Different Roles, One Goal: How Leaders and Managers Make Change Happen

Written by James O. Rodgers

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about “having the right people on the bus” – meaning building the right kind of teams for your organization. In order to implement Deliberate DiversityTM, you need to bring the right people aboard. The question is: Who are the right people?

To identify the right people for our bus, we need to use radical selection during the talent-acquisition process. We need to ask, “Do any of the candidates we’re looking at bring a new perspective to our team, or are they just replicas of the same types of folks we already have?” Deliberate DiversityTM changes the hiring criteria: Not only do people have to fit in to the culture of the business and have the necessary skills, but they also need a unique perspective that can be of value to us.

Radical selection goes beyond the boundaries of the normal talent-acquisition process. It pushes us to look for resources outside our industry – people who operate in different modes and know little about the subject matter.

These people have the luxury of being able to ask “dumb questions” and make “stupid comments.” They’re not beholden to the traditions. At first, insiders might wonder, “Why are you asking that?” But when they think about it, they’ll realize, “You know what? I don’t know why we always do it that way. Can we change it?”

That’s the advantage to having a broad range of perspectives on the bus, as well as inviting ideas from outside the bus: Diversity of perspective leads to new ways of thinking about our problems.

It’s the Leader’s Job to Sell Change

Everybody says that they love and embrace change. That’s just not true. As human beings, we are averse to change. Change happens only when we are so disappointed with the status quo that we actually look for a new system to replace it.

Deliberate DiversityTM brings change by adding new perspectives to the mix. These perspectives can challenge the old ways of doing things. Employees will be reluctant to accept the change.

We will only embrace a new way of doing things if we can attain “psychological safety” – that is, if we can feel totally comfortable with the change. That’s why it’s leadership’s job to paint a beautiful picture of change for employees, a picture that says, “When we get here, this is what it’s going to look like and you’re going to love it.” If people believe it, they will be willing to go down the new path.

But even when we try something new, and it’s working, if leaders don’t pay attention, people will start to “lapse back to natural” – they’ll want to go back to the way that they’ve always done it, the way that they’re comfortable with. That’s human nature.

The Managers Have to Make Change Work

While it is a leader’s job to invite people to change, it is the manager’s job to make the change comfortable. The manager has the one-on-one, day-to-day interactions with employees. They can find out what keeps employees from embracing change and what employees need to make the change work.

This is the difference between managers and leaders: leaders have to constantly reinforce change; they have to be relentless. Meanwhile, managers have to recognize that change causes some trauma in the minds of employees. Managers have to “grease the skids” – they have to make the change comfortable for each employee.

When something is new and unusual, you have to get over the hurdle of the human tendency to embrace the status quo. Leadership and management play different – but equally crucial – roles in getting employees to feel good about change.