Recently, LinkedIn informed members that big changes were in the air (visit the official LinkedIn Blog to better understand the changes). As I reflect on the changes and on my reactions to the changes, I realize I'm falling into common change leadership traps.
HOW DARE YOU?
Leadership is a "layered" phenomenon. There are multiple layers of leaders and multiple stakeholders in each case. For instance, in the LinkedIn case, the following "layers" of stakeholders can be quickly identified:
- The LinkedIn leaders - those who are responsible for LinkedIn
- The Group leaders - those who are responsible for the groups
- The Group members - those who use the groups
While I'm much too diplomatic to actually say "how dare you" I realize that my initial reaction hinted of anger and frustration. Argh, I don't want to change. Argh, no one asked me. As I'm angry and frustrated I am also paralized. I feel disempowered, so I refuse to empower myself.
ALL OR NOTHING!
In "The Practice of Adaptive Leadership" Heifetz, Grashow, and Linksy suggest that most people do not really fear change - instead, they fear loss. People do not resist change when they perceive such change to match their own best interests.
When confronted with change, however, leaders could quickly focus on the negatives. For instance, I immediately noticed that items featured by the group manager were harder to see (relegated to the bottom right of the screen). I was also upset about the combination of discussion items and article links. As I bitterly complained about the problems, however, I clearly ignored potential benefits of the new interface: better member participation in the moderation process, easier insertion of links for "further information" (something many members may appreciate), easier preview of new items.
The "all or nothing" trap leads us to see change as "all good" or "all bad." As the leader focuses on the "evils" of the change he or she is unlikely to capitalize on what's good - the pieces of the change that can actually help the organization thrive. Further, the "all or nothing" trap prevents leaders from energizing followers with the change.
Heifetz et al. suggest that most often leaders fail because they choose technical solutions for adaptive challenges. An "adaptive challenge" is one that requires changes in beliefs, values, and practices. A "technical solution," on the other hand, addresses only technical bits and pieces of the change process.
My first reaction as I read about the LinkedIn changes was - omigod, we need to change the Group Rules! I chuckle as I read this. Rules are important - they keep our group safe and vibrant for all members. Of course a review of the rules is warranted - but simply adjusting the rules is unlikely to help group members adjust to the change and thrive.
As leaders are confronted with change, they must take the time to scan the environment. Heifetz et al. use the metaphor "going to balcony" for adaptive leadership. "Going to the balcony" means taking oneself out of the situation to better diagnose it. What is happening? Who is involved? What are the benefits and problems related to the situation?
While "at the balcony" we can take a long and hard look at the case - and at ourselves. For instance, we may ask:
- What is my main goal as a leader?
- What do I fear? What do I stand to lose?
- What do I want? What do I stand to gain?
- Am I falling into one of the "change traps"?