“You really care about what you do – I’m not a checkbox.” This was a compliment we recently received from a new client, and it felt SO good to hear. A big accomplishment, since I had been working very hard at being intentional with slowing down and enjoying time with clients. Last winter was quite the opposite when we faced some hardships, and I became focused on just checking things off the list and getting through the days.
That “checkbox” approach to living is the enemy of joy and the foe of being a change agent. And yet, isn’t it also a place of comfort? If I can just get through the task list, the agenda, etc., I will feel like I did a good job. But did I really? Only if that checkbox helps us with some of the four essential C’s of being an effective leader of cultural change:
Conviction Courage Communication Consistency
We will explore each of these in more detail in the next few blogs using examples from one of our clients that has been successfully shifting their internal culture. We are thankful to work with Yvonne Waterman, Director of Human Resources at Garney Construction, and her team. Her success at shifting her organization’s culture to focus on engagement is because she exemplifies these four C’s. Here are Yvonne’s thoughts on the first “C”:
“Leading with conviction is important because there is no doubt in others’ minds what I believe and it enables full transparency. I am leading with direction. I am leading with conviction. I am leading with Belief. That way they know who I am and that I will do what I say I will do. And, I will lead the department in the same manner. If we don’t lead with conviction, things won’t get done. It also allows you to have healthy conflict because you can’t heave healthy conflict if you don’t truly believe in how you are leading. It isn’t always an easy conversation, and it enables you to come across strong.”
Conviction is the Starting Point
Effective change starts with the leader being tremendously clear about the journey ahead. It is essential to know not just the final destination, but also why you are going there and how you plan to arrive. The why is essential because it is the foundation for resiliency when the road gets rough. Change is uncomfortable, and while some people readily adopt it, others will push back. If previous leaders were easily persuaded to change their path, the resistance may be stronger because employees have learned to expect a “program of the month” that can easily be derailed.
You will face pushback as a leader, both internally and externally, and you must be ready to stand your ground. Conviction allows you to do so. It leads to increased credibility as people witness your willingness to hold your ground for what you believe is right. It also enables you to make hard decisions, which sometimes means not everyone is part of the organization at the end of the journey.
When Yvonne learned that some of her leaders were not fully receptive to some of the changes, she could have easily (as we have seen other leaders do) acquiesced to their desires to return to the status quo. Instead, her strong belief in the right way to operate led her to keep moving forward. She pushed into uncomfortable conversations and listened thoroughly, but she did not shift from her beliefs on how they would function as a team.
I grew up in Southern California, and I remember navigating the waves body-surfing as a kid. It was frightening when I saw a huge wave coming at me, and my first thought was to run if I didn’t time the wave right. But reversing my path allowed the wave to pummel me. While I ended up on shore, it was only after a few summersaults and usually a mouthful of seawater.
When I watched the more experienced swimmers, I noticed they dove directly into the wave. It seemed crazy to face the giant like that, but I learned that once you were through it, the waters were calmer on the other side. Knowing it was better to face the giant (a new conviction) allowed me to take what I considered to be a big risk. And over time, the conviction grew stronger.
This situation applies to leading. We have seen many leaders who see the waves coming at them, get scared, and turn back toward the shore for perceived safety. While it seems like the best option, they get tossed around and spit out on the beach. They lose credibility because their followers can no longer trust they will stand behind what they say.
But the leaders who stay the course and dive into the wave find newfound stability on the other side of the situation. It may take a leader in an organization several rough weeks to get to the other side, but the result is an increased level of trust and credibility. There’s often a performance boost, too, because everyone is clear about the path forward. Even if they don’t yet fully support it, they start to realize they will soon have to make a choice.
And that is why leadership and conviction are not for the faint of heart, or for those who value popularity. Great leaders know not everyone will follow, and they are okay with that. But those who are committed to the mission will be there and be even more dedicated — and a dedicated few can get a lot done.
If you need a few checkboxes related to conviction, they are:
- Write down your convictions and why you believe them to be true.
- Identify how they impact where you are headed and how you will get there.
- Share the above with your team.
But that is where the checkboxes end, as you don’t want to fall into the trap of simply checking things off a list and moving on. Clarify and stay rooted in your convictions. Dive into the wave and see who remains on the other side — you will have the ones you need to get the job done.
This point hit home for me when I heard a speaker at the 2021 Amplify Outreach Conference say, “Look what Jesus did with just 12.”
Stay tuned for future posts as we explore the rest of the five C’s of change.