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Leading Change—Modelling Behaviours Is Crucial for Success

Alcide DeGagné

“Leadership to step through the door”
      - Jody Loughrey


I received a really powerful comment to my recent blog on Strategic and Operating Reviews—Change and Failure. While agreeing with my comment for leaders to get their strategy and operational alignment right, the commenter then went on to lament the great vacuum of  “leadership to step through the door”.

Lead by Example

Doors-280x425If we want employees to seize the challenge of new directions that flow from strategic and operating reviews, then leaders must lead by example by stepping through the door of change themselves!

Gone is the era of leaders who preach to the masses about the need for creativity and improved productivity, but do so from the confines of their boardrooms, choreographed “town hall” meetings, email blasts, and press announcements.

When the Going Gets Tough

Research clearly demonstrates the powerful connection between employee engagement and employee performance—and how that connection results in organizational success.   To good leaders this is not news; it is something that has been intuitive to them for some time.

But engagement is not something that just happens—it is the result of involved leaders who carefully create a work climate that supports employees with the right skills, knowledge and development opportunities. And most importantly, who support them when the going gets tough—and it always does get tough.

To Kill the Myths

For starters, management needs to counter the many myths that Jim Taggart points out:

  • The management “team”—in reality, there is often a great deal of maneuvering behind the scenes when it comes to positions, promotions, resources, etc.
  • Management has all the answers—employees are there to carry out orders, not be creative or innovative (this is linked to Peter Senge’s “I am my position” disability).  Above all, don’t question management actions. Keep your head down.
  • Employees are encouraged to be risk takers—actually, people often get punished when they do take risks.
  • “This is how we do things around here.”—the new employee who asks “why” is told, “that’s just the way it is.” Any further questioning risks their good standing in the eyes of managers and peers.

And Align Actions

In short, you need leaders and managers who understand the culture, what needs to change, how it will be done, and when. And most importantly, when it comes time to challenge the current way of doing things, are prepared to lead by example.

There’s a simple test for this: Is what senior management says aligned with its daily actions?

If not, forget about building employee engagement.  You’ll need all your energy to cope with the shock and trauma that will follow!

Future Shock

Why is this leadership behavioral change so important? Simply put, it is because the speed of change occurring in our world has been accelerating for decades.

Alvin Tofler was the first to coin the expression “future shock” in his 1970 book of the same name.  Orson Wells, the narrator of the 1972 documentary, describes future shock as a disease resulting from “too much change in too short a time”.

Watching this 40 year-old video is somewhat surreal as the change that Tofler described some 30 years ago has only accelerated and become even more pervasive today.

Step Through the Door

Fast-forward to the aftermath of the Great Recession, and there is growing evidence that the shock experienced by employees in many parts of the Western world is akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the place where we need managers to manage and leaders to lead!

“Leadership to step through the door” clearly recognizes the connective tissue between leadership behaviours and their impact on your employees’ engagement! Sure, as leaders we must do the big “strategy think” and make the decisions, but those activities alone are going to fall well short of creating transformational change in our organizations!


To me, this is what Jody meant when he said we need “leadership to step through the door”; and that’s true change in action!


If you have not already read our series on managing in a SOR and DRAP environment, you may find these posts relevant:

Strategic and Operating Reviews: We Can't Agree to Disagree
Strategic and Operating Reviews Part 2: Alignment and Failure
Strategic and Operating Reviews Part 3: Change and Failure
Strategic and Operating Reviews Part 4: A Framework for Success
Strategic and Operating Reviews Part 5: Waiting for Your Numbers
$90k-a-day for Consulting? Depends What You Are Buying.

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