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The Difference Between Change and Progress Is Leadership

· Leadership,Change,Progress

first published at

It's the beginning of the work day, a Monday...

the joy and freedom of the weekend spent with friends and family vivid in our consciousness, no doubt dulled a little by the commute experience, but nonetheless, here we are sitting down at our desk or still on the train, opening our inbox.

Have you noticed that there is a mood for most of us when we are offered change? There's an email that lets us know some change is coming at some future point. Could be big, small or just profound but what are the immediate emotions we feel?

I'll take a hunch that like me there are elements of fear of some damage or harm, some sadness at a potential loss and sure, some of us will be excited to a degree about a pending opportunity and even a small degree of satisfaction that someone somewhere got what was coming? But then, the process of change grinds through its inevitable steps and these emotions become an experience on a weekly, daily even hourly cadence which results in a one off emotion becoming a mood or a predisposition to feel a particular emotion.

There is another way, and the linguistics are simple. A change that we believe will be good for us, can't come quick enough. The simple word for change that we assess to be good for us is progress. Now think about the emotions you feel when you are involved in progress. Energising, engaging, purposeful come to my mind. 

I think of my dog as I reach for the leash, she knows that we are going to progress from here, to being outside on a walk, a change that can't come quick enough and see that waggy tail held high. You don't have to be a dog whisperer or a reader of body language to see "waggy tails" in our teams, and it is down to us, leaders to trigger that physical and emotional event.

How does the leader embody progress? Tell a great story

The beginning of the story of progress starts with honoring the present. I have used techniques like a history wall to achieve this. Bring all of the stakeholders together to honor what has gone before, have them all bring evidence and testimony together on a place like a wall that it can be easily observed, consumed.

Now comes the magic, the leader's moment to generate the future in a context of progression to a future where the change is so good for all stakeholders that it can't come quickly enough. The final act is to celebrate the journey. Who was outstanding in generating even the smallest of progressions? Remember that being obviously good, creates an emotion that if repeated becomes a mood. The leader's opportunity is to create a mood of progress, so value anyone that can help you get tails wagging.

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