Welcome to Change Week on the blog! This is Part 1 of a 5 part blog series designed to answer your questions on leading change.
We’re celebrating the release of my new book Leading Change Without Losing It with a special, limited time 50% discount for Kindle and iBooks (or here for iBooks Canada). Plus we have some giveways and more (see below).
I get this question all the time: how do you lead change when you’re not the senior leader? That shouldn’t be a surprise. The reality is, far more people are NOT the senior leader than are the senior leader.
I appreciate the way Rob asked the question:
Sometimes people who are not the lead pastor or CEO, but the associate, might see needs for change that the key leader does not. How do you help them see the need for change and initiate it?
I think Rob’s already unlocked two keys. Deciding to “help them see the need” for change and “help them initiate it” is a great way to start thinking about the issue.
So here are five ways you can ‘lead up’ to your senior leader when you want to broker change:
1. Think cross-organizationally. Make sure you take some time to process the change you want to see. Think through how it impacts the entire organization. Understand that your senior leader may have budget restraints and many other interests to balance, like a board of directors or elder board. Show him or her that you understand that and you’re willing to be flexible on some points.
Showing your senior leader you understand the bigger picture is huge. I’ll disclose a bias here. When someone on my team comes to me with any idea and I realize they have thought it through cross-organizationally (how it impacts the entire organization), I am far more open to it than otherwise. They helped me do my homework. They showed me they’re leading at the next level. I try to never shut down ideas, but often before the person is done their presentation I’ve already thought through 15 implications of their idea. If they show me they’ve thought through the 15 implications before they got to my office, I’m completely impressed and very open. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m just saying it’s a true thing. And I think it’s true of most senior leaders.
2. Express desires, not demands. No one likes a demanding person. In fact, when someone demands something there’s something inside me that wants to not give them what they asked for. I don’t always follow that impulse, but expressing demands damages relationships. Instead, talk about what you desire. Show respect and tell him how you feel – don’t tell him how you think he should feel. And above all, don’t be demanding.
3. Explain the why behind the what. As Simon Sinek has so rightly pointed out, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Your best argument is not the what (we need to completely transform our church) or the how (here’s how you should do it). It’s the why (I think I’ve discovered a more effective way to reach families in our community and help parents win at home…can I talk to you about that?) The more you explain the why, the more people will be open to the what and the how. Lead with why. Season your conversation with why. And close with why.
4. Stay publicly loyal. Andy Stanley has said it this way: public loyalty buys you private leverage. It’s so true. If you start complaining about how resistant your senior leader is, not only does that compromise your personal integrity, he’s not dumb. He’ll probably hear about it and he will lose respect for you. In my mind as a senior leader, the team members who conduct themselves like a cohesive team always have the greatest private influence. Your public loyalty will buy you private leverage.
5. Be a part of the solution. If you’re discontent (which you should be, as we saw yesterday), it’s not that difficult to drift into the category of critic. Unless – that is – you decide to be part of the solution. Offer help. Run with your leader on the project. Be the most helpful you can be. Offer to do the leg work. Offer to bring your best ideas to the table every day. Offer to help in any way you can. You can’t build the future on critics. But you can build the future on people who want to be part of the solution.
Those are five ideas on how to lead change when you’re not the senior leader.
Non-senior leaders, what would you add?
Senior leaders, what other advice would you give?
For your chance to win a free copy of the book during launch week, tweet about the book, this post or change using the hashtag #changebook. Then, on Monday, December 17th I’ll select three winners who used the #changebook hashtag on twitter:
- Two will win a free copy of the book.
- One winner will win
- Copies of the book for their entire team (up to twelve copies); and
- A one hour video consultation with me to work through your specific change scenario with you.
Thanks for helping us spread the word.
Yesterday, on Day One of Launch, Leading Change Without Losing became the #1 best selling ministry book on Kindle and charted on numerous other Amazon best seller lists. I’m excited to imagine the difference that might make in so many churches and organizations. Let’s keep leading change together!