Friday, August 28, 2009

All the Way In

Not long ago, I was asked to implement a major organizational adjustment. The Army was changing and the team I led at the Army’s National Training Center needed to change along with it. It was time for a course correction and I was asked to make it happen.

Only problem was…I didn’t want to change. I was perfectly comfortable with the way things were. I was happy and my team was happy. The reasons may sound familiar:

-- This would be bad for morale for my team.
-- The skills which we had labored long and hard to develop would rapidly erode in the new organization.
-- We would not have the opportunities for growth and development in this mixed matrix sort of organization that we had in our current little stove-pipe.

So, I did what many of us do. I dragged my feet. I fought the change. I held on to the old way of doing business and did all I could to resist implementing the badly needed change to my team’s organizational structure. I held my ground.

But did you see anything missing from my reasoning above? How about the words…"customer" and…"mission?" That’s right…I had allowed myself to become focused inward and forgotten what we were all about. It wasn’t supposed to be what was good for me and my team but about our customer (in this case those we trained). Even worse, I had infected my team with a belief that we were more important than those we served, that the mission somehow revolved around us.

It was then that I learned that when it comes to major change, you must be “all the way in.” You cannot just dip your little pinky toe into the “change pool” and think that you are doing anyone any favors. This sort of go-slow approach only weakens the team and misses the mark regarding the bigger picture. Worse still, you can’t hide your attitude when resisting change. Your team will follow you – for better or for worse. You must be all the way in:

-- New hardware, software, or business processes? All the Way In!
-- Reshaping your organization? All the Way In!
-- Going after new customers or modifying your business model? All the Way In!
-- Some other change (and I hope you will share with me what that might be)? All the Way In!

(Now, lest you think that I am saying that leaders must be robots and never raise objections, stay tuned. We’ll cover that next!)

This may be hard for some of us to swallow. It certainly was for me. And I can assure you my team looked at me like I was crazy when I came into the office one morning singing a completely revolutionary new tune. But as their leader, it was the right thing to do. And from that moment, we were an improved team. More importantly, our customers, our mission, were instantly better for the shift as well.

And just like that…I was…all the way in. And that was good leadership. That made it…Leader Business.

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