The Rise of Progress Leadership: Change Management Is Dead
By Dean Lindsay, Award Winning Speaker and Author of The Progress Challenge
The business term change management has been around for a good long while. The term relates to “initiating significant change” within an organization’s processes. This change can include anything from altering work culture to embracing diversity to modifying an individual’s work tasks to increasing company morale and loyalty. The goal of “initiating significant change” is solid, but where is the passion in the word choice?
The problem with the term “change management” is that no one really desires to change or plans to change. We desire and plan to progress. We do not want managers to manage our change. We want leaders to lead our progress.
Let’s call “initiating significant change” what it truly is (or should be): Progress Leadership. In a time of continual transformation, committed leaders – Progress Agents –should focus on inspiring the progress, not apologizing for the change. Progress Agents don’t just TELL people what to do. Progress Agents include others in the progress as well as the process. It is reasons that shape, nourish, and sustain the thoughts that create the actions necessary to reach desired results.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Companies are most successful at “initiating significant change” when the reasons to act connect personally with the individual employees making the alteration in behavior. If the reasons don’t connect with the individual, then the planned progress will be viewed as merely change and will be resisted or at least not acted on. Team members may still physically clock in but have often mentally checked out.
We live in a world of influence. We are influenced to purchase this, to believe that, to participate in this activity, to attend that event. This is not a bad thing. Most often it is good. Our parents influenced our decision not to play with fire. Our best friend influenced our decision not to wear corduroy.
“There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.” — Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie wrote his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People way back in 1936, and its wisdom is no less true and vibrantly powerful today. The book is packed with insight on leading and building strong relationships by lifting people up, making them feel good, and “spurring people on to success.” Wisely, the book is not called How to Lift People Up and Make Them Feel Good or How to Spur People on to Success. No, Carnegie’s classic is appropriately titled: How to Win Friends and Influence People. And who is doing the winning? It’s you and me, along with the person being lifted up, made to feel good, and spurred on to success (read: influenced and led).
In his book, Mr. Carnegie encourages us to, among other things: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests, respect others’ opinions, try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view, and try to make the other person happy about doing the things you suggest. In other words, genuinely care about people and their feelings.
But Mr. Carnegie’s classic does not only encourage us to take these actions for the benefit of the people we are respecting and “making happy.” The book doesn’t even make the argument that it is even morally right to care about people’s feelings (although I am sure Mr. Carnegie would agree that it is). No, the book simply makes the clear case that caring about others’ feelings is good for the person (or company) who cares.
Intense focus on feelings in a time of transformation is often described as the “human side of change management.” This always gives me pause. The “human side” of business—what other side is there? Some might say the company side.
So then, the company and the humans are on different sides? That’s the problem right there. Companies are formed by people (humans) partnering to get their wants and needs met by helping other people (humans) get their wants and needs met. Leaders who do not take the individual into account and do not plan for the human side of Progress often find themselves scratching their heads about where their plans went wrong.
“Humanize globalization and globalize humanization.” — Father Anselm Gruen
It takes more than the title of supervisor, manager, or “change agent” to lead people in the direction of progress. We all want to be in relationships with people, as well as partner with organizations that bring progress to our lives.
Without personal commitment to execute, new organizational plans and initiatives often fail. Execution is assured by establishing clear links between operations, strategy, and team members. Progress leadership means working to understand and communicate how a team member’s personal goals can dovetail with the organization’s goals and thus create true commitment that gets the team member to act – because he or she wants to, not because they have to. Progress Leadership means striving to help others find meaning in their work.
“Meaning arises when people bring together what they do with what is important to them.” — Viktor Frankl
Also, just because a company is getting bigger does not mean it is progressing. A serious challenge for companies large and small is to progress, and not just change. Moving our focus from change management to progress leadership creates a shift in power from wielding power over employees to creating power among employees. Progress Agents thus create a work culture in which empowered employees are committed to finding what is truly the next step forward. Goodbye, Change Management. Hello, Progress Leadership!