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Conference Update: What you Missed - Change management - Change that taxes leaders' skills

Change is either major and structural or constant like a dripping tap, delegates at a recent workshop were told.

Big C and Little c: Leading People Through Constant Change

Venue Institute of Directors

Keynote speakers Terry Pearce, senior lecturer in leadership andcommunication for the Sloan Programme at London Business School and HaasBusiness School, University of California; and Tom Barry, managingdirector of BlessingWhite

Delegates went back to school at a workshop on how to lead peoplethrough change run by engagement consultancy BlessingWhite, when theyembarked on a debate over Big C and Little c.

Big C, according to BlessingWhite managing director Tom Barry,represents those types of change that are major and structural, such asmergers, acquisitions and layoffs. These, he said, tend to get all theattention, resources, support and planning.

Little c, on the other hand, was like "a dripping tap". "It is aboutconstant change, such as refocusing, re-engaging individuals and teams,and realigning priorities. Leaders feel alone in managing this," Barrysaid.

While some in the audience were unsure whether the distinctions betweenthe two were as clear cut as Barry portrayed, he responded that thedefinitions came after researching nearly 8,000 respondents over sixyears in Europe and the US. More than 80% of these werevice-presidents, directors and managers.

These leaders spoke about their perceptions of the two types of changethrough which they had to lead people - each creating a differentchallenge and requiring a different response. Big C leaders generallyhave the help of outside assistance but this is usually not the casewhen leading people through constant change.

One problem is that leaders are often great at competencies, such asbusiness aptitude, responsibility, clarity and internal attunement, butare less than perfect when it comes to areas such as trustworthiness,empathy, external attunement and depth. Yet employees puttrustworthiness top of what matters to them, with empathy, depth andexternal attunement in third, fourth and fifth position. Of the corecompetencies, only business aptitude ranks in the top five, at numbertwo.

Given this, how do you put in a framework for authentic leadershipcommunication? Terry Pearce, leadership and communication lecturer, andauthor of a number of books including Clicks and Mortar, offered sometips. "You need to make the difference between change and progress," hesaid. "Moving forward should always include the context - the why? Thegreatest thing leaders can bring is perspective. It is about movingforward with you, rather than in spite of you."

Authentic leaders are those that inspire others to commit fully to acause through words and actions that are entirely consistent withemployees' internal experience of who that leader is. "The only reasonpeople give up their own agendas is if they are working for the good ofthe whole. Leaders must communicate to inspire, then others willwillingly take action to effect change," said Pearce.

In order to deliver this, leaders need to do four things. First,establish competence and build trust. How can you convey that you careabout the issue? How can you convey that you care about the employees'concerns and contributions? Second, create a shared context. Why is thischange necessary now?

Third, it is important to describe the future. What will it look likewhen the change is achieved and how will we benefit by it? Finally, agood leader must commit to action. What are you willing to do - and whatare you willing to ask others to do?