While there are few things in life that are certain, one of them is change. And while in decades past, change was seemingly slow and steady, that is definitely no longer the case. Instead, disruption is the order of the day. Technology, trends and new generations are driving change at an exponential pace and the majority of businesses are finding it hard to keep up. So what can business leaders do, or what should they focus on, to ensure they are managing teams effectively for change?
Leading versus managing:
The type of change that is now being navigated requires more than simply managing and implementing processes. While businesses strive for simplicity, the reality is that balancing the demands from customers, employees and shareholders is highly complex. It requires the type of leadership that can analyse and identify opportunities and challenges, as well as inspire, mobilise, and hold people accountable. Leading for change requires a special kind of tenacity and focus, because it’s hard, really hard.
That’s one of the reasons that two out of three attempts at organisational change fail. People get bogged down in the effort and complexity of change, run out of steam and abandon the process. So what sets apart those leaders who manage to get it right, who are able to successfully engage with flailing companies and turn them into market leaders?
Seven secrets of effective change leaders:
Leaders, who are able to successfully transition organisations, do things differently. Their actions are focused and deliberate, and they don’t give up at the first obstacle, or even the second, third or twentieth.
They recognise that they will need to work around and through a great deal of resistance on all levels, often repeatedly being challenged by the same people or issues. Yet they don’t let that stop them from consistently working towards the vision of what they see the business could be if the change is implemented successfully.
1. They own the vision for change
Change leaders make it their personal mission to see the change succeed. They not only believe in the vision, they own it. It becomes the focus of every action, conversation and decision. They don’t leave it up to others to implement it; they drive the process and consistently work to engage key people in the organisation, so that the change becomes part of the culture in a positive way
2. They recognise there will be conflicts but don’t back down
With change, there will be resistance and conflicts. Humans are creatures of habit and don’t like having to make the effort to change and do something differently or learn something new. There are those in the organisation who will deliberately attempt to derail change efforts. Sometimes this is because they do not believe in it or because they think making a change means admitting mistakes. They fear that if they admit that things aren’t working or could be better, it will have negative repercussions for them or their career. Often this is derived from having a negative culture due to their experience in the past.
3. They empower others to champion the change
While change leaders make it their personal mission to oversee the process, they also recognise that they can’t do it alone. They seek out people on all levels of the organisation who buy into the vision, and then they set them up to be able to help influence the change. In effect, they create a task group of people, who are passionate for the vision of change and able to champion the cause and win over their peers, colleagues and teams, and help drive the change efforts.
4. They see challenges as a catalyst for change success, not failure
The old adage of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” isn’t always beneficial for business. It means that things only need to be changed if something is wrong, and it associates change with failure. It creates a culture where people don’t want to admit mistakes and would rather keep things ticking over smoothly rather than look for better or more effective ways to do things. Change leaders, on the other hand, view challenges as opportunities to usher in change, to look for new and innovative solutions that can create a better business model and streamline operations.
5. They see change as an opportunity for creating a culture of learning
Some of the most innovative and successful businesses today are those that have embraced a culture of continuous learning. This doesn’t mean that they never fail or make mistakes; it simply means that every event, good or bad, is an opportunity to share knowledge and experiences and learn from one another. Successful change leaders cultivate this type of culture and encourage people to collaborate and share their knowledge. They reaffirm that a certain level of error is okay if it leads to learning and innovation and that there won’t be punishment for admitting mistakes.
6. They maintain momentum through transitions
Change takes time. Successful change leaders have the tenacity to stick with the vision until the change is achieved. They work to build momentum until they get the entire organisation to buy in so that change can be effective. This requires a lot of effort and persistence.
7. They’re alert to opportunities, innovation and new technologies
Many of the disruptions that have taken place in industries were the result of leaders seeing opportunities for technology to improve the customer experience or business operations. They weren’t afraid to experiment and see what the possibilities might be and how that could facilitate positive change. Effective change leaders keep abreast of trends and remain alert to opportunities to use technology.
Change leadership skills:
There’s the argument that some people are born natural leaders, while others develop the skills over time. However, there are certain characteristics or skills that good change leaders display that have been linked to their success.
They are typically high-energy, which leaders need to be to motivate others. They are excellent communicators who listen well and are able to overcome objections to the change, convincing people of the positive impacts and getting them to participate in the process. Good change leaders are organised and are able to delegate effectively. They are good decision makers and recognise the need to be flexible, to adapt or shift direction, if it means a better chance of success. But most importantly, they have the determination and tenacity to see the process through. They don’t get stumped by setbacks or people resisting the change; they keep at it until people are won over and change has been successfully implemented.
Businesses that want to be relevant in the marketplace need to be agile, and to achieve this they need to be able to embrace change. It starts with having a visionary leader who is willing to go the distance and then develop the skills necessary to drive business success.
If your business is looking to develop more effective change leadership within your ranks, consider Ember’s 2-day programme – Leading Through Change. As the pace of change continues to increase in the marketplace, being agile and having effective change leadership skills can make a huge difference to the market position of your business.