I recently participated in a roundtable discussion on the topic of change leadership, and subsequently was interviewed about the Javelin Institute’s new program, “The BEST Leader in 30 Days!” (This program brings you 30 daily activities that’s recognized through research validation to equip you to be the BEST Leader possible… Not a Good Leader, or even a Better Leader… the BEST Leader!) If you’re interested in the program, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Here’s Part I and Part II of the interview, slightly edited for clarity and brevity:
INTERVIEWER: Sam, you’ve not only led change as a leader yourself, but also helped other leaders with change. Tell us a little bit about how in general you think about change leadership, and how you apply that in the businesses you work in/with?
SAM PALAZZOLO: Change leadership can be a complicated component of business success. Do it right, and the change leadership landscape will have plenty claiming stake in the successful outcome. Do change leadership wrong, and you’ll be looked at as sole proprietor responsible for the failure. I see many leaders who enter into situations of change without really having the skills or coaching to know exactly how to successfully change. The biggest component of change leadership to me is rooted in the leader. Specifically, does the leader have the perspective required to gather themselves from an emotional intelligence perspective. It’s very much an EQ moment versus an IQ one!
In my 2018 book, titled “Leading at the Tip of the Spear: The Leader” I examined how you can better lead others by leading yourself. As a matter of fact, my research concludes that if you can’t lead yourself, the likelihood of you successfully leading others ranges from slim to none. One of the insights that allows for successful change leadership is to have insight into where you want to go (Vision) and what change will be required in order to arrive at that destination. It’s easy for leaders to become impatient when leading change because while they can not only see where they want to go, but how they want to get there, they forget to share and lead others at a pace at which they can understand and withstand. In other words, those you’re leading need to not only understand/comprehend where they are going, but perhaps more importantly, what their role will be in getting there across a possible specific time interval.
INTERVIEWER: So, with change leadership in mind, how do you coach people?
SAM PALAZZOLO: At its simplest levels, to have success in change leadership, it’s important for leaders to know where they are, where they are going, and how it is that they are going to get there. Knowing these three aspects allows leaders to architect a plan for change. This architectural blue print will allow leaders to create a plan for change. This blue print is important because it provides stakeholders with a clear understanding of what is being built (Where they are going and how they will get there).
Having specialized in change leadership for the past two-decades, I know that change involves a series of phases that both leader and stakeholders go through. There will be successes, equanimity, and failures along the way. As a student of the J-Curve methodology, I learned that initial failure is typical and with proper corrections success can/will be achieved. Allowing leaders to see this realistic change leadership landscape prior to experiencing change provides the proper perspective. The proper corrections typically, but not always, come from communication gathered from direct-frontline associates affected by the change. Listening to their feedback provides leaders with context from which they can assess situations clearly for proper corrections. With this in mind, and it’s part of the “BEST Leader in 30 Days!” methodology, is conducting a daily reflection of your change leadership efforts/energies. Specifically, there are three questions that you’d want to ask yourself:
- What did I do today to further the (change leadership) initiative?
- What did I not do today to further the (change leadership) initiative?
- What will I do tomorrow to further the (change leadership) initiative?
INTERVIEWER: What are some of the mistakes you see leadership making in their attempts to lead? Specifically, what are the most common mistakes when leading change?
SAM PALAZZOLO: I’ve seen just about every type of mistake be made when it comes to change leadership. Typically, the mistakes cluster around the basic business building blocks of people, processes, technology, and/or financials. All too often leaders will fail to get involved those they expect to go through the change (so that they have input into what will happen on the way towards where the leader desires to go).
I’ve also seen leaders fail in change leadership when they put a “spin” on change. One leader, who’ll remain nameless, used to replace the word change with innovation. His reasoning for doing so was because he had read a study that showed people dislike change. While the study might be correct, changing the namesake doesn’t increase the odds of success. Remember, a duck is still a duck!
At a gym I worked-out in they had a huge sign on the wall that read:
“Until the pain associated with staying the same is greater than the pain associated with change, you will not do anything different.”
