Episode #08

Getting Leaders to Hear the Wake-up Call for Change

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Do your too-busy leaders miss seeing important information that they know they need to make? Many leaders miss, ignore or side-step information that serves as a wake-up call… and instead press the snooze button until things get painful.  

In today’s episode, I answer the question: “What triggered the major changes you are leading, and how do we get leaders to pay attention to it earlier?”  

We’ll explore what constitutes a wake-up call, how to illuminate the earliest indications that a change is needed, and the importance of engaging leaders in this crucial first step toward making their most critical changes.  

This episode is a must-listen if you want your leaders to be aware and listening for the changes needed in your organization. 

Guest Question(wants to be Anonymous) Change Consultant Europe 

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Video of Episode


04:20 – 07:07

Welcome to Ask Dr. Change.

07:23 – 10:04

I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson.

10:16 – 17:08

I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting

17:14 -19:07

to transformational changes

19:18 – 22:04

all through conscious change leadership.

23:19 – 38:00

Today’s topic is about supporting leaders to hear the wakeup call for change. How do we get them to see that a change is needed? How can we do it faster? How can we get them to be engaged in understanding?

38:04 – 45:01

What about their reality about the organization needs to be different. What we’re after here is

45:01 – 01:05:22

recognizing that some leaders only realize the need for change when there’s a crisis, when there’s been some kind of an upheaval like COVID caused so much change in organizations. Maybe it’s from a major mistake. Maybe it’s from competitors entering into their marketplace.

01:06:00 – 01:11:21

There are any number of reasons why leaders suddenly realize, Wow, we can’t keep doing things

01:11:21 – 01:34:00

same way we’ve always done them. We need to do something different. And so for us, we call that awareness. Hearing the wake up call. Unfortunately, so many leaders are either too busy or really aligned in their current track of doing things that they missed.

01:34:00 – 01:52:22

Wake up calls. Most missed wake up calls. Oftentimes, they may hear a signal for a change and press what we call the snooze button, and they press it again and again until there is some kind of a crisis getting their attention. But we don’t have to be panicked by

01:52:22 – 01:55:19

some major event happening in our environment.

01:56:01 – 02:01:23

If leaders become attuned to looking for indicators, looking for

02:01:23 – 02:24:18

wake up calls about what needs to be different in their organizations. Now we focus on leaders hearing the wakeup call. But honestly, indicators for a need to change the organization may come from anywhere in the organization. Frequently, it comes from folks that are on the front line because they’re seeing something that doesn’t work anymore.

02:24:20 – 03:02:19

Sometimes it comes from strategic planning, who’s looking out into the future and realizing if the organization doesn’t alter course, they’re going to be in trouble given what’s coming in the future. Wake up calls need to be identified, understood, explored and then translated into action so we can actively initiate a change initiative. So from a conscious change leadership perspective, we do everything in our power to support leaders to consciously, proactively be looking for wake up calls.

03:02:21 – 03:38:16

Now, if a leader’s not, what can you do? How do you get them to see wake up calls earlier? One of the critical things that we’ve done a lot of is assessing past history about when a change was, in fact, triggered. What was missed? If it was a crisis, what didn’t they see? What factors were not in their field of vision that were in their attention span so that they missed them, pressed the snooze button again and again, and therefore had to deal with a much more costly change effort.

03:38:18 – 04:05:22

So our intent is to raise their awareness, raise their consciousness so that they’re looking for wakeup calls. They might need to look for any number of signals. So just to give you a few examples, there might be changes in the marketplace. There might be changes in new technology that come down. Perhaps the organization’s performance or results are subpar, given what’s happening.

04:06:00 – 04:14:20

Maybe the organization is designed in a way that’s not working optimally or takes too much time or too many redos of things,

04:14:20 – 04:37:04

Maybe we have an operational breakdown that’s happening. Maybe it comes from observing the culture in the organization. If teams are not working effectively, if information isn’t being shared across boundaries, if certain norms about how we’re working are not optimal for the results we need to produce.

04:37:05 – 04:49:07

Maybe it’s leadership. Maybe it’s command. And control is just not working anymore with what happened with COVID, with so many people working from home and not wanting to go back to the office.

04:49:07 – 04:59:05

some leadership said, how can we support people to keep doing that? Some leadership says get back to work in the office. And what’s the impact of that?

04:59:06 – 05:40:11

Any of those things might be wake up calls. Employees themselves may be triggering indicators for wake up calls with bad morale or resistance or sabotage. Perhaps it’s competition encroaching on the organization’s marketplace. Perhaps competition is now causing some of your major competitors. If you recognize that, that’s a wake up call. Perhaps there are environmental forces today. We’re looking actively at climate change and these monstrous storms that are happening or fires that are happening.

