How to Lead Change By Looking Inward

How to Lead Change By Looking Inward

When managers and executives are looking to drive change, one criticism that can be made of them is that they often do not look at themselves first. This is the topic of a recent analysis carried out by Nate Boaz and Erica Ariel Fox (2014) of McKinsey. Indeed, they state that:

“Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist famously wrote, ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.’”

This is equally true in situations of transformational organisational change as it is in world political paradigms. It is no good believing that we do not have to make changes in ourselves if we want to change the way that things work in organisations. The McKinsey Analysis suggests that change efforts may fall down because people simply do not consider that they need to personally change as well. Indeed analysis has shown that as many as 50 per cent of efforts to change organisational performance fall down because managers do not behave in the way that they should to drive change, or people prefer to stick with things the way that they are. However, at the same time, the research demonstrates that companies that can deal with pervasive mind-sets upfront are more likely to be successful at change – four times more likely, in fact. The solution to the problem is proposed to be “looking inward”.

What Changes Is People, Not Organizations

The research found that people often are not aware that the decisions they make and what they do are driven from what they believe in their hearts. People are driven by their beliefs and values and these are developed from a very early age. Leaders need to understand their own beliefs, priorities, aspirations, values and fears to be able to lead change effectively, and looking inward can help individuals to achieve this.

The research noted that self understanding has two components which are “profile awareness” and “state awareness”. A person has a profile that is made up of personal patterns of thought, behaviour and emotion. When individuals have profile awareness they are able to understand how they behave, and additionally how that behaviour impacts on others. This awareness needs to be significant. State awareness is linked to individuals understanding what is driving them in the moment that they act. This is linked to the person’s state of mind, but also to how experiences impact on behaviour and how all of this drives people to act. When leaders do not recognise this they can create damage by behaving inappropriately. Being able to manage profile and state awareness was found to offer the ability to:

“Expand your capacity to lead human change and deliver true impact by awakening the full leader within you.”

What it means is that this type of leader is able to link what they intend to do with what they actually say and how they behave in order to be able to better influence others.

The Four Steps To Be Able To Look Inward

There are four steps recommended to be taken for looking inward. The first is developing profile awareness. It is recommended for this to understand what is driving you at different times. This means looking at what is going on and considering personal interactions with the environment and how this is impacting the change. The second step is developing state awareness. This means being “in tune” with what is happening inside you in the precise moment and making sure to take steps so that any negative influences are not coming out when leading change. Sometimes if a leader has a belief that the change will not work then this will be apparent, even if the leader is saying that it will. At times this might mean postponing important communications to a later time when the leader is able to be more positive. The third step is translating the awareness of both profile and state into organisational change. Those that understand what is going on within them are better able to find barriers to change and take the action that is needed to in order to help the change succeed. The final step is to start with one change catalyst. One person or group needs to be able to demonstrate to the rest that it will be possible to succeed, and that person or group has to show that the old way of thinking is not necessarily correct, and promote the new approach.