Change Requires A Lot Of Hard Work

To lead people effectively, it requires hard work, every single day. A lot of leaders do not realise just how much hard work it really is.

If you don’t realise how much hard work leadership is, you will not be aware of the impact you have on your people, and you will not understand why your people behave negatively.

1. Living Your Message

In 2009 when I took the responsibility for increasing the wheel life of Merseyside’s trains, without actually realising it, I was living my message. Every day I was talking about increasing the wheel life, I was passionate about succeeding in this challenge, and my passion “rubbed off” on the team.

The engineers I was working with did not report in to me. However, I was influencing them through living my message and including everybody in the project, and how “we” would succeed, not “I”. Leadership is influence, and you can influence anybody when you live your message.

When the team and I were working on the small changes to increase our fleet of train’s wheel life, our engineering director Kevin was really pleased with what we were doing. He was so impressed, that he wanted us to increase our target to six years wheel life.

This was the maximum a train wheel-set could last. This would ultimately save our company a lot of money on changing out wheelsets a lot less. However, this was not the thinking of Kevin.

The reason he wanted to stretch our target was not for financial gain, it was to stretch ourselves as a team and as individuals. Kevin knew how to lead his people so that they could continuously improve.

Kevin was willing to give us the autonomy to do whatever it took to increase the wheel life to six years. I volunteered to continue to lead this project, and the team I had been working with wanted to continue too.

So we started by speaking with other train operator’s in the UK, and wanted to learn if there was anything they were doing differently to us that helped them increase their train’s wheel life to six years. The answer was to fit wheel lubricators to every train, in a fleet of 59.

The team and I put together the business case for this. Then I presented the business case to Kevin, as the leader of the project. Kevin liked what he saw and heard, and signed the business case off. Within a year we sourced the supplier of the wheel lubricators, and then fitted them ourselves to our trains.

I then trained the rest of the engineering team on how to maintain and replenish the lubricators. After a few months of the lubricators being fitted, wheel life was increasing and we eventually got to our first wheel-set lasting six years. We had achieved our stretch target that was set by our engineering director Kevin.

In 2009 this was one of the most successful projects that our engineering team had undertook, and I was the leader. This was my first time leading and influencing a team of engineers who had more experience than I did.

2. People Who Fear Change

There were people who were negative towards us, and that we would never achieve six years wheel life. But they were negative people who feared any new changes being implemented. We proved them wrong and I was very proud of the team, and of myself.

At that time in 2009, the company I was working for didn’t have any leadership development training within their engineering department. I wasn’t the kind of person who would read personal growth or leadership books then either. However, Kevin was a highly effective leader who I followed because I wanted to.

The rest of the engineering team followed Kevin because they wanted to also, not because they had to. If you read any kind of leadership book, he was the type of leader that these books would describe, and who you would want to follow. There are not enough leaders like Kevin around, especially in the engineering world.

Kevin encouraged me to start reading books on leadership and personal growth, and put what I was learning into practice when leading the project team. Kevin knows that leadership started with him, but it was about us.

3. Your Leadership Journey

He understood that leadership is a personal journey, and by letting me lead this project, he was letting me find my own path when starting my journey.

I started to buy more books on leadership and personal growth, and was going through them very quickly. I loved learning about highly effective leaders of the past, and how they overcame their challenges and struggles. Leadership became a passion, and every day I wanted to express my passion and live leadership.

As I said earlier, there was a lot of negativity from other members of the engineering team. They saw what I and the team I was working with were doing, and didn’t like that we were trying to implement change.

Kevin helped us with this. He cared about all of his people in the engineering department. He was a mentor to people, he coached us, led from the front. But, most of all he gave us credit when we deserved it. It was never about him.

Kevin had a saying, “If you can’t change the people, change the people.” By that he meant, if you can’t positively influence people to buy into you and your vision, then you will have no choice but to replace them. This however, was the very last option.

He would work his very hardest to implement the changes he wanted, and most of the time he would succeed. It was on very few occasions that people would resist no matter what, and he needed to bring in new people.

Even though the team and I were working really well together on the wheel life project, I don’t believe we would have made it as much of a success without Kevin’s leadership. This was a huge change for the team, and a huge team requires a highly effective leader like Kevin.

In 2011, I moved to Scotland to work on their railway as an engineering production manager. With this role I had my own team who reported into me, and I had a lot more responsibility than before. I also continued with being a student of leadership.

4. Helping Your Team To Develop And Improve

Reading books, taking courses, online courses, and I even did a yearlong leadership course at Edinburgh Napier University. When working with my team on shift, I tried my best to lead the team and help them to develop and improve.

When I started trying to help the people on the team develop, there was a lot of resistance. The reason for that is they were not interested in developing or improving. They just wanted to come to work, do their job and go home. That is fine, but if my team were not willing to improve, how would our results improve?

So, during a start of work briefing, I told the team, “Our team’s mission to get results, improve on them, and improve ourselves at the same time.” I asked them, “How are we going to do that?”

As soon as I asked that question, almost everybody on the team answered me. I asked them to work together during the day, and then come back to me at the end of the shift with their thoughts.

Three of them came back, and we had a plan. We called it a transformation plan. It was a transformation of results for the company, and our own performance. This is when I learned, if you ever need a plan for anything, let the team do it. Do not do it for them.

Change is very difficult if you do not help your people to grow and develop. If you want to help your people, you must add value to them. To add value to them, you need to help them become more valuable.

When adding value to your people, you are influencing them. When you are influencing your people, you are leading them. Highly effective leaders increase their influence with their people, every day.

You will come up against obstacles, resistance, and challenges with your people every day. It is up to you to overcome those obstacles.

