Breaking bad: Are you approaching change management the right way?

Maintaining business success is impossible without change.

Whether it’s advancing technologies, shifting market conditions or a stuttering economy, there are many factors that can make or break an organisation in today’s rapidly evolving commercial landscape.

However, many leaders are guilty of a common misstep when approaching a change management project. They fail to identify and eliminate negative behaviours in the workplace.

While senior executives are keen to spread best practices and streamline existing processes, these efforts are often undermined by destructive influences.

An expanding body of research is showing that the first step in any change management project should be to curtail these damaging factors before embarking on organisational improvements.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Effective change management can achieve excellent results, but CEOs may need to dig deep and uproot legacy issues that are contributing to disharmony.

This can be an ugly process, and can even highlight failings at the upper echelons of management. Behaviours such as jealousy, laziness, dishonesty and fear are not only destructive at an individual level, they can spread like wildfire through an organisation.

A recent American Management Association study showed colleagues heavily resent employees who dodge their duties. Furthermore, nearly 70 per cent of respondents claimed this laziness damaged overall performance.

What is more worrying for senior executives is that 44 per cent of respondents said it diminishes engagement in the workplace. Half said it reflected a lack of shared responsibility.

Sandi Edwards, senior vice-president for AMA Enterprise, said: “Employees understandably become resentful when they see co-workers shirking responsibility without accountability – in such a situation, organisational morale and, ultimately, performance cannot help suffering.

“A culture that tolerates ‘passing the buck’ alienates those employees who give everything to their job on a daily basis. A few shirkers can snowball until the dominant culture becomes one of risk and responsibility aversion.”

These types of working environment spell bad news for any business implementing a change management project.

Ways to stop the rot

Once you have decided to target negative influences, there are several ways of breaking bad habits and promoting a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

This may involve dealing with problem employees, revitalising out-dated processes or re-adjusting unrealistic expectations. Here are three tips for approaching change management the right way.

1. DO sweat the small stuff

Even relatively minor problems can become major headaches if left to fester, as the “broken windows” theory suggests.

This popular proposition put forward by criminologist George Kelling and political scientist James Wilson in 1982 suggested that in neighbourhoods where a single window on a building is left unrepaired, other broken windows and structural damage soon follow.

The idea is that even a small unresolved issue indicates a lack of care and attention, eventually leading to widespread apathy and escalating destructive behaviour. The premise has been supported by several studies.

Business leaders should take note. Identifying small, yet persistent problems within your organisation can drastically improve productivity, boost morale and keep workers engaged and motivated for change.

2. Separate bad apples

Every company has bad apples and if your business is big enough there could be several. As a CEO or director, the temptation may be to leave the task of dealing with disruptive employees to line managers or department heads.

However, what if the problem is company-wide or involves the line managers themselves? Coming up with a solution may require a cross-departmental strategy that is outside the scope and responsibility of individual managers.

One approach is to collect all of your bad apples into one or multiple teams and assign them new leaders. There is likely to be a few big personalities involved, so they will need to be headed by strong managers who are up to the challenge.

Channelling their negative energy towards a common goal could have surprisingly beneficial outcomes. Even if a team continues to underperform, the damage will be limited to one area and other employees won’t be affected.

3. Build an effective change management team

Who you assign to a change management team is vital. The leader of this team needs to be high in the organisation to indicate the importance associated with the task.

However, seniority is not the only factor. They must also be well respected and have a good relationship with employees who, ultimately, are the driving force behind effective change management.

Getting popular staff members on side with a change initiative can drastically improve its chance of success. But recognising these employees can be difficult for directors who have little contact with personnel outside of senior management.

CEOs and directors should take the time to do research, improve communication and be objective when building the best change management team.

The behavioural DNA of a typical TEC member

Exploring EQ (Emotional Intelligence) & the motivating behaviours evident in the ‘typical’ TEC member.

After running over 70 presentations, from a behavioural perspective, a pattern has emerged as to the type of member TEC attracts and keeps. This article will bring data to the table and explore the natural strengths and weaknesses in the behaviour of your typical TEC member. There are generic challenges that arise out of what I have found with the such a TEC member. Challenges include, building trust, dealing with conflict, flexibility & handling differing points of view.

“Emotional Intelligence? That’s an oxy-moron! How can you be “intelligent” and “emotional” at the same time?”

This was a common response particularly when I first started presenting “Applied Emotional Intelligence” over 12 years ago to TEC groups. More and more research confirms, (such as “Built to Last” & “Great by Choice” Jim Collins) there is a strong link between Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and business success.

The cynics are becoming fewer.

