14

Sep

Raja Toqier

Suggestions For An Effective Leadership Approach Through Change

I was chatting with a talented woman I had met at an event a few weeks ago about the amount of change occurring in her workspace, which happens to be in the education sector. 

Effective Leadership Approach

She said that new legislation went live late last year which means significant change for schools’ governance and leadership, and asked me if I had been involved in any of that work. I was honest and said that the education sector was one I was not familiar with (other than as a parent quite some time ago,) but that it didn’t matter which sector, such changes require strong leadership to be successful.

When leaders must implement significant change, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they must do everything themselves; that there’s only one way of doing it (generally, theirs); and that all the right levers have to be in place before making a start. When the person in the hot seat is more concerned with maintaining their status through power and control, and looking good, the opportunity to lead effectively is diminished. Those hot seaters tend to exhibit low levels of self-awareness around their own behaviours, and how those behaviours impact their direct teams and work environment, which in turn influences the eventual outcome of the change. 

In my experience, it’s much easier to start where you’re at right now. There will never be a perfect starting point. The ducks are never sitting and waiting in an orderly row. The temperature gauge will still fluctuate. Waiting for those perfect conditions will just delay the work to be done, and potentially add extra pressure where there are deadline expectations to meet. It will also leave your staff/clients/customers/beneficiaries of the change wondering what will happen, and when. That’s when we lose trust, commitment, and belief, which always makes the change journey harder. Keep them on the bus!

1. It’s Not A One-Person Job

Leaders generally have a range of skills, experience, and expertise to contribute to any task or project. The biggest mistake (and risk) is thinking they can, or have to, do everything themselves. Talk with a range of people whose diverse thinking, expertise and experience might be useful, and get a team around you to set off on the change journey. Make sure to include the people who will be impacted by the change. Showing vulnerability and asking for help is not a weakness. It’s much easier to work with a human that displays characteristics like empathy, motivation, curiosity and excitement with a current reality lens than a superhuman with a preference for working on their own, perpetuating a perception that they don’t need anyone else to help them because ‘they’ve got this.’

2. Change Is About People

Change is hard. The mention of a change process or program often instigates feelings of fear and mistrust (and sometimes doom) because of previous experiences of change done badly. When we need to make a change, the biggest time investment should be in our people. They are the ones who will make the change successful. I sometimes think we don’t give our people enough credit, or permission. Our people are not defined by the job they have, they are defined by the opportunities they take. Let them be creative, and to conjure up amazing ideas and suggestions. Encourage them to be more than their job description. Empower them to take a lead, regardless of their perceived role or status. Acknowledge that they are all in positions of influence, both positive and negative, and that letting people be their authentic selves can help them become your biggest advocates.

3. Communication Is Key

Leaders provide vision and direction, and even though neither of those may be clear at the beginning, communicating everything you can as early and simply as you can will more likely bring your people along with you. Being in it together is more important than ‘winning’ a particular outcome early on. Communicating everything you can, as soon as you can, helps to grow trust and transparency. Be clear when you can’t share certain information, and why. An effective leader is a trusted member of the team. Above all, be consistent to avoid second guessing, and rumours filling any information gaps.

4. Celebrate!

Measuring progress and acknowledging successes, no matter how small, is something we Kiwis need to get better at. In our busyness and pressured environments, we tend to just accept a quick win by adding it to a report or a performance appraisal, and carry on. We tend to focus on the next thing, because time is short, and pressure is high. Being able to pause, recognise the win, maybe reflect on what made it successful so the formula could be repeated, and what we could do better makes us more conscious and think deliberately about what works and how we can do more of the good stuff. Plus, people love to celebrate and be recognised for their contribution. Saying a genuine ‘thank you’ and ‘good job’ is leadership gold. And food. Don’t forget the social interactions and opportunities that we associate with sharing kai. 

5. Keep Your Cup Filled

Being a leader requires energy and commitment. Energy to spend on your people and all the things that keep them supported, focused, and moving forward, and commitment to be there for the long haul. We often hear about staff wellbeing and what we are doing to support our people. That starts with us. If our own cup is not replenished, then it is hard to replenish the cups of others. Checking in on our own wellbeing is a must. How is your balance today? your mind/hinengaro, your body/tinana, your spirit/wairua, your family/whānau? What needs addressing before it escalates into something bigger? Practice what you speak, and lead by example. Your people watch you. All the time. Let them learn from you.

As a coach, it’s fairly common for me to work with people who either have low or no self-awareness of how their thinking influences their behaviour. When I ask them what they need, they often don’t know. Sometimes they have identified some things to work on through an assessment or program they have committed to. Working with these leaders is pretty satisfying, as insights are created, and actions are taken to increase their effectiveness. Because we leaders can’t achieve much at all on our own, it’s all about our people.

This is great, thanks for the suggestions. I am happy with this.

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