There are two kinds of manager trying to make sense of change. The first is whom we might call The Yes But Manager, the second the Yes And Manager.
The Yes But Manager sees their primary function as twofold. To minimise risks to the business and to maintain current operational performance. Both laudable objectives but to the exclusion of anything else can create real danger. Not the sort of danger that makes you go bust next month, but the sort that in two years time realise your competitive advantage has been completely eroded and your customers are migrating way from you faster than you count. They sound so reasonable. “Look, I think this change stuff is important but we’re too busy to do x and this quarter’s numbers look a bit iffy so we can’t give the change the focus it needs, but we’re with you in spirit”. Their well intended but dispiriting contribution will slowly strangle the business of all pro-active endeavour and creative enthusiasm.
The Yes And Manager sees change as something that must be achieved as well as the day job of running the business. They recognise this is not a mutually exclusive proposition or a reductive, binary decision of either/or to be taken. With their positive mind-set, linked to a problem solving approach, inspired by the imagination to paint a picture of a different future, these managers motivate their teams to transcend rather than accept the current reality.
In our change work we find both of these managers to be highly contagious. Yes But creating an anxious group of people who run in increasingly small circles trying to keep the business going . Yes And has mobilised their people around an idea of what is possible, ignoring problem symptoms going to the real cause of sub-optimal performance.
Obviously the more senior the manager, the bigger the impact. You might like to think about your managers, you might like to think about yourself? Yes But or Yes And?