Change is too often seen by employees as something happening to them rather than through them, and in turn, leaders experience compliance rather than commitment?
Compliance is good in some areas of our lives; taking prescription medication, adhering to the speed limit (give or take 5–7 miles per hour), and not shouting fire in a crowded movie theater. Commitment on the other hand is far more preferable in other areas of our lives – specifically with our family and ideally to the organizations we work for.
John Kotter, in his book Leading Change, positioned that leadership needs to secure the commitment of twenty-five percent of the workforce “to go beyond the call of duty” in order to produce significant change. For you as a leader to generate commitment, employees need to trust you, believe in your idea, and see you as credible. They want to know you care about them as an individual and that their opinion is important to you.
The fourth of the Seven Deadly Sins is the sin of Arrogance. It’s best described as when leaders don’t fully understanding the human potential of employees to make important and pivotal contributions to a change effort. It’s about leaders seeing themselves as the most important part of the change initiative and not the front line employees interacting with the customer.
Avoiding the sin of arrogance starts with an understanding of four separate and distinct roles in the change process.
The Sponsor: The Sponsor is a person who has the authority and the resources to make decisions and initiate and legitimize the change. This can be any C-level executive or a senior executive who has the authority and resources to undertake a change process. Sponsors need to be able to clearly articulate the “what” and the “why” of the change and involve others in the “how”.
The Change Leader: Change Leaders are responsible for implementing the change; they’re not necessarily the most senior executives; they can be but don’t have to be. They have a clear vision for the change and are seen as credible by key stakeholders. Change Leaders have the ability to inspire others to willingly want to follow them, and not unlike the Sponsor, work in tandem with Change Targets.
The Change Targets: Target is a strange word to describe a person, but in essence a target is anyone who is expected to change. Targets need to understand the “what” and “why” of the change and be integrated fully into the “how”. Given the opportunity to actively contribute to the change plan and to identify any unintended consequences regarding the change garners more commitment than compliance from Targets.
The Change Advocates: Change Advocates aren’t necessarily in a formal leadership position. Advocates believe in the change and are best seen as the marketing arm of the change initiative. While they don’t have the direct authority and resources to initiate change on their own, people see them as exemplars and seek them out for their insight and enthusiasm.
Here’s two questions senior leaders need to ask themselves:
1. Do we have each of the above four roles appropriately covered? Is there synergy and commitment among all four roles?
2. How are we going to give our employees a meaningful say in how this change effort is going to role out?
If you’re not asking these question you’ll be in jeopardy of securing compliance and not commitment.