We’ve all heard the saying, “the only constant in life is change.” Because change is inevitable, it’s essential for leaders to have the skills and determination needed to lead people through the change process in a courageous and positive way. Successful leaders help others understand the inherent risks of leading change, as well as the reasons for and advantages of making needed changes. With a little perseverance, you can harness the power of change and turn it into a competitive advantage for you, your team, and the organization.
Change always produces some negative consequences along with its positive benefits. Some people tend to view change negatively because of their natural temperaments, the losses they perceive, or their past experiences with change. Leaders must help their team members understand that change does come with a price, but remaining stagnant has a much higher cost over the long run.
The first step in successfully leading change is being prepared for changes that you can’t control while you actively seek out new ideas and potential changes you might want to introduce. Leaders must be able to anticipate emerging needs and potential issues for the team and the business, which requires maintaining an attitude of continuous improvement. Collect information about business trends, embrace new information, and push the boundaries of your comfort zone by taking on new initiatives. Keeping an open mind and demonstrating a willingness to learn sets a positive example for team members. Organizational change is an opportunity for personal growth and helps all team members learn new skills that will be essential for their job performance in the future.
You must also be able to effectively communicate to others the reasons behind the change. This means understanding the business case for the change and helping people understand its necessity and value. Once you communicate the purpose of the change, provide opportunities for questions and discussion. People will be inspired by your commitment and willingness to discuss the change in depth.
With leading change, of any kind, comes some level of fear, concern, or resistance. Acknowledge the losses associated with change. Listen actively as people vent, complain, and grieve. Respond to apprehensions, concerns, and fears promptly. Support the team by recognizing past accomplishments and the progress being made during the change.
To build momentum and support for the change, people will need to let go of the past, focus on what can be controlled, and move forward with new expectations. You will need to specifically define expected behaviors, clearly communicate ground rules for moving forward, and confront any cynics you encounter. Provide recognition to the early adopters who adapt to the change quickly, and understand that you will need to coach people through discomfort and mistakes while they are learning new approaches.
A successful change-management plan requires that you clearly define what must be accomplished and how you will measure success. Share your vision and goal with others so they understand exactly where you want to go and how you will get there as a team. Collaborate with your team members to help them step up and take ownership of the plan. Define the specific roles people will take and who, what, when, where, and how to implement the plan of action.
Finally, you must be prepared to revise your plan as needed. All plans need to be improved and adjusted over time. Review your progress regularly and hold the team collectively accountable for results.
CMOE has been helping leaders become better at leading organizational change for many years. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.