January 28, 2011 CEO, Communication, Executive, Leadership

Status quo requires no leadership

Leaders are in the business of change.  After all, if everything in your organization was perfect, there would be no need for leaders because there would be no new desired destination.  You or the organization would have reached the desired destination!

This means leaders must be students of change – how to create it, how to cultivate it, how to communicate it and how to champion it.

Change is defined by one critical component – the destination you are changing towards. This destination is often called the vision.

To start, everyone must understand that simply having a vision is not enough. You must create a compelling vision. To be compelling, your vision must be:

  • Positive – something others see as desired.
  • Personal – something that will benefit others personally or directly (not just abstractly or “it seems like a good idea”).
  • Possible – a destination people can see themselves reaching.
  • Visual – something people can see.
  • Vivid – crystal clear; the clearer the picture of the future, the better.

Now that you’ve created a compelling vision of a desired future, you need to communicate that vision. There several factors that will help you successfully communicate your vision for change.

When people own the vision it is more compelling. People are always excited about a change that they conceived and created. So, rather than creating a vision of a desired future for people let them co-create it. Yes, it might not look exactly as you intended, and, yes, it might take a little more time. However, while both of those things are true, it’s also true that you will achieve more change faster. Better to go a bit slower at the beginning and accelerate later, make sense?

The easiest way to communicate benefits is to ask them. Once the vision is created, ask questions like:

  • How will this change benefit you?
  • What about this vision excites you?
  • How will achieving this vision make your life easier, or better?

You may see benefits they don’t see, and you can certainly suggest those. And, your suggestions will be more powerful and accepted if they come after you ask them for their thoughts!  But you have to start by engaging people in a conversation about a desired future state!

Once you have these factors in your favor it is infinitely easier to communicate a vision – because it is now their vision. Now your task is to help clarify and refine it – and get more excited about it. Here are a couple of ways to do that:

Remove barriers – now and in the future. As a leader, through your actions, you can be the person who helps them see the vision is reachable, or possible. Your role is to encourage and help people see the future vision through successful change.

Maintain the conversation. That is right – you have to keep having the change conversation. Your work in communicating change doesn’t end, at least not until you reach the vision. Then it starts over towards a new destination. Keep people thinking about and talking about not just the change but that beautiful desired destination.

Obviously, there is more to this, nothing as complex as change or communicating change can be described or summarized so quickly.  However, using these ideas will make a difference in how successful you will be in creating real change.  If you don’t want the status quo, so it is time to lead.