Why would a training leader say that training isn’t the answer? Too often, I hear organizations want to train as a way to change behavior, but when the organization allows people to deviate from the plan, or doesn’t require enterprise/ministry wide consistency, they live with the disappointing result of allowing teams to opt out, or “veto” strategic decisions. This ability to opt out creates inconsistency, chaos and ultimately, derails results.
There are many subtle ways leaders veto decisions without realizing it, inadvertently creating the impression that buy-in is optional, the vision is negotiable, and undermining the change effort in place. Part of the problem is in a leader’s honest effort to demonstrate empathy to make employees happy, he or she unintentionally sympathizes with a victim mindset. The leader attempts to perfect employees’ circumstances, which is an unsustainable goal. With the best of intentions, leaders say things like:
- “I don’t agree with the changes either…”
When leaders say this as a way to empathize with the tough circumstances, they communicate the message that he or she is not in support of the changes. Thus, it creates the belief that employees have a choice to get in alignment with the decision. And if the leader doesn’t communicate 100% support, it’s not likely their employees will either.
- “My unit/department is special, we’ll do our own thing…”
When leaders say this and make the conscious choice not to be in alignment with their peers, they create inconsistency and chaos. It creates the illusion that adherence is optional, creating animosity, and even unhealthy competition between teams. Instead, the leader should focus on solutions to make the change work for their individual team’s circumstances.
- “The Ministry/C-Suite/Board/Executive Team says we have to…”
When leaders lead with this statement, it gives the impression that the changes are unfavorable and they are not in agreement with the leadership direction. It creates reluctance to buy in to the new direction because the leader has neither inspired their teams with the WHY behind the change vision, nor verbally conveyed their support for the new direction. With this statement, employees are neither compelled, nor inspired, to adopt new behaviors.
In addition to the statements that can sneak into your communication as you inspire new direction, what we can tend to overlook is a specific call to action for new behaviors. This inadvertently creates decision “veto” by failing to be clear about what new behaviors will be required to be successful, thus, people keep acting in the same way they always have. Leaders should be clear about what new behaviors, habits and processes should be demonstrated (and by when!) for success. Leaders shouldn’t forget about being specific about the processes, procedures, habits, and behaviors that no longer will be accepted.
Even the most positive of changes requires new habits, thus monitoring for those habits to change will ensure your ROI stays on track. Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of “The Knowing-Doing Gap,” reminds us that a decision itself is empty – it does not create action. There is a significant difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. First, we become engrossed with making the right decision —then we forget a simple fact: that a decision by itself changes nothing, including the communication of that decision. Action is the key difference between organizations who realize full ROI from implementing changes and new directions, and those who do not. Training, communication, and sound change management processes will assist in that endeavor, but only aligned action in support of organizational decisions, will deliver on the full ROI expected from any given project.
What are your thoughts? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.