Leading Change

September 3, 2020 - Pastor Bill Mitchell

Leading Change

Pastor Bill Mitchell
September 3, 2020

In the world we live in, change is inevitable. Sometimes, the world changes around us. Things happen that are outside of our control. The last six months are a great example of change that we could not have foreseen, but that we’re having to deal with in our businesses, nonprofit organizations, and even in coaching contexts. At other times, it’s our world that needs to change. Maybe the change that needs to happen is an internal one.

In the first BocaLead session of the fall, we’re going to focus on how we lead our teams to work together to come through change better and stronger - no matter what it looks like, or where it comes from. Some may already be great at this, while others may have more work to do. No matter where you are on the spectrum, we can all learn together.

Let’s begin by looking at four external forces occurring now that are causing change:





All four of these are being thrust into our businesses and lives, and we have to deal with them in one way or another, whether we’re sole proprietors, or leaders of a large organization. If we start by recognizing these four factors, we can more easily begin the conversation with our teams about how to handle them.

The old way we used to look at change leadership was that there was a primary boss, who told everyone else what needed to change. The boss had the answers. They then dictated how the change was going to occur and gave the marching orders. The boss then assessed others’ performances by evaluating all their subordinates on how well they did in making the requested change. Then, everyone else was supposed to do what they were told.

Today, there is a new way to look at change leadership; a better way. To truly lead through change, the boss, leader, or head of the organization, should be the person who sets the direction. Then, they should invite input from their team members to clarify and improve the steps that should be taken. This type of leadership creates conditions for continued learning to achieve excellence. In this environment, instead of just doing what they’re told, everyone is now looked at as contributors with crucial knowledge, insight and action.

There used to be an old belief that if you were the leader, you had to be the smartest person in the room. At BocaLead, we don’t subscribe to this idea. We believe if you’re a leader, you have to be able to lead those who are smarter than you in the various areas in which they work. If you are always the smartest in whatever room you find yourself, then you will be in a very small room.

Instead, we must create a learning environment that allows others to participate in change.

In order to understand how to create change in a healthy way, BocaLead was inspired by research done by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson. In her book, The Fearless Organization, she talks about the importance of creating an environment of psychological safety in the workplace that makes it possible for employees to feel safe in making change, raising questions or concerns, and to fully contribute.

Take a look at the graph below to see how some of Edmondson’s ideas play out in a practical way.


As you see on the graph, the Y-axis describes the level of safety felt in the organization, and the X-axis describes the level of accountability the company or organization maintains for meeting demanding goals. This includes team members’ work ethic, understanding of goals, and their ability to do the work they’ve been asked to do. As employee’s sense safety and accountability rise or fall, four different zones of attitude, or action are created.

1. The Apathy Zone

This zone is where low safety and low standards meet. When people are in this zone, they quit growing and stay there. They may say things like, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

2. The Anxiety Zone

People fall into the anxiety zone when they are in an environment where there is low safety, but high standards. They may be committed, smart and capable, but they’re afraid to speak up and share their opinions or ideas because the atmosphere created by the boss is so negative that they’re fearful of their boss or of losing their job.

3. The Comfort Zone

For someone to be in the comfort zone, high safety and low standards must exist together. In the comfort zone, people feel so safe and comfortable in their jobs that they let the standards of the work fall.

4. The Learning Zone

The learning zone is where we should all want to be. This is where there is high safety, but also high standards. People in this zone feel safe and secure in their positions, and they also have a high sense of responsibility in the workplace. Even if they aren’t the smartest people on the block, when someone is securely in the learning zone, they will be the ones moving your organization forward.

No matter which zone you or your co-workers are in, it’s important to remember, don’t be afraid to fail. The only types of failure that should be avoided are ones that are caused by fear, silence, and lack of courage.


How to Create Safety

Now that we’ve looked at the different zones Edmondson identified that we don’t want our companies to be in, let’s look at some of the ways she says we can create safety, to bring everyone in our organization into the learning zone.

1. Humble Learning

Edmondson writes that when you admit you don’t know the answers, people are more likely to want to help you. The whole message and ministry of Jesus Christ is one of humility, and as we said earlier in this BocaLead session, you don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room or at the table. When a leader creates an atmosphere of humble learning, it makes others want to jump in and collaborate. People change from apathetic, anxious, or too comfortable, to hard workers who will be able to take your organization further than you ever imagined.

2. Remember, there is a leader in every chair.

As we like to say here at BocaLead, you are a leader, and everyone around you is a leader. You are leading leaders. If people on your team are not acting like leaders, then you need to get people in there who are.

Making Change Work

In order to create productive change, you have to know four things: the what, the why, the who, and the how. If you want to make change work, it’s helpful to do the following:

1. Set the Stage.

Remember, you as the leader are the one who sets the stage. You frame the work. You give clarity and explain what the company is doing. You set the purpose and vision, and demonstrate why you are doing what you’re doing.

2. Invite Participation

You invite participation by developing the team and determining who will help and how it will be done, by creating structure and processes. As Scripture says, “Pride goes before a fall.” You can show humility as a leader by asking for help and allowing input into the creative side of change.

3. Respond Productively

First, express appreciation. When you as a leader take even just five minutes to express appreciation to those who are doing great work, it makes a huge difference. Creating a listening culture is also vital to your company’s success. As we said before, failure is not a problem, but when we fail, we must look forward to how we’ll learn and grow from it. Finally, there are different company cultures and methods of dealing with people who aren’t acting appropriately, but whatever it is you do, whether by coaching up or coaching out, those who are not abiding by the company’s standards or doing their work must be dealt with.

As leaders, it is our job to set the direction. When we do this well, we can make the apathetic interested, the anxious clear of heart and compassionate, and the comfortable a little uncomfortable, in encouraging them to do more. Otherwise, if you don’t take the first step in determining where you are going, others will, and you may end up with team members who are far apart from each other, and with your company where you don’t want it to be.

God bless you as you work on making changes in your company and on your team in this uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world we live in. We look forward to seeing you at the next BocaLead session in October – whether in person, or via livestream.



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