As I help leaders who are leading change, I find leaders who are very busy trying to convince their staff to embrace the change and “buy-in” to the change. Often, they have been promoted to their leadership positions based on their operational expertise rather than leadership competencies. Oh my, the results are not good! Let’s talk about what leaders need to know about change before they go out and try and lead their staff to change.
In discussions with the Executive Sponsor of a change initiative, I am quick to point out the key role that leaders or managers will play in achieving the expected outcomes. We must help leaders go through the change themselves and, at the same time, increase their awareness of how they can support their staff in moving through the change process. If we are successful with this step, the chances that the change will be implemented and return on investment is achieved skyrocket!
Many people seem reluctant to change and leaders are no different. Perhaps, leaders sense a loss of power or, perhaps, most important, they simply don’t have the necessary skills training to lead change. If leaders aren’t provided with training, it would be similar to asking people to build a bridge, but not providing them the necessary tools or training. Frustration and failure would be the inevitable results. Spelling this out for the executive sponsor, I have found, is the best way to grab the attention of the Executive Sponsor…it’s all about the bottom line – return on investment. Who wants to waste money when a change is not implemented as planned!
Not so fast! In my experience, it’s not always resistance. Often it’s uncertainty driven by lack of understanding or more importantly lack of tools and training to understand how to implement change. Let’s continue on!
How can we help leaders?
Have you seen leaders who encourage their staff to embrace change but don’t provide them with the necessary skills training to do so? And, in many cases, the leaders don’t have the necessary skills training either. We need to provide people with individual skills and knowledge to thrive in a fast-changing and accelerating world at work and home. As a change practitioner, I focus on providing leaders and their staff with education on individual, self-change management because, as leaders or staff, we need to first learn to manage ourselves. Does this sound like emotional intelligence? Yes, it does…let’s talk about the things we can do, as leaders, to help us change and, in turn, help others change.
Adapting to change means changing behavior to get different results. Do you know what drives your behavior? If you don’t change your behavior, it will be almost impossible. Start with gaining a basic knowledge of psychology and encouraging an increased self-awareness. This is the first step you can take to help people successfully adapt to change.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
To drive sustainable change in behavior, an essential early step to successful self-change management is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. People need to try new approaches to old problems if they are to break free of old patterns. Of course, this will be uncomfortable but how can you possibly exhort others to get out of their comfort zone if you aren’t willing to!
3. Let go of the old
It’s a difficult shift to make but it’s imperative that leaders model the way by releasing the old so that they can embrace the new. This is an essential step in the change process. Holding on to old ways of thinking, feeling and behaving makes it nearly impossible to embrace the possibility of new opportunities. Leaders can enable this shift by creating an environment where it is expected that people will try new things, fail and learn. Letting go of the old and trying something new can only occur when people feel that it’s safe to try. It’s all up to the leaders.
4. Some things don’t change
There are some things that don’t change. Going through the change process can cause us to feel uncertain and not sure what comes next. It’s at times like this that we can grab hold of the values we have always relied on to lead others and make difficult decisions driven by change. As leaders, when we demonstrate the organizational values and our own values, it will be much easier to encourage others to do the same.
5. Call on your change network
You have worked hard to develop your network. As you go through change, remember that you have awesome relationships that can help you stay grounded. Successful leaders know that they must continually develop networks and, yes, you guessed it…when you demonstrate this leadership competency it is much easier to encourage others to do the same as you support them through the change process. The bottom line is that we consider this network to be a change network and whenever change is upon us, why not reach out to your network to support you…you would expect them to do the same with you!
6. Find a way forward
Leaders have a choice when faced with change: complain or do something about it. As human beings, leaders don’t always like change but those with leadership competencies don’t complain about change. People are watching the leaders for their reaction. The successful leader accepts the challenge of difficult or unwanted change and does something about it. Change is an opportunity and demonstrating your resilience will have an impact on those you are leading. Let’s get in front of this opportunity and embrace it…this is the message we can send to ourselves and to others. We get to choose to find a way forward!
When we encourage leaders in self-management and self-awareness of their feelings about change, we can equip them with skills they need to lead change. They will now be well positioned to start the conversation with their staff on how the organization can move forward.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you have any questions about this post or any of my other posts, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Here is a link to my profile.
All the best!
Miles offers change management consulting to boost organizational performance. Contact Miles for a free 20 minute consultation at 403.977.1401.