Leaders can make change easier

THE CURRENT ECONOMY has created an unprecedented need for companies to adapt and change. From the big automotive companies to Wall Street to small Main Street businesses, this is no time for “business as usual.”

To succeed, companies big or small will need leaders who can support and manage the necessary change successfully. Resilient teams get through tough times because they have leaders who are effective in getting their teams off the dime with focus, creativity, commitment and alignment (everyone rowing in the same direction), and actively engaged in problem solving and “making it happen.”

Harvard change management guru John Kotter, in his book, “A Sense of Urgency”,  equates leading successful change with the ability to establish a sense of urgency with employees. As a coach I know by experience that behavior change doesn’t happen easily. Most humans resist change unless they have a compelling reason to change, or put another way, until the pain of not changing exceeds the pain of changing. Leaders who establish urgency around workplace changes provide an incentive for people to act now versus acting when it’s convenient or “when I can get to it.” In this economy, embracing and acting on this urgency may well define the difference between success and failure.

Here are some coaching tips to help bosses manage change:

Let your team know what’s at stake. Being candid and straightforward about current challenges will help you to maintain loyalty, trust and commitment — people both deserve and appreciate honesty. Be forthcoming about where things stand and what will happen if the change doesn’t happen. Communicate the vision, focus and plan for how the business will move forward. Let employees know a) they are an important part of that plan, b) what their part is, and c) that success depends on everyone doing their part.

As the boss, behave like you mean it. In other words, walk your urgency talk and be the model for what you are asking others to do. Your people will be watching you closely to see if your actions are aligned with your words. How you spend your day-to-day activities must be congruent with what you have asked of your team. If you are asking your team to work extra hours, expect skepticism and resistance if you aren’t in there with them.

Bring your team together for a problem-solving session. People are naturally more supportive of change they were involved in developing. Harness their collective wisdom, skills and experience. Re-emphasize the fundamentals or core values of what your team (or company) does best. When identifying who will be doing what, capitalize on and leverage the strengths of your team members. Identify and prioritize projects that will generate the most value and benefit to the company. Have the team also identify any broken, costly or inept procedures and processes so these can be eliminated.

Rally your key influencers (those who can bring people together to get it done) and don’t put up with those who put up roadblocks to the necessary change. Successful change requires all hands on deck to win; deal with naysayers directly.

Engage their hearts and minds. Sadly, according to a Gallup poll, a mere 29 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged (i.e., loyal, enthusiastic and productive), while 55 percent are passively disengaged. Don’t rely on the numbers or the business case to move people. Humans have emotional needs. While people need to see and understand the need for change to be inspired and moved, they also need to feel the need for the change. As the leader, how you show up emotionally matters.

Help your team see how to make lemonade from all those lemons! It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity, doom and gloom. Help your team reframe the current scenario by identifying strengths to capitalize on and market opportunities that can be taken advantage of (vs. business as usual or continuing to ignore market opportunities due to bureaucracy). Encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Putting everyone’s head in the game often can lead to creative and winning solutions.

Recognize achievement and short-term wins to build momentum. Find a way to measure and acknowledge even the small successes. Don’t overlook the importance of verbal recognition. Tell your people that you recognize how hard they are working and that you appreciate what they do.  My executive coaching services are available to help you manage change more effectively.  Invest in yourself with my services by calling 360 682 5807.  I regularly coach via Skype anywhere in the world.