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Leading Change: Pick Up Your Room (But No One Else's)

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

We do not need magic to change the world; we already carry all the power we need inside ourselves: we can imagine better. - J.K. Rowling

This morning, my wife Holly caught me red-handed, straightening up my 12-year-old’s room.

This, not 2 hours after we both communicated to our precious Katie directly that she would go nowhere, see no one, do nothing until she removed the Ω eaten sandwich, empty sprite cans, soiled laundry . . . and only the Creator knows what else... to reveal what once was, and could be again ñ a nicely appointed pre-teen bedroom.

As Holly saw (and shared in a manner unfit to print here) ...

I was serving no purpose or one by doing Katie’s job for her. Not me, not the family, and indeed not Katie.

Sponsors, Change Leaders, Consultants ñ Are you picking Up Someone Else’s Roomy? Trying to get someone else to pick up yours?

If your organization is engaged in change -- and it is -- there are literally & figuratively places you cannot go, people, you cannot see, and things you cannot do until your room is picked up . . . and Only You can do it.

Attention Change Sponsors:


- YOU must communicate where you are going & why

- YOU must consistently live your message -- with visible actions that overtly model and support the shifts you are asking of the organization

- YOU must distribute the necessary resources (technical, human, financial) to get the real work of change done.

Your sharper, more seasoned Change Team members will not let you try to peddle these responsibilities off on them anyway ñ but then again, Change Leadership Mastery is not exactly the norm in most organizations. So, save yourself some heartache and your organization some money . . . Pick Up Your Room.

** Yes, those with the juice to do so throughout the organization must do all this. The gurus call it cascading Sponsorship. I but if the video from the top of the organization does not match the audio from the middle . . . this change (and the next, and the next) will fail, period.

2) Now, ñ Get Out of The Way -- and Let Your Change Team Do Their Jobs.

Sponsoring Change while simultaneously running the business is a full-time gig. This is where your head and heart belong -- being a good SPONSOR, period. Driving change at the tactical level -- even if you are good at it (and you are not) -- is an irresponsible way to invest your time, energy, talents, and political capital.

Attention Change Execution Team (Change Leaders, Consultants, etc.):

1) You cannot run (only) the second Ω of the play.

Not in this game ñ the price & risk of failure is just too high.

You need to be there WHEN THE PLAYS ARE FIRST CALLED ñ at the very onset -- to guide your execs in crafting the strategy. (And do not whine about not being invited to the locker room until halftime. If that is the case, find another team ñ this one will lose anyway.)

2) Beware the Lazy Sponsor.

In most cases, laziness is less correct than simply uneducated -- uneducated about what it takes to sponsor change properly (effectively express, model, and reinforce).

In any case . . . Do not Pick Up Their Room (try to do their job for them).

I know ñ sounds ridiculous, but the allure can be powerful. It is the fool’s gold of our arena. I get calls daily from OD / HR folks and internal consultants trying to take on significant change efforts without real sponsorship.

Bright, credentialed professionals have been lulled into the idea that they can be surrogate sponsors -- because they have been given some training budget and project management headcount for their change projects. After all, they are the resident change experts anyway . . . and "Joe Bob" Sponsor is just too busy completing the latest merger.

The next time your Execs try to throw money (instead of genuine sponsorship) behind a significant change initiative, invest it in its Bills or double-up on the shrimp trays at the next retreat . . . Either will produce a much healthier ROI than even the most educated and skilled workforce engaged in ill-sponsored change.

Got to Go . . . Katie left a flip-flop downstairs, and the dog thinks it is a ribeye. - Stone

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