Chapter 10: Leading Positive Change


*Developing Management Skills

  • Author: David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron
  • Publisher: Pearson

Edition: 9th edition Leading Positive Change

Each of us may have differing ideas on what “Leadership” means. “Good leadership” is frequently the explanation given for the success of positive organizations performance. This performance could be in stock price increases, upward national economic trends, or contented employees.

When organizations are dynamic and undergoing transformation, people exhibit leadership. Management has traditionally been associated with the status quo. But let’s look at a comparison between leadership

Leadership Management
Focus on setting direction Maintaining status quo
Leaders initiate change Maintaining stability
Leaders create something new Focus on maintaining steadiness

Focus on controlling variation

Refine current performance

Leadership equated with dynamism, vibrancy, and charisma Management equated with predictability, equilibrium, and control
Leadership is “doing the right things” Management is “doing things right.”

Managers cannot be successful without being good leaders. Leaders cannot be successful without being good managers. Effective management and leadership are largely inseparable. Leading change and managing stability, establishing, vision and accomplishing objectives, breaking the rules and monitoring conformance are all required to be successful.

Leadership is a temporary condition in which certain skills and competencies are displayed. Leading change involves a complex and difficult to master set of skills that requires assistance.  The Need for Frameworks

Frameworks or theories help provide stability and order in the midst of constant change. These frameworks clarify complex or ambiguous situations. Individuals who are familiar with frameworks can manage complex situations effectively, because they can respond to fewer exceptions. Individuals without frameworks are left to react to every piece of information as a unique event or an exception. The best managers possess the most useful frameworks.

Tendencies Toward Stability Organizations are designed like frameworks that manage exceptions effectively. They create stability, steadiness, and predictable conditions, and control change as much as possible. Organizations help specify what is expected of employees, who reports to whom, what the goals are, what procedures are to be employed, what rules apply, how the work g o es done, and so on. The purpose is to reduce the ambiguity of changing conditions and create predictability for employees so that the uncertainties of change are not overwhelming. Figure 10.1 discusses the continuum deviance from negative to positive affects to change. The goal of most organization and managers is to maintain performance in the middle or “normal” stage of the continuum. The “normal” stage represents a healthy, effective, efficient, reliable, compatible, and ethical performance.

A negative deviance needs to be corrected or treated. Most managers strive to get deviant people to behave within a normal range. Pressure is brought to bear to get people to behave in predictable, normal ways. Consequences of continued negative behavior could be transfers or terminations.

Figure 10.1 lists conditions ranging from negative deviance that is unprofitable, ineffective, inefficient, and error-prone performance on the left side of the continuum. In the center is the normal range that is profitable, effective, efficient, and reliable performance. To the right of the continuum is the positive deviance that represents excellence, extraordinary progress, caring, flourishing performance. Manager’s attention to keep people in the normal range of the continuum is focused more on solving problems, surmounting obstacles, battling competitors, eliminating errors, making a profit, and closing deficit gaps, rather than identifying the flourishing and life-giving aspect of the organization. A Framework for Leading Positive Change

Leading positive change is a management skill that focuses on unlocking positive human potential. Positive change enables individuals to experience appreciation, collaboration, vitality, and meaningful work. Employees indicate that the leadership of positive change was the key to their recovery and thriving.

There are five key management skills and activities required to effectively lead positive change:

  1. Establish a positive climate
  2. Create readiness for change
  3. Articulate a vision of abundance
  4. Generate commitment
  5. Institutionalize the positive change

The most important leadership demonstrated in organizations occurs in departments, divisions, teams, and individuals who lead by being a champion of change.

  1. Establishing a Positive Climate

The first and most crucial step in leading positive change is to set the stage by establishing a positive climate. Why? Organizational behavioral surveys indicate that negative occurrences, bad events, and disapproving feedback are more influential and longer-lasting in people than positive, encouraging, and upbeat occurrences. Managers must establish at least three necessary conditions to affect change:

Step 1. Creative a positive energy network

Positive energizers strengthen and create vitality and liveliness in others. They are higher performers; enable others to perform better, and help their own organizations succeed more than negative energizers. People who drain energy from others tend to be critical, express negative views. They fail to engage others, and are more self-centered. Being a positive energizer is associated with being sensitive in interpersonal relationships, trustworthy, supportive to others in comments, actively engaged in social interactions, flexible and tolerant in things, and unselfish.

