There is no “magic bullet” when it comes to effectively leading change. Managing change is a tough and serious challenge — even for the most experienced and highly capable leaders.
Research reflects that well-managed change initiatives frequently have common and fundamental program elements. Here are a few to increase your odds of success:
- Model the behavior you want. The best leaders lead by example. If you are leading a change effort, know that people are watching you for cues about how they should respond to the change. Senior leaders need to set the pace and tone for others in a positive and realistic way. If you are anxious and dreading the change, you can bet your people will pick up on this and respond accordingly. Anxiety is contagious: The good news is so is energy and enthusiasm.
- Be adaptive and open to influence. Wise change leaders demonstrate flexibility. They demonstrate a willingness to listen, learn and adapt the plan as necessary.
They understand there is no “one size fits all” and know it’s better to rework the plan than to continue to lead in the wrong direction. They communicate the expectation for feedback (including bad news) and acknowledge the importance of receiving real information (not just what the boss “wants” to hear).
- Include those whom the change will affect. Savvy leaders of change know that the key to success is seeking the input of the “end users” of the change. They include all those affected by the change, from the time the potential change is being considered, to the design phase and through implementation.
- Communicate early, consistently and often. Caution: The more surprised people are by the change, the greater the resistance. Keep information about the change constant and flowing from all directions. You can’t overcommunicate when it comes to change.
- Paint a picture of the desired future. Communicate the vision clearly and concisely while appealing to hearts and minds. Selling a vision that is blurry or confusing won’t work. Keep it simple — no jargon or techno-speak.
- Be direct and consistent. Be straightforward about the changes and consequences of an expected change. Avoid misunderstandings or sending inconsistent messages and be honest regarding anticipated sacrifices and expected workload that will accompany the change.
- Create a system that supports real communication. Make it safe for people to tell you how they feel about the change and what is really going on. Allow people a platform to voice their concerns, questions, suggestions or ideas. The last thing a leader of change wants to foster is a “kill the messenger” approach: It’s frequently a deflection or distraction from real issues that need to be resolved.
- Recognize and celebrate victories and progress along the way. Success begets success; the key is to identify and communicate it. Communicate progress, milestones and successes to reinforce the change and to foster teamwork and camaraderie.
- Tune into your employee station “WIIFM” or “What’s in it for me?” Tell employees how they will benefit from the change. Acknowledge their sacrifices and provide employees with evidence that the sacrifices they are making are worth it. If it’s so the business stays open and they keep their jobs, say that is so. Be honest about the reasons for the change; your employees will appreciate it and will frequently respond in amazing ways.
- Be undeniably aligned behind the effort. The larger the organization and scale of change, the more important the consistency of the support from all levels of “bosses” is in the organization. Having all management speaking the same talk and walking the same walk is vital to success. How all managers address expectations, rewards and consequences around the change and with their employees needs to be clear and consistent. Bottom line: What’s shown to be important to the boss is what will become important to the employee.
I can help you with the people end of managing change more effectively. I coach via Skype anywhere in the world! Call 360 682 5807 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org