Enabling change, enabling success
Has the path of change evolved?
Change is necessary when new processes, technology or products are introduced to a business. Moreover, adjustment is normally required by everyone and, because we all have our own preferred way of being communicated to and our own moral compass, the same message will be received and interpreted differently by individuals and teams. Many leadership courses require a level of understanding around initiating change in the workplace.
We are encouraged to consider the people that we manage, and plan our communication well, leading by example – embrace the change, it is positive!
Why is change management so important?
Today’s world requires continual movement, for us to innovate, stretch and grow. We need to be agile and receptive to the increasing demands of our customers while watching game-changing technology take our competitors into new markets. If we stay with traditional ‘tried and tested’ change advice, we are at risk of our people becoming apathetic or worn out. Our goals should be written in concrete but the plans to get there should be in sand, considering the differences in our people when modifying our approach in how we work with them.
The transition from a traditional business to a market-leading one can be uncomfortable and take longer than the budget permits in some cases. The impact will be realised through stress-related absenteeism, reduced productivity, team conflict, negative performance management and attrition.
Past employees can review us through social media and, in return, you would hope that customers and employees, current and future, could receive a balanced view of our business, the way that we operate, our services and our innovation. This may not always be the case if change has been poorly executed or our people just can’t change with us.
What about the employees that stay? Why do they stay? Is it because they are more resilient, or is it something else? How can you keep them motivated? Well-communicated change, where people are on board and involved from the beginning, should reduce the dip in performance that most organisations accept simply because we are told that this (the change) is what is going to happen and what we should do as a result.
How can you transform from a ‘change agent’ or a ‘change enabler’?
Let’s consider an environment where your people and teams are empowered to effect change in the workplace. Collaborative and authentic leadership requires clear and consistent communication providing facts and evidence that change is required. Challenges and questions need to be managed respectfully and honestly. For example, a meeting is called to discuss the findings of a competitor review. The problem and the consequences of this potential threat are shared. Everyone has input into how the business can maintain its competitive edge. Cross-departmental teams could be formed to work on ideas of challenges together. Often leaders feel that they must own the business problems. This is not the case. Normally our teams are creative and have more to add than we give them credit for!
This may be simple, but it is highly effective. We stimulate creativity and passion within our organisations that allows personal development to flourish. Highly effective organisations employ people that are multi-skilled and can work across multi-disciplines to deliver on projects that will grow our businesses. Apprentices, interns and graduates can flourish and develop experience quickly where they can add value to creative thinking and problem-solving tasks or projects. After all, they are the future in terms of our succession plans. More importantly they have a view of tackling problems based on facts and are not constrained by conventional views that we all carry when we have worked in a business for a while.
So, back to the leaders. This can create some discomfort in the short-term. We can find ourselves feeling out of control or not the ‘subject-matter-expert’ as we start to work on cross-functional projects or are seconded to other areas of the business. This discomfort comes when we reach a point of new learning.
We need to appreciate that future leaders need to embrace skills and expertise that they may not possess. Everyone needs to be encouraged to learn from mistakes, to be humble and ask for help, from this true collaboration is achieved.
Leadership could never be in such high demand as when we are going through change. Leaders should be reminded that the reason they are in the position that they are is to simply lead.
So, what does the change-enabling leader need to do?
- Let go of personal insecurity
Accept that the role of the leader is to manage the vision and people to achieve it. Invest in understanding the team’s strengths, goals and motivation to do their best.
- Create trust and share feedback on strengths and limitations
Sharing feedback is healthy and needs to be balanced. Honest dialogue within the team allows people to express if they feel out of their depth. This could provide another team member with a new challenge. Celebrate this honesty and try not to hold people accountable to responsibilities on their job descriptions. The team will not grow.
- Let go of convention while holding the company’s vision close
The vision of cultural change needs to be imagined and shared by all. Leaders need to demonstrate that even ambitious plans are achievable with the right motivation and mindsets. Celebrate wins along with way, demonstrating that the progress being made is important and positive
- Empower decision-making at all levels
Supporting and coaching is easier said than done, especially if a quick solution is evident. Most people will take responsibility and step up if they can make decisions. Accountability and ownership are important to us all and is relevant for even the most junior of team members. As a leader, it is occasionally wise to turn a blind eye to the methods of achievement as long as the expected outcome is achieved.
- Take away the fear of reproach of mistakes
Making mistakes is in our human nature and provides points of learning. A collaborative leader will be approachable and on hand to coach or mentor individuals through these mistakes, allowing growth and opportunity to own issues and make it come good. Sometimes leading by example means rolling up one’s sleeves and getting stuck in to help. This does not mean taking the mistake away but keeping in mind that showing is sometimes better than telling.
- Proactively encourage teams to grow through ‘lessons learned’
A team that possesses a philosophy of supporting one another should also be able to challenge each other’s decisions constructively. Lessons learned are valuable; they should be recorded for future reference as they are likely to be in project management processes moving forward. Ultimately, valuable lessons ensure that we do not repeat them.
Change is sometimes called ‘continuous improvement’. If you think about it, it makes total sense. The main barriers to change in the workplace are people. People are innately scared of change, but ‘continuous improvement’ is something that we all strive for. Allow your continuous improvement to happen, harness your approach to managing it and focus your ‘plan of concrete’ towards being a successful change enabling leader.
How does your leadership stack up in an environment of continuous improvement? Contact us about our Thomas tools to see.