Supporting a brave culture

We need to encourage acts of bravery so that if change is initiated and success isn’t achieved straight away – it isn’t a failure. It’s simply a step in the direction of improving and ultimately obtaining fresh and innovative results. By Fiona Hewitt.

The constant need for change in organisations now remains as one of the fundamental competencies required for those in leadership roles. In my column last month I wrote about the constant evolution of change and how as individuals and organisations we need to build and create “change ready” and “change open” organisational frameworks.

I received a lot of comments with regards to this article and it lead me to further observe that to support change-ready organisations we need, just as importantly, to support the spirit from which change is undertaken.

What I mean by that is that I have observed recently, in a number of different business settings, how often people place harsh judgements and criticisms on those individuals or leaders driving the change.

Perhaps as part of creating change-ready organisations and individuals we also need to create learning and behavioural frameworks that build up braveness, courage to champion change and the resilience to look beyond the naysayers.

I don’t think this issue is just limited to New Zealand but we do need to encourage a culture of braveness and proactively support behaviours of change if we ultimately want to drive organisations and individuals to reach for greater outcomes, innovation and a constant state of evolution.

With the introduction of something new or different, there is also an evolutionary process. Sometimes change means that things don’t always work straight away or it might be not 100 percent there from the word go. Let’s not forget the adage – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But if we can encourage the pursuit of change and an embedded behaviour of attempting new ways of doing and being – then we truly have the opportunity to develop cultures of innovation – and that is where the biggest opportunity for greater outcomes lies.

I constantly recommend that people watch the TED Talk from Eddie Obeng on “Smart Failure”. His premise, in my mind, always rings out strongly and relevantly for the workplace that we now all work in. We need to encourage acts of bravery so that if change is initiated and success isn’t achieved straightway – it isn’t a failure. It is simply a step in the direction of improving and ultimately obtaining fresh and innovative results.

At IMNZ we have just gone through a major rebrand and I am certainly experiencing, and observing, differing behaviours and responses from the team, facilitators, learning participants and members.

As we have just gone through this major rebrand I wanted to get feedback from some of the IMNZ team, learning participants and members on how they saw change and how it connected through to innovation.

And upon reflection; perhaps the champions of change and innovation are evident everywhere, we just need to encourage them to talk a little more loudly and act a little more boldly than the naysayers amongst us. Imagine the possibilities then which could be achieved.

Here are a few responses we received from our stakeholders.

1. How do you perceive change in the workplace?

  • Change in the workplace is the new norm and while uncomfortable at times it’s essential for the success of organisations in this day and age.
  • Dealing with change in the workplace can bring a new “fresh” outlook to the work you undertake and can have a very positive effect.
  • Challenging and daunting at times, but unavoidable and imperative at all times.
  • Change in the workplace is necessary and sometimes vital in order to survive, remain relevant, and be competitive. It is the chance to take the workplace and the people within it in an exciting new direction. In saying that, change in the workplace is scary, no matter how you look at it, but failing to try is failure in itself therefore, change must happen in order to succeed.
  • I tend to see change as an opportunity to build on previous experiences and use these to make positive decisions to improve a working environment or process. Change is constant and can be uncomfortable but, unless you’re open to it and contribute consciously and positively, [only] then you will be in the best situation to lead the outcomes, collaborate or take an active role in the project.

2. As an individual how you do react to change?

  • I try my very best to treat change as an opportunity for continual improvement, taking a leap of faith in embracing the change. You always aim high but you always need to be prepared to fail, and if it doesn’t work, take a step back to evaluate how we can do it better next time.
  • As an individual I think that it is important to feel like you are a part of the change, rather than the change happening around you, without your inclusion. Change can have an unnerving effect on an individual if all the changes are taking place and they have no input into the decisions – this could seem like you are being pushed out and alienated. On the flip side of this, if you are included in the changes – this can motivate an individual to invest in the changes.
  • I think that, like most people, I find change scary and difficult at times, but I try to react with positivity and to see it as an opportunity to grow and learn new things. I believe that you can’t, and shouldn’t, try to avoid it or stop it but you can choose how you react to it.
  • I aim to embrace change in all its forms – regardless of whether the context is professional or personal. In order for me to grow and stretch in both my career and personal life, my reaction to change is very important and I do this by focusing on the positive outcomes.
  • Positively in most cases. I see change as an opportunity to grow and elevate my own skills and use the changing dynamics of the environment as a chance to refocus thinking and my approach to my role. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with multiple change initiatives and I have personally and professionally benefitted in each case.

3. If change is to be implemented what do you see is the most important behaviour to positively respond to it?

  • Patience, with the change itself and with the people going through it. It’s important to give the change time to take effect, develop and grow.
  • Flexibility and commitment to the changes. You must trust the change and believe that it is the best for the organisation; you project this by promoting the change.
  • Optimism – rather than feeling like a victim, involve yourself in the process and try to be part of the solution. It takes energy, it won’t always be easy and it won’t always result in the outcomes you want, but denial and resistance will only make it harder, and demonstrating your willingness can make you a valuable asset to your organisation.
  • In the implementation of change, the most important attitude and response is to be open to the change itself. You can never be too sure of the exciting outcomes if your reaction to change is negative and close-minded.
  • Clear and open dialogue is critical to the success of any change project. Gaining the opinions and thoughts of employees at all levels and seeing how the collective skills and experience can be used in formulating new ideas and processes will not only provide better outcomes but it takes people on the journey and ensures engagement from start to finish.

4. Do you see a link between change and innovation?

  • Change and innovation go hand in hand. We innovate to keep up with an ever-changing market and changes are part of the innovation process. When you look back at the story of an organisation you might describe it as an innovative journey as a whole, looking more closely you will see that many small changes were implemented to adapt or seize an opportunity.
  • I believe that change should provoke a new way of thinking – it is through this that innovation can be produced.
  • Absolutely. Innovation requires some level of change, and change compels people to think in new and exciting ways. I think that really innovative organisations are those that manage change well, both internally and externally.
  • Innovation, to me, means to revitalise/invent/’make new’. Therefore, there is no change without innovation – it is ingrained in the change itself.
  • I do! It certainly opens the door to thinking outside the square – which I love. Sometimes necessary change drives creativity and can uncover previously unthought-of possibilities and opportunities. It’s part of the process and can uncover awesome new ideas and also see how other members of the team are connecting with the vision and how to contribute to it.

Fiona Hewitt is the chief executive at IMNZ and came to the role with almost 20 years in senior management and executive roles. With a strong focus on strategy, business development, marketing and relationship engagement and stakeholder management, this has supported her passion to work with, and for, organisations committed to achieving strong results. She has a deep personal interest in making a difference and finding innovative ways for organisations and people to perform to their very best. 

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