Leading Change: The Vital Differentiator between Good and Amazing Leaders of Change

Blog Post created by suz.odonnell Advocate on Nov 13, 2015

Amazing leaders take time to digest what a corporate change means to them personally before they push their people into uncharted territory.  Whether you are increasing diversity at the top, launching a new product line, or implementing an IT system, people leaders are the most important ingredient in successful change adoption.

When a company is implementing a change, everyone gets the standard messaging from the CEO, initiative leader, or team in charge of implementing the change.  What everyone doesn’t get is a leader who has bought into the change him or herself.  When a leader hasn’t adopted the change, their employees will either follow them in resisting the change or will lose faith in the leader’s ability due to the inconsistent direction they are being given.

I’m not saying people leaders alone can implement change.  On the contrary, a solid change management team can dramatically increase the speed to implementation and likelihood of success.  However, getting individuals to adapt to new information and ways of doing things requires strong leaders who not only evaluate what the information means specifically to their team, but also takes time to think through what it means to them personally.  We’ve all heard stories of managers who do and do not “walk the talk.”  The key component to walking the talk is digesting what a change means to the leader personally first.

During times of change, leaders will get content from corporate communications, HR, or the team in charge of the initiative.  This often consists of emails they can forward, speaking points they can use in meetings, and sometimes (if they are good) exercises the leader can take their team through.

  • Good leaders take this information and use it as is.
  • Better leaders customize this information for their team.
  • Amazing leaders take time to digest what the information means to them personally.


What?!?!  Does this sound selfish to you?  It’s not!  The most effective way to get leaders to walk the talk is to get them to first digest it for themselves, then customize it for their team, then collaborate with their own team and others to make the change work.

What do I mean by digest it for themselves?  I mean, the leader needs time alone or with a coach to think through what this means to them.  Does this change put undue burden on their family because of the hours they’ll have to spend at work during the transition?  Does this initiative offer new opportunities for career growth?  They need to think through what it means to them, what challenges and opportunities they personally may face, and decide what they are going to do about it.

THEN this amazing leader can take what they’ve learned about the impact of the change on them personally and think through how it may impact their team.  I assure you that every corporate change affects different departments, roles, and individuals in a unique way.  It’s the leader’s job to not only forward the corporate rhetoric, but to customize the information they’ve been given and their approach to motivating their team.  Without considering what the change means to them personally, they will flounder in clearly articulating what it means to their people and they will most certainly struggle in collaborating with customers and peers during the implementation.

Keep in mind that this is not a one-time thing.  Most corporate initiatives are iterative or you learn more about them over time.  Be sure your leaders digest, then customize and collaborate on a regular basis throughout the initiative to maximize success for themselves, your initiative, and the entire company.

Copyright ©2015 Suz O’Donnell and Thrivatize LLC