What is your single most important question about managing change?

Question: How can managers lead change imposed from the top if we don’t agree with it?

This is a question that many leaders of change share. You might be a team leader, middle manager or consultant who is asked to implement change as directed by a more senior leader. It can be really frustrating to be the “meat in the sandwich”, attempting to present employees with a strong leadership position while at the same time feeling a little inauthentic if you don ‘t really believe in the change.

Although typically the more senior you get, the more influence you have over change, the frustration of implementing something you don’t entirely agree with can certainly still occur. You could be a senior leader, CEO or even a Company Director, yet most are accountable to an external influence of some kind. You might be required to respond to external shareholders, powerful clients or regulatory bodies that are asking or even demanding you make changes you don’t necessarily agree with. Take the present environmental debate. You may or may not agree with the direction that the climate change debate is taking around the world. However if you work in a country like Australia, the current trends are showing that your personal position on the issue will be less relevant than the regulatory and commercial changes that are likely to be imposed on businesses with respect to their carbon footprint. 
Here are my top tips for leaders who find they are leading change they don’t agree with.

Examine why you don’t agree with the changes by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Do you usually react with concern to anything new?
If so, that’s OK. The capacity to naturally and easily see what might go wrong is a valuable skill in implementing change. It’s also important to recognize that this style alone may cloud your openness to the merits of the change.
Balance your perspective with the views of someone who is more likely to see the change from a more open and positive perspective.

2. Do you dislike/disrespect/disagree with the messenger or senior leader who represents the change?
It is easy for a negative view of the messenger (or source of the message) to translate into a negative view of the message. Try to look past the messenger and instead towards the merits of the change. You can also try balancing out your view of the messenger by writing a list of both their negative and positive characteristics.

3. Do you feel ill-informed and hence unable to determine whether it’s a good idea?
Take a proactive approach and seek out some more information if you can. Either from the source or do some independent research.  Letting the source of the change know you are unable to support change based on the information you have, could precipitate a more detailed conversation.
If there is really no further information available to you, I recommend taking a decision one way or the other. Can you take a leap of faith and support the idea? (most new ideas and inventions proceed without all the facts). Or it might mean that you stand to one side (or leave) and let the change take its course.
4. Have you examined the idea for its merits and still disagree?
Let the source of the change know. If you are still in disagreement after that conversation, then make a choice.
On balance, is your leadership role something you wish to continue? If so, can you place your opinion to one side and support the change. Resolve to support the change fully and publicly.
Or stand down or leave.

I don’t recommend remaining in a position or organisation as a quiet dissenter. It’s usually a sure fire way to limit your leadership career. 

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