“People change what they do less because they are given an analysis that shifts their thinking but because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”
— John P. Kotter, Dan S. Cohen
The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations
When I read that quote, one thought came immediately to my mind: “Jesus probably never once used an Excel spreadsheet or a P&L to change people’s hearts and minds.”
I began to think then about what he did use to influence and create life-altering, transformational change. And then I wondered, “Can we as leaders initiate change in great masses of people—through digital transformation and operational excellence initiatives—and have them change not because they’re told they have to, but because their feelings are truly changed?”
Matthew 9:35–10:42 explains the things you are called to do as a leader, including teaching, proclaiming, healing, and having compassion. According to Mike Hubbard, Lead Elder at Genesis Eureka Church, this passage begins with Jesus turning his disciples’ faces to the mission, as He had compassion for the people, and instructs them to pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send harvesters.
The twelve are then named and commissioned. Up until this point they’re called “disciples.” But now He gives them authority to go in His name, as “apostles.” This is not a minor change. A disciple is a learner. But an apostle is one charged with a mission, to represent the one who dispatched him.
Now they’ve joined the mission, identified by name as the people Christ has chosen. Sent to preach and advance the mission, they experience initial success—so Jesus has set them up, in this instance, for joy. But when they return, He shares that their mission will be to continue this mission.
And it won’t be easy.
I want you to know, dear business leader, that your journey, too, may not be easy.
I’ve continued to pray and ask God what else needs to be revealed about leading change. Sharing my thoughts with trusted and respected secular and religious leaders, I’ve gathered their wisdom. And with what I’ve gleaned from them, I worked to understand His word and examples in terms of leading in a business setting. Not surprisingly, it all maps pretty readily to five areas you need to address for leading through any change: People, Messaging, Timing, Resistance, and Leader Character. My thoughts and the Scripture that led me to them follow. I pray that this speaks to you and blesses you as you undergo whatever change initiative you’re undertaking.
In a change management situation, People includes not just staff, but particularly your change agents or super users—the members of your staff you’re going to rely on to learn the new systems and processes first and transfer that knowledge to the rest of your staff.
Essentially, these are your “apostles.”
First, identify who they should be, and at the beginning, treat them as learners (start them as “disciples,” if you will), and make sure they have time to learn what they need to know—take things off their plate, if necessary. We see in Matthew 4:18-22 that in calling the first disciples, Jesus picked a select few—and not necessarily the people you would expect but the people who expressed interest and where fully committed—asking them to drop their nets and follow Him, even up to the point of requesting them to leave their families.
Once you know that they have all the understanding you need them to, give them each a title or designation (“Change Agent,” “Ambassador,” “Champion,” etc.) that sets them apart and defines them as having certain knowledge and authority in the change process (this is when they become “apostles” in the change effort). Jesus made sure those few he called knew they were important, even special. In John 15:15-16, He elevates their status among others and with Himself, acknowledging their deep friendship and its connection, interdependence, and mutual beneficiality while providing them open and regular communication.
In Matthew 10:1, Jesus makes His disciples apostles, defining their authority. Make sure the level of authority you give your change agents is clearly defined, both to them and your staff—nothing will cause friction faster and start brush fires in your organization more certainly than misunderstandings over what your change agents do and don’t have authority over! Also, elevate your change agents to “friend” status with you, making certain to give them one-on-one meeting time with you in addition to the usual group meetings. Having this contact not only keeps you close and aligned, but also informed on what you’re seeing and the challenges that are presenting themselves.
More than anything else, your message must be clear.
So how do you do that?
Jesus made sure the Apostles knew how important the mission was, and spoke regularly of the mission and its importance, especially in Matthew 28:16-20.
He kept the mission statement short, sweet, and easy to articulate, but he also articulated it many times in many different ways, each time focusing on a slightly different aspect or presenting it form a different point-of-view.
So, start with a mission statement that’s short, sweet, and easy to remember.
Speak regularly about the mission—the change—and why it’s important. People understand that we all talk the most about the things that are important. So if they don’t hear you talking about the mission, they’ll assume, even subconsciously, that it’s not really important.
The Great Commission is retold at least five times: in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:44-49. John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:8. Jesus felt it important to repeat the mission this way, tailoring the nuances and angles of the message for the various people He was telling it to. Throughout the Gospels, He repeated over and over and over for them what His mission would be, how it would happen, what their mission would be, and what they should expect. He layered on clarity by repeating, reiterating, and answering their questions.
You should be doing the same.
One way you can keep the conversation going and keep it fresh is to look for different perspectives to discuss it from. Not just how it affects the different players (clients will notice changes, staff will experience this shift in process, etc.), but how it affects different people based on their experience and personality type. Using DISC personality styles (Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive, and Cautious) is a great way to not just look at the upcoming change through others’ eyes, but to figure out how to anticipate their needs and concerns and address them.
When it comes to decisions, the mission should always be your center of truth. For the apostles, the mission was a guiding star that they could always look to make sure they were on course and correct their course when necessary.
I think it’s important to note here: God’s mission was to make his kingdom known. Christ’s mission was the cross. The apostles’ mission was to go out into the world with the Word. Each of them had a part to play in the mission.
Once everybody is clear on their mission, it’s easy for people to find their way. So make sure everybody know the mission and their role in it. In Mathew 10: 5-15, Jesus gives them explicit directions, telling them 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. He goes on in the next passages to explain the risks (Matthew 10:16-25) and to reassure them they are not alone (Matthew 10:26-33).
You need to do that for your people, too.
How do you do that? I’ll discuss that—as well as what we have to learn from the Gospels on timing, resistance, and leader character in change leadership—in the next part of this post.
In the meantime, please meditate and pray over what we’ve discussed here so far. We have much more to learn about applying His examples to our change leadership efforts.
Click here to read Part 2: https://plusdelta314.com/jesus-shaped-change-part-2/
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/.