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The Leadership of Change.

Featuring special contributor, award-winning executive, Mary Proc.

"The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change" Heraclitus

And the current reality is that more than 70% of change initiatives fail, according to McKinsey.


While most companies understand the processes and systems of change management - in fact, they even have entire departments dedicated to it, they overlook a critical piece: the leadership of change. So, while the need to lead change continues to grow, our ability to do so is shrinking.

Leading change places increased demand on our leaders to be resilient, to exercise emotional intelligence, and to be adaptable and agile. But leaders are often ill-equipped to address or even understand the emotions, beliefs and mindsets of their teams at different phases of change.

In this issue, you will learn to effectively lead your team through change by developing the practices and behaviours that will enable people to adapt.

And what better way is there to kick off this issue on leading change than with our special guest contributor, Mary Proc. Mary is no stranger to leading groups through change. As the former Vice President, Customer Service Delivery at Metrolinx, Mary was responsible for developing the multi-year customer service strategy at GO and had over 900 staff who delivered services through her large project management area, two contact centres, and all 66 rail stations, including Union Station. In 2015, she was named "Woman of the Year" by Progressive Railroading magazine and the North-American based League of Railway Industry Women.

Here, Mary shares with us the 8 lessons she learned from a 30-year career of introducing multi-million dollar change in both the private and public sectors.

Mary’s Top 8 Change Leadership Lessons.

“Sell, Don’t Tell.” Leaders sometimes make the mistake of communicating by standing in front of their employees and being human encyclopedias -- telling them everything there is to know about a coming change. Stop there. What’s more important is distilling the WIIFM factor [“What’s in it for me?”], and communicating those salient points to your audience.

“You Need All the Leaders Behind You.” The middle cadre of leadership is hugely important in cascading change. The first time a supervisor or manager repeats the “selling points” of the change introduced by the CEO, but rolls his or her eyes while relaying the message-- guess what? The change-cascade is broken. Your supervisors and managers need to understand the change, and amplify it using their own voice and credibility in order for the workforce to embrace the change.

“Good change management can’t be applied like a coat of paint at the end.” The best leaders identify “change champions” from among the front-line, and involve them in the project right from the outset. These are specialists who are in the best position to verify business needs, explain the project to their colleagues, and “own” the change when it’s finally introduced.

“Change resistors can be good.” All leaders know that their workforce consists of employees who are change-ready, and those who are change-neutral -- those staff ready to embrace the change once they see the benefits. And management literature tells us that we only need about two-thirds of employees to embrace a change before the entire culture shifts, like a school of fish. The remaining third of employees are the “change resisters” -- those who feel that change has hurt them in their lives, and therefore they are suspicious of it. Rather than discount these employees, leaders can use their feedback to surface the “what abouts”, enabling them to see the derailers that they might otherwise have ignored.

“Two ears to hear, and one mouth to speak.” Our grandmothers were right when they gave us this advice, and we need to heed it in introducing change. When employees say they want better communication, they usually mean they want leaders to listen to them better, and not talk at them more. Make sure that employee feedback is actively sought and acted upon.

“Face Your Risks.” If the change cost twice as much to introduce and delivered half the benefits, would you still introduce it? Make sure your risk registry is up-to-date, and that you are constantly revisiting it to make sure that threats to cost, quality and schedule are being mitigated.

“Sooner Is Better Than Later.” Complex projects involving technology and infrastructure can’t be rushed, but watch your timelines for delivery. Anything beyond three years and Boards change, new political parties can be elected, stakeholder support can evaporate, and funding dwindles. At the same time, build in a little “wiggle room” to ensure that you have built enough time for employee training, enculturation, and acceptance.

Finally, “Projects That Start Problematic, Stay Problematic.” Right from the start, get total clarity on the project statement, benefits, costs, governance and delivery lines. Get these wrong and your change initiative can go sideways. Get them right, and leaders go on to build a reputation for sound and successful change management.

As Mary’s tips so beautifully illustrate, change is complex. There is no script. There is no one-size fits all solution. The best leaders learn to appreciate that everyone responds to change differently and to take the responsibility to both create change and respond to change.

As you look inward to yourself and outward to your team and organization, what opportunities do you see to successfully transition through change?

What can you start doing today?


If you want more resources to help you lead change, subscribe to Reach Your Peak and I will send you some of my favourites.

Reach Your Peak was born out of my vision to work alongside leaders who thrive and not just survive. As a coach, I am often asked to suggest pieces of thought leadership and tools to support my client’s movement towards their goals. The purpose of this newsletter is to offer this content to a wider audience interested in expanding their learning edge.  


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