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ON BUILDING CONSENSUS AND BEING AUTHENTIC – Myth: “Leaders don’t play politics”

“Understanding the political relationships in your organization is key to seeing how your organization works as a system. And this activity, what we call thinking politically, can help you design more effective strategies for leading adaptive change.

The key assumption behind thinking politically is that people in an organization are seeking to meet the expectations of their various constituencies. When you understand the nature of those expectations, you can mobilize people more effectively.

People in organizations are under the same kinds of pressures as politicians. Talk with legislators anywhere in the world, and you will find them very respectful of the competing interests among their constituencies. They also know that whenever they negotiate allocation of resources with peers and constituencies, someone will win and someone else will lose.

Small politics exists in every group of human beings, from families to huge multinational corporations. Some people control resources and define goals, and individuals must negotiate to determine who gets what and who’s going to do what to achieve the desired goals. Thus, managing the politics in your organization, no matter how distasteful that may seem, is essential to leading adaptive change.” ‐ R. Heifetz

ON CHANGE – Myth: “Change happens slowly”

“I don’t believe in time. I believe in NOW. If you want to create change in an organization or for yourself the time to do it is NOW not in 18 months.

You want to make great work. You want to achieve success. You want to make your dreams come true. And you’ve been told that it’s a process. You’ve been told it takes time. The key here is to understand that the concept of time is nothing but trick to avoid taking responsibility.

It makes us feel comfortable. It feels wonderful to forever avoid today in exchange for that abstract thing called tomorrow. But time is not on our side. And we are not alone in this, a lot of people are procrastinating just like we are. They are also waiting for that one glorious moment to act. Like we do.

In the meantime…in the midst of a lot of words and many credible excuses we do nothing. Yes, it might take time … but if there is such a thing as a process … it begins in the middle of the journey. Not at the beginning of it.

And the beginning is all about unlearning and acknowledging how we show up. And about a vulnerability that can be overwhelming at times. And fear of the unknown.

Unless we are willing to get up right this minute, pull the door off its hinges and stand naked in the pouring rain, we will live another decade just as we are!

Is finally the agony of the status quo much bigger than the pain of vulnerability? When it is, then the day that we have been waiting for will finally have arrived.

Can we:

…Stand in public and scream your manifesto at the top of your lungs?

…Swim against the current of the thoughts that have held you back?

…Be misunderstood, attacked and ignored?

…Make mistakes and learn from them?

We will not only be ready …We will act. And we will act that very day. We will feel it. And it will feel us. And transformation will be waiting for us with open arms.” ‐ K. Gupta

ON PEOPLE AND CHANGE – Myth: “People hate change”

“Not true. People hate losses, and exercising adaptive leadership requires distributing significant losses – of old ways of thinking, of old ways of understanding the world: the ballad reminds us what price we ask people to pay during change.

In fact the people you are asking to make changes will, more often than not, experience your initiative as a threat to something they value. What they value might be a deeply held belief about right and wrong or about the way the world works or should work.

However, it is possible that the challenged value may actually be no deeper than a desire to maintain what is stable, predictable, and familiar. In this sense, resistance to change stems from the legitimate fear of losing something important.

One element of thinking politically for the success of your change initiative involves ferreting out the losses you are asking people to take. What aspect of their self‐image or identity are you threatening? What advantages or benefits do they fear losing if they follow you? You need to identify those potential losses and help people survive them. Identifying such losses is not easy.

Often people conceal them because they sound embarrassingly self‐serving and self‐protective when articulated. Start by assuming that potential losses exist for each stakeholder group in your organization. Then look for what each group considers most important and most at stake, based in both noble values and less noble ones, even if they do not seem imperiled to you. “‐ R. Heifetz

Adriano understands how to increase your returns on leadership. He works with professionals in world-class organizations that include Philip Morris, Microsoft, the World Bank, Johns Hopkins University, the US Marine Corps, the State Department and NASA.  A skilled experiential educator with corporate leadership experience, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of ParticipAction Consulting, Inc., a firm committed to help clients redefine change, collaboration and power in their organizations. He co-authored "Teachable Moments of Leadership"  with Jill Hufnagel in 2016, on a learning methodology that gets results by going from PowerPoint to …powerful!

Adriano Pianesi | adriano@pianesi.com