Getting Management to Support Change

How do you get management to support change? At the risk of being overly simplistic, it starts with WIFM — What’s In It For Me? What are their goals? Of course, different leaders will have different goals, based on their function. The CFO tends to focus on reducing expenses and reducing risk. The VP of Sales and Marketing wants to increase revenue and/or market share. The VP of Operations wants to improve operating performance, whatever that means for their industry. And the CEO is probably focused on return to owners/shareholders.

So how will your change help them accomplish their goals? If you can bring hard data, they’ll be more apt to listen. Any numbers you present need to survive the “x2” test – corporate leaders automatically cut the proposed benefits in half and multiply the proposed expenses by 2 in their heads, because people proposing ideas tend to overstate the benefits and understate the costs. Your idea needs to still look good after they do that math.

Secondly, if you can have a low-cost, low-risk, quick-results trial run, they’ll be more likely to say yes. “Let 2 people try this, no more than 2 hours per week, for a month; we’ll need $500 for training” is much more attractive than “We’ll need to invest $250,000 to get started; we hope to have the first results in a year.”

Unfortunately, most leaders, and most staff, are overwhelmed with too many top priorities already. People are stretched so thin that they are not able to take on one more project, no matter how compelling your idea is. So your idea has to be more compelling than the next one in line, which will be started when one of the current projects gets finished, unless you can figure out how to not require any time from people in the organization.

Gary Langenwalter

Be Right or Be In Relationship – Your Choice

Every waking moment, you get to choose: you can be right or be in relationship. This is true everywhere: at work, at home, with your friends.

Life is that simple, and that difficult. Deciding that relationship is more important that being right means you consciously choose to “be wrong”, to be willing to let go of your hard-won truths. In almost all organizations, people are expected to be right – to make the sales forecast come true, to keep expenses to the budgeted amount, to spend only X minutes (or Y seconds) on a customer call… The Goal, Goldratt’s business novel that has sold more than 6 million copies, been translated into 21 languages, and taught in more than 200 colleges and universities, states, “The goal of a business is to make money.” The end of making money justifies the means of doing whatever it takes, as long as it is legal.

However, a little-heralded book (Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership, Sipe and Frick, 2009) demonstrates clearly that for-profit businesses that are based on relationship outperform numbers-based businesses by more than 2 to 1 (24% to 11% annual ROI). And Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” companies earned only 17.5% during the same period. The 11 servant-led companies include Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Marriott International, and FedEx.

Being right feeds the need to be in control. It manifests itself in power-over, in hierarchy, in fear. It assumes a zero-sum, win/lose, competitive world. It is based in competitive individualism, “it’s all about me.”

Being in relationship supports creativity and messiness and holism. It manifests itself in peer-to-peer, self-organized teams and groups, and in love (even in the workplace!) It creates a win/win, cooperative world, in which all persons benefit. It creates supportive community.

You can be right, or you can be in relationship. You get to choose, every waking moment.

I welcome your comments.

Gary Langenwalter