As a change agent, once the change initiative expands beyond your own span of influence, you need to rely on leaders in the organization to carry the change forward. Without their full support, the change fizzles. The trouble is, leaders often don’t properly support change even when they agree that it should happen.
The following are four things leaders do that indicate they may not fully support your change:
1. Exhibiting behaviors that work against change. Often leaders claim that they are on board with change, but their words and actions indicate otherwise. Sometimes, it’s a lack of self-awareness; they don’t see how the organizational change requires their own personal change or departmental change. They may see it as applying to and affecting everyone else but them. At other times, it’s a more deliberate resistance. Either way, if their behaviors aren’t better aligned with the change, the people who work for them will soon doubt the change themselves.
2. Blaming employees for not changing. Some leaders expect the worst up front. They don’t even want to try to change their area for fear of resistance or even sabotage by those who work for them. There are at least two things that may be going on in this situation. The leader may not believe in the change him- or herself; they are projecting their own doubts on their departments. Or, the leader may not have enough faith in their own leadership abilities to implement the changes. Leaders who expect defeat create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. Doing change their own way. When multiple leaders sponsor the change, employees end up feeling like they are the rope in a game of tug-of-war. Which leaders are present in the room determines the direction the change is going that day. Employees and change agents feel compelled to go in multiple directions, resulting in scope creep and wasted time. When multiple leaders send conflicting messages, it’s time to clarify the change and get some agreement.
4. Maintaining fiefdoms. Large changes usually require cross-functional collaboration by leaders. In the face of change, some leaders instead protect their departments and hoard their power. They become unwilling to share information and refuse to accept and apply outside ideas. In other words, they entrench their silos in an attempt to avoid change.
One of your greatest opportunities to influence the organization lies in getting the proper support of leaders for your change initiative. Watch for signs that leaders are not really supporting the change and then resolve to do something about it.