Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” While I believe this quote best sums up the importance of managing change, it leaves out even a hint of how one might adequately address or manage change. Managing change may be one of the most important, yet most difficult and challenging traits a leader must develop.
Through my interaction with several communities working toward their 5-Star “Truly-Local Community” national designation, I have had the opportunity to discuss and better understand some of the roadblocks hindering communities and their leaders from attaining their ultimate goals and objectives. In most cases, failure to reach their goals isn’t due to lack of effort, or even their ideas. They are all working very hard, but despite hard work, getting the community and the various non-profits and organizations rowing in the same direction is elusive.
Through these discussions, I was able to find common denominators without fail in each situation. Finding those commonalities was simple. It was a lack of effective two-way communication coupled with individual and/or organizational agendas compounding the situation. In each instance, communication was acceptable within the various non-profits and organizations. It became a small issue between leaders of the various organizations. It then became a larger problem between the leaders of the various groups and the members of the other groups. It was a huge issue between average members of the other various organizations. And most critically, communication became non-existent between the organizations and the community at large.
As we have discussed in previous columns, in most instances, it takes an entire community moving in the same direction to facilitate sustainable change leading to transformation. If communication between the city leadership, organizational leadership and their organizations in general is poor, how is the community expected to change when the community as a whole is basically unaware of the changes being planned? When you add to this the issue of agendas being promoted by each organization and individuals, you have the ingredients to overcome roadblocks standing in the way of substantial progress.
How do we overcome these two common predicaments so prevalent within so many communities? Let me provide a few thoughts that might help.
First, communities need to find a neutral facilitator from within the community or in most successful instances, from outside the community. It is imperative this individual has no dogs in the hunt so to speak. Facilitators must be viewed as an outside set of eyes to earn the trust of those in the community. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find this person in many communities. This in no way reflects poorly on the community, in fact, a community reaching out for help shows their vision, willingness to change and overcome as well as their desire to win. After this person is found, it is time to bring all the groups and organizations together in exploratory idea and thought sharing. Bear in mind, this group must include those that present a cross-view of the entire community, no group or organization should be left out.
Secondly, it is imperative that all egos and agendas are checked at the door. That said, the only way it is possible to encourage everyone to have an open-mind and to leave their agendas at the door would be if everyone has faith their ideas and their agendas will be heard and considered. This is the most important aspect to assure success. When people feel heard, considered and their ideas discussed, they are more willing to be of a part of something much larger than themselves or their organization.
We could spend ten columns on communication, we haven’t even touched on tactics and strategies needed to reach the community at-large. Reaching the community at-large is a skill requiring all the city networks, social platforms along with traditional media resources available at your disposal. All this must be coordinated and carried out in a very strategic, timely and effective manner. This entire process can move quickly and in fact it should. A viable plan laid out with aggressive benchmarks and tracking will excite the entire community. Building excitement within the community is the best way to transform. After all, everyone wants to be associated with a winner.
John A. Newby, author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " column and CEO of Truly-Local, LLC. dedicated to assisting communities create excitement, energy and combine synergies with their local media where local is often lost to the Internet and out-of-town owned companies. His email: john@360MediaAlliance.net