Leadership and change management. The General Electric case study
Motivating and Inspiring
When trying to produce a change of any significance, people aligned to even the most sensible of directions almost always encounter serious barriers, some of which can be extremely hard to foresee in advance.
Getting over, around or through barriers to change can demand extraordinary energy and efforts. Without a highly motivated behavior these barriers can slow or stop an entire "change effort". As known change is the primary function of leadership, so being able to generate a highly energized behavior is one of the most important problem here, just like aligning and setting directions.
In a sense direction setting identifies an appropriate path for movement, effective alignment gets people moving down that path, and a successful motivational effort assure that those people will have the energy to overcome obstacles in their way.
For a better understanding of this aspect of leadership can be useful look at management where motivation is also a relevant topic. But it is important remember that motivation that applies to management is very different from the kind that applies to leadership.
The basic function of management is homeostatic: it is to keep a system alive by making sure that critical variables remain within tolerable ranges constantly. In this sense a managerial process in a well-run marketing department keep projects on or near budget all the time.
Another important aspect of management is control. One way to achieve control in managerial systems is by motivating people to comply the standards or the plan. Often managers can reach this objective through economic incentives, a certain amount of compensation is made contingent on a person's ability to minimize deviations from plan. Sometimes managers can try to reach this objective through other ways for example with group norms and pressures, but in the end the goal is the same: control.
For some of the same reasons that control is so central to management, highly motivated or inspired behavior is almost irrelevant. Managerial process must be as close as possible to fall-safe and risk-free. The whole purpose of the system is to help normal people who behave in normal way to complete routine jobs successfully day after day.
Leadership is different. Achieving big objectives bypassing the obstacles requires a big amount of energy, the kind that motivational and inspirational processes can provide. Such processes accomplish their energizing effect not by pushing people in the right direction, but by satisfying very basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one's life, and the ability to live up to one's ideals.
Good leaders motivate people in different ways.
First, they always articulate the organization's vision in a way that stresses the values of the audience they are addressing. Leaders also regularly involve people in deciding how to achieve the organization's vision. This gives people a sense of participation in the organization's decisions, moreover gives to leaders a bigger sense of control on employees.
Another important motivational expedient is to support employees' efforts to realize the vision by providing coaching, feedback, and role modeling. Finally good leaders recognize and reward success, this is important because it gives a sense of accomplishment, and also because people can feel part of the organization.
A control process seeks to minimize deviations from plan to produce consistent results. The motivational process relevant to leadership tries to maximize energy output to overcome barriers to change.
Control focuses on surface behavior, the motivational process on the deepest reaches of human soul. In successful organizations managers need both of them, they are very difficult, and very different. A person who has been socialized in managerial way of thinking will often approach motivation in a manner that cannot possibly support high energy level, for example giving extra monetary or other rewards, or he will praise every time people do something for him. This approach for motivating can produce energy in people for a short period of time, because people see this behavior as highly manipulative.
Instead motivating people over a longer period of time is far more difficult. Motivation over time requires, first, that visions and strategies be communicated on continuous basis, not just once or occasionally. Moreover communication should excite people connecting to their values. People's involvement in deciding how to implement the vision must be real, not manipulative.
The right kind of support must be forthcoming so that individuals can succeed in making progress through the vision. And the reward and recognition must be sincere. Management controls people by pushing them in the right direction; leadership motivating them by satisfying basic human needs.
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