Leading the Troops

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Never has the role of a leader been more critical than when an organisation is undergoing a severe dislocation derived from a Change Management program.

The impact on the business could possibly be likened to how a soldier’s behaviour changed when faced with trench warfare in the First World War. In the trenches the soldiers lived in constant fear of having to go over the trench wall to face a highly risky and unknown future. To an employee, the analogy is unfortunately very similar! Consider the following:

1. Casualties
The soldier was continually seeing many casualties inflicted on their comrades by the enemy (the employee experiences many of their co-workers being made redundant and lives in fear that they too may also lose their job)

2. Lack of Information
Most soldiers were kept in the dark regarding the military mission and only saw short term actions which appeared to be rather foolhardy (employees do not fully understand the end goal of the Change Management, but rather judge the progress being made by how it is impacting themselves and their immediate coworkers)

3. Rumours
A lack of regular communication and dispatches from the military command resulted in many rumours spreading amongst the troops (if there is a lack of communication from management, rumours become rife and spread quickly throughout the organisation leading to poor morale)

4. Environment
The living conditions in the trenches became intolerable and basic hygiene quickly deteriorated resulting in discontentment and potential mutiny (employees will cope with poor work conditions and uncertainty for a limited period of time, however, should this continue many employees will seek employment elsewhere).

5. Recognition
Those soldiers who exhibited extreme courage were awarded decorations of valour, such as the Victoria Cross (employee contribution should be recognised and rewarded).

The military commander needed to have the ability to inspire and motivate the troops to have the mental and physical fortitude to leave the perceived safety of the trench and to risk their lives to fight the enemy to gain a forward position.

Here the manager must also lead their fellow employees along the Change Management journey to ensure the success of the business reorganisation, otherwise the structural change process will undoubtedly fail. Employees need to believe that their individual contribution is significant and will make a purposeful contribution to the long term survival of the business.

So before you raise your “manager’s sword” and utter that famous “charge” command, make sure you have considered all the aspects associated with the life of a soldier struggling in the trenches so you taste victory instead of defeat in your Change Management activity!

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