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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #94: Change Agents – Talking Change or Making Change

July 8, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #94: Change Agents – Talking Change or Making Change

Effective leaders know that finding innovative ways to grow and improve their business is a critical part of their role. To do so requires change. In fact, all progress requires changes. And, while many leaders see the need for change, many struggle implementing change. In today’s episode, Chris and Perry ask five questions to help you move forward while overcoming natural resistance others may have to the change you are leading.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley: Welcome to The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell’s facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining!

Perry: If you couldn’t tell, we were smiling there.

Chris: Now, listen, if you’re an avid listener, the first thing you probably thought was, “Holy cow! Has the quality improved back to what it used to be?” And so, we’re grateful to Jake who handles all of our production and we’re back in the office. He does have us social distancing.

Perry: It’s excessive, it’s got to be like ten, twelve feet!

Chris: We are across the room from each other, and so if you feel like we’re yelling at each other, that might just be the case, but we are giddy to be back together and in the same room, and just hopefully we can add value to you today. As we work through this content, really, that’s relevant to what we’re all going through personally and professionally, we’re going to talk about change over the next four episodes. And so, we’re really excited about that. Real quick, just before we get started, just a quick reminder, if you are interested in downloading the Learning Guide to follow along on our lesson today, if you have some questions for Perry and I, comment, if you want to learn more about some of the virtual trainings that we’re doing, don’t hesitate to go to, and you’ll be able to find that information there. So, today’s topic, and I’m very excited about this because I’m always looking to get some change, right? Give you a dollar, you can give me some change.

Perry: That’s exactly what we’re talking about.

Chris: That’s right. So, we’re going to talk about change agents, right? Talking change or actually making change. Talk to us, Perry, a little bit about what you’re thinking in regards to this topic.

Perry: Well, it’s interesting. It’s an election year, as most people know. If you didn’t know, it’s an election year, and it’s always funny that no matter who’s in, the other, it’s time for change. It’s time for change. Always a little disappointed about what really happens later, that’s talking change. Are we really making change? And if you’re an effective leader, I’ve just found that you really can’t wait four years to talk about that next change. It really is the number one job of a leader is to keep growing the organization and moving things forward and growing the people and all progress requires change. And I think that most leaders do, in fact, see the need for change, but they struggle to really execute on that change.

Chris: Yeah, so when you think about that, and I like the way that you just talked about it, they see it, but they don’t necessarily execute on it. I think back over even just some of my leadership experiences and that would be true. And then you begin to question yourself, “Well, why is that true?” And you think about the fact that maybe fear gets into that, maybe lack of control, but think about this, and I love this statement you gave me which is, “If there’s no need for change, there’s no need for leaders.”

Perry: You can tweet that.

Chris: Yeah, @PerryHolley, right?

Perry: Yeah, that’s right.

Chris: And @JohnMaxwellCompany. But I’ve heard John say, you know, the Latin for status quo, which is, I love it, John just making it simple, right? For us put it on the bottom shelf here, is the mess we’re in right now, and you got to be able to change that. So, if we’re not going to think about change as leaders, we’re going to stay in the same rut, and when times are good as leaders, we develop bad habits. And so, we got to make sure that even in times of good and things are really profitable, and we’re just humming that we’re still thinking about change. Everybody’s thinking about change right now. Right? Because we’re in a different stage and a different set, and so, we just want to really challenge you the next couple episodes, really think about the change that you and your organization’s need to go through. Now, when you say change, I know the first thing that I think about and others do is, “Well, how does that affect me?” Right? So, at times, you’re going to face resistance from others, and some of the changes that you’re going to make, and it’s not easy, and it’s difficult. It’s a difficult battle in leadership. And so, I think the other thing besides even just fear and losing control is that people also just, they don’t know if they’re going to live up to the change that you’re putting in place, and so, there’s all these things that come into play with inside your head as a leader, inside the head of those that are on your team you have influence with and we just want to unpack that and talk a little bit about it.

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Perry: Yeah, so you hit it a couple times, make sure it’s not missed at all because people fear change. People are afraid of change, and that’s not true at all. You said it twice, what they’re afraid of is losing control and a great friend, coach to me put that in my mind years ago and really helped me a lot to start realizing that when I am instituting change in the organization or on the team, people are not really fearing so much the change. Change is a part of life, if you didn’t change you, you never would have driven a car, gone on a date, gotten married, you wouldn’t have done anything if you didn’t embrace the change. What we fear is losing the control, and that’s what you hit on right away. We’ll do about anything to maintain control, stay in control, gain more control. Those are the things—and I’ll do whatever changes I have to, to make good controls. So, when I’m thinking about my organization and the teams that I lead, and how are they feeling about change, I want to be thinking about that, the feeling of losing control is affecting them because that’s what they’re going to—people will pay attention to where your tension is, when it starts feeling bad, I’ll start taking action. But can I actually see that up front and be intentional? Second thing I picked up was I think it was Andy Andrews quote, and I do this for my team, when they’ll say, “Why do we need to change? Isn’t everything just fine?” And the status quo, the mess we’re in. He said, “Are you doing the best you can?” “Yes.” “Are you doing the best that can be done?” “Uh, nope.” The answer is always no to that. So, you think, I’m always asking my teams, “Are we doing the best we can?” Of course, we are. “Are we doing the best that can be done?” Probably not. What’s the next level?