05:40:13 – 06:07:13

That’s a wake up call for whatever needs to happen differently. Either organizations impacted by those events or how we prevent those events or recover from those events more quickly. And I mentioned it’s also possible that mistakes will produce wake up calls if we’re trying to actively learn from what we’re doing as opposed to just punish people for mistakes made.

06:07:15 – 06:32:21

Those can be wakeup calls, especially if we have an orientation towards learning. So it’s one thing to identify a wake up call or to recognize something is happening. The next part of the process of dealing with wake up calls is how that information is interpreted. Is it seen as a threat? Is it seen as an opportunity?

06:32:23 – 06:45:14

This is all about leadership mindset and how well or strongly or confidently they’re positioned to take on their current reality and their future requirements and master them.

06:45:14 – 06:51:00

So leadership mindset is a critical factor in how we interpret wakeup calls.

06:51:02 – 07:14:03

Maybe leaders are too busy. Maybe they’re in an emotional state because of the mistake or the competition. Somehow we need to be able to address to talk straight with leaders cleanly, with leaders about what might be happening and what we might need to do with it. Sometimes leaders react to indicators for wakeup calls because of who generated it.

07:14:05 – 07:29:04

Did it come from the union? Did it come from the first line supervisors? Did it come from civilians versus sworn officers? That interpretation or judgment may influence how they interpret wakeup calls.

07:29:04 – 07:35:19

One of the things that we look at in addressing wake up calls is whether or not we can get leaders

07:35:19 – 07:42:12

to achieve shared agreement about what the wakeup call actually means to the organization.

07:42:14 – 07:50:02

I’ll get to that in a moment. Like, how do we translate it into action? So how can we facilitate the exploration

07:50:02 – 08:16:04

of the wake up call so that leaders are open to understanding the possible meanings of it, particularly since it’s typically out of their normal way of viewing reality? Sometimes we facilitate understanding the wake up call with individuals one on one, some times it’s with a whole team, a leadership team or a team of end users, a team of middle managers.

08:16:10 – 08:44:12

Any of these things can be helpful. So we want to talk about using wakeup calls. What do we do with them? And so there may in fact, be implications for strategy for what the wake up call means about business direction. There may be implications for stakeholders who we have, what skills they have, their readiness, their ability to address a change in their reality.

08:44:13 – 09:15:18

Maybe it has to do with implications for our customers or constituents or citizens. It could in fact be changes in how we address regulators. It could have implications for how we’re structured operationally or how we’re dealing with our finances, the economics in the organization, and certainly they may have implications for culture. Wake up calls allow us to define a case for change.

09:15:18 – 09:32:21

Really. That’s the substance of a wakeup call. Why do we need to change? Because we have this indicator that’s pressing on us. It can help us identify initiative outcomes so that we’re seeing what needs to be different. And I’ll

09:32:21 – 09:43:12

talk with you about phrasing wakeup calls here shortly. One of the most important things a wake up call can do is to help us to shape the scope of a major initiative.

09:43:14 – 10:08:14

So it’s not just organizational or technological, but what else about culture or leadership or behavior is embedded in what’s needed to respond to a wake up call. One of the important things when we fully understand at Wake Up calls and the implications for change in the organization is helping us understand the type of change that needed to be made.

10:08:16 – 10:38:06

Is it transitional? Which is more controllable? Or is it transformational? COVID caused transformation in all shifts in our organizations. And so transformational changes require much more attention to be initiated in the organization. So I want to share with you a bit of the the shaping of wake up calls to help determine what needs to change in the organization.

10:38:07 – 11:07:11

There are variety of phrases I’ll share with you that help to determine the importance of a wake up call. Things like we need to master how to do X, Y, z, or If we could only do this, we would be so much better off. Or we need to change X because of these factors. So any of these things help position the need for change.

11:07:12 – 11:35:22

The possibility and opportunity for what the up call is asking for and helps us to move into action to address it. So the actions that we need to take explore more. What is the wake up call? What are our judgments about it? What value does our triggered, what assumptions are we making about it? And are those assumptions leading us to truly recognize the need to make change differently?

11:36:00 – 12:03:16

Perhaps we need to initiate a major transformation or various subprojects to deal with the requirements that the wakeup call has for us. It’s also possible that the leaders themselves take it as far as they can, and then they assign responsibility for addressing the wake up call, figuring out what has to change. And by all means, following up. Really critical.

12:03:18 – 12:27:15

So what is our job now as consultants and coaches to leaders and the leaders we serve with, the leaders that are in the organizations we’re consulting to? First of all, we need to look at our own mindset about wakeup calls in the organizations we serve. And so are we looking for them? One of the roles I like to describe is I’m on reconnaissance.

12:27:17 – 12:56:18

I’m always looking for possibilities that something needs to be different. Perhaps we need to be coaches to the leaders that we’re serving and so we can coach them to explore possibilities, things that may be out of their sphere of influence or sphere of seeing. We can be actively asking a wake up call questions. What would be possible if we addressed this?

