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Connecting the Dots: The Process of Leading Organizational Change

Over the past five weeks, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to lead organizational change. Leadership is such a simple word, yet it is so very complex. In the traditional sense, a leader is often the person who others look to for inspiration, guidance, or reassurance. However, true leadership stems from within. Leaders are driven by a deeply seated motive or “why”. It is the reason they do what they do. The more clear they are when defining their “why”, the more effective they become in preparing to lead a successful innovation within their organization. In preparation for the launch of an “Innovation Station” in my school this year, I needed to clearly think about my why; more specifically, why I was looking to make this change. As John Kotter said, the more you win over the hearts and minds of others, the more successful your change will be. Before I can win over the minds of my peers, I will need to connect with their hearts.

Another critical part of being a leader is the ability to coach, guide, and support others as they move in a new direction. To successfully accomplish this, I would need to learn to leverage six specific sources of influence. In my opinion, the best way to accomplish this was to decide how I was going to influence the “influencers”- those in my organization who were held in high esteem and have powerful social status. If they were able to connect to my why and my plan, they would then help others learn to do so. I learned that by influencing the influencers, I would be increasing the likelihood of my plan’s success.

In addition to using the six sources of influence and using my natural leaders to help promote my plan, there were two more things that needed to be done. First, I needed to identify the results I wanted to see. Second, I needed to find and clarify the vital behaviors that would need to happen in order for my plan to work. This led to the creation of my Influencer Strategy. This plan laid out how I would use both personal and social motivation to improve the likelihood of success, as well as provide me with a way to review my process when problems with implementation do arrive.

As anyone who has ever hatched a plan knows, sometimes things are easier said than done. Making a sweeping change in my school is not going to be an easy feat, even with a great deal of behind-the-scenes thought and planning. However, the 4 Disciplines of Execution (further known as 4DX) provided me with an even clearer way of making my dreams into a reality. The 4DX refer to the four stages of executing change inside the challenges of the daily “whirlwind”, also known as the responsibilities of everyday life. In the first stage, I was able to use my Influencer Strategy to help clarify my W.I.G. (Wildly Important Goal). Next, I created a plan to act upon lead measures, or small, actionable changes that would bring me closer to reaching my ultimate goal (lag measure). While it was easy for me to figure out the first two steps, it was a little more difficult for me to follow step three- create a compelling scoreboard. This scoreboard would be displayed in an area that all of my teachers had access to on a daily basis, and it needed to clearly show our progress towards the W.I.G. and the lead measures. The final step was to create a “cadence of accountability”. This meant that I needed to create a designated time each week where my team of leaders could do three important things: review our progress in the prior week, review and discuss our scoreboard, and make new commitments towards meeting our WIG. With my 4DX Plan ready to go, I feel ready to begin the process of influencing change within my school in the coming weeks.

One of my favorite quotes in life comes from Gandhi. It states “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I can not think about leadership without hearing these words in my head. To be successful in leading an organizational change, we must literally model the behaviors we want our followers to display. This is where the notions of self-differentiated leadership and crucial conversations come into play. To be a leader of a change, you must remain focused on the ultimate goal at all times. There will be times when people will not agree or wish to see your change come to light. However, being a self-differentiated leader means that you can retain your focus while still forging meaningful connections with others. You can diffuse their anxiety without letting their discomfort cloud your actions or judgment.  How exactly does one successfully accomplish this? Leaders can achieve this relationship through the use of crucial conversations. When discussions become emotionally charged, high-stakes, and contain opposing opinions, strong leaders can step back and closely examine their motivations and the result they are seeking. They find a way to make the other person feel safe to share their thoughts and opinions in a respectful way. The result of these crucial conversations is not only the diffusion of tension and anxiety within an organization but a shared view of positive steps that can be taken to advance the plan.

Within my plan, I want to use crucial conversations to help each teacher feel successful in implemented blending learning. I want to model these types of conversations in our weekly meetings, and I want to help my leaders to use these conversations with teachers who may not be fully on board with the plan. I also want to use crucial conversations to help create the makerspace portion of my “Innovation Station”. As the makerspace is a joint creation with many different stakeholders, I want to use crucial conversations to help diffuse any tension while moving through the process.

The road to implementation of my Innovation plan is going to be long and winding. I know that there will be bumps in the road, but I truly believe that this course has provided me with an amazing opportunity to look at my change from a wide variety of angles. It has allowed me to anticipate problems while planning for smooth resolutions. Finally, it has given me the time and skills to become a successful self-differentiated leader within my organization. For an overview and additional information on my planned organizational change, please click here.

References

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013) Influencer:
        The new science of leading change. USA: VitalSmarts, LLC.
Friedman, E. (2017) A failure of nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix
        (3rd edition). New York: Church Publishing
Kotter, J. (n.d.-a). John Kotter – The heart of change. Retrieved from
         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NKti9MyAAw
Kotter, J.. (n.d.). Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency. Retrieved from
         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yfrj2Y9IlI
Leading Organizational Change (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2018, from       
         https://sha.cornell.edu/admissions-programs/executive-education
        /online-learning/course-description.html?id=LSM591
McChesney, C., Covey, S. & Huling, J., (2012) The 4 disciplines of execution. London:
         FranklinCovey Co.
Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012) Crucial conversations:
         Tools for talking when stakes are high. USA: McGraw-Hill Companies.

 

 

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