Successful Change Leadership – the Power of Capability Partnerships

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future!”  – President John F. Kennedy, June 1963.

Timeless words. JFK was an amazing individual. One of few world leaders who truly inspired, challenged, and brought positive change to society (in my humble opinion). His legacy is long and well respected.

Change is indeed the law of life. It’s everywhere, in everything we do. And to instigate large, successful change in organisations and programs, you need a great change leader. That’s no small ask.

Successful change leadership is hard. It’s gritty. It’s visceral. It can be a daily struggle. It requires a leader to confront, and overcome, obstacles and resistance that, at times, can feel insurmountable. It can leave scars. But with scars comes knowledge, wisdom, lessons.

Successful change leadership takes commitment. It takes courage. It perhaps demands the kind of approach shown by a test cricketer walking out to open the batting against a hostile bowling attack.

You know that you’re in for a challenging time when you choose to be a change leader.

Have you clearly defined, and can you successfully execute a change plan?

Will you be able to resist the ‘bouncers’ bowled at you? Will you get to raise your bat and acknowledge the applause on scoring a century? Or will you succumb to the pressure, ‘give away’ your wicket, and trudge back to dressing room, defeated, the spectators jeering at you as you depart the stadium?

Successful change leadership is enormously satisfying. It can define you as a person and a leader. It helps you grow and mature. It helps you become a more valued member of society.

People enjoy being around change leaders. They respect their passion and ability to push through the mire of resistance to enable and achieve benefits.

But how do you deliver successful change leadership in today’s society?

JFK probably had it easier in the 1960’s. Today, we are constantly bombarded by information, images, data, music, and stories, aimed to engage and influence us, across mainstream and social media. We live with enormous ‘communication noise’ in our personal and professional lives. We easily get distracted. We are less likely to trust and commit. It’s difficult to drive successful change with so much noise around us.

How do you as a change leader “break-on through to the other side” to successfully engage people’s hearts and minds and create sustained, positive change? (a shout-out to Jim Morrison and John Kotter, great lines).

The biggest lesson from my experience as a business owner is: don’t try to do it alone.

To return to the cricket analogy, it’s much easier if you have a good ‘batting partner’ with you. Someone you can trust. Someone looking after your back. Someone with the talent, the capabilities and capacity needed to succeed.

A capability partner is an essential ingredient in change management. Someone who understands your vision and will work with you and your team to bring successful change.

Most leaders recognise that excellent stakeholder engagement and constant, high-quality communications is important, without necessarily knowing what good “looks like”, or how to achieve it.

So, what do they do? They revert to what they know. What they have experienced in the past or present. Hence JFK’s quote…

As another famous person once said, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Using old communications methods often results in suboptimal outcomes, failure.

People are not satisfied with emails, letters, newsletters, or speeches anymore.

Today, people expect high quality, regular communication. They expect graphics, animation, video, high quality photography, podcasts, webinars. They expect content to be available online and at their fingertips. They expect digital solutions. The age of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube has completely shifted people’s expectations.

But traditional Government and Industry marketing and communication teams don’t have these capabilities. Or if they do, they are so in demand from ministers and senior officials that they have no spare capacity.

What about all the major programs and projects within their organisation?

Most often, they miss out. And so, the chances of successful change leadership and management greatly diminish.

The solution – if you haven’t got the capabilities within your teams, find a capability partner.

Invest time in them, develop long-term relationships. Outsource and leverage sovereign expertise. Build your national capabilities.

Change is the law of life. To successfully enable it, embrace capability partnerships and deliver great outcomes.

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