6 Lessons On Change Leadership From The NFL, Military And More

Sometimes you can learn the most from industries that are different from yours. Especially when it comes to affecting change.

Photo: Ken Sterling, Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau; Source: Courtesy Photo

Sometimes you can learn the most from industries that are different from yours. Especially when it comes to affecting change.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “It’s a strange thought, but the solution to your business’s innovation problem may be walking around in the head of someone who applies theatrical makeup for a living. Or plays robot soccer. Or installs heavy machinery in mines. Or does something else that’s apparently unrelated to the problem you’ve been struggling with.”

“Over the course of years of studying innovation, we’ve found that there’s great power in bringing together people who work in fields that are different from one another yet that are analogous on a deep structural level.”

Can your business adapt to (and thrive in) a changing environment? Here’s a look at 6 insights on how to introduce, implement and manage change from successful leaders across varied industries (the arts, sports, military, and business).


1. Tolerate ambiguity

As the rate of change increases in the world, organizations must seek ways to tolerate greater ambiguity. According to Michael Gelb—renowned speaker on innovation and the author of the international bestseller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day—one should embrace ambiguity, not fear it.

In his blog, “Let the Mona Lisa Help You Manage Change,” Gelb states that embracing uncertainty in the face of change is the characteristic of a creative mind and creativity will help you find better solutions in a changing world.


2. Over communicate

In order to get people to accept why change is necessary and understand what those changes should be, communicate your vision clearly. Do not be afraid to over communicate, suggests former NFL quarterback Tom Flick in his blog “3 Key Elements to Lead Change in 2016.”

Flick played quarterback in the NFL for seven seasons and knows a thing or two about communicating in changing environments. He suggests that you communicate in the future tense to define clearly where you intend the organization to be going.


3. Build relationships

If you want to build buy-in for your changes, you first need to build relationships with your employees. According to Flick, all great teams and organizations are founded on strong relationships and solid trust. If you take the time to create and maintain trusting relationships before you make changes, your staff will be more likely to follow the new initiatives you propose.


4. Challenge processes

When you evaluate the outcomes of changes, always focus on the process—not the people. Assume that people want to do a good job and are not trying to fail.

According to US Naval Commander Mike Abrashoff in his blog “Change Management Business Advice,” examine the process and consider: have you clearly communicated your goals, provided the necessary resources, or offered the right training? If you constantly challenge the processes and not the people, you will see improvements.


5. Create a code of conduct

One way to create and maintain change in your organization is to write a code of conduct and hold yourself to it. In her blog “3 Tips for Creating Space for Change,” Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink and author of Kill the Company, suggests creating a code of conduct will help you instill better work habits for you and your team.

Bodell recommends posting the code where you can always see it, like on a space next to your computer. Such a conduct code might include action items like reducing redundancies, empowering your team to do the same, and communicating in jargon-free language.


6. Kill a stupid rule

Are the old rules holding your organization back and stopping you from innovating? Bodell suggests that to increase innovation you should ask your team what two rules they might eliminate. This is also a way to open a dialogue about change in your company and start including people in the process.


This article has been edited.

Ken Sterling is the Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau – the leading keynote and business speakers bureau in the world. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales & marketing expert. Connect with @bigspeak on Twitter.



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