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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Wong

Leadership Series: Changing Mindset & Behaviors

I have often being asked by organizations to help them with change. Often than not, the change is necessary for the company to remain relevant and grow in the market. This process often involved a required change in the mindset and behavior of employees. I think this sort of change has always been difficult. This is especially so if the right levers are not in place. Change requires conviction, efforts and patience. The whole endeavor will severely disappoint if we rush into it expecting changes to happen within a short timeframe. As per all journeys, the change journey needs to start somewhere. The journey starts when we are clear about what we intend to achieve and how we want to achieve it. Instead of jumping right into the change haphazardly, I often recommend using a model to guide us through.

There are many models for organizational change involving employees' mindset and behavior. One of the better models of change is the McKinsey's Influence model. It makes sense and can be easily understood by all levels. While you can read more about it over here, I like to offer a slight adaptation in this post. I will also share some of my past experiences working on these change journeys.

McKinsey Influence Model
The Influence Model on my whiteboard. One of the things I looked at everyday. Comes with self appraisals!

There are four aspects of this model. Each aspect is an action item. All four action items must be in place to enable a significant shift in mindset and behavior. What is also good about this model is that for each action item, there is an explanatory quote to help you (and others) understand what exactly the outcome should be.

Role Modelling

Role Modeling as part of the Change Process
"I see my leaders, colleagues, and staff behaving differently."

I have always been a proponent of exemplary leadership. To effect change, it starts from the top. To me, this is arguably the most important of the four levers. For a change to be successful, it is absolutely critical for leaders to be acting and communicating in ways that are aligned with the desired change. Some called in 'leadership by example', or 'walk the talk'.

I see many SMEs hit roadblocks in the change journey when those at the top are aligned, but the middle managers are not. Often these middle managers are long time employees. Several chose to remain comfortable with the 'old ways'. Another way of looking at it, many of them are drilled in the 'old ways'. They are unable to see the need to change when the 'old ways' had brought them many years of success. Some don't know how to change. If you want to change, you need to get them on board. Involve and engage them in the change process. Conduct change workshops and meetings with them. Collectively identify the desired goals and behaviors for change. Together, create and agree on plans to realize them.

Despite all these and yet they persistently chose not to be on board? Then a management decision needs to be made to perhaps inject fresh talents. Sometimes you just need a smaller group of change leaders and agents to tilt the tide. Remember the 80/20 rule?

Lastly, do take a deliberate effort to highlight and reward the role models.


Building Belief is critical to the change process
"I understand what is being asked of me, it makes sense, and I believe in it."

Do not under-estimate the role of building conviction in the change journey. How can you as the leader get the rest of your team to buy-in? Can you communicate effectively the 'Why' in a way that employees can understand, make sense of it and believe in the need to change? Can they feel the sense of purpose as they journey the path of change with you?

Often, I recommend to leaders to create a compelling and powerful change story. If you do not know how to do so, I would recommend learning this very useful tool. Everyone loves a good story. Think of our annual National Day Celebration. A good story allows the listener to be engaged, be captivated and be inspired. Your change story should allow your staff to understand where the company is headed, why it is changing, and why this change is important.

When do you share the change story? There are many ways to do so. Do it at a townhall and dialogue sessions. Share it at the start before a formal meeting. Send via the company newsletter. Show via posters in meeting rooms and at the pantry. Demonstrate it on your company intranet or website.

Develop Talents & Skills

Develop talents and skills so that people are confident to take on the change

"I have the skills and opportunities to behave in a new way."

To effect change, the people must be equipped with the relevant tools to do so. Are there new methods and processes in the 'new way' of doing business? Are there new skills and knowledge when it comes to the 'new way' of connecting with customers? Is there a new software that replaces the old? There are a myriad of new competencies that the employees need to be firstly supported and then developed to behave in the desired manner, confidently. This is part of the people development process.

Avoid the pitfall when employees attend training sessions for the sake of it. They go through the motion, clock the hours but not apply the new skills after the training. This happens when the conviction is not there. They feel nothing will change. We talked about the need for belief in the prior section.


Reinforce the right behaviors with the right tools and mechanisms

"I can see that our structures, process and systems support the changes I am being asked to make."

The last aspect is to build the right mechanisms to support the necessary change. One typical area is the company's incentive or KPI system. Incentives and KPIs drive people's behavior. There was a company I used to work with. While the senior leaders wanted the change, they found it difficult to change an age-old incentive system that brought about undesirable behavior. What happened was an unfortunate vicious cycle where employees are put through many sessions on the need for change, but when they returned to the sales floor, they were rewarded by displaying the 'old way' of doing things. Employees are often left confused and frustrated, resulting in abandoning any conviction for change.

Concluding Note

Any change efforts should focus on these 4 key aspects. Go through each of them systematically with your team. Collectively agree on the action plans for each item. Create a timeline. Measure the progress in quantitatively and qualitatively. Do a survey. Conduct an open discussion on the progress and hear employees feedback.

Lastly, celebrate small victories. Aim small. I can assure you many multiple small victories will eventually lead to the biggest victory at the end of the tunnel. :)

If you are an SME, and if there is any area you may want some help, or an opinion, or just simply a chat, do drop me a message!

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30. Aug. 2023

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