Recently, I was relating an early management experience and the lessons I learned when I was brought in to complete a massive transformation at a large accounting firm. As a lover of change with marching orders, I was knocking it out of the park one challenge after another…. Or so I thought.
The Managing Partner called me into his office and said: “Nancy, everyone wants to prove themselves, so they hit the ground running their first 90-days before tapering off to perform a normal workload. Not you.”
Do I need to tell you, as an overachiever, I was internally shining proudly?
He continued: “It’s causing problems for the organization. Employees are complaining you’re trying to make them look bad…. you’re moving too fast to assure the changes are right for our culture, etc.” I don’t have to go into the gory details because you’ve heard the grumblings around your organization whenever significant changes are occurring.
Never interpret comments such as these as the problem of others rather listen with an open, receptive, resilient mind because this is where growth occurs as I discovered.
What are the lessons I garnered from my experience that will support you as a manager/leader charged with bringing about powerful change in your organization?
First, as human beings, we’re all created to seek order—some sooner than others. If you thrive and like to move fast in the midst of chaos, you’re probably in trouble. Transformation only moves forward at the pace and comfort of the masses in the organization, so disaster and passive-aggressive resistance may be all you’re generating if you proceed too quickly. You see most employees can’t operationally turn-around-on-a-dime. Slow down to go fast as crazy as that may sound is the secret to being productive. Remember, deploying change upon change, which is never complete, is a waste of everyone’s time and energy, so be strategic!
Second, if you’re anything like me, slowing down your pace is the death knell to being energized at work. Half the fun and thrill, in my mind, is creating results as I check item after item off my list. Realizing this about myself is when I began implementing my “Above Ground” and “Below Ground” theory of transformation. Since I embrace change, I’m continuously working on one or two “Above Ground” undertakings that everyone knows about, Senior Management and staff are involved in its completion, and we measure progress every step of the way. However, when no one is looking, I’m strategizing “Below Ground” projects that may be too overwhelming for most today; and I know by scattering a few water-drops throughout the organization, we will be ready to accept the idea in its right time. The company unknowingly is preparing before it’s required to do anything.
As a leader, you have the power to determine what changes are happening and when. Authentic leaders respect their employees so they consider their viewpoint and understand what the culture can bear. Take the pulse of your organization as a piece of the strategic process puzzle, and you’ll produce more substantial, long-lasting results with far less effort!