Organizational change is a huge undertaking for leaders today. I have been there (in the midst of a merger) and I can admit now I was terrified. Terrified that the message of change would create more fear, division, more frustration and I would stand alone with little or no support. So how do we really lead change courageously and collaboratively particularly in an environment that is clearly diverse and divisive?
I have been reading a great book More Fearless Change Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising. I was given a copy of the book when I was on staff at the University of North Carolina Asheville. One of the authors, Mary Lynn Manns, and I were colleagues in the department of Accountancy and Management. I believe this book is a must read for leaders in today’s climate of change, change, and more change. This book identifies several useful patterns that we can employ.
I believe it all starts with authenticity. When leaders speak from the heart, when we stand on our faith and values, being emotionally vulnerable, we can connect with our people. People know when you are being real. The authors suggest trust and confidence are key when choosing to appeal to emotions of those involved. They also state it important to create an emotional connection. I remember when I was a young hotel manager; I struggled with being real. My people knew when was I not being authentic and would challenge me, to tell the truth. I was afraid to create an emotional connection because I was taught not to show my emotions. After all “being emotional” was totally seen as weak. I believe the times have changed, and now authenticity is a valued characteristic demonstrated by successful leaders.
It’s tough to lead change when you are not honest. I have learned, to tell the truth, and stand strong, without a waiver. I wished I had done that in my earlier days. I struggled to tell the “whole” truth because I was afraid of what would happen. Many of us have had to face tough situations and we have to make tough choices. Oh yes, it is risky. Leadership is risky. I have been reprimanded, and even terminated for speaking my truth. But guess what? I survived. I am not suggesting to be rude and reckless, however, I am suggesting the importance of being honest, intentional and courageous. I believe people are inspired when they see who you really are, and when they understand why you are promoting a particular change. People are inspired to action when they are included, trusted, and “let in” to making a change.
I believe you can lead collaboratively and courageously when you start with the mindset that you are at your best to handle change…together. Collaboration is defined as teamwork, alliance, and cooperation. The diversity of thought, age, culture, etc. directed in a healthy manner can bring about exciting opportunities, solutions, and results. I challenge those of us who lead teams to take one step further – to be intentionally inclusive in our meetings and problem-solving sessions. What if we were trained to see perspectives missing from the table, and to consider stakeholders that are not represented? I believe we would save time, be more effective in solving complex problems, and more importantly, we would be more effective in our work because people would feel valued.
At Cultural Intelligence Works, we believe that cultural diversity is an asset. And we know that individuals, teams, and organizations excel when they connect and learn across cultural divides. But ill-equipped diverse teams don’t automatically perform well. They have to be led by courageous and collaborative leaders who are committed to authentic cultural diversity and inclusion.
Elaine Robinson Beattie
Getting to the Point!