Simon Terry

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Don’t blame the Leadership. Lead.

Unconnected & unresponsive organisations often find themselves in a trap.

Disengaged employees look up to a Chief Executive Officer and blame them for the lack of a better workplace. At the same time the CEO often wants a more engaged workforce but has no idea how to make the change in an effective way.

The longer this goes on the greater the risk that in this circumstance the CEO pulls the lever on the traditional response and announces a top-down transformation program. With the CEO and the transformation team having accepted the responsibility to drive change, everyone sits back and waits to see how the CEO’s pet project goes.

Many will have seen that moment when the arms start crossing defensively in the auditorium as the CEO announces the change. If the organisation started with disengagement now it has disengagement, along with a healthy dose of apathy & cynicism.

Change from the top

There are few models of change that don’t emphasise the importance of senior management support for change. It has become a litmus test of change in many organisations to inquire about the level and seniority of executive support. Senior management are powerful stakeholders in any change and change takes both collaboration and power.

However none of the change models that work, place all responsibility for change on senior leadership. Senior leadership should support and align change in the organisation to the desired direction.  Nobody said they, or their proxies, had to do it all.

Looking up is disengaging

We have our jobs and our place in the hierarchy. We have power, capability and influence to drive change. Waiting for senior leaders to get the changes required is the most disengaging experience for capable leaders across the organisation.

Looking up can take many forms. Some times it is a simple as feeling the need to have some indication of the ability to proceed. Other times it is created by approval processes on the resources or people required to make change happen. Some times we don’t even know we have referred something up for approval until we challenge why we aren’t acting now.

Creating an environment where people look up for authority will only worsen any engagement issues. Lack of engagement will worsen the problems in the workplace. Instead, give people the authority, trust and confidence in direction to act on their own.

Follow & Act

Take guidance from senior leaders. Support the change they seek to drive. Be a good follower.

Yes, necessary, but not sufficient for real & effective change.

Take it as your responsibility to respond to what you see needs work. Connect with others to encourage them to join you in this important work. Start new conversations that help everyone to understand the changes needed and push change forward.  These simple steps make you a networked change agent.

Understand the strategy and align the changes that you are pushing to where senior leaders are heading.  If you don’t understand ask for clarification, not approval.

Ask for forgiveness, not approval. You will learn and grow as you act. If you are doing the needful to bring about change your organisation and colleagues will not mind.  

Mostly you will get thanks from a grateful CEO.


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