Chris: Yeah, and I think, leaders, we need to, some of what Perry just said I want to hit on real quick is when you talked about being in control, understand this…we talk a lot about how you’re wired, and your hard wiring is going to determine how you feel about control of things. And so, that’s going to be your receptivity, if that’s a word, of changes. Same thing with your team, which is why understanding them is so important. I also think that one of the things that I’m learning, the lessons I’m learning right now is I’ve got to be comfortable in uncertainty, right? When you are active about change, you will be in uncertainty and one of my tendencies is to lean towards, kind of, being a perfectionist, and that also is, almost like a negative attribute to change, I got to release that, I got to know that as I go through change, things aren’t going to be perfect, and so, there are lots of things that kind of go through my mind as a leader in regards to change that we’re just going to kind of share with you. So, Perry’s developed five questions to help you and your team overcome resistance to change; and we’re just going to give these five to you. We want to keep them very simple, and we’ll talk a little bit about them. But the application for today and the takeaway is, man, I want you to write these five questions down and almost use it as your decision-making filter when you get ready to implement a change. So, the first one is—and Perry, I’ll let you talk a little bit about this, “Are the conditions right for the change?”

Perry: Yeah, it’s easy as a leader to say, “Let’s just go and do that.” But I think people see things the way, I see things the way I am, not the way things really are. And so, if I’m feeling, you know, overworked, I don’t have the right resources, we’re scrambling to get things done, it feels like the wrong time to take on something new, I’m going to be more resistant to that. I think as a leader, I really want to consider the current conditions and maybe there’s a little pre-work I need to do as a leader to make sure that they have—everybody, we’re always overworked. There’s always plenty to do. But the feeling that people have will determine, if they know they have the resources, and it’s just a heavy time and we’re in the middle of something, that’s fine. But if you really don’t have the resources, they really don’t have the mindset of being able to get past where they are now. I might be able to help those current conditions and help people be a little more receptive.

Chris: Yeah, it’s all about the Law of Timing. And you could do some research, and John, obviously, has the Law of Timing, some content there. It definitely could be the right decision, just the wrong timing for the change. And so, as you ask yourself those questions and you think through that, don’t allow that to deter you from making that change. It’s just, “Hey, when will the conditions be right for that change?” All right, so I love this next one, and I don’t know if this is a question you ask yourself, or this is a question the team would be asking, once you tell about the change, and that question is, “You want us to do what?!” You know, like we’re like, we’re surprising them, right? I can just see it. We go into a meeting, and we’re like, “You want us to do what, Perry?!”

Perry: Yeah, I probably wrote that question wrong, but it really is from there, “You want us to do—” Surprising people with a new initiative that requires change is like losing control. In this surprise, you just lost control. And it’s really a recipe for disaster. I think to help maintain that feeling of control that you want to do the advanced work necessary to help people feel they have a voice in what’s occurring. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. But you know, one thing I’ve always done is just letting it out, “Here’s what I’m thinking, what do you think?” Asking for a point of view, actually being a little quiet and asking them to talk about what’s possible, and then even though I may already have a plan in my head, giving them a voice with that.

Chris: Yeah, it makes me think of, again, another law, which is the Law of Buy-in, and I think we should back up, as leaders, think about this, and in this moment, we’re talking about change, but I want you to back up a little bit in your relationship with the team and those individuals, and your team is going to buy into you first. So, have you done what you needed to do prior to these changes that you’re making, in order for your team to kind of buy into you first? That’s the key there. Leaders, you are going to get a ton of resistance if your people don’t buy into you, as a leader. I loved what you said just about, man, let them be part of the process. Have those meetings before the meeting, have a voice. And here’s another question that I like to ask whenever you’re getting ready to do this, when you’re having those conversations, and you’re asking them questions, ask this question: “Who else should I be talking to before we make this change?” Because you have to remember, our lens is a little bit different than the maybe the team’s lens and where they’re at, and you know, they’re on the front lines. And so, we could easily go make a change without truly having taken into consideration everybody that it would’ve affected.

Perry: That’s a great point! When we were in sales training about stakeholders, who are the stakeholders? We always asked the question, “Who else cares?” Who else is going to be affected by this and make sure I just have the, you know, have the meeting before the meeting, have conversations with people.

