5 Top Tips for Managing Change
Change is constant. In all aspects of our lives. For many, it’s not an easy experience to manage. It can trigger uncertainty, fear of the unknown and past setbacks. Conversely ‘change’ can be a liberating, positive and exciting experience; offering opportunity and growth.
What differentiates the two experiences? Your mindset.
In other words, your attitude can play a huge role in how effectively you manage and lead others through organisational change.
So how can you effectively and consistently navigate change? How do you actually benefit from change and capitalise on new opportunities? Listed below are five critical skills leaders can develop. Each support and align with the other.
Change by its very nature can be unsettling for the majority.
Acknowledging this is one thing but truly accepting it is another. It is perfectly natural for productivity to dip as individuals react and adapt to the new organisational structure and/or leader. It is also natural for many to resist the change, fearful it may highlight a lack of competency and capability.
A leadership priority for successful transformational change is, therefore, helping others to accept it is happening. Encourage them to ask questions. Proactively engage in regular and ongoing communications. Allow them time to absorb and reflect on the data. Seek input from all levels to broaden your perspective and to check the impact of change on individuals at the grassroots of your organisation.
Above all remember as the leader – people need time to think, to consider how the change will affect them and what if anything they need to do before they can let go and move forward.
Leaders who demonstrate genuine interest and concern for others will ultimately create agents of change, who in turn create a ripple effect through the organisation. Increasing confidence and trust amongst others that the proposed change will help the organisation and ultimately themselves to survive and thrive.
No change runs smoothly. It is inevitable that things will go awry. Leaders of change, therefore, need to actively canvass and listen to a wide range of perspectives, negating over-reliance on opinions of experts or leaders experienced in transformational change. After all, each organisation is unique. As is the leader.
A vital source of information derives from those performing the core business tasks on the front line. Here leaders can acquire clear insights into what challenges face the organisation and why, and the potential opportunities to exploit and, more importantly, know what customers truly want.
An added bonus? Employees feel heard. Morale is boosted. Productivity is reactivated. Departmental collaboration starts. Employees buy-in and contributions combine to implement the change.
A further source of information for the leader is themselves. Proactively and actively making time to listen to their inner intuition. Pausing to consider the following questions:
- What are the benefits of this change for your people and the organisation?
- What will your people and the organisation lose as a result of the change?
- What may cause problems for your people, your customers and the organisation regarding this change?
- What opportunities exist for your people, your customers and the organisation that will make the change a success?
An effective change leader recognises the importance of solitude and reflection. They afford an opportunity to review the data. To assess what is fact and what is opinion. To measure progress against the proposed change plan. To identify what may need to be altered to drive the change forward. And to check what behaviours need to be adapted to truly implement an effective transformational change programme.
Scheduling regular time to stop, pause and think allows valuable space for the leader to make a rational, fully informed decision, instilling confidence in those who follow.
Understanding how you react to change is a must for any leader.
It allows for greater compassion towards other people either new to change, marred by a former negative experience, resistant to change, and/or struggling simultaneously with other major life challenges.
From this platform, the leader can anticipate and indeed expect a range of behaviours that either knowingly or unknowingly seek to undermine the success of the change. Making plans for such eventualities will, of course, lessen their impact. It also seeks to help people understand why the change is happening, what it means for them and how they can contribute to the organisation in the future.
Therefore, being able to withstand the inevitable politics that any change brings is truly what stands leaders apart.
Effective change leaders understand every competing agenda; especially how to anticipate and manage this i.e. ensuring each aggrieved party is heard and respected. Either by constantly checking their own ego has not been triggered, reducing uncertainty by clarifying how others will benefit or adopting a consultative approach when making structural organisational changes. As a result, time is saved and these ‘potential opponents’ seeking to protect the status quo convert to being supporters of the change instead.
The change leader is then revered for being open-minded, flexible to new ideas and emerging approaches to implement and sustain the proposed change. In addition, the leader has boosted their resiliency and ability to cope with defensive game playing or Machiavellian politics.
4. Be Present
Knowing how to silence the constant and relentless bombardment of information is a critical skill in a 24/7 world. Unlike our technological aids, humans cannot survive without taking time to recharge, rest and sleep.
It is a savvy leader who recognises this and with a disciplined approach actively incorporates balance into their busy professional lives. Understanding their own personal boundaries is an important step. These will undoubtedly differ to other peoples. It is what makes us all unique human beings. However, in the context of change, it's ever-more important to accommodate, understand and value.
Successful leaders know when they are at their best. To think. To plan. To engage. To strategise. As a consequence, they structure their day accordingly. Maximising their optimal performance with the right time of day per activity. Not only does this enhance their levels of concentration and productivity, it also boosts their interpersonal effectiveness.
They also make time to recharge. Giving 100% of their attention to the task or activity at hand. Actively engaging in hobbies and interests either alone or with others provides valuable downtime for the conscious mind to relax. Enabling the sub-conscious mind to work on the problem or situation that previously occupied or stymied the conscious mind.
Change leaders, therefore, recognise the importance and value in allowing time and space to ‘sleep on it’. Knowing through experience it will generate insights and answers not attainable from prolonged conscious contemplation and discussion.
A further benefit is their enhanced ability to cope with stress and self-regulate. Rather than reacting to events or the emotions/behaviours of others, change leaders respond. They are curious and interested in understanding what else is going on, what has been implied, what inferences are drawn, what hidden agenda may be surfacing rather than focusing solely on what has been said. The ability to stay present and to sift through the noise generated by the reactions of others is a key benefit for any leader carving out time to unwind and recharge.
5. Know Your Strengths
An appreciation of leadership strengths combined with humility to acknowledge when and where their skill set may require further support is equally important when leading change.
Few leaders have all the answers.
Those with greater levels of self-awareness, a willingness to learn and an optimistic outlook report experiencing change as a positive opportunity for personal and organisational growth. They embrace the change and seek to master it.
They acknowledge the change will generate feelings of uncertainty, doubt and fear. Then choose to reframe their focus and concentrate on what they can influence. The things they can control. Preferring instead to have faith in their abilities and strengths to cope with the challenges ahead. Staying alert to what they can learn as they navigate new and unknown experiences.
Put simply the effective change leader adopts a growth mindset. They persist in the face of setbacks. Seeing effort as the path to mastery and learning from criticism to hone their effectiveness. The more determined change leader will engage the help of an executive coach to act as a sounding board and to help challenge their thinking and behaviours.
As a result, the leader reaches ever higher levels of achievement and attains a greater sense of purpose and free will. More importantly, they lead the way in creating a culture that embraces change.
If you are leading change or about to embark on leading a change management programme why not check out my Executive Coaching Case Study on Managing Change.
Alternatively, drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org OR simply call me on 07739 551 524 and get the journey started!