begin that work.
1. Know Who And What Pushes Your Buttons
One behaviour that keeps us locked into this cycle is called’ ’transference’’, which happens when we transfer our personal fears and self-doubt into someone else. In moments of transference, a leader’s behaviour is shaped and motivated more by their past experience than what is happening in the present. They are ‘’triggered ’’. Breaking the cycle of triggers that transfer past experiences onto current situations begins in deep self-reflection. Be ruthlessly self-honest about who and what those trigger points are.
2. Identifying The Underlying Scripts
Simply identifying situations or people most likely to trigger isn’t sufficient to realize change. Naming that you do things you shouldn’t isn’t self-awareness, it’s simply acknowledging that you have been told a certain behaviour is troubling to others and that you wish you didn’t do it. Genuine self-awareness demands you dig deeper to uncover the real answer to why you keep doing it and then actually work to stop doing it.
Writing them out on paper provides the sobering acceptance of a deeper force shaping behaviour. This requires courage, humility, and the ability to detect patterns of behaviour recurring in times of change. When a leader accepts their narrative in black and white that reveals the answer to, ’why do I keep doing that? ’They have taken the powerful next step at re-scripting it.
3. Give People Permission To Name Your Triggers
To keep vigilant about the risks of being triggered, invite a small number of close colleagues into your personal change effort. Tell them to keep an eye out for potentially escalating situations in which they sense your reactions may be irrational, extreme, or rooted in one of your triggers. Ask them to cue you to’’ pause’ ’and regroup, and regain perspective before proceeding to any decisions or actions, or worse, to help you avoid saying anything you might later regret. Knowing that you have helped eyes on you acts both as a reinforcement mechanisms for your changed behavior, it also acts as a source of accountability to sustain commitment to change.
Your ability to affect change across the organization depends on your ability to affect change within yourself. Accepting this will fundamentally shift how you lead. Such introspection is an active process. Leaders should take notes. Spot trends, course- correct, they should solicit feedback from others, tracking the impact their behavior has on others and how closely their actions match intentions.
Leaders should start a transformational journey accepting that the organization will have to transform them as much as they will have to transform it for both to succeed. The more a leader knows how they will react during change, the better equipped they will be to foster real change in themselves and the organization.