Leadership Skills: The Most Important Force Behind Change

Whether you’re a big corporation or small business, getting employees to embrace change doesn’t come easy. Find out what skills a leader needs in order to implement changes with less resistance.

I don’t know if you ever read The Farmer’s Almanac. It’s fascinating. It talks about a huge variety of topics — but never politics. When asked about that, a spokesman said, “The last time we mentioned politics was in 1824. At that time we said Congress talked too much and spent too much. We haven’t found it necessary to make an utterance since.”

They’re probably right. They haven’t seen any need to change their stance on political commentary. They haven’t “seen any light” or “felt any heat.”

So they keep away from that topic.

That’s very much the way people are. They keep on doing what they’ve always done — even if it’s not the best way of doing things. So IF YOU’RE IN THE BUSINESS OF BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN OTHERS…, if you’re a team leader or a parent, YOU’VE GOT TO LEARN ABOUT THE FORCES OF CHANGE.

Have you ever heard the saying: “People Change when they see the light or feel the heat”? The two forces of change are light and heat. Perhaps you’ve noticed, but there’s nothing subtle about light. Darkness disappears the very instant light is applied.

Such was the case in a diner one bleak, rainy morning. Several people were there, but no one was talking. And one particularly depressed man sat hunched over the counter. At the end of the diner there was a young mother with her little girl. All of a sudden the child broke the sullen silence by asking, “Don’t we say grace here, Mommy?”

Behind the counter, the big burly chef looked at the little girl and growled, “Sure we do, honey. Will you say it for us?” And then he glared at the others and hollered, “Bow your heads!”

One by one the heads went down. The little girl bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, “Come Lord Jesus…”

Instantly the atmosphere in the diner changed. People began talking to each other. The dreary diner turned into a home — all because a little light was injected into the situation. The depressed man at the counter said, “All of a sudden my heart seemed to open up and light came into my mind. Life began to change.”

That’s the way light works. It pushes out the darkness in your soul, your marriage, your team, and your corporate environment. So take a look around, and ask yourself if there is more light or more darkness. If you decide there’s more darkness, remember you don’t have to settle for that.

Instead plan to be a Visionary.

You need to be somewhat of a dreamer who sees the “light.” You need to see the future as being bigger, better, and brighter in some way, and you need to believe that future is entirely attainable. Good leaders do this for their employees.

This “visionary thing” is a “powerful thing.” As Frank L. Gaines said, “Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.”

Having vision is a highly creative thing. Albert Gyorgi knew that. He said, “Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.”

If you’re a visionary, you attract the attention of others. There is a good chance you will gain their respect and followership as well.

It’s like the story told about an old European visionary. He claimed he could see a cathedral burning to the ground in a village some 45 miles away.

When a man from the village appeared the next day, he said the cathedral was untouched by fire. But the locals weren’t at all disturbed. “So what if he was wrong?” They said, “Look how far he could see.”

People are like that. They are attracted to visionaries or those who can “see.” But they become highly motivated when you…

Help Them See The Light

I like the approach David A. Nadler talked about in his book, Champions of Change. He talked about working with top executives at Corning who were trying to change their operating environment.

Nadler brought in a mock-up cover of “Fortune” magazine dated three years in the future. A large photo of their CEO adorned the cover, with a huge headline that read, “Corning Triumphs!”

The executives were asked to imagine, that if they opened the magazine, they would see a story about themselves. The headline would read, “Corning Achieves Victory With Dramatic Change In Operating Style.” They were told their own picture would appear above a caption that began, “The key thing I did was…”

The team was asked to fill in the blank, answering the question: “What was the biggest thing I did when we started our change process that insured our success today?”

It was a great process. It helped people get a picture of where they were, where they wanted to go, and what they needed to do. I’ve had great success with a similar process, and I think you will too.

It is equally important to share your vision.

The more people hear about the light, the more they’ll see it. So you’ve got to talk the talk. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The top twenty-five executives at one company, for example, agreed to talk about their corporate vision four times a day. They would find opportunities in their daily conversations to bring in the vision.

Twenty-five executives, four times a day, over six months — that’s 12,000 repeats of the vision.

You’ve got to “talk” about the light. You’ve got to “talk the talk.” And then you’ve got to “walk the walk.” If people see you saying one thing and doing another, the “light” goes out very quickly. But if your people see your words and behavior in sync, good things begin to happen.

One airline, for example, was pushing a new customer-focused vision. To drive home the point, the CEO personally responded within 48 hours to any customer complaint letter he received.

Or the Pentagon, some time ago, needed to tighten their belts because of shrinking defense budgets. A general showed his commitment to the change by taking a subway to the airport and flying commercial — rather than fly a special, expensive Air Force jet put aside for him.


Want to see a bit more change in your coworkers, your employees, or even your kids? Stop and think. Are you adding light to the situation? Or are you bringing darkness? And are you “talking the talk” and “walking the walk?”

Alan is a renowned keynote speaker and seminar leader for more than 25 years and has delivered more than 2000 programs for small groups to Fortune 500 audiences of thousands. Contact Dr. Alan Zimmermanfor a free consult about working with your team. Call 800-621-7881 or email alan@drzimmerman.com. Visit his web site at http://www.drzimmerman.com

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