Wednesday, April 12, 2023

5 Ways to Lead Positive Change in Your Life and Work

lead-positive-changeChange is hard, in business as in your personal life. In my small business consultancy, I see this daily, per you owners and professionals struggling with the challenges of new markets and new competitors. Leading change is even harder, trying to balance the demands of the customers against the needs and expectations of employees. But you have to change to survive and thrive.

If you are in a position of some responsibility and power in business, it’s hard to stay positive, and know how and when you are doing the right thing. I’m often asked for guidance on the mindset required to get to the right answer, and how to get others to follow your guidance. My approach has always been to look at the specifics of each case, rather than try to offer a general solution.

Thus I was pleased to see some excellent generic change guidance and experience in a new book, “Good Power,” by Ginni Rometty. She recently retired as Chairman and CEO of IBM, and interweaves her personal story with a set of principles for leading positive change in our personal lives, workplace, and the world. Here is my summary of her insights, with my thoughts added:

  1. Strive to make things better by serving others. In parallel with fulfilling your own needs, always use your power to fulfill the needs of customers and team members. Make balancing the needs of others with your own a win-win solution and positive change. Rely on feedback and listening to understand where to find the maximum value for everyone.

    In leadership circles, this focus on people, often called servant leadership, is building a larger and larger following. The idea of servant leadership is that the typical hierarchy where employees are supposed to serve their bosses is turned upside down. It works.

  2. Use influence, not authority, to inspire people. This is especially true as you and they face difficult change. You must use authenticity and personalization to bring people along and earn followers, and bridge emotion and execution. Building belief is a never-ending effort, both in jump-starting a change journey, and in sustaining a long-term commitment.

    Of course, the end goal of leadership by influence is to get others to willingly engage and follow due to your knowledge, honesty, and heart, rather than because of your title. I encourage you to embrace transparency, and lead with humility in all change initiatives.

  3. Think critically and creatively on tough choices. You need to first decide what must change, and what must endure. You can change products and services, but service and quality to customers must endure. The challenge is how to change, without negatively impacting the work culture, and still optimizing the current talent, knowledge, and skills.

    I find that critical thinkers are more comfortable than most with disagreement when a change is proposed. They seek out those who see the world differently and try hard to understand why. You may still disagree but may reframe your own thinking for the better.

  4. Drive trust and inclusion by advocating for others. Trust is the foundation of strong relationships, and relationships make businesses work, just like private lives. You must be inclusive in your leadership to understand that different people are at various places along the continuum in their journey, and bring unique perspectives to every challenge.

    I believe that advocating for others needs to start with active listening and acceptance of ideas from team members around you. This leads to public recognition for a job well done, high-potential job assignments, and to career-enhancing change opportunities.

  5. Be resilient as change takes time and relationships. Nourishing relationships will provide you with perspective to see things from a wider lens and more creatively solve problems and implement change. It is important for you to maintain a positive attitude in driving and implementing change, and leading organizational resilience to setbacks.

    Experts agree that resilience falls under the umbrella of emotional intelligence, which is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions. It is another word for toughness, to deal with challenging events, face pressure, and still preserve everyone’s mental health.

The most effective leaders in business today use these key principles positively to accomplish the change and growth they need through collaboration and engagement with constituents, rather than relying on the power of their position. I recommend that you follow their example, and you too can experience the legacy and satisfaction of long-term success and satisfaction.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 3/28/2023 ***



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