How does someone who was born in a segregated hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, raised by a single mother, attended six different elementary and four different high schools then go on to become a senior executive at two, global, multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 companies and on the boards of other? It is because of one thing: H. James Dallas’ ability to successfully lead change. “Leading change isn’t easy, as the meager success rate tells us. But what that means is that those few who master it find themselves in a tier above their competition. Their careers climb high and fast,” Dallas states. They do because 75% of change initiatives fail, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Co. That means successful change leaders stand head and shoulders above everyone else and get greater career opportunities.
In his more than 30 years of corporate experience, Dallas led more than 10 transformational and turnaround initiatives, 30 acquisition integrations, five operations/quality shared services centers of excellence, and the creation of three innovation centers. Dallas is not only a seasoned executive, he is also a teacher and an artful storyteller. He shares his wisdom in his recently released book, Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change: Inspire the People and Succeed Where Others Fail.” It is an informative, insightful guide to effectively leading change. While most change management books present case studies about what happened at other companies, this book is based on the author’s own experiences. By relating personal lessons learned, how they were subsequently applied, and how you can benefit from them, this book provides a unique first-hand perspective on successful agents of change.
This book is also unique because it teaches readers how to successfully navigate the politics, personal and people dynamics, which are typically among the top reasons why change initiatives fail. Mastery of these skills will not only teach readers to successfully implement change, but also advance their career to the C-suite and boardroom in the process. The book consists of the following four sections with chapters within each:
- Priorities. How to set a course for change, set expectations, decide where to start, and create the core team. Most notably Dallas shares how executives can become distracted by not outlining their priorities and he colorfully outlines several of the most important culprits (both people and habits) that can hamper success.
- Politics. In order to drive change in an organization you must master the art and game of politics. Here Dallas details the skills and behaviors necessary—some of them difficult, some of them downright unpleasant, all of them necessary—for propelling change.
- People. Practical tips on how to “read minds” and accurately assess progress, master the humble art of building trust, and navigate group dynamics. Here Dallas shares his techniques for enlisting and engaging people up and down the corporate hierarchy to maximize value while engendering trust.
- Perseverance. It’s not enough to succeed at driving change; learning how to sustain that change and institutionalize the process is the hallmark of leadership. Dallas illustrates how to put out fires, handle discontentment from team members, and leverage change through ongoing dialog and inclusive management practices.
Dallas says that he wrote the book because he got tired of seeing too many well-intentioned leaders fail at leading change. When they fail, not only do their careers suffer, but it also sets back the organization resulting in low morale, low trust in leadership, low productivity, and worst of all, low expectations and a lack of confidence in the future.
Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change is also Dallas’ way of giving back. In his words “Leaders have two responsibilities: (1) To make a difference, which means that leaders have to be change agents; and (2) To develop other leaders, which means leaders also have to be teachers.” Dallas is on a mission to do both.
By: H. James Dallas