Let me share an experience of leading change:
I was working a with the senior team as a business coach at a real estate development company. They said they wanted to grow their company but believed it was not possible. To understand why, you need to understand how they found new investment opportunities.
The way in which they found most new investment opportunities was by having one of the partners drive to work a different route everyday. He had a great talent for seeing opportunities. However, it could take him a long time to find the right opportunities. The logic was that since he was a uniquely talented person and could not be copied the business could not grow.
In short, the current go-to-market constraint in the business was believed to be the lack of capacity to find suitable investment opportunities, so I began to work with the leadership team to find a solution. With some work we designed a repeatable process (using databases and sub-contracting building inspectors). As a result, we got a scalable process that produced a nice list of promising investment opportunities, but that is not the main point. The main point is what came next.
Results in hand, I met with the leadership team to align around next steps towards growth. I asked them, "now that we have found a workable solution to resolve the primary go--to-market constraint in your business, do you now believe that your can grow your business ?" And their answer was "no!" I almost fell off of my chair.
After a pretty intense discussion, they acknowledged that they had now seen that they could indeed grow their business. However, that was not the core issue.
What came out is that although these leaders said they wanted to grow their business, they had a level of anxiety around their own abilities to lead a larger business. It wasn't distrust of each other but distrust of themselves and their own capabilities that was the virus -- was the primary constraint.
The primary constraint to higher-performance in their business had now become the unwillingness of the top leaders to develop themselves into better leaders. That obstacle became the next focus of our work together.
There is an expression, "an experience always trumps and argument." What it means is that after someone has had an experience that something is true all of the arguments for why it can't be true fall away.
In other words, change in organizations can be thought of, and managed, as series of intentional breakthrough experiences. For me this points to the difference between consulting to find solutions and coaching to create transformation. In the example above, the first breakthrough experience was implementing the process to systematically find investment opportunities. After that I helped the team create a string of subsequent breakthrough experiences for themselves including renegotiating how decisions were made so that they became less dependent on expecting consensus and more willing to practice consultative decision-making.
So what does this have to do with leading change? In my experience, to lead change you need to focus on significant tangible breakthroughs (ideally ones which resolve primary constraints). And, you need to create experiences that trump arguments.
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