What business schools don’t teach you about change management

Jun 03, 2021

Over the last two decades, I’ve sat in countless classrooms to learn about leadership and management. As a leadership nerd, of course, I’m fascinated by the latest theories. I love applying strategy, behavioural change, and psychology, even employment law. I can get lost in that world easily. But does it make a difference?

Sure there are helpful frameworks involved and inspiring leaders to follow. Sure my sights and heart are lifted, but do the lessons stick when you’re back in the workplace?
Don’t get me wrong. My masters’ thesis was around leading groups, and I’ve spent five intensive days learning about change management. The content was lively, with lots of deep thinking and transferable frameworks that I use with clients trying to shift their businesses, but time and time again, I’ve come back to this one simple truth.
Nothing prepares you for the actual application and the real secret behind success.
I’ve led change and mentored others through leading change. I know the theory, but until I’d made this one connection, it was just that – theory. You see, even the most beautifully research-informed plan can fall flat on its face – team members gossip, they don’t trust that the change will happen, at best you’ll achieve 20% of what you’re aiming for, at worst, you can damage morale and lose your star players.
Just investing time in this one foundational step changed everything.
As leaders, regardless of how much we think it is about what we say, it is about how we say it. No matter how you say it, if there’s a disconnect between what you say and how aligned that is to how you feel, you’re on a slippery slope. You can learn every trick to professionally present, but if you haven’t squared off your position, then you’ll never truly build trust among your followers.
Those emotions ooze out of every pore in that killer presentation. Whenever you get asked a tricky question, your automatic answer betrays the corporate line. When your guard is down, and someone asks you what you think, it comes out in that corridor conversation.
Invest time in reconciling where you are concerning change. Understand your position, move on from your experiences of poorly managed change, have your explicit definition of healthy change. Before you lead others, lead yourself.

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