Whether you’re implementing new technology, building a sales culture, initiating a new strategy or changing hours, it requires managers who can influence others to change the way they think and act.
Initiating and managing change can be the most challenging, yet rewarding, responsibilities of being a leader. Leaders understand the rationale for change and have a clear picture of what they want the future to look like. More often than not, however, leaders have a hard time getting buy-in from the troops because they forget the basic principles of change.
Somehow, during the stress of change, the basics get lost and leaders can revert to an authoritarian model of change which culminates in cliché phrases like “either get on the bus or get out” or “you can either embrace the change or embrace a job change.”
If you are leading a change in your organization it may be time to review the basics of leading change and then, more importantly, discuss how to remember the basics when stress sets in.
Present the reasons for the change in terms people understand. Change does not happen without some discomfort, especially if it is mandated. Leaders must take the time to articulate the rationale for the change and the benefits of complying with the change in a way that followers understand. If a leader cannot communicate the fundamental points, the change will be viewed (and rightly so) as a change for “change sake”, not a valid, new way to do business. Open, clear explanations compel followers to embrace the change rather than just complying with the change.
Invite followers to be a part of creating solutions. Leaders have the experience, knowledge, and big-picture view to create solutions. However, their solution may not always be the best and often will be resisted if followers feel the solution has been imposed upon them. Leaders must present solutions as possible solutions, not the only solution. They must ask what others think, and then listen and let the right solution evolve. Followers gain a sense of control, and are more likely to support the solution. This collaborative approach may also lead to a better solution.
Implement, reinforce, and celebrate success. Implement the change, reinforce it, and celebrate your progress. Leaders must: (1) continue to market the need for change through constant communication; (2) revise the performance management system to be sure it rewards desired behaviors; (3) give people the training they need to successfully implement the change; and (4) take the time to celebrate every success!
Sticking to the basics when stress sets in. How can you ensure you stick to the basics when the day-to-day stress of running the operation consumes you? Here are some tips:
- Get organized and delegate day-to-day duties. Leading change takes time and energy to do it correctly. A leader must carve out time to manage the change. If you are planning a change, free yourself to lead the change and be available.
- Embrace doubters—appropriate efforts to challenge or question change is a healthy. It shows people trust their leaders will listen to their concerns. Rarely is there a negative consequence. Allowing people to vent their concerns helps them overcome their fears about the change and come to support it. Beware of the silence when you implement change. In this case, silence it is not golden.
The message is clear, when managing change; remember the basics, free yourself to manage the change; get someone who is not afraid to tell you when you go off course; and embrace the doubters, sometimes they can be your best supporters.
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