The evolution of change management taking place within organizations is happening at a faster pace than any other time. Senior leaders prescribe the change plan they’re after and its up to employees to flow with the program. Numerous factors play into how well and how complete employees adapt, but one of the most significant variables that contributes to employee change commitment is the role modeling behavior of their senior leaders. Most senior executives understand and generally buy into Gandhi’s famous aphorism, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They commit themselves to personally serve as role models, but in practice, nothing significant happens. Why is that?
The reason often rests with the interference that happens when senior executives fail to accept that they are among the employees who need to change along with the organization. How many executives when asked privately will say no to the question, “are you customer service focused?” and yes to the question “Are you an obstructionist?” of course none. The fact is that human beings consistently think they are better than they really are. This self serving bias plays effect in the research that found 94% of men rank themselves in the top half according to male athletic ability. Statistically impossible, yes, but completely believable in the notion that other people will experience a different fate than what I will. Where as change management approaches surmise that top team role modeling is a matter of will or skill, the truth is that the real bottleneck to role modeling is knowing what to change at the personal level.
So what stands in the way of executive application to the change? Among the explanations is a need to keep close company with executive peers rather than stand out. If the will to adapt is not rewarded socially and professionally, the initiative to step beyond it isn’t easy to envision. But what if it did happen? A stand was taken to align with the larger employee populous, would it amount to deeper employee commitment? I’m interested to hear what examples you’ve seen or experienced for yourself.