At The Change Maker Group we call all of our team Change Makers. So, whatever their specialism everyone is referred to as a Change Maker – whether people are experts on innovation, leadership, team development, delivering change, coaching, programme management or whatever, they are all Change Makers. Fundamentally we all focus on delivering personal, team or organisational change, helping people and teams be the best they can be.
Being a Change Maker in our business and home lives requires a focused set of behaviours. You wouldn’t expect a Change Maker to say “You’re on your own mate” – you would expect a team-based and collaborative approach to any problem. The Change Maker is unlikely to be unsupportive when someone needs help, and probably would aim to mentor, coach or assist – even if the help wasn’t asked for. Change Makers will do all the technical and practical thinking, but they will also consider the people impacts and how the people affected feel.
What about leadership and Change Makers? I once worked with a Director who was sponsoring a major change programme, and (to be fair) the Director was really trying hard to be a good sponsor – he was very visible and demonstrated a deep engagement with the programme. The team were working exceptionally hard to deliver the programme. Far beyond the call of duty. One day I pointed out to the Director that it would be good to take the team out for a “beer and pizza” – to demonstrate that their exceptional effort was recognised. Know what the Director said? “Yes that’s fine, just tell me when you want me to do it”. So, in one fell swoop this Director had gone from being an ostensibly good leader, to one that needed nursemaiding and cajoling to exhibit the leadership qualities – it was less “we will do this” to “we will do this if I really have to”. The Change Maker would have had their eye on what colleagues were doing, considering how their words and actions as a leader are received, and thinking about how they could contribute to the maintenance of the motivation of people around them.
When you come across Change Makers you don’t expect conflict and competition – you expect that there may be robust discussions, but they will be essentially conciliatory. It’s not that Change Makers are weak, it’s just that we endeavour to understand the behaviours that we exhibit and the consequence of those behaviours. If I am working with someone, I am not likely to start with a conversation about how bad everything is and how they need to improve – we know that going through the front door in this way is going to get reflective behaviours, with a dose of blame and retribution. No-one will feel great, and any relationship that has been built up will be stymied. Much better would be an approach that discusses how WE think things are going, how WE might improve the outcome, how WE can better work together – everyone comes out with their sense of wellbeing intact, relationships are maintained, and trust is improved, even if the outcome is ultimately the same as the ‘front door’ approach.
Change Makers work in all sorts of roles and partnership thinking is key. Some have roles where they have to work with people from different organisations, perhaps a software vendor or a facilities management business. In the old days the behaviours with these third parties would be about outsourcing risk, about adversarial coexistence and a ‘transaction’ – “just hurry up and deliver the software and get out of my hair”. A Change Maker is more likely to think about partnership – and exhibiting the behaviours that are consistent with partnership working. Over the years I have often worked with third parties and spent time, through day-to-day operational activities or through running specific partnership workshops, trying to change the behaviours between people working for two different organisations. A lot of success comes from understanding why employees from the other party work in a particular way, slower than anticipated delivery actually might be a reflection of the strong governance and control regimes required in a FM partner, or that a focus of corporate strategy in the software vendor is on work:life balance so don’t expect emails answered at midnight every day. However beyond that a partnership means building trusted relationships, working together and putting the contract in the bottom drawer, building teamwork between individuals rather than thinking a legal entity is delivering the service, and so on. That’s how a Change Maker would think.
A Change Maker wouldn’t expect to do all the talking. They wouldn’t be saying “listen to me”. Change Makers listen. They want to understand what other people’s fears, worries and aspirations are so that they can help them articulate a reasoned way forward. They don’t do things which would consequently elicit behaviours of disinterest and disengagement. Change Makers want to get people engaged in solving a problem, getting buy-in and at the same time getting the solution to be the best it can be by using the skills and experiences of the stakeholders affected.
Building trust is critical for a Change Maker. You wouldn’t expect a Change Maker to say one thing and do something else, or work around the back of a key stakeholder. Building trust is a pillar of successful change – trust has to built between all parties involved in a change, and it is a function of the actions of individuals and teams, rather than relying merely on words. As Change Makers we often spend huge amounts of time “getting the message right”. This often derives from a fear of ‘politics’, of not being able to deal with a particular challenge – in my view there is a shifting balance towards “getting the delivery right” in the sense that the message is the message, but with a rigorous approach to the delivery as well as the development of the message there is more chance of building the relationships and trust needed. It may be painful, but people will respect you for being up-front and honest, and communicating in person rather than emailing a missive. They will almost certainly engage better with the realities of the change.
Change Maker behaviours don’t just apply to our work life of course. People are people and don’t switch off when they leave home, or don’t vary their personalities and egos between their home and work. Normally… but then they are people, so we can never be sure.
David Walker is a Programme and Project Management expert and, with other members of The Change Maker Group, can support your change programmes. Subscribe for more insight, ideas and inspiration on making change happen…