How Leaders Know When To Cash-in “Change Chips”

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Updated from November 4, 2011 post

Do you know how many change chips you’re carrying in your pocket?

This week I found myself trying to figure out why I was having a difficult time introducing some necessary changes to a team. And then it hit me; I might have already cashed in my change chips on an earlier initiative.

And it brought to mind an earlier post when I described how I learned the key leadership principle of always knowing how many change chips you’re carrying around with you.

cashing in my chips

Leaders know that they possess a certain number of “change chips”. These chips are made up of credibility, respect, authority, good will and other essential intangible ingredients.

Leaders carry these chips around in their pocket knowing that at the moment when they must introduce change they will have to cash-in some of these chips.

But if you cash these chips in at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons it can make introducing real, meaningful change that much more difficult.

I learned this lesson in a painful way during my first weeks on the job in a new leadership role.

I led a staff of about 35 people, and soon after I was hired I saw that the office configuration was not optimal. Almost before I had settled into my chair I was moving staff around the facility from one office to another. Because I was the new sheriff in town, the staff dutifully followed my edict. And within a couple of weeks most staff were in new offices which, to me, was a marginal improvement over the previous set up.

But I had cashed in several credibility chips with only a marginal “win” for the organization. I had introduced irritation, confusion and distraction, and the only upside was a slight increase in the ergonomics of the office.

In hindsight I wish I had saved those chips for later on when I needed to call for significant change that could generate meaningful, positive results.

What might this mean for you?

Take a few minutes to actually make a list of the potential changes you’re contemplating. Perhaps it looks something like this…

  • Changing the day of the weekly staff meeting,
  • Dropping a well-established, but tired, program,
  • Introducing new ways for expense reports to be submitted,
  • Launching a new product or service.

For each item on your own list, carefully consider the change chips required to be cashed in.

To make lasting, significant change, you may find that you need to keep a few more chips in your pocket.

How have you learned when to cash in your leadership change chips?

 

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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