MYTH #5: YOU CAN HIRE AN OUTSIDE EXPERT TO BE THE CHANGE AGENT
Well, this one hurts a little:) … As someone who styles themselves as an external “wise guy” who can help facilitate change, part of me wants to shout “Except me! Hire me!“.
However, a small amount of reflection tells me this myth is alive and well. I have experienced first-hand the emotions and conflict around bringing in outside experts who turn out to have only a well-honed presentation style and sales pitch, but who ultimately do not help the organization change. Well, they do influence change, but not for the better.
Actually, the best external consultants have one specific focus: Making the team or organization healthy and effective enough to fire them.
When someone has invested significant effort to making themselves appear very necessary to an organization, changing that earlier perception is hard to do … unless the outside expert is very good at their work and really understands the role of the facilitator.
The best summation of the argument against this myth presented in the book is this statement:
“The best position to lead teams out of resistance is the position that has the authority to hold the team accountable and support the team in overcoming resistance.”
This deceptively straight-forward statement has several inferences which I firmly believe about leadership, teams, and change.
AUTHORITY MATTERS …
We can talk all day about leading from wherever you are in the organizational structure, but being in a position with authority facilitates doing so ~ if the person with the position uses it for positive growth.
One very damaging tacit assumption in this myth is that we cannot handle change ourselves, but must turn to some outside source, who will magically do what we poor mortals were unable to do.
An outside expert can offer tools and perspective. They can skillfully lead groups to discover what they already know and help them make their goals become accomplishments. They are contributors, but not necessarily leaders.
ACCOUNTABILITY MATTERS …
We are often good at stating what should happen and why, but we also sometimes forget to add what will happen as a result
Accountability is not established by statements like “Violations of this policy will result in significant disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” That’s no accountability, that’s legalese in HR clothing.
Accountability is when both the negative and positive possible outcomes are clearly delineated, along with the full range of specific responses.
Of course, then you have to actually follow through by making what you say will happen … well, happen:)
SUPPORT MATTERS …
As noted above, accountability includes not just clearly stating and enforcing standards and expectations, but also has to do with identifying what and who is working, reward that behavior, and nurture more of it.
This implies an ongoing role for those who lead and manage in an organization to support and nurture the momentum of positive change.
After all, these are the people who have the institutional knowledge and engagement to be the change agents … they just need the right tools.
If I had unlimited space and you had unlimited attention, we could discuss the essential role of organizational culture in all this, but that’s a topic for another day.
Looking inside for strength and wisdom in the Heartland ….
BACKGROUND:Reut Schwartz-Hebron of the Key Change Institute discusses five myths in her recently published book “The Art and Science of Changing People Who Don’t Want to Change”. This post is number 5 in a short series based on this great new resource for those of us who work with people and change. Click on the titles to read: Part 1 - Personalities are fixed Part 2 - Belief that more information and better logic will change people Part 3 - For people to change, they first have to trust the change agent Part 4 - It’s best to avoid resistance unless it’s actively blocking progress