How To Avoid One of the Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make in Leading Change

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To introduce significant change, leaders must know when and how to cash in their “change chips”.

Leaders possess a certain number of ‘change chips’, made up of credibility, respect, authority, good will and other essential leadership ingredients.

You pick up change chips every time you keep your word, share credit with the team, achieve a key goal, and so on.

When it’s time to introduce change, it’s these “credibility chips” that you must cash in. As long as you have plenty of chips to cash in, change can be easy. But when you’re out of chips, you’re out of luck.

I learned this lesson in a painful way during my first weeks on the job when I served as executive pastor of a large Canadian church.

I led a staff of about 35 people, and soon after I was hired I saw that the office configuration was not optimal. Almost before I had settled into my chair I was moving staff around the facility from one office to another. Because I was the new sheriff in town, the staff dutifully followed my edict. And within a couple of weeks most staff were in new offices which, to me, was a marginal improvement over the previous set up.

But I had cashed in several credibility chips with only a marginal ‘win’ for the organization. I had introduced irritation, confusion and distraction, and the only upside was a slight increase in the ergonomics of the office.

In hindsight I wish I had saved those chips for later on when I needed to call for significant change that could generate meaningful, positive results.

What might this mean for you?

Take a few minutes to actually make a list of the potential changes you’re contemplating. Perhaps it looks something like this…

  • Changing the day of the weekly staff meeting,

  • Dropping a well-established, but tired, program,

  • Introducing new ways for expense reports to be submitted,

  • Launching a new product or service

For each item on your own list, carefully consider the change chips required to be cashed in.

Just before you pull the trigger on that change you want to introduce ask yourself this question; “It this worth cashing in my chips?”

Because to make lasting, significant change, you may find that you need to keep a few more chips in your pocket.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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