On the HR.com Leadership blog, Garrett Gitchell offers some pointers for effective leadership. His focus is on change management initiatives and I think they are useful in that context, since so many in the commercial and contracts role today are needing to drive significant organization and process change projects. However, a number of his comments apply equally well to complex project contracts and i have added my thoughts in italics.
1. Be very clear before you start the change journey of the responsibilities of leadership- you will likely have an owner and an implementer. Partner together and pass that type of relationship down the chain. Change fails when no one is responsible and no one is accountable. (This problem is frequently identified as an issue in many of our change projects and major contracts. Think long and hard about the roles that will be needed; for example, is the leader also the sponsor? What need may there be for an executive steering group to provide authority and credibility to the work etc).
2. If you are the leader be careful of the you and them perspective- stakeholders see right through a leader who is not personally connected to the change. (Another way of expressing this is to be sure that we use terminology and behave in ways that show understanding and respect for those who are affected or from whom we need support – the stakeholders. Simply trying to overwhelm people, or failing to take the time to explain the impacts and benefits to them, is a sure way to build resistance. Leaders are inclusive of others, because they believe in what they are doing and want others to join them.)
3. Value expertise- use it, call it out and connect the relationship of talent to successful change. But don’t fake it (see point two). (this is indeed linked to point 2 and in particular relates to the functional experts that need to come on board. Think hard about how and when to inform them. The more they feel side-lined or that they were not given an early opportunity to engage, the more probable you will hit resistance. Think of this in personal terms – when others come to you for support, what makes you feel valued or under-valued?)
4. Be clear about the differences between project management and change management- PM accomplishes tasks and manages risk, CM works to connect the work of people to end states. Don’t put big picture people on the little stuff and don’t throw the big picture stuff at those managing risk. (This is a great point. Project management is just a disciplined way of getting things done. It is not in itself anything to do with leadership. Contract management is the same. Leaders must step beyond their discipline and put it in a context of business value.)
5. Double your time and dollar estimates- I mean that figuratively (although if you want to take it literally and act on that you might have some pretty successful change- by all measures). Don’t fall prey to any hucksters out there who promise to speed your time to change. It might work for the first round, but the mess will be ugly the second time. (Again, it is true to be realistic in what can be achieved, but also unrealistic to expect that there will not be pressures and expectations to do things faster and cheaper. Setting expectations is key and to gain acceptance you must of course have a very clear vision of the future state and benefits associated with it.)
6. Change can be, and is when it is thought out and makes sense, positive- be careful of negative, resistance fighting, risk managing approaches to change. There may be times when you have to put the hammer down… that’s different. (Doing things differently is always threatening to many people, even those who claim to like or embrace change. Most of them actually like change when it affects others, not themselves. Our research consistently shows that most professionals think what they are doing and how they do it is just fine – it is others who need to change their ways. Be conscious of this at every step.)
7. Enjoy the journey- you are, after all, asking that of others. (Another great point. Many contracts, legal and procurement people feel left out today. The number one reason why we are left out is because others perceive us as tending to be negative and risk-averse. We would say we are realists. But to be a leader, and accepted as such, we must demonstrate optimism and a belief in achieving new goals or targets; we must find ways to do things, rather than reasons not to do them. And a great start on that journey is to be seen as enthusiastic and able to motivate others – not someone who worries and generates lists of issues and problems.)
You can see more of Garrett’s thoughts on change management at http://horizontalchange.com/