Change is Inevitable, Strategic Change is a Choice
It’s a hard truth that confounds many leaders: continued success requires continued change.
But change isn’t easy. For most people (and therefore most of your team) it’s more comfortable to do what you did yesterday than to do something new today.
One of the critical roles every leader plays is to help their teams to navigate change successfully. Not just change for the sake of change, but strategic change that achieves breakthrough results.
Transforming results requires every heart and brain working together. Change requires confidence and inclusion, not selling. When you take your audacious vision and make it feel real, practical, and achievable, your team will be energized and ready for what’s next.
1. Establish a clear vision
Be crystal clear about what you want to accomplish. Communicate and reinforce your vision through every medium possible. When you’re sure everyone’s got it, communicate even more. It’s important to explain the reasons behind a change as well as to identify the specific behaviors you need from employees in each role.
2. Be honest about the benefits
The notion that all that employees care about is WIIFM—what’s in it for me?—is BS. Sure, employees want to know what’s in it for them. They equally want to know what’s in it for you and for their customers.
It’s not enough to be clear about the “What?” – they’ve got to know the “Why?” as well. In the absence of information, people often jump to the most pathological conclusion. Leave out key information and they fill in the blanks with assumptions (e.g., “the next thing you’ll do is downsize.”) They want to know that you’ve thought this through with your brain and not just your pocketbook.
3. Start small
Don’t advocate for an idea or change that’s half-baked or full of flaws. Test it first with a small group, take their feedback seriously, and get it right. It’s tough to regain credibility. “Oh yeah, I admit it stank before, but now it’s better,” only leaves people wondering why some bozo made a choice to sing praises for an idea, system, or process that was full of problems in the real world.
Even if it looks great on paper, your boss is sold, and it worked well in the IT war room, field test the change first.
Yes, this takes time. Go slow to go fast.
Take the risk of making some waves to make it easy for your team. You might be slower out of the gate than others, but when you get it right and everyone owns it, you’ll sustain your results and be ready for the next change.
4. Establish easy-to-access listening posts
This is perhaps the most important part. Really listen to what your people tell you. Respond to feedback with solutions, not selling. When you fix something, communicate it back using the 5×5 method – 5 times, 5 different ways. Ask, “How can we address this and make the change serve its purpose?”
5. Leverage reluctant testimony
Share as many testimonials as you can, especially from people who were doubtful at first. Get your most excited employees showing how your new idea, system, or process changed their world. Your most influential stories will come from the least likely suspects: the sales guy who never bothered with this stuff before, the new rep who’s now running circles around the old-timers because she uses the new system, the supervisor who got his entire team (including the union steward) performing acrobatics with the new process.
6. Involve the team in key decisions
No one wants stuff done to them, or even for them. With them goes a lot further. Ask employees, “What’s working well and how do we leverage it? What enhancements do we need? Where should we head next?” All these questions go a long way. Include employees by involving them in your change efforts.
Leave a comment and share with us your best leadership strategy to help your team navigate change.