Effective managers identify positive energizers and make certain that networks of people are formed who associate with these energizers. Positive energizers are placed in positions where others can interact with them and be influenced by them. Effective managers foster positive energy in other people by:

  • Exemplifying or role-modeling positive energy themselves
  • Recognizing and rewarding people who exemplify positive energy
  • Providing opportunities for individuals to form friendships at which (which fosters positive energy)

Step 2. Ensure a Climate of Compassion, Forgiveness, and Gratitude

When managers foster compassionate behavior among employees, forgiveness for mistakes, and gratitude results from positive occurrence, their firms excelled in profitability, productivity, quality, innovation, and customer retention. How do we accomplish this? To lead positive change, managers must build a climate in which people are acknowledged heading and restoration occur. Because change always creates pain, discomfort, and disruption, leaders of positive change are sensitive to the human concerns that can sabotage many change efforts. Without a reserve of good will and positive feelings, almost all change fails. Managers must unlock people’s inherent tendency to feel compassion, forgive mistakes, and to express gratitude helps build the human capital and reserve it takes to successfully lead positive change.

Step 3. Pay attention to strengths and the strongest self.

Identifying people’s strengths, then building on those strengths, creates more benefit than identifying weaknesses. Managers who spend more time with their strongest performers achieved double the productivity. People who receive feedback on their strengths are significantly more productive than people who are given feedback on their weaknesses. In high performing work teams, the ratio of positive to negative comments was 5:1. Five times more positive comments were made than negative comments. In medium-performing teams, the ratio was 1:1. In low-performing teams, the ratio was 0.36″1. In other words, in low performing teams, there were three negative comments for every positive comment. The same ratio has also been found in successful marriages. Marriages that end in divorce have more negative than positive interactions.

Figure 10.5 discusses the personal weaknesses, competencies, and strengths, and uniquesnesses of individuals. You are engaged in a strongest-self feedback process as part of the Skill Pre-assessment section of this chapter. In this technique each person is asked to identify 20 other individuals who are acquaintances. Those 60 stories identify the key strengths and unique-talents you have. The feedback comes in the form of incidents and stories that provide positive feedback and helps you develop strategies to capitalize on it.

  1. Create Readiness for Change

Leading positive change requires engaging individuals in the actual process of change. The purpose is to create readiness among those to be involved in the change. Three techniques are mentioned in the textbook:

  • Benchmark best practice, and compare current performance to the highest standards.
  • Institute symbolic events
  • Create a new language
  1. Articulating a Vision of Abundance

Leaders must articulate a vision of abundance or a vision of a positive future, a flourishing condition, and a legacy about which people care passionately. This kind of vision helps unleash human potential. Visions of abundance are different from visions of goal achievement or effectiveness, such as earning a certain percent profit, becoming number one in the marketplace, or receiving personal recognition. Articulating a vision of abundance is speaking to the heart, as well as the head. Without the leader’s clear statement of a vision of abundance, the overwhelming tendencies toward addressing obstacles, problem solving, and negative feedback drive out positive change.

Most organizations have a mission statement or established goals, but a vision statement is something different. Visions include universalistic values and principles that will guide behavior. They provide a sense of direction, help identify the future, evoke deeper meaning than mission statements or goals. Vision Statements provide optimism and hope.

For example, goals that call for a 20 percent increase in ROI, an improvement in product quality, more timely responses to customers, or lower costs are all valuable and important to organizations. Yet, they are not visions. Visions are focused on helping individuals think differently about themselves and about their futures. They possess several important characteristics, several of which were reviewed in the chapter on team building and teamwork.

