Leaders Must Help Their Teams Understand the Nature of the Change
I’ve been a part of many changes over my career. Some were thrust upon me, and in others I was brought onboard to be one of the architects of a major new strategy. The same leadership guidelines apply in either case, whether you are the proactive change agent or are on the receiving end.
If you are in the role of a proactive change agent, you need to set the vision for change. You’ll get more buy-in if you help your team understands the critical nature of what will be different and why you need to evolve.
A great example of this comes from Sarah LaFleur, founder and CEO of MM LaFleur. She describes a day early in her company’s lifecycle where she looked out on a warehouse full of merchandise that had not been moving.
LaFleur knew that doing the same things they had always done was going to result in the same performance, and the merchandise would still be there. So, made the decision to try a new sales approach and shared their new direction with her team.
This resulted in their best week ever – and they ended up selling more in that one week than they had in any prior month. This particular decision came more from desperation, an example of necessity being the mother of invention.
Thriving in a world of constant change is one of the most important characteristics since change will only continue to accelerate with all of the new technologies in place and on the horizon.
Seven Leadership Guidelines to Help Manage Change
1. Make the Case for the Change
As a leader, you know a change needs to be made, whether it is to stay competitive, address an internal or external force, or execute a company mandate from above. But, how do you present this to your team?
Why the change, and why now? What does the end state vision look like, and why is this better for our business and for us as individuals? How will our customers and partners benefit from this change?
2. Explain What Will Happen if you Don’t Change
3. Describe How the Change will be Executed
Some changes are quick and simple, while others are more complex and will take months or even years to get to the end state. These huge variations can make a team feel unsettled and unsure of what to expect.
If you outline the specific steps and phases of the change, as well as the timing of each, a lot of these fears will be quelled. Plus, it sets clear expectations for your team, both in terms of what’s to come.
4. Clearly Assign Everyone a Role
The more multi-faceted the change, the more discipline you will need around project management and communications, so make sure your team has a deep understanding of each of their roles, especially in cases of more complex change.
5. Prepare for Worst Case Scenarios
6. Share How Success Will be Measured
In addition to the obvious metrics, like revenue, determine other measures you can put into place to make sure your team is on track in implementing the change and making it stick.
7. Celebrate Success
An important but often overlooked element of a change management plan is building in acknowledgement and appreciation. This could be at any point – at the end of key stages, specific milestones, or even at the very end once the change is completed.
For change to happen leaders must first understand the “why.” The “Why” are the reasons the organization is embarking on change? How will the change improve on customer values? How will this change improve the day to day work tasks for the employees? Answering these two questions will provide the needed answers in gaining confidence to start the journey of change. At the point when leaders can undoubtedly look forward and envision how two significant variables, customer value, and employee satisfaction will be improved, they gain Confidence in handling the future adventure of progress. To start the adventure of progress, an assessment of the organizations’ weaknesses and strengths and then feeling comfortable about acting on them. With the agreement of sound strategies, the Leadership Team drastically assembles Confidence.
One of the best methods to gain confidence is to “go and see” successful organizations who are on a similar journey with a successful history. In the 1980s, Norman Bodek, a teacher, consultant, author, and publisher was one of the pioneers to bring American business leaders over to Japan to study successful Japanese management practices. These studies resulted in the adoption and implementation of “best practices,” resulting in change and subsequent improvements within American organizations.
Leaders with confidence inspire others and make things happen. Research shows that people unconsciously defer to people who project an air of confidence. At Harvard University an experiment by Chabris and Simon involved groups of people working together to solve a math problem. The result, instead of deferring to the person with the greatest math knowledge, the group deferred to the most confident person, regardless of that person’s knowledge.
Understand why poor change management happens
Despite all the change management research, models and best practices, leaders still make a dangerous assumption. They assume that once a change initiative is approved it will be reliably implemented by their employees.
1. It creates organizational misalignment. Everyone needs to understand the goal and strategy behind a change. When those driving and implementing the change don’t fully understand the why, what, so what and how of change, it prevents them from acting and advancing decisively.
2. It impedes progress. When there’s spotty communication about how change is progressing, employees will either stand still or make assumptions. Both of these reactions stop, or at a minimum slow, progress. This creates confusion that can build to chaos and refusal to advance the change.
Leaders can’t assume their visions will happen on autopilot. They need to understand their roles as sponsors and be willing to champion both the change and the communication strategy.