Do you know how this statement routinely ends? I have found the enemy… and it is me! In my last post, I talked about 3 Steps to Real Change. These steps work under one condition – the leader has to not only lead the charge, he or she must model the change.
Perhaps this is obvious. If you asked top leaders how change happens, most of them would embrace the famous saying by Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I saw this posted in his home in Mumbai. If you ever get a chance to go there, it’s worth the visit.
So, what’s the problem? Leaders know their role in change is critical. Yes… but we all have blind spots. We also have something called a self-serving bias. The label says it all; most of us tend to think more highly of ourselves than we should. I believe leaders have an added measure of this malady. Scott Keller talks about it in more depth in his HBR article, How to Get Senior Leaders to Change.
So how do we overcome this bias and potential blind spots that may be thwarting our change efforts? Become a heat-seeking missile for truth. Here are three ideas for how you might begin to do that:
Ask people for feedback – This can take many forms. Traditionally, a 360 survey would be employed. This can be administered by a 3rd party and done live or via survey instrument. However, there are less elaborate and costly ways to do this. A couple of years ago, I sent an email to more than 20 of my colleagues – I asked them only 3 questions: What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What should I continue doing? The feedback was extremely helpful.
One more idea regarding feedback: ask your administrative assistant to give you a performance review. I still maintain that the best performance feedback I’ve received during my 30+ year career is from my assistant. They know you better than anyone else, they see exactly how you invest your time, they know your work habits, your strengths and your weaknesses. If they won’t tell you the whole truth, you’ve got bigger problems than a few blind spots.
Look at the data – Data comes in many forms. Two specific forms of data to consider are your calendar and your budget. How do you invest your time? Does it match your priorities? How about your budget allocations? If your #1 priority is quality or innovation or evangelism if you are in a church setting or whatever, does your budget reflect what you say is most important? If not, this may be a blind spot.
Get out from behind your desk – Go to the field, the front lines, the factory floor, or wherever your organization actually does what it does. Chances are pretty high that you may be insulated from reality. The higher you are in an organization, the more you’ll need to fight this. While in the field, ask a lot of open-ended questions, listen and make great notes. I try to be in one of our restaurants every week. For me, this has turned out to be a challenging goal, but it is one I still pursue. Truth is often found at the front lines.
The bottom line is that leaders are people too. Like those we lead, we rarely change unless we see a compelling reason. If we can’t see the truth about ourselves and our organization, positive change will always be elusive.[GLS_Shield]