This article by Chris Elmore was published in The Partner Channel Magazine Winter 2016 Issue. Check out more articles about embracing change by downloading your online copy here.
I have a unique perspective on change. On one hand, I counsel salespeople to help their clients make a big change in the way they do business. On the other, I help accounting and finance people change a process they have known their entire business life. Given those facts, my professional life is dedicated to helping people change. Personally, I don’t like change and find it very difficult. Until recently, whenever change came up in my personal or professional life, my initial reaction was simply, “NO!”
It all started with a simple request by a local university to teach a course on entrepreneurship. My company was doing well and getting a lot of attention in the community, so I thought this would be a great way to give back a little and influence the next generation. The funny thing is I got more out of teaching the class than my students. It came all around one word: “Why.”
In the process…
While I was teaching a section on messaging, I came across Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on what he referred to as “The Golden Circle.” I know; hang with me here. Now, I had heard about this and had known about the idea for years, but for some reason I had never connected the principles of The Golden Circle with change management. I think one of my hang-ups was the name. For some reason it seemed like a scheme or a network marketing program. The Golden Circle has three levels of understanding: What, how, and why. It struck me that knowing why you need to do something, or why something is being done, is the key to change management. The problem is, on the list of what, how, and why, most people tend to spend the majority of time and effort on “how.”
In corporate America, we are such “doers”; doers to the point that we have a tendency to forget about why we’re doing what we are doing. It’s kind of like the Hatfield-McCoy feud that lasted almost 30 years. When it ended, the families were asked why they fought each other; no one could remember. Why we do what we do – our mission – is an important reminder that helps the tasks have meaning and purpose. How we do what we do is the means to an end and can help our tasks be as efficient as possible.
To make a point (you are welcome) and to be very clear about change and the importance of doing change well, I think we have put change behind the wrong noun. When you think of helping people change, most think “change management.” Management will help you with the “how” and not the “why.” Leadership points to “why.” I did a study on 400 companies that changed their accounts payable process. Each company was successful, but 10 percent of these companies changed faster and easier than the other 90 percent. When I looked deeper into the 10 percent, I found that the difference was those companies had what I like to call a natural “advocate.” This was a person or group of people that were leaders in the organization, and when, during the change, times got tough or out of focus, the advocate would rein them back in with a reminder of “why” the change was being made. In the 90 percent group, there wasn’t as strong of an advocate. Even worse, there were people that were reluctant leaders that didn’t want to be leaders.
Good change management isn’t change management at all; it’s change leadership. The core principle of leadership is knowing why – not how – something needs to change.
Christopher Elmore has written eight books and countless articles, lectures at UNC – Charlotte, and travels around the country speaking on the topics of startup success, sales, presentation skills, change, entrepreneurship, accounts payable, and payment automation. Having deep startup and entrepreneurial experience, Christopher was one of the six people that started AvidXchange™ in 2000, and he continues working in the business today. For more information, visit www.avidxchange.com or www.apautomationnews.com.