Don’t Just Change: Transform

To survive today, you may need to go beyond merely altering your business. Here’s how to start.

Over the years, we have all led change initiatives, yet few of us have encountered what we are experiencing today. In many cases, we need something more than just managing change within our businesses. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “transform” as “to change the form, appearance, nature, or function of.” Effective leaders perpetually challenge themselves and those around them, not on whether they need to change, but rather on how radically they need to change. Today’s best leaders across all industries understand that within today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, mere change may not be enough to even survive.

So where does transformational leadership begin? The first step is to understand that you cannot manage a transformation, you must lead one. Managing is about systems and processes and reports. Transformational leadership is about the future, the new, and the unique. Managing implies doing something better, faster, or more efficiently. Leading implies doing something completely new, different, and challenging. You cannot manage your company into a better one from behind your desk. You must be out in front, leading the charge.

Second, transformation leaders relentlessly “sell” their new vision.  They are passionate about where the company is going, why it must go there, and how every employee must join the journey.  They understand that real transformation does not come out of a task group or committee – it is born and breed inside the heart and soul of a leader.

Third, transformational leaders must have both the willingness and the ability to create change, not just react to it. Willingness suggests a high motivation to want to change. Ability suggests having the skills and knowledge to make the changes work.

Here are three questions to help you think about transforming your current operation:

  1. What must my company do so that we could accomplish our goals? You are the current skill level of your team, but there could be significant gaps of potential accomplishments, perhaps in areas you have not considered. For example, if your people could learn better sales skills, you could quickly grow new product lines and sell more value-added service.
  2. How do we accomplish this? This question pushes you to think beyond mere skill sets and into what your team must transform themselves into in order to reach the accomplishment. In the above example, your people might need to become competent communicators, great listeners, and articulate knowledge sources. By focusing on what they need to become, you quickly see new avenues of personal and professional growth.
  3. How must I lead them to get there? Now comes what you must do to lead your team there—wherever there is. In my coaching and leadership development programs, I focus on three essential elements: to envision, to engage, and to execute.

Now get out a clean sheet of paper and answer these questions for your company or team. Let your imagination go. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Use these simple yet probing questions to jump-start your journey toward transformational leadership.