There are three guarantees in life: Death, taxes, and constant change.
In business, especially during these times, organizations of all sizes will experience “rapid” or “significant” change. During these times, exceptional leadership is required to create an atmosphere that enables effective adaptation and quells fears of the unknown. The best organizations have leaders that know how to lead through change and bring out the best in people during times of uncertainty.
While formal change processes might be well understood, too many leaders neglect the all-important human side of change. The most effective leaders devote considerable effort to including everyone in the change process, remembering that people need time to adapt to such change. Regardless of how fast-moving the change initiative may be, it’s important to recognize the time required to get everyone fully adapted.
Change management models typically focus on what to do, or on the typical steps required in spearheading a change initiative. However, organizational changes are rarely linear and are almost always continuous, numerous, and simultaneous. Change capable leadership focuses on how to behave while doing the change work. This includes how to forge a common direction within the change, and how to align people and resources toward that change direction. Perhaps most importantly, it is about how to build the collective commitment to making the change effort successful. A big part of the how is ensuring that all people engaged with the change understand why the change is necessary.
The process portion involves outlining the case for change, creating a plan, documenting steps to take, and monitoring the progress.
The people portion involves understanding how to influence others, communicating a clear vision, listening to feedback, and including the collective team while guiding others through the emotional components of the change. The people side of the equation is definitely messier, as it can’t be completely planned out and it affects the organizational culture, but it’s likely the most essential aspect to get right in a successful change initiative.
Some tips to consider when you are faced with change management in your organization.
- Initiate the case, context, vision, and outcome for the change. Let the team give input where appropriate. Asking the team to contribute thoughts and ideas to the game plan will help them feel ownership and boost their confidence in the directives.
- Share the strategy. Strong leaders develop a clear action plan, including priorities, timelines, tasks, behaviors, and resources. They identify what would change along with what won’t be changing. They allow time for questions and concerns, which demonstrates the leadership’s commitment not only to the change initiative, but also to helping the team adapt.
- Implementation is translating the strategy into execution. Successful change leaders focus on getting the right people in the right positions. They break bigger projects down into small wins and victories to build momentum. They build on successes with early adopters to increase adoption elsewhere.
- Follow through to understand where there may be hurdles or concerns. Good leaders realize it takes time. Stability and change must coexist, and continuous monitoring and listening to the team is essential.
- The team must feel confident that they can count on you to clear the path of obstacles.
- Communicate: Leaders who explain the purpose of the change, connect it to the organization’s value, and explain its benefits will create stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.
- Collaborate: Leaders who are able to bring people together to plan and execute change have greater success in working across boundaries. This collaboration creates engaged employees who feel heard and are able to contribute to key decisions.
- Commit: They will watch what you do more than hear what you say. If leadership’s actions don’t align with the behaviors required to support the change, you shouldn’t expect that they will follow. Leaders who are successful in change management are resilient and persistent. They are willing to step out of their comfort zone and devote significant time and energy to keep things on track.
Let’s face it, leaders can accomplish very little without a committed team, so don’t forget to encourage, recognize, and congratulate team members on accomplishments along the way. Their efforts will be pivotal in determining whether a change initiative is successful.
About The Author: Victoria Manuel is a strategic consultant with Elite Holding Co. and has more than 25 years of experience leading business initiatives in all areas of organizations, positively affecting both Top and Bottom lines.
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