All leaders must lead their constituency through change at one time or another. And, those of us who have done so have often learned some hard lessons along the way. Here are some of the lessons I have learned or watched others learn that constitutes dumb tax we don't need to pay.
1. Don't surprise people with big changes. Surprise brings with it fear, anxiety and the feeling that our security has been upended. If there is going to be major change, develop a process to bring people into discussion rather than simply dumping it on them and then trying to explain after. Once surprised, people are unlikely to hear your explanation. Lead into change over time and prepare people for what needs to come rather than surprising them.
2. Don't get so far ahead of people that they balk at following. Change need not be and often should not be all at once. Start with those things that you believe your constituency can understand and will follow you on. Some changes will take time and should be set aside for a day when you feel you will have greater support. This may mean talking to people of influence ahead of time to ascertain whether the changes you are proposing have a likelihood of meeting strong resistance. Go where you can go with the support of people rather than where it is going to face fierce resistance.
3. Determine what coinage you have before you propose major change. All leaders have a bank of good will. You need relationship and trust in order to convince people to go places that are uncomfortable. Moving too quickly may overspend your account which can take a long time to redeposit. Be smart about how much trust and relationship you have as the greater the change the more trust and relationship it requires. Don't overspend your account!
4. In explaining change, don't announce, dialogue. People don't like announcements that rock their world. Most, however will enter into a dialogue with you around strongly held values that if understood can help them move toward doing things differently. A conversation is very different than a pronouncement. The former invites understanding and discussion while the latter says "this is the way it is" and sound very much like an ultimatum - which are rarely helpful.
5. Be willing to be flexible on issues that are not essential. You don't want to die on a sand-hill but on a mountain. If you get major push-back on a non essential element of your preferred future, back off and show people that you are reasonable and can listen. Even leaders don't always get their way and probably shouldn't.
6. Talk to wise people. Don't ignore those who have been around for a while in leading through change. If they are resistant, take note. If you cannot get the key influencers on board with you to help you they will likely hurt you. I am not talking about laggards on the change scale but wise individuals of influence whom one needs to navigate successful change. If they balk, you may want to think about what you are proposing or the timing.
7. Don't lose people you don't need to lose. It is a truism that some people will get off the bus when there is major change but one can minimize the fallout by paying attention to the principles above. Yes, some may leave but don't give people a good reason to leave - which us usually by not leading change wisely, pushing too fast, not running process, or not identifying one's coinage properly. They more you lose the more potential fallout you have on your hands to deal with.
8. Never start to think this is my ministry and therefore I can get my agenda. No ministry is ever "my" ministry. It is "our" ministry together under the Lordship of Jesus. Just because I lead it does not mean I always get my way. If I expect others to be flexible and teachable so must I be. When leaders don't show the same flexibility they expect of those they lead, they are bound to get themselves into trouble.
All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence, are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.