I still see business leaders resisting the need for change in the organisations they are leading, although the need for quick and agile change is needed to help their businesses survive the present turbulent environment. It is useful to understand as to why business leaders resist and become lethargic at implementing change although all indicators point at how their business is suffering when not adapting to the ever changing reality they operate in.
Why is this?
In my discussions with business leaders it emerges quite clearly that many business leaders are fearful of pushing change as implementing and managing change has has shifted from a simplistic, top-down approach and needs to be based on having team members feeling empowered and purpose-led to get their buy-in for the needed changes. This means that pushing forward any change requires a lot of energy and time and sometimes it feels more like a struggle. All this many times leads to a rate of failure for such change that remains quite high.
However, there is new research emerging that has dug deeper as to the core reasons for all this. Many times the missing ingredient is the ability to look for and work with deeper systemic forces. In every business organisation, unconscious dynamics exert a powerful pull on organisational behaviour and effectiveness. Just as gravity invisibly propels matter, these forces drive collective behaviour and therefore the effectiveness of any change. Research is indicting that one core element of these deeper systemic forces is our primary need to belong.
Belonging is linked to the desired emotional outcome in an organisation in which each individual desires to be fully themselves with others, with no parts of themselves hidden. Research is showing that this sense of belonging is a core essential ingredient to make change happen. Research is also indicating that those leaders that pay a significant attention to this belonging, do so by doing two things, that can seem contrasting:-
- Taking great care and time to make others feel secure and involved, pushing the message that in this change no is going to be left behind and that everyone’s input is needed to make this work.
- Work on having team members realise that the needed change requires “un-belonging”.
What do we mean by “un-belonging”? This means that such leaders have to help their team members realise that they need to detach from past loyalties to ways of working, to team configurations and to assumptions or dogmas that no longer suit new contexts.
The more I read about the ability to drive change through belonging, the more I see how powerful this can be. However leaders need to be skillful at being able to walk this belonging/un-belonging tight rope and attend to people’s most primal need to feel secure in disruptive contexts. They need to be able to build the capacity of their team members to walk away from what no longer serves the business. Here are some tips of how this can be done:
- Be mindful of your own emotions: Disruptions influences our ability to function: our capacity to make decisions, process information and plan. That’s why it’s vital for business leaders to master a skill that is needed before they do anything. The ability to tune into and regulating one’s own mental and emotional reactions to experiences. The skill of intentionally bring yourself to the present moment, increases your awareness of all that is going on around you without immediate judgement. This preserves your thinking and decision-making abilities, stopping your brain from reacting impulsively and opens the opportunity to assess different options.
- Identify what people are seeking to preserve — and why: Look beyond what seems like resistance to or an inability to change and perceive what people treasure and protect. It will enable you to address and challenge deep loyalties with insight and respect.
- Lead difficult conversations: To help your team see not only what needs to change, but why it needs to change, you have to lead conversations that explore their discomfort and help them see that discomfort is a necessary change companion.
- Consider the prize and the price of change: No big change comes without a price tag. Do not do the common mistake, that some business leaders do, whereby the benefits of change are overestimated and the costs of it are downplayed. Clearly identifying the cost and benefit of change can help you build true belonging with your team members and not false loyalty.
I thing the message is clear. Business leaders can gain a great deal if they learn how to make their team members feel that they “belong” whilst also guiding their team members to “unbelong” to way of works and beliefs they hold related to work. This is likely to becomes a a key element of successfully stewarding change, as the coming months and possibly years will force businesses to change and adapt to a very dynamic global environment.