Removing the Barriers Change Creates to Clear the Way for a Focus on Inclusive Leadership
Change is ever-present in the business world. We live in a dynamic economy. The companies that continue to grow and thrive and profit are those that can smoothly adapt to changing environments, whether economic, cultural or otherwise.
Embracing inclusive leadership in a climate of continual change can be challenging. But it’s a challenge that must be accepted to ensure that companies can build inclusive workforces—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it has a positive and demonstrable impact on the bottom line. Inclusion, as we say, is a business imperative!
But how can leaders move beyond the inertia that comes from continual impacts from internal and external sources that drain their energy and challenge their ability to make good decisions in a shifting world?
In an article for McKinsey, Derek Dean notes that a significant obstacle for businesses adapting to changes is the seeming inability of their top managers to adjust to, let alone embrace, change. And while it might seem like the quickest and easiest solution to remove this obstacle would be to remove the executive(s), Dean recommends restraint and a more supportive approach.
“The costs—organizational drift, missed opportunities, unaddressed threats—are so big that it’s tempting to replace leaders who are suffering from paralysis,” he writes. “But this is a mistake when, as is often the case, these executives possess valuable assets, such as superior market knowledge, relationships, and organizational savvy, that are difficult to replace.”
Dean argues that CEOs have a key role to play in helping their management team overcome three emotional barriers often faced by these leaders.
One of the factors that drives fear of change is the fact that old ways of doing things don’t produce the same results. For executives who may have spent decades thriving on their traditional methods, this can seem like an existential crisis. Dean says CEOs can help mitigate this risk with some introspection. “When CEOs acknowledge their own fears, they strip away the stigma attached to the emotion and make it easier for other executives to move beyond it,” he writes. “It’s also important for CEOs to examine the role that they play in reinforcing fears.”
Ignoring changing circumstances isn’t going to make things stay the same as they’ve always been. Executives sometimes attempt to cope with change by trying to convince themselves – and the CEO – that nothing has really changed. One of the most effective ways to combat this denial is to overwhelm these leaders with clear, undeniable, objective facts.
Overcoming Learning Blocks
Dean writes that change can fundamentally undercut the basis of an executive’s earlier success. “Serious upheaval means mandates can become muddled, ambiguous, and highly dynamic,” he writes. When bombarded by change, leaders find themselves acting like a gerbil on a wheel—frantically moving yet not really getting anywhere! Even “time-tested approaches, such as careful analysis and consensus building, can bog things down—a serious problem when the biggest risk may be not changing quickly enough,” Dean says.
An important strategy to help leaders break through their learning blocks is to challenge them to reexamine the fundamental “truths” they have used for years to gain success. They may need to learn new rules and strategies to continue to succeed, and to continue to hone their inclusive leadership; skills.
Change can be hard for even the most senior executives; much of their resistance, though, is emotional. CEOs can play an important role in overcoming those obstacles. CEOs—help your leaders address the changes around them to clear the way for them to hone and apply their inclusive leadership skills to improve employee engagement and market impacts. Inclusion is a business imperative!
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