4 Essential Change-Management Leadership Skills

Being a great leader requires the ability to adapt to change. As industries and technology continuously evolve, adaptability is essential to an organization’s long-term viability.

Unfortunately, not enough leaders are equipped with the right training or knowledge to effectively lead their team members through change; almost two-thirds of employers noted that a lack of change-management expertise was a problem during their recent initiatives.

Because change is inevitable in business, leaders must be equipped with the right competencies, specifically change-management leadership skills. Learn what these are and how you can begin applying them to yourself and your team.

What Is Change Management in Leadership?

Change management is a leadership competency that involves being able to effectively lead, manage, and achieve change.

It requires leaders to prepare for and manage change by

  • Employing a holistic set of processes and tools to lead others through transitions and periods of disruptive change.
  • Coaching team members in navigating through the change to achieve and sustain a desired outcome.

What Are the Three Types of Change Management?

There are three types of change management, and each one focuses on a different level of the organization:

  1. Enterprise Change-Management Capability: This type of change management focuses on a change initiative that must be integrated into the enterprise structure. This type of initiative often entails a change to systems, processes, and procedures that will benefit the enterprise by driving great efficiencies and synergies across business units, functions, and departments, thereby creating a stronger competitive advantage for the organization.
  2. Organizational Change Management: Organizational change management focuses on internal changes. Specifically, it identifies the teams and individuals who will need to shift their priorities and responsibilities to achieve the desired results of a change initiative. Successful organizational change management encompasses customized plans that ensure team members receive the adequate training and coaching they need to navigate through change successfully.
  3. Individual Change Management: Individual change management targets the individual level. It taps into employee psychology (what motivates or holds them back from pursuing a goal?) to help leaders decipher what their individual team members need in order to achieve the desired outcomes of a transition. Employees’ needs may include resources, equipment, training, coaching, or other forms of support.

What Skills Are Required for Change Management?

Business leaders can bolster their change initiatives by acquiring and honing the following change-management leadership skills:

1.    Adaptability

Adaptability is a pivotal skill in the ability to manage and lead change successfully. Leaders who easily adapt to various situations can act quickly, face conflict head-on, and learn from failure.

  • Act quickly. Leaders who act quickly are two times more likely to make change happen than those who are not as nimble.
  • Face conflict head-on. Change comes with myriad challenges and curveballs. By being adaptable, leaders have the resilience to embrace challenges and be willing to discover creative solutions with team members.
  • Learn from failure. People who are adaptable are willing to take risks and make mistakes; they are willing to experiment and find what works (and what doesn’t). Rather than shying away from failure, they understand that failure is a necessary component of ongoing learning and development. Resilient leaders view failure as the beginning of a transition to the desired goal/outcome.

Adapting to change requires a willingness to embrace learning and growth by asking questions and pushing yourself and others to take risks. Discuss taking risks in an open forum as a team. This demonstrates support for risk-taking and creates a network and sounding board for new ideas. Taking risks with others can help make the journey a bit less frightening and stressful.

2.    Innovative Thinking

Leaders who view change as an opportunity for innovation can develop a more optimistic and creative outlook on the change process.

Developing innovative thinking takes time and is not something that is easily acquired. In fact, more than half of employees do not like to step out of their comfort zone. The key is to ease into it. Lean into your curiosities and instincts and let them guide you toward new ideas. Share these ideas with others to discuss how they can come to fruition.

Innovative thinking does not simply require innovation of the leader—it also requires leaders to support innovation in their team members. Leaders should encourage team members to share ideas and learn from one another. When all team members practice innovative thinking and share ideas, it will make change easier and faster for the team.

3.    Strategic Thinking

Spearheading change requires strategy. Strategic thinking necessitates having a good balance of both a big-picture perspective (what does the organization and team need?) and a milestone-focused view (how do we get from point A to point B?). With this, leaders can establish a robust foundation for the change initiative and productively drive their teams forward.

To improve their strategic-thinking skills, leaders should focus their attention in the following areas:

  • Understanding the value in customization: Every team is different and taking a generalized approach to change can harm the value you and your team have the potential to create. Therefore, leaders should identify ways to customize their approach to tackling change. In other words, how can the specific strengths of your employees be leveraged to achieve lasting results?
  • Breaking down complex concepts into manageable sizes: Change will bring new and challenging problems. The key to successfully navigating through them is asking the right questions, thinking through the processes, and breaking them down into smaller, more-manageable steps.

4.    Communication

Effective communication is crucial to articulating what the change is, why it is needed, and how team members will achieve it.

In change management, leaders must communicate effectively in the following ways:

  • Clarity: Clarity is necessary to convey what needs to be accomplished and why. That way, employees can understand the purpose behind the change initiative and put their best foot forward. More importantly, clarification is needed to provide specific instructions and milestones on how something should be achieved. This may require regular check-ins with team members to gather feedback.
  • Feedback: Since change comes with many new experiences, it’s important to share and gather feedback. What is and isn’t working? How can things be improved to help you and your team stay on track? These are questions that should be discussed openly.
  • Coaching: Uncertainty can loom heavily over change initiatives, so it’s crucial to help team members navigate through them with a healthy perspective. Change isn’t easy, but with the right coaching and support, leaders and their teams can get through it. Leaders should know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and identify customized approaches to helping them succeed in their role in the midst of change and beyond.

    For more information on how to successfully coach, read about coaching in the workplace.

Amplify Your Change-Management Leadership Skills with CMOE

Learning how to manage change successfully takes time. Look into CMOE’s Leading Change workshop to discover more ways to build an agile team and drive productive change within your organization.

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About the Author

CMOE Team

CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.