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What's your hang time?

You knew it was time to change some things in your business. In fact, you have known this for quite some time. You researched and studied until you felt confident in exactly what you needed to do. You laid out your plan, engaged your leadership team, and hit the launch button to roll out the new program. Your most loyal employees - those who truly believe in your vision - get right to work adapting to the program. They need occasional guidance, support and encouragement, but they’re engaged and making progress. You’re feeling pretty good.

With every change initiative come change resisters. From the moment you hit that launch button, they start popping up. You know they’re productive and otherwise loyal employees, they just seem to have difficulty adapting to new procedures, systems and business designs. You keep pressing forward even while fighting fires caused by those change resisters. It’s not that the change resisters are openly trying to mutiny, far from it. They’re just not playing, and you’re concerned that if you start pushing hard on accountability, you’ll only make matters worse by creating more tension.

At about 90 days into your change initiative, you realize that the initiative actually died in the first 30 days. Once again, your hang time on leading a new program or change initiative is short. You know it. Your employees know it. And, make no mistake, your customers know it.

So what causes projects and initiatives - no matter how small - to crash and burn? The answer is simple: Hang time is all about leadership - your leadership. Here are some hang-time facts:

  • Employees don’t kill change initiatives on their own. Leaders allow it to happen. They even watch it happen. Leadership blockages such as a fear of confrontation, feeling intimidated, reluctance to make tough decisions, self-esteem issues and other emotional challenges, cause leaders give in to even the slightest resistance.

  • Fuzzy visions and objectives kill change initiatives. “OK team, we’re gonna move that mountain over there right now. Let do it.” “Why are we moving that mountain? Exactly where are we moving the mountain? We don’t know how to move a mountain. Will we be trained? How long do we have to move it? What resources can we use? This is a big project. How will we be kept informed of our progress?” Crystal clear visions and clearly defined expectations from the outset are the foundation that all change is built on.

  • Mediocrity and indifference kill change initiatives. A non-negotiable companion of change is accountability. First, leaders must hold themselves accountable to the initiative through to success. Second, leaders must hold their team members accountable - that means all team members. There is no room for favorites or “get out of jail” cards for anyone or any group. Yes, fairness and compassion must prevail, but not at the expense of derailing the initiative. Third, there comes a time when change resisters must be given career opportunities out in the job market.

  • Stifle innovation, creativity and collaboration, and you kill change initiatives. Any new project, system or change initiative will gain lift and momentum when team members are allowed to shape and tweak it. Involvement spurs ownership thinking and pride. Collaboration spurs unity and strengthening of the company culture. Collectively, change initiatives move faster requiring less energy and resources. However, it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure the initiative stays true to its objective and timeline.

If your business suffers from short hang times on new projects and initiatives, look in the mirror. “They” are not sabotaging your success - it’s you, your style of leadership and accountability you’re avoiding or ignoring. The question is, what will your hang time be on changing you?

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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

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