Chris: Yeah. All right, number three, “That would be nice, but why now?” Right? That’s another question you’re going to probably receive from the team.

Perry: Yeah, this speaks to really the “why”, do they understand the purpose and that your teammates, I think they’ll engage more when they know the purpose of the change and how that outcome is going to generate the new condition that you’re having. I think most people want—actually, everybody on my team wants to succeed. Everybody wants us to win. Everybody wants the business to grow. It seems like if we just keep doing what we’re doing status quo, it’ll do that, but it won’t because everything around you is changing. So, we need to change but why are we doing that? What is the purpose in that? And I think once you start with “why”, they pretty much, they’ll have a voice in that but the buy-in happens quickly.
Chris: Yeah, I think the more you remove the cloudy, murky water in front of the chains, the less resistance you may get, and the more understanding, buy-in that you’ll get. I think at times, also, it’s good to talk about the consequences of not changing. If you don’t make this decision, if you don’t make this change, this is where we could be, so that they can see a different perspective from what you’re thinking about as a leader and getting them to buy-in and embrace the change. All right, question number four, this goes back to something similar to what we talked about early on, which is: “Hey, what’s in it for me? Like, this change…like, if I’m going to go along with this, like, what’s in it for me?”

Perry: Yeah, they probably don’t mean that as selfishly as I made it sound in that question, but it really comes down to people do things for their reasons, not yours. And giving them that reason why, that purpose, that understanding where we’re going, the bigger picture, it really helps the team not only understand how it’s going to help the business, but how is it going to affect them personally, individually. They’re more likely to embrace a change if they, again, it comes back to control. “You’re telling me that I may be in some discomfort here in the short run, but overall, we’ll be in this position at the end of this.” “Yes.” “Okay, now I know that control is within my grasp.”

Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, let’s jump into the last one here. Number five, “Where are you?” Meaning they’re talking to you, leader. “Where are you going?” That’s another question to think through in this process. What do you mean by that?Perry: Yeah, that I’ve seen this happen again and again, where the leader basically comes in, dumps in the middle of the table, what’s going to happen and then leaves the team, doesn’t really continue to check in with the team, doesn’t listen to the team, doesn’t observe what’s going on, I find that if the leader is also involved and committed and a part of the process of change, the better things are and it doesn’t mean that you’re maybe in the midst of all the work with them, but you are a part of it, you’re present. And I’ve seen this time and again, when they invite us in to come and speak, “This is most important thing, please give all your attention to Perry and we’re really going to make a difference. We’re all going to learn and grow. And I got to go, I’m out.” And I hear the door leaving at the back. Well, people don’t respond well to that. And I think the more committed and present you are, the better they’re going to embrace the challenge.

Chris: I see that lived out and even just changing away from change for just a minute, one of the greatest things that I see that John does in a growth mindset is whenever he introduces a speaker, or we host an event or , like, he’s right there on the front row, he’s taking notes, and then he gets up and says, “Let me tell you what I learned, you know, from this.” That’s just showing leadership like, there’s the leader right there, like he didn’t run out of the room, and people aren’t saying, “Hey, where did you go?!”

Perry: We talked about how the people are watching you all the time. You know, if you just come in and say, “Go and do.” When John says, “A leader doesn’t say, ‘Go’. He says, ‘Let’s go.’” And you’re in it with him.

Chris: Yeah, leadership is a visual sport. Hey, so as we wrap up just a couple thoughts for you, and then I’m a throw it back to Perry and he can kind of close for us. But man, change is inevitable, and I think we’ve seen that more than ever now. But leaders, I think, you need to be prepared for that, you need to think about it, you need to encourage change inside your culture, inside your organization, we need to help kind of create that. The takeaway for today is these five simple questions like, if you were to go through and just write these down and keep them somewhere and say, “Man, I’m going to change X, Y, or Z.” Or, “This change is happening.” What are the answers that my team would provide for these questions, and I would provide? This is a great quote, I just want to kind of leave you with, in regards to making sure you’re having the right conversations, you’re understanding different perspectives, because we’re not encouraging you to go out there and just change everything, right? Take all kinds of risks, but this is something I have on my board right now that I kind of look at and so I wrote it down, just kind of share with you guys as we kind of wrap up and it says, “Your success depends on the risks you take or the changes you make.” In today’s terms we’re talking about, but then it says, “Your survival depends on the risks or changes you avoid.” Success is the ones that you take and make. Right? Your survival may be the risks or the change that you avoid. And the only way to really truly get that perspective is to begin to have conversations with your team and those that are involved and will be impacted by the change.

Perry: Super! Well, good deal. Thank you, again, Chris, for the great concepts. And just a reminder, there’s a learner guide for this at, you can download that there. Also, leave us a comment or a question if you have that. We love hearing from you. Very grateful that you would join us and hope you’ll be back with us soon. That’s all for today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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