Think about that for a moment… If we associate pain with change and pleasure with staying the same, then you’ve got to be in a bad spot to want to change! Afterall, staying the same should be painless. But once staying the same is more painful, you’ll desire relief/change.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve had an impressive career to date (I don’t think you’re done yet by a longshot either!) You’ve worked with a Fortune 1 organization and now you’re working as a venture capitalist, consultant and philanthropist. Are there any differences between leading change at large vs. small organizations and for profit vs. nonprofit ones?
SAM PALAZZOLO: Thank you for the complement… I hope my career continues to grow/change in directions I can’t visualize at the current time. With that said, and to answer your question – Yes, there are differences. While the problem types are very similar (Think people, processes, technology, and/or financials), the scale is simply larger in big companies. This is the same regardless of entity formation (profit vs. nonprofit).
However, there is one key difference that I see play itself out time and again. That difference is that in smaller organizations the leader can make the difference. Whereas in larger organizations, there is less of a leadership impact, but the need to have good leadership in place across the organization exists. Think about it, if the organization is small and the leader is great, successful change leadership is relatively straightforward. In larger organizations, there are many more leaders to coordinate similar future change leadership vision with, and as such each needs to be able to share that vision precisely/similarly with their teams. Same vision and different share lead to unsuccessful change leadership typically (a disaster!)
INTERVIEWER: Talk to us in general about leadership burnout and the impact it has on change.
SAM PALAZZOLO: I see burnout as a crucial moment for leaders. I decided to form The Javelin Institute after meeting with a leader that had just lost their spouse. It wasn’t a loss that I could put my head around… It was a freak accident that took the life of her husband in an instant. Worse yet, and on top of her business duties as leader of an organization, she had a twenty-month-old little girl and baby number two due in three months. While her family and community rallied around her to support, the thought went through my head as to “What happens when the pancake breakfasts are over? What happens when the news crews leave and report on different stories? What’s going to happen to this leader and her family?” I know she faced tremendous struggles in what I could only describe as the darkest of dark times. The strength that she exhibited was incredible. After all, I’m not certain most of us could muster the strength to get out of bed.
While this might be an extreme case of burnout, the realities of health and leadership forced their way to the front for me. I recognized that life happens, and that if the health of the leader is not good, nor is the health of the team nor organization. Unhealthy leaders, teams or organizations don’t achieve their goals. From a control perspective, there are only so many things within our control. But those “in-control” items need to have intentional thoughts carried out with them for success.
INTERVIEWER: So, what can a leader do to maintain health and avoid burnout during change leadership?
SAM PALAZZOLO: I’ve seen it time and again play itself out in leadership, regardless of entity size. The leader that makes deliberate choices as to how they care for themselves, sets themselves up to outperform others. I’m a firm advocate for proper exercise and nutrition.
A component of exercise that typically gets overlooked by most is rest. While most think of exercise as the moments where they are physically exerting themselves, I ask the leaders that work with me about how they spend their “down” time (If they don’t have any down time, that’s a problem in and of itself!)
Making certain that you rest is key when it comes to change leadership. Rest allows for recuperation and relaxation, states that refresh the body and mind. While I’m not an expert in physiology, I can share that leaders who create space for themselves to rest are better able to handle not only business as usual moments, but the all too important business unusual ones as well!
INTERVIEWER: Last question, where do you see The Javelin Institute in the long-term (5+ years)?
SAM PALAZZOLO: In addition to my role leading the charge at Tip of the Spear Ventures, I founded The Javelin Institute to provide Executive Education to leaders who experience family hardship. Executive Education in the form of leadership development and executive coaching. Family hardship in the form of what I refer to as the four D’s (Death, Disease, Divorce and/or Drugs). Javelin is a great way for me to showcase the skills I’ve learned over the years and assist leaders who in those family hardship moments, tend to decelerate. I’ve even experienced these deceleration moments myself as a result of family hardship. I view Javelin as an aid to assist leaders in avoiding deceleration, and instead accelerate in those difficult times.
The statistics prove a very compelling business case. With the aging of the world’s demographics, comes death. While modern medicine advancements increase, there will always be disease. Roughly sixty percent of marriages end in divorce, and regardless of how well thought out or planned these might be, family dynamics will go out of balance. Lastly, the dependency on drugs removes stability for organizations and the communities that they operate in.
I see The Javelin Institute succeeding because of these far from simple-times ahead.