12:56:20 – 13:26:22

What are the implications of this showing up again and again in the organization? Perhaps we can facilitate leaders through coaching, through team orchestration of a conversation to really get inside the assumptions and the possibilities of the wake up calls that are showing up. And clearly, one of the things that we can help do is to land a decision we actually need to do something about this.

13:27:00 – 13:58:06

And so what initiatives, what scope of change? What are the possibilities? How do we need to operate differently to address it? And then lastly, in our role, we can support the communications about the wakeup call and about the changes it’s triggering. And so supporting communications to set it in a context of meaning, to set it in a context of relevance so that the people of the organization who have to undergo the change really understand what triggered it.

13:58:06 – 14:01:03

The case for change, the outcomes

14:01:03 – 14:29:11

what the leaders are hoping to accomplish with it, and needing the stakeholders to change to be able to deliver those outcomes and the full scope of what’s required to address it. We can support those communications. So there’s a lot in here about addressing wakeup calls, going after wakeup calls, raising leaders consciousness about the need to constantly be looking for wake up calls.

14:29:13 – 15:12

And it’s really important for us to understand and that we are supporters of waking up to the possibilities or the threats that are impacting our organization’s ability to be successful. So my pro tip for you today is to think about how you hold the leaders you serve. Do you respect them? Are you afraid of them? Do you fear them?

15:12 – 15:39:22

Are you intimidated by them? Are you threatened by them? Are you partnered with them? Do you feel really supported to be able to tell the truth to them? I mention all of these questions because one of the most important characteristics of my most successful interventions with senior especially senior leaders, is to have a clean relationship, to have nothing in the way of me being able to hold up the mirror, to tell the truth, to really be supportive of what I think they need to be paying attention to.

15:40:00 – 16:18:14

So helping them see what they don’t see. This is a major theme that we talk about in conscious change leadership. So for you to reflect on the judgments you may have about the leaders you serve, it’s really important because it’s all potentially either noise between you and them or support it facilitative of your relationship. So the pro tip is how could you make your relationship with the leaders that you serve clean, clear, open, honest, supportive, constructive.

16:18:16 – 16:49:14

My personal reflection for you today has to do with wake up calls. So what I really want you to be able to do is to ponder what are the wake up calls in your life? What might your body be telling you? You have headaches, you have skin rashes, you have backaches. Those are potentially wake up calls for being able to live differently, do something differently to support your wellbeing.

16:49:16 – 17:16:04

How about mentally? How about those little voices in your head that are saying pay attention or don’t do that? Any of those things might be wakeup calls for you. So are you paying attention or are you pressing the snooze button? Maybe there’s emotional wake up calls that you don’t want to pay attention to. You have an underlying layer of anger, frustration or fear going on.

17:16:06 – 17:55:17

Those are worth paying attention to because not only are wake up calls essential for the organizations we serve, they’re essential in our own personal lives. So I encourage you, as your own reflection, to spend some time thinking about all the aspects of your life. Are you too busy? Are you bored? Are you angry? Are you afraid any of these things might be wakeup calls for you to do something different and not press the snooze button, but to consciously take action to support the wellbeing and quality of your own life.

17:55:19 – 18:19:01

I wish you well with your wakeup calls. It’s an endless process. So here, even at my age, I’m constantly addressing, Oh, wow, that’s a wakeup call for me. What am I going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? And so that’s an important aspect of our personal reflection today. Well, I hope today has been useful for you.

18:19:06 – 18:24:14

Wake up. Calls for our leaders. Wake up calls for us. Thanks for listening.

18:25:12 – 18:41:12

Many of the topics featured in this podcast come directly from the Change Leaders Roadmap methodology. Our world class project guidance system for achieving sustained benefits from any type of initiative you may be leading

18:41:12 – 18:43:16

people who have listened to the podcast.

18:43:21 – 18:49:00

Read the Change Leader’s Roadmap book or attended any of our trainings have

18:49:00 – 19:16:17

told us that they’re interested in becoming certified to use the wealth of information in the Change Leader’s roadmap. Online methodology. The roadmap itself is nine phases 19 activities 75 tasks, and every task has articles, guidance tools, application worksheets and a wealth of information to support the success of your projects

19:16:17 – 19:18:20

at that point in the process.

19:18:20 – 19:27:19

For those of you interested in certification, we’re happy to announce we’re going to be offering a changed Leaders Roadmap certification program.

19:27:19 – 19:43:10

Prerequisite to that program is leading transformational change our online runway into conscious change leadership. For those of you interested in learning more about the certification program, please go to beingfirst.com/classroom.

19:46:14 – 19:48:13

I hope you’ll look into it

19:51:08 – 20:03:22

Thanks for spending some time with me today. I hope you gain some valuable insights for your work. Please send me your questions and challenges by going to askdrchange.com.

20:18:13 – 20:34:08

Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online program. If you’d like to learn more about leading transformation social change, go to beingfirst.com/LTC.


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