Changes don’t happen successfully unless the people in the organization want them to happen. They may give lip service commitment to new initiatives and they may go along with them for a while, but they won’t stick unless stakeholders believe the changes are good and that they can succeed.
I learned that fact decades ago when I worked on change improvement projects which were very successful in the short term. Years later, I would find that the plan lost momentum or was set aside for another initiative. It was always because some group hadn’t totally bought-in. Or, there was another perspective on the future that hadn’t surfaced during the change process. That’s when I changed my approach – to go deeper and broader in involving more people in more ways and to improve my own listening and involving skills.
Most consultants, internal and external, fail to have sustainable results because they don’t listen and involve effectively. They may have a good plan and process tools, but that’s not enough. The key to success is in listening deeply, responding proactively to messages heard, and involving stakeholders in the next steps. In other words, let THEM make it happen.
Doing those steps effectively takes great facilitation, coaching, and advance preparation in order to be a very knowledgeable resource. The job of the best consultants is to assist in the best possible ways, not to assess, plan and direct implementation by themselves. It means teaching leaders at every level, including peer, to lead their teams.
NFL General Manager Bobby Beathard (Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers) compared the leadership concepts in my new book to Don Shula, the only one to coach “a perfect season”. “He did it with teamwork, trust and great leadership, just like you describe in the book”. You don’t accomplish those attributes without superior listening.
Listening is the critical skill to effectively, sustainably facilitate change. Process thinking, analytical ability, and strategic thinking are all very important skills, but strong listening skills are the most important. Without them, successful sustainable change can’t happen!