It took me 10 years to learn the one thing that made change easier in my company

We’ve gone through many changes within our organisation over the last 12 years. We started out as a website development company and slowly evolved into a full-service digital agency. We are now an innovation agency with a focus on digital products that will have a lasting impact.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a leader within the company during these phases of change was to roll up my sleeves and work hard. Yep, that’s right, I worked too damn hard.

I would follow all the advice for successful change management: We created urgency, we set a clear vision, we communicated that vision, we got the team involved early and we looked to get some quick wins that we could build on. But my mistake was always to act like I was the sole proprietor for the change.

I saw my role as a leader during the change process as being an example for everyone to follow. If I worked really hard to show the change we would become the change.

Shouldn’t I as a leader, lead by example? Yes and No…

The critical mistake was around focus of time. Yes, I should certainly exhibit the change I want to see in my team, but my mistake was to spend my time on that, rather than supporting others in their leadership development in order to move together, with them driving their colleagues towards the collective end. It was an enabling role that was required, not a charging forward one.

I have realised the critical step for a leader during a change process is to recognise that leadership is something everyone does and can do. At times everyone has the potential to lead. The critical action required from us as leaders during a time when urgency is of the essence is to spot the people in your team that are picking up the baton and focus your effort on enabling them. And focus all your effort on them!

It’s Pareto’s 80/20 rule. Focus your time on the area that will have the most impact, rather than trying to do everything or focusing on everyone.

As every organisation and industry in the world is affected more and more, year on year, by the impact of digital, it is important that we accept change readily within our organisations. By learning to focus your time on the key players in your team to drive that change, the results will happen faster and start to build a more solid foundation for ongoing change in the future. One that isn’t reliant on just one or two people’s energy to drive that change.

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