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Global Leadership Network UK & Ireland

WCA UK & Ireland

Change – The Thing We Mostly Get Wrong – Mike Hill

Mike Hill CEO GLN UK and IrelandDear Friends

Change – The Thing We Mostly Get Wrong

The world is stacked with organisations, nations and churches that know they need to change but rarely achieve the kind of changes they envisage. Indeed, most of the changes that happen are more often the outcome of unmanageable and external factors (E.g. a pandemic!) than the careful planning and wise delivery of change. How many churches would have resorted to digital content were it not for the current crisis?  How many will keep going with digital content when it is safe to return to services-as-usual?

Of course, there is truth in the old adage that insanity is… “doing the same old things and expecting different outcomes.”  A harsher but realistic tweak to that popular slogan would be… “retaining the same old people and expecting different outcomes.” It turns out that too many in leadership positions talk a good game when it comes to change oversight, but in the end they can be the most resistant to critical change or cannot deliver such change in a way that takes their people with them. Remember, losing the right people is a good thing!

Some of this change challenge relates to the psychology and experience of the leader.  Within churches I noticed that those most resistant to leadership learning would often model a very autocratic and damaging model of leadership.  “I’m God’s man/woman, so you do as I say” – or some version of the same.

Here are some things you might like to consider. Some are questions to face about yourself. Others are tactical and practical tips.

Personal Questions

  • Am I open to change myself? Don’t believe your own answer to that question which will very likely be ‘yes’.  Get the feedback of people who love you enough to tell you the truth.
  • Can I healthily process feedback or does it just push me to self-defence and retaliation?
  • What makes me feel insecure – people who don’t see it the way I do?
  • “When I want your opinion, I’ll tell you what you think”. Is it my default to over-control people and become obstructive and unpleasant if I feel I am losing control?
  • Do I really believe in team collaboration or do I just want a bunch of people who will agree with me all the time?

These are great questions to discuss with a coach or a mentor.  Remember, who you are as a leader matters much more than what you are.  Your character will be integral to your leadership, which is why many should never lead without some kind of healing.  Some should just never lead.

Tactical Tips

Have you ever discussed what are your primary levers for change? Two very good but not exclusive examples of levers for change are:

1. Recruitment
Even voluntary groups like churches need to bear this in mind when recruiting volunteers.  Putting in the wrong people in the wrong job is hard on them and the organisation at whatever level they function.  To quote Jim Collins, “you need to get the right people on the bus in the right seats.” Learn all you can about better recruitment. Very rarely should you invite volunteers. Recruit them!

2. Resource Allocation
This brings into play the idea of alignment. We allocate our resources solely in terms of our stated strategic aims and by implication we stop allocating resources to areas of our work that no longer serve our strategic intentions.

Recruitment and Resource allocation are important factors to consider as you think about the changes you want.

Practical Tips

Communicate the Problem with the Status Quo
Remember to explain to your existing organisation that maintaining the status quo never works. Organisations are organic. They are changing even when you are not planning to change them. The idea that we are here to defend the status quo is a very bad idea. It won’t work. All that will happen is that the organisation will atrophy.
A precondition of healthy change is to help people understand this truth.  An ageing organisation will only exist as long as its members exist.  A church set up to cater only for the seniors in its community, in a neighbourhood increasingly occupied by young families, will not reflect the demographic of that neighbourhood.
Here’s the thing. The need for healthy change needs to be taught to those who (hopefully) will be the beneficiaries of the change.

Reflect
Stephen Sample has famously said in his excellent book about contrarian leadership, “don’t do today what you can put off for a month!” Before you rush into any new plan, take time to consider: Will this work? What might be any unintended consequences and how might we avoid them? How can we best plan for this change?
If you are a church or Christian leader, you must add prayer to this early phase of your thinking and apply it throughout the process. You have the resources of Almighty God to draw on.

Resource
Any strategy for change will need an allocation of resources to assist with the delivery. This is potentially a great investment, but without the kind of reflection talked about above could easily be a waste of money. Your first and best investment might be an allocation of resources to pay for some coaching or consultancy to help you negotiate your way through the change process.

Reiterate
All the way through this fragile process constantly clarify what you are doing and why you are doing it. Consistently encourage people and celebrate small victories along the way.

Reimagine
If you can help people to see the kind of change you envisage, this will assist you. Years ago, our team was trying to move the evening worship slot from a Prayer Book based Evening Service to something that might reach young people and students. We took members of the existing evening congregation to churches that were already offering creative worship experiences for young people.
Truth to tell, at one level I think they hated it!  But at another level they began to see what might happen. In the end we offered evening worship for Prayer Book lovers in a local cemetery chapel and opened up the slot in church for the youngsters! It worked and the last I heard was that the congregation in the cemetery chapel was still meeting.

I think the key message is that if you want to deliver some healthy change, you are very likely going to need some help with this. If character stuff is getting in the way, invest in a coach or a counsellor. If you need help with the process, invest in a consultant. The right consultant can be really helpful.

At GLN, we can help you with this, or if we can’t, we can point you in the right direction and we would love to do so.

As John Ortberg implies, where there is no transformation there is no hope. Who would want that for the organisation they are charged to lead?

May God bless you in your attempts to facilitate healthy change.

Mike Hill
CEO, GLN UK & Ireland