Say no to change management and yes to progress leadership
Our world and lives are always changing but not always progressing, states Dean Lindsay. And herein lies the problem with change management. No one desires or plans to change. Instead, he argues, we desire and plan to progress. Change is inevitable, progress is a choice. All progress is change but not all change is progress.
“In a time of continual transformation, committed leaders should focus on inspiring and influencing progress, not supervising change. Leaders should position challenges as opportunities for advancement and not merely problems to be solved to get us back to where we were,” he says in his new book Progress Leadership: Say No to Change Management.
Progress, Lindsay explains, means forward movement, advance and gradual betterment. It takes awareness, character, discipline and effort to progress. And it calls for a new type of leader, one who is not merely a change agent but a progress agent.
“Organisations are most successful at initiating significant change when the reasons to act connect personally with the individual employees making the alteration in behaviour. If the reasons don’t connect with the individual, then the planned progress will be viewed as merely change and will be resisted or at least not acted on. Progress agents don’t just tell people what to do, we include others in the progress as well as the process and work to positively influence thoughts and feelings by sharing reasons to act,” Lindsay writes.
In other words, it’s the internalised reason behind the goal that propels people into action rather than the goal itself. Progress leaders therefore need to focus on people’s feelings during transformational times – what is often described, says Lindsay, as the “human side of change management.” But, he asks, what other side is there?
“Some might say the organisation’s side. So then, the organisation and the humans are on different sides? That’s the problem right there. Organisations are formed by people (humans) partnering to get their wants and needs met by helping other people (humans) get their wants and needs met. Leaders who do not take the individual into account and do not plan for the human side of progress often find themselves scratching their heads about where their plans went wrong.”
To lead progress in today’s fast-changing, challenging world leaders need to first empower their mindsets.
“Often, when the going gets tough, the mind has to get tough to get going. It may be uncomfortable and even painful, but we must shift our focus to the possible if we are to harness our potential. Each of us has unbelievable potential, which, for the most part, is only limited by our minds. It takes guts to confront an uncertain future. But that future, though unpredictable, also brings the possibility of progress,” says Lindsay.
So how can leaders move from change agent to progress agent? Lindsay identifies six Ps of progress to consider:
Pleasure is a state of happiness, gratification, delight, joy, gladness and satisfaction, says Lindsay. This is all about leaders who truly care about the wellbeing of the people they lead. Everything from fair pricing, friendly, polite co-workers and customer-service representatives, clean stores (inside and out), humour, good hygiene and solid eye contact all act to encourage others to feel pleasure.
Prestige is the level of respect at which one is regarded by others. We all want dignity, to feel we have the esteem of others and to feel that we are important and have influence. Few of us wish to live in obscurity or feel insignificant and no one wants to feel mediocre. Progress agents enable a culture of respect and recognition.
- Pain avoidance
As Lindsay says, there are a lot of words for pain. From regret, disappointment and despair to agony, suffering and hurt, we all feel pain during our lives. The feeling of pain is one of the main factors that organises meaning in our world and psyche. Therefore pain avoidance is a key pursuit. In companies a good health benefits package is a pain-avoidance package. If we can feel the future pain now in enough detail, then we will be compelled to do everything and anything to avoid that pain in the future.
Like pain there are many words for power. But for Lindsay the word that best sums up the true feeling of power is the word ‘choice’, the power to determine our own thoughts and actions. Power is used in many ways to encourage people to choose to act, feel and behave in ways other than how they may have initially planned or would habitually react. Progress agents show how the choices we want others to make will bring them more choices, more power and more progress. But it is still each individual’s choice as to what to think and believe and how to act.
So much of life is perception: perceived benefits, perceived value and perceived profit. Co-workers and employees need to perceive that the organisation they work for (partner with) is heading in a direction that will be profitable for them. Likewise, prospects and customers need to perceive through our guidance and education that our product or service will fill their needs, meet their requirements and help them profit. The promise of profit helps form expectations.
- Peace of mind
In simple terms, peace of mind is acceptance and contentment. It means inner calmness, quiet mind, serenity, a clear conscience, safety, composure and contentment. It also means an absence of mental stress or anxiety. Solid caring leadership offers peace of mind. Strong business relationships offer peace of mind. Good benefit packages offer peace of mind. Money in the bank offers peace of mind. Meaningful work offers peace of mind.
We live in a “next big thing” world, says Lindsay. As leaders, we should be careful not to mistake different for progress. Just because something is new or flashy does not mean it is right or adds meaning to our work or lives. However, because all progress is change, people who claim to be 100% resistant to any change are often choosing to be resistant to the possibility of progress. “Progress does not demand perfection, only persistence,” he concludes.
Dean Lindsay is the president of The Progress Agents, an education organisation dedicated to empowering progress in sales, service and workplace culture. He is the Host of The DEAN’s List on the C-Suite TV Network, and has been hailed as ‘America’s Progress Agent’ by The Strategic HR Forum
As leaders, we should be careful not to mistake different for progress. Just because something is new or flashy does not mean it is right or adds meaning to our work or lives