There is not only one style of leadership. There are many styles and they need to be practiced with people every day. Leadership is extremely hard work, and the earlier you realise this, the better it will be for you and for your team.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

24 thoughts on “Change Requires A Lot Of Hard Work

    1. Hi Tanya,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased that you found the article great.

      If you need any further help or advice then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      All the best,

      Tom

  1. Congratulations on living your message, influencing your team of engineers and achieving your targets Tom – impressive results. Not everyone wants change but if you’re willing to embrace change as a team, it’s remarkable what you can achieve, as you have shown. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Simon,

      Thank you for your comment and for your kind words. It’s great that you liked the article.

      I appreciate the congratulations and I hope you have taken enough away that you can take action on.

      If you need any help or further advice then please get in touch.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Great post. I really enjoyed the personal story to convey the point. Leadership is not easy, and no matter how good you are there will always be those that just refuse to get on board. I liked Kevin’s saying “If you can’t change the people, change the people”. Unfortunately sometimes that is the only option. Thanks for this, it’s an interesting read and gave me some new ideas on how to perform better as a leader.

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      You’re right, leadership is very difficult and we have to do our best to bring those people along who refuse to get on board. I agree, the saying “if you can’t change the people, change the people” is a good saying, but it’s also a last resort. We have to exhaust all options before we replace anyone.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. I agree with everything you shared in your post Change Requires A Lot Of Hard Work, and changing seems to be the most difficult thing for the majority of people I mentor. Some people are willing to change, but some just will not change no matter how much you try to motivate them.

    Great Guide
    Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found the article helpful.

      If you need any help with your mentoring and if I can give you any advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    Fantastic read as always.

    I am in complete agreement with you when it comes to “adding value” to people.

    I’m no stranger to change having worked in the banking industry for many years. However, I often found that members of my team could be fairly rigid when it came to implementing new ideas/services/products.

    They liked things as they were – no need for change as they saw it.

    I like the idea of almost “putting the ball in their court” and watching the team flourish as they typically overcome their own objections by putting a plan into action.

    Thanks
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences in the banking industry. It is a challenge when you work with people who like things the way they are/were and a very reluctant to change. When you can gain their buy-in, it is a great feeling and watching them run with the new idea is great to see.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Thank you so much for this highly informative article! Being a true leader is certainly a lot of hard work, and it all begins with cultivating a supporting, mutually beneficial work environment. There are a lot of “leaders” who only care about making themselves look good, making the bottom line, and lining their own pockets, relegating their employees to mere numbers or just a body. I have left toxic work environments such as these, and I’m a better person for it. True leadership is being humble, being open to others’ ideas, taking constructive criticism, realizing that you don’t know everything, and showing your workers how much you appreciate them. It’s not easy work, but it’s fulfilling work. God bless you!

    1. Hi C.N.

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Thank you for sharing your experience in working in toxic environments. I can completely resonate with you as I too have left toxic environments too, and I have worked with “leaders” who were only interested in themselves.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep engaging.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Great post! filled with lots of insightful leadership skills. Your article has rekindled my interest in leadership and personal development.

    I have learnt a lot from this post.

    Thank you for sharing Tom

    My kind regards,
    Ufumski

    1. Hi Ufumski,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article helpful and that you have learned a lot.

      If you need any further help or advice on you leadership and personal development, then please let me know.

      All the best,

      Tom

    1. Hi Chloe,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you have found the article valuable.

      If you need any further help or advice then read through my other articles. Or if you would like to get in touch then please don’t hesitate.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hi Tom,

    Having a leader like Kevin is like having a great mentor for your career, so I am happy for you. This makes me recall my career path, whether or not I have a leader like Kevin, and YES, I did have one.

    When I first started my jog at the current company, my manager and I were not that close due to inadequate communications between us. But, things got better after we started sharing thoughts for work issues and private issues sometimes.

    I never know that I could build a bond with my manager like this in the past, but doing this could also save tons of time guessing each other. After that time, the workflow seems to get improved so much, and we did have excellent performance at work. She also guided me to become like a leader, and the first way is to practice thinking like a leader, which I practice now.

    I know how hard it is for her to lead our team, so I support her as much as possible. That’s why I relate so much to your article. Is to think like a leader the first way you recommend too?

    Thanks for sharing,
    Matt

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your story of your current job. I hope that what you have learned here you can put into action with your line manager. If you need any help or advice on what you are trying with your line manager then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Thinking like a leader is a good recommendation, especially if they are in a leadership position. But, there’s no reason why you cannot be the leader without being in the leader’s role. I have other articles on doing just that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Excellent post as always. Great to take notes on for anyone wanting to become a leader. As well as anyone who already is. Admire how much you help people with your useful advice. Thank you for the information.

    1. Hi Sammi,

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I appreciate how you believe I am helping people through these articles, that is exactly my purpose.

      If you need any further help or advice on your leadership, personal growth or influence then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. I find it interesting how learning about leadership and wanting to become a great leader is something someone aspires to. I say that because I want nothing to do with it. I was in a
    leadership roll for 2 years. I did not care for it at all. Getting out of it was what I looked
    forward to. It just goes to show some people are made to be leaders and some are not.
    Which is good, imagine if we all wanted to be the leader. Yikes!! I’ll stick to being a team player.

    Really good read!

    1. Hi Teresa,

      Thank you for your very honest comment. Really pleased that you found the article a good read.

      I absolutely believe that if you really worked hard on yourself every single day, you could become a great leader, even a highly effective leader. However, if you don’t have the passion for it, then you are right to walk away. I have seen far to many people in leadership positions who did not want to be there, and they made the whole team suffer. That cannot happen.

      A leader’s role is to create more leaders within their team and the organisation. Not to make them suffer.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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