That doesn’t make it any easier however to understand and apply EQ to business.

TEC members seem to have a thirst and equally a frustration working out this ‘emotional intelligence’ piece of their Management equation.

A tool that I have found particularly useful in helping TEC members grasp EQ is called “DISC Profiling”. The DISC profiling process came out of research back in the 1920’s by Dr. William Marsden “Emotions of Normal People” who wanted to work out ‘what drives people’s different behaviours?’. Then in the 1960’s Dr. John Geier developed the “DISC profile” to help people measure these drivers– Why they do and behave the way they do.

In a nutshell “D.I.S.C.” represents four quadrants of behaviour (see Table 1). Behaviours we exhibit depending on the environment we are in. Similar behavioural models use birds to help visualize and identify these behaviours (refer: “Taking Flight” Rosenberg & Silvert):

  • ‘bold’ Eagle (“D” behaviour),
  • ‘flamboyant’ Peacock (“I” behaviour),
  • ‘peaceful’ Dove (“S” behaviour) and
  • ‘wise’ Owl (“C” behaviour):

Table 1: Brief summary of DISC:

Type Behaviour Motivated by Characteristics Indicators
Eagle Direct & Decisiv Power & Control Risk taking & Task oriented Strong Willed Bold Competitive
IPeacock Interactive & Inspirational Recognition & Influence Risk taking & People oriented Talkative & Fun loving
SDove Steady & Supportive Acceptance & Stability Risk reducing & People oriented Sincere & co-Operative
COwl Cautious & Correct Security & Correctness Risk reducing & Task oriented Logical & Thorough

The key is to recognise that we have a unique combination of D.I.S.C. behaviours. However we do tend to revert to a couple of behaviours that are our natural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’.

The DISC profile measures below were gathered from 40 TEC members participating in ‘Applied Emotional Intelligence’ sessions from four recent TEC groups. The results revealed some interesting patterns in TEC members; patterns that reflect my experience working with nearly 1,000 TEC members over 12 years.

Strongest Behaviour % Behavioural Preference* %
D 56.1% D 77.5%
I 3.6% I 20.0%
S 17.4% S 35.0%
C 22.9% C 75.0%

*It is important to note that around 80% of the population have 2 DISC behaviours, such as a D & C or S & C combination which are their natural behavioural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’

  • “Strongest behaviour”= measures “which of the four DISC behaviours is the strongest preference for the TEC member?”
  • ”Behavioural Preference”= measures “which DISC behaviours are a natural preference?”

The results are not surprising. “D” rates as the strongest rating behaviour for 56.2% of TEC members while 77.5% have D as part of their behavioural DNA. “D” behaviour is driven by the need for Power & Control. In other words they prefer to call the shots, than be told what to do!

They love TEC because they love fierce conversations (no ‘BS’), making life efficient and continually focus on results.

Heading up or creating a business can be high risk and thus tends to attract people who are comfortable in taking risks and driven by getting results. TEC provides that framework.

75% of TEC members are driven by the need for security, correctness and compliance (C behaviour). The need to get things right, need for process.

They love TEC because it helps fine tune systems, processes and procedures. Quality and accountability are king!

So, where does EQ fit into the TEC picture?

From an EQ perspective, the challenge for TEC members with 77.5% and 75% of members respectively having D & C behaviour as part of their DNA means that their world is highly TASK driven. Results tend to be more about taking risks, getting systems, processes and procedures right.

The danger:staff may in themselves become just another “task” versus an “asset” to be nurtured, coached and engaged.

Believe it or not, EQ is not about being touchy feely. It’s more about maximizing your people’s input, engagement and thus productivity. No point having great products, systems and processes but no decent person wants to work for you!

A challenge to TEC. Is TEC attracting a certain type of business owner/director? Are there opportunities to target a wider community of leaders that are not being tapped?

Finally, the KEYS TO HIGH EQ:

  • knowing yourself: strengths/weaknesses
  • knowing what drives you (knowing your D.I.S.C. preferences)
  • knowing what drives those who are most important to you and
  • taking responsibility to build your key relationships (high EQ)

Emotional intelligence is more related to your ability to be flexible than where you live in the world of DISC.

Good luck!

By the way, if you are looking to sharpen your EQ check out ‘Leadership NOW’

About the Author

Wayne Dyson is the Director of Bridgeworks – a specialist leadership and team development consultancy dealing in people skills for professionals. Delivering processes that build collaborative work environments where staff are fully engaged. Providing the starting point is helping managers find the sweet spot between managing process and leading people. His programs have been delivered nationally and in USA, SE Asia, UK, & NZ.