Most researchers and organisational experts agree that role modelling is a vital part of leading change. Leaders should take actions that role model the desired changes. If they want to influence others to do the same.
However, the problem here is that many leaders believe they already ‘are the change’. The reason for this is that many executives don’t see themselves as ‘part of the problem’ and deep down don’t believe that they need to change. They will agree that they must role model the desired changes, it’s just that they think they are doing this already.
Generally most leaders have good intentions, work hard and believe they are doing the right thing or they wouldn’t be doing it. However, most people are very over optimistic about their own behaviour. Many physcology experiments and studies have been conducted that show this. For example, more than 50% of people rank themselves in the top half of driving ability, which is clearly a statistical impossibility. In many areas of human behaviour we consistently think that we are better than we really are. And this is the issue around role modelling. While some may see role modelling as a mix of skills and will (i.e. knowing how to change and wanting to do it), the inconvenient truth is that leaders need to know ‘what’ to change at a personal level. But how do leaders gain the necessary knowledge around ‘what they need to change’?
Insights into what to change can be gained using 360 feedback tools, whether via survey questionnaires, focus groups, conventions, third party observations or a mix of them all. However, the feedback needs to be against specific behaviours related to the desired changes that will drive improvements in business performance and not against a list of generic behaviours. Feedback can then be given to senior executives on how they go about their day to day work.
For example, ‘You say you want to be customer focussed but you spend less than 50% of your time in executive meetings discussing customers and how to improve customer focus in the business’. ‘You say that improving health and safety is your number one priority yet the last three capital requests relating to health and safety issues have all been rejected’.
While difficult these types of changes help break the bias that inhibits well meaning leaders from making a real difference through their actions and having a real impact on their business.
Recall for a moment what Ghandi famously said, ‘For things to change, first I must change’.