In Part One of this article, I discussed the beginnings of my thoughts on change and the way Jesus changed hearts and minds and how we, as business leaders, can follow His example in leading organizational change. I identified the five areas you need to address when leading through any change—People, Messaging, Timing, Resistance, and Leader Character—and showed how Scripture portrays Jesus addressing these same areas as he set out with his apostles on his mission to create change.
In the previous segment, we covered People and began discussing Messaging and how the way Jesus got his people up to speed on the mission and their role in it is the same way you should.
Let’s dive in right there.
One way Jesus helped His apostles gain clarity on what he needed them to do was to model it for them—he delivered it himself and had them watch. Time and again, he would go out among the people and talk, as in Luke 4:16-19 and Mark 1:14-15. He didn’t just make announcements, he had dialogue with people. And he was also honest, telling others clearly, as in John 14:1-6, what will happen before His resurrection, at His resurrection, and after. He pointed to the future reality and spoke to how the change would impact them, for both good and bad. Honest and realistic, he didn’t just communicate the positive.
You need to do the same.
To start, you need to go out there and walk among your people and spread the word. You need to share the message. Make it clear what you want them to know—and the action to take—to accomplish the goals of your mission. Don’t leave anything up to interpretation.
Make sure your change agents watch. And that you follow up with them to make sure they see and understand the points you’re trying to make and the way you’re making and confirming that they’re understood. That’s how they’ll be able learn and spread your message.
One of the best ways to get people to understand your message is through stories. Jesus taught through parables because stories are the most effective way to create change in people. Don’t believe me? Go to your nearest auto dealership and grab a brochure for whatever new car you like. You’ll see glossy, colorful pictures of shiny cars and smiling people, plus all sorts of text telling you how much this car can do for you and make your life better.
They could just put out a features and price sheet. But they know the brochure tells a story that makes all those features real in a way that the customers can imagine themselves enjoying that car, saving money on its improved mileage, not losing time in the shop thanks to its reliability, etc.
It’s a story they can see themselves in, a feeling that’s communicated to them. And changed feelings lead to changed actions.
So you need to use stories.
You also need to use stories with your change agents. Through the parable of The Sower (Matthew 13:3–8), Jesus warned his that spreading the word among people will be like a farmer sowed seed and, “some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places . . . Other seed fell among thorns . . . Still other seed fell on good soil.”
In other words the work will be hard, and won’t always be fruitful.
Jesus was upfront about how hard it would all be. (Matthew 5:10-12, John 15:20-21). He warned them they would be persecuted, badmouthed, and disliked, that they would be “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Math 10:16).
You and your change agents will experience similar challenges.
But in the face of troubles, Jesus also promised to have their backs: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). One way for you to have your changes agents’ backs and help them with those challenges is to talk with them (remember that time that I told you to schedule with them in Part 1?). Be sure, too, to share stories of their successes—and their failures. This not only lets you see the progress they’re making in the change initiative, but it lets you see where they’re having trouble, affording you the chance to provide understanding and guidance.
This is an opportunity for you to reinforce for them the mission and their role in it. You can coach them on where to go, what to say, how to act, what to do, what not to do, what to do if they meet resistance, and how to know when they’re done.
Most of all, you can reassure them that they’re not alone, and that together you’re making progress.
Jesus did this with his change agents, the Apostles, as well. Even though the change He was implementing would take thousands of years, he made sure to share the stories of the short-term wins just to encourage them and help keep their faith strong.
Okay, that’s a lot on People (not without good reason, mind you). Before you feel too overwhelmed, let’s take a breath, and pivot here to talk about Timing.
Nothing is more important that timing in implementing your change.
Without proper timing, you can’t build momentum, and you can’t get buy-in—which will doom your change initiative.
So what do you do to create effective timing?
Begin by creating a sense of urgency. Make it known that the window of opportunity is finite, and then you set an example—act with urgency in the things you do, so that everyone in the organization sees you’re taking it seriously.
Jesus certainly did this with a message that was essentially, “Christ will come again, and you better be ready!” He made it clear to his followers that the time to act was now, as in 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…” and Matthew 24:42-44 “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Make it known that there’s limited time to act and create the necessary changes. Set a deadline, and establish consequences for missing it. Better still, create a series of tiered deadlines, with escalating consequences.
Why? Because it will give your staff room to learn how serious you are without taking too much of a hit, with earlier deadlines and lighter consequences demonstrating that this is all for real and that serious consequences will come down if the later deadlines are missed. Again, Jesus did this, creating a deadline with clear consequences (in the end, the gist of John 3:16-20 and Matthew 7:21-23 is “When I return, if you aren’t believers, you’ll miss out on eternity with God.”) while not approaching it initially with a hard hand, as he instructs his Apostles, “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.” (Matthew 10:14).
Notice I said to create urgency—not emergency. You need to be careful here. Give them time and give them room to make mistakes. Rushed change just creates stress all around. Start panicking your people, and rather than help you with your plan to repair the hull and bail out the water that’s gotten in, they’ll start looking for the lifeboats.
Next time, we wrap up this discussion with meeting and overcoming Resistance and the importance of Character—specifically yours. Until then, please continue to pray and to meditate over His examples and how we can apply them to change in our organizations.
Click here to read Part 3: https://plusdelta314.com/jesus-shaped-change-part-3/
Special acknowledgement and thank you to the mentorship and contribution from Lisa Nichols of Technology Partners https://technologypartners.net/ and Mike Hubbard of Genesis Eureka Church https://genesiseureka.com/.