I was back in the US last week – Indiana to be precise – for my boss’s Leadership Team meeting. We worked together for three days discussing opportunities we see for our people; ideas we have our units; and additional value we want to deliver to our Clients. We worked well together. I was very pleased. I felt that I contributed throughout the week. My hope is I contributed well…but the only aspect I can control is that I engage and contribute…
This week was also an excellent relationship and team building opportunity for me personally. I met colleagues I have only emailed with. I talked with people I have only telephoned with. I worked with individuals I had only l previously heard of. People and teams are really important to me. I get so much energy and enthusiasm from personal interactions, and so many great ideas come out of team discussions where everyone contributes their thoughts and ideas, hopes and experiences.
I spend time (at work) working by myself. I spend time working as a leader of people. And I spend time working as a member of a team. All require different skills and behaviours. All provide different learning. All offer different opportunities to contribute. All are important. All I enjoy.
The most frequent question I was asked last week was how I felt my group was doing. How are you all coping with the changes? This is a good question of course, and good questions always make me think. How would I describe both the change we are going through? How would assess our progress?
Common descriptions of change are ‘evolutionary’ and ‘revolutionary’. Both words sound similar and sometimes seem to be used interchangeably. But they have very different meanings. I like to think of the ‘derivative’ verbs – “to revolt” vs. “to evolve” – to revolt sounds very different than to evolve. To revolt is more dynamic, sudden and uncomfortable! To evolve is more passive, steady and measured.
Whenever we hear change being described as ‘revolutionary’ (often by leaders), these changes are almost always evolutionary. Evolutionary change is still a very good thing. But evolutionary change tends to take the next logical step. So where, when and how could we identify genuine revolutionary change? Change that re-writes the rules. What – for example – would be our equivalent of contact lenses? Or digital photography?
As the week went on, and I thought more about how our team is doing, another aspect that struck me is that change is all about history. We all know our own history. We have experience of how our teams and organisations were arranged and were lead. This is our history. This is how we were expected to behave and deliver. This is how our performance was assessed and our promotions were agreed.
Sometimes our histories were unsuccessful and unsatisfying – this makes it easier for us to change. But if we perceive our history as being successful and enjoyable, then to change is simply harder. It takes longer. There is more need for the rationale…the vision to be better described and more clearly defined. We need to better understand what changed – internally or externally – that’s driving our need for change.
As leaders we tend to want change to be revolutionary – sudden and dynamic. As individuals change tends to be more evolutionary – steady and measured. This conundrum defines both the challenge and the opportunity for leaders and leadership teams. How do we encourage and drive change? Change at the rate and to the extent necessary for us and for our organisations to continue to thrive and succeed.
It was a busy week…