Adaptability: The Most Valued Leadership Skill

How do you make a success of change?

We are living in a world with unprecedented levels of change. Advances in technology, changes in consumer behaviour, and new business models are forcing organisations and individuals to make complex and often uncomfortable decisions on a daily basis. Whether the CEO of a global organisation, the founder of a start-up, or indeed a graduate entering the world of work for the first time – all have one thing in common – the need to make change.

Change is now more important to the success of organisations than ever before, yet shockingly we are not teaching people how to set about making successful change at work. We are trusting in old, highly ineffective methods, that of trial and error and chance.

Whether you get equipped to make successful change at work is largely down to your personality, outlook and the hand of cards early work dealt you in terms of the leaders you learnt from, both on a conscious and subconscious level. If you are lucky you get the inspiring confidence and capability boosting role models. Sadly, for most us, we get the fear led, stressed out and sometimes downright toxic role models that plant weeds over seeds in our beliefs about how leaders behave and how to manage change at work well.

I would like to change this and offer you some nuggets I have picked up from my 20+ years’ advising leading creative organisations and leaders on how to make successful change at work. I am also drawing from the many mistakes I have made as a business owner, leader and change agent so this isn’t glorified theory but hard won lessons!

It’s down to three rather simple words that pack a great punch. . .

Clarity. Confidence. Commitment.

These three beauties are the cornerstones to making successful change at work and here’s how.

  1. Clarity. Most organisations and people set about making change without being clear on what the change is they wish to create and why they want this. I know it sounds daft doesn’t it, but trust me I have seen this in normally 80%+ of cases over my career. People are in too much of a hurry to make change happen. They convince themselves action is better than inaction and that the sheer act of setting about change will bring the right change. This very rarely works out my friends.

So be the opposite and have the bravery to pause to work out what is the change you want to make and get clear on this before you start changing anything.

Here’s my super secret weapon how to do this. Ready? It starts by good old fashioned pen and paper. Yep the classic if you can’t write it down clearly for a 6-year-old to understand you don’t understand it yourself. The physical act of writing (and I don’t mean typing!) is so powerful at crystalising thoughts, sharpening views and setting great intentions.

  1. Confidence. Clarity is pointless without the confidence to act. This is where we can get very messy when it comes to making great change at work as we open up the glorious world of emotion. Yes, I said the E word. Emotion. I have a saying “we are all beautifully human” and that means we are not robots, we have feelings and needs. Understanding the emotion behind change is vital to create successful change.

Whatever the underlying emotion is behind the desire for change will have a massive determining impact on the success and possibility for the change. Take me for example, I have set up a few businesses in my time yet only now am I ready for my real successful change to take place as I now know the emotions driving my business are healthy.

My first business, The Career Company, that I ran for 7 years was very “successful” in many ways, yet I was never truly happy or comfortable in running it. The main reason? The founding emotion behind that business was one of frustration. Frustration that I couldn’t find what I really wanted to do so I did what I knew.

Recently I went into a joint business that taught me lots but didn’t fly, why? Because the need in that venture, if I am really honest, was moving away from professional loneliness. I just didn’t realise it at the time!

Your emotions need to be feeding into three ports to make successful change at work. What I call Growth Need, Heart Need and Money Need. If you miss one then you are limiting your options and setting up for restricted, or even ineffective change, and a pretty miserable time to boot! Growth is all about the benefit available to you, Heart about feelings and intuition and Money about getting practical to successfully deliver and sustain great change.

  1. Commitment. So, we are clear on what we want and why we want it, we are confident on how to move forward with positive emotions and our subconscious chatter in check. But we can’t get the pom poms out yet to cheer as again these two are pointless without the third amigo. Commitment.

Change only becomes change with a great plan and action. And your plan must feed your professional values to motivate you to be brave and bold in the first place.
(A quick aside, do you know your professional values? It’s a great place to start to shape your future goals and how you will deliver them.)

Be aware change is an energy hungry beast and a very demanding partner at times. To ensure consistent commitment enrol a great team of supporters into your world so you can stick with the plan when the going gets tough (cue the cheesy, yet great, 80’s song here!).

Finally, on commitment for this post, a great quick way to sense check your true commitment is to give it a mark out of 10 in terms of how committed you really, and I mean really are, to setting out on this voyage of change. Anything less than 7.5 and you haven’t worked through the process properly. That’s ok, the answer is in one of the 3 C’s it’s just a question of looking again with the right support. (Here’s where mentoring and coaching really fast track successful change).

There you have it. A quick guide from me to you on how to set about making successful change at work. I have used this technique on hundreds of people and it is proven to work.

I have seen people make career moves that were deemed impossible at that time, leaders break through huge emotional blocks to become the best version of their unique leadership powers and companies shift from being toxic melting pots of emotional confusion to hungry ambitious winners with a compelling culture.

What change are you going to make? Whatever it is, I hope the 3 C’s will be great amigos on your journey.