How to prevent ‘reverting to type’… Rethink change-management to change-leadership

The term ‘reverting to type’ came up this week when we were talking through the process of change with a visitor to NBCS. We met with an educator from a post-secondary college that has an incredible opportunity to bring change, to personalise the learning and enhance the experience for the students.

Their space is ready and the opportunity awaits, but he was concerned that without effective process the educational practitioners will put up walls, compartmentalise the learning and ‘revert to type’.

What type?

The type of teacher they were in the industrial-style spaces. The space may change, but the mindset must also be radically altered. I’ve seen this in schools in other parts of the world, once heralded as the peak of innovation. Without a deliberate process to make the change stick the compartments are reset, cupboards and bookshelves soon make traditional spaces.

I don’t think ‘change management’ is the key. I think that change leadership is needed. ‘Management’ refers to things and systems. Leadership is about people and it’s the people who need to change. Things and systems seem to be able to cope.

How to implements a change leadership program?

Shaping culture: Do you know the culture you want? Articulate it, then live it.  Let the culture be the filter through which every decision is passed. This applies to small and big decisions. Culture is, in simple terms, ‘the way we do things around here’. As leaders, we actually need to be deliberate about the culture we want. Culture is evident in:

  • purpose

  • priorities and goals

  • the organisational language

  • values and attitudes held

  • the climate, unseen yet evident

  • systems and processes

Leading by example: We are watched. As leaders we need to appreciate how powerful our actions and decisions are to others. This doesn’t mean we must be perfect, otherwise we wouldn’t achieve anything. We will make mistakes. How we respond in these situations will provide powerful examples of leadership.

Growing a champion team: If change is difficult, find your champions and then drill down identify the influencers. Yes, you will be accused of favouritism, but you will also be accused of a lot of things across your life as a leader. One of the most powerful things you can do is reward and recognise the change champions in your team.

When change is led well it is impossible to ‘return to type’, because we can’t remember what it was, as we have become too excited and passionate about the ‘new type’.


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