One of the key learnings from my experience working with many organizations trying to transform themselves is that ultimately, organizations don’t change. People do.
Recent research from McKinsey finds that half of all efforts to transform organizational performance fail either because senior managers don’t act as role models for change or because people in the organization defend the status quo. In both cases, individual behavior is at the heart of the hold-up, not a system or process. Leaders, by default, must step up to the plate to be the early adopters of individual change to move the needle for the whole.
At the core of kickstarting individual change is developing self-awareness. This awareness is a deep understanding of personal tendencies and habits of thought, emotions and behavior. It is a learned skill – not one we are born with – to become aware in real-time of your “default” reaction to a situation and proactively pause, then react in a constructive way. This is particularly challenging when faced with stress and ambiguity.
Armed with self-awareness, leaders of change initiatives are better able to articulate to their teams why they are passionate about the change and serve as genuine role models. They understand that their employees crave meaning and being genuinely listened to, and can design their change initiative’s training, communication plan and goals with these desires at the center. Taken together, this creates a culture of trust in leadership and a change vision employees can more easily identify with and buy into.
But you don’t have to be leading organizational change to benefit from practicing self-awareness. Truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence and tend to have strong alignment between their own personal values and those of the company they work for. And not surprisingly, such leaders report higher satisfaction in their work, and their lives.
As one of my favorite quotations says, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Have the courage and curiosity to become a better you. Whether that means leading through organizational change, managing your own team, or just spending time with those you love; being self-aware, and doing it authentically with purpose, makes it all the sweeter.
Cheryl is founder and CEO of Blue Beyond Consulting. She is a firm believer in deep trust, high expectations workplaces, and a sought-after advisor and speaker on change, leadership, and culture.