Left-Brain and Right-Brain Features

The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, but it also controls rational cognitive activities, such as sequential thinking, logic, deduction, numeric thought, and so on. Activities such as reading, solving math problems, and rational analysis are dominated by left-brain thinking.

The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, as well as non-rational cognitive activities, such as intuition, creativity, fantasy, emotions, pictorial images, and imagination. Composing music, storytelling, and artistic creation are most likely tied to right-brained activity.

Neither hemisphere operates autonomously from the other. Both kinds of mental activity are required for complex tasks. Vision statements of leaders must contain rational targets, goals, and action plans (left-brain components), as well as metaphors, colorful language, and imagination (right-brain components). In the Skill Analysis section of this chapter, several corporate vision statements are provided for you to analyze. Note the differences among them in the relative emphasis on right-brain versus left-brain thinking.

Make Vision Statements Interesting

Inspiring vision statements contain challenges and prods that confront and alter the ways people think about the past and the future. They carry a strong and motivating message. They help paint a mental picture. They are interesting and identify a message that people care about, but changes the normal perception of things. The statements confront the status quo and provide a new way to think about what people do in the organization every day. The fact that they are interested is what captures attention and positive energy.

  • Ensure that the vision statement reinforces core values about which you feel strongly
  • The vision statement must be straightforward and simple
  • Credibility doesn’t mean an absence of exciting and energizing language.

Attach a Vision to a Symbol

Effective vision statements are associated with a symbol that helps create readiness for change. It identifies expectations and direction for day to day activities, and reminds them regularly by the presence of the symbol. Logos such as McDonald’s golden arches, Nike’s Swoosh, and Disney’s Mickey Mouse are symbolic messages that communicate about the companies they represent.

  1. Generate a Commitment to the Vision

The intent of the vision is to mobilize the energy and human potential of individuals who are to implement and be affected by it.

One way for leaders to generate commitment to the vision is to identify clear, consistent goals associated with the vision. Identify the criteria that will indicate progress toward reaching the vision, which each employee can monitor. Provide mechanisms for frequent feedback to employees. Give them a personal choice and exercise maximum discretion possible. Maintain a consistency and stability of the rules of the game and expectations. Have fun at work! Identify a competitive standard against which performance can be evaluated. Use a recreation game and keep score.

Institute small-win strategies. Find something that’s easy to change. Change it. Publicize it, or recognize it publicly. Then find second thing… Small wins create commitment because:

  • They reduce the importance of any one change.
  • They reduce demands on any group or individual
  • They improve the confidence of participants
  • They help avoid resistance or retaliation
  • They attract allies and create a bandwagon effect
  • They create the image of progress
  • If they don’t work they only create a small flop
  • They provide initiatives in multiple arenas.
  1. Institutionalize the vision

Turn students into teachers. The most effective leaders provide an opportunity for everyone in the organization to articulate the vision, or to teach others about the desired positive change. Developing one’s own teachable point of view means that individuals come to believe in something and explain what it is and why. By teaching someone else about the vision, or the intended positive change, individuals remember it, become committed to it, and make it a part of their own personal agenda.

Build Human Capital. Well developed human capital is always the chief predictor of growth in financial capital. Employee’s skill sets are the bedrock upon which organizational success is built. No company can make money over time without well-developed human capital – meaning capable and skillful employees. Institutionalizing positive change occurs as individuals throughout the organization develop the capacity to lead positive change themselves. The key to ensuring that positive change continues is to have capable people in place. Providing organization members with developmental opportunities to increase their own skill set is an investment in the long-term future of the organization and in the continuous success of positive change.

Metrics, measurement and milestones ensure accountability and actions that help institutions become successful in affecting positive change (results or outcomes). Metrics are specific indicators of success. Measurements are the methods for assessing levels of success. Measures don’t focus on the hours worked, but focus on the key outcomes desired (speed and accuracy). Milestones are the benchmarks and simply create a time frame for keeping track of real progress.

Behavioral Guidelines summarize the skill sets involved in leading positive change. Negative, problem-focused concerns consume most leaders and managers. Leading positive change requires a different skill set .