Leading Through Change

I know people who claim to love change. I’m not certain I know anyone who actually does. I am certain I know lots of people who would be better off if they changed, I’m also certain I’m not one of those people. 🙂

Change is hard. One of the reasons for that is that there is always some sort of loss associated with change. Even change that we instigate. Authentic Leaders can’t remove all of the stress of change from their people. But they can make it less painful by following the steps I’ve outline below. 

  • Begin by gaining a thorough understanding of the change itself. What is the purpose behind it? What are the anticipated challenges and benefits? Analyze the impact it will have on your team, organization, and stakeholders. Fight the urge to prejudge the change, live with the idea a bit and make no decisions until you truly understand ALL the ramifications of the change. 
  • Open and transparent communication is crucial during times of change. Clearly articulate the reasons for the change, the expected outcomes, and how it will affect individuals and teams. Address any concerns or questions openly and honestly, fostering trust and understanding. Hiding the change for as long as possible, or springing the change on your people at the last minute, is counterproductive. You’ve had time to process the change in your mind, allow your people the same luxury if it’s at all possible. 
  • Paint a compelling vision of the future that the change is intended to achieve. Clearly outline the benefits and opportunities it presents for the team or organization. This vision should inspire and motivate your team, creating a sense of purpose and direction. No one follows a leader until they have some sense of where that leader is going. Share that vision early and often. 
  • Involve your team members in the change process by seeking their input, ideas, and feedback. Encourage collaboration and create opportunities for individuals to contribute to the decision-making process. This inclusiveness will help build ownership and commitment. Few people truly like change but feeling as if they had some input into the change or it’s outcomes will make it much more palatable for everyone. 
  • Recognize that change can be challenging and evoke various emotions in individuals. Show empathy and provide support to your team members throughout the transition. Offer resources, training, and coaching to help them adapt to the new situation and acquire any necessary skills.
  • Whether you realize of or not you are leading by example. So model the behavior and mindset you want to see in your team. Display optimism, resilience, and adaptability in the face of change. Be open to feedback, demonstrate flexibility, and embrace the new processes or systems yourself. This will inspire your people to do the same.
  • Understand that resistance to change is normal. Address concerns and objections proactively. Be willing to listen to different perspectives. Provide clear explanations and help individuals see the benefits of the change. Encourage open dialogue and create opportunities for people to express their concerns.
  • Continuously monitor the progress of the change initiative. Celebrate milestones and achievements along the way to maintain morale and motivation. Regularly assess the impact of the change and make adjustments as needed. Communicate updates and keep the team informed about the progress being made. The bigger the change the more communication is needed. You cannot over communicate. 
  • Amidst change, it is essential to provide stability and a sense of security for your team. Be available to address concerns and provide guidance. Establish a clear framework and expectations, providing a sense of stability during the transition period. Never, and I do mean never, hide from your team if things begin to go south. Nothing will destroy your credibility as a leader faster. 

Leading through change can be challenging even for the most seasoned leader. It requires resilience, flexibility, and the ability to inspire and motivate others. Effective and consistent communication is a must. An open mind is essential. A willingness to “change the change” when you see previously unseen obstacles is the hallmark of Authentic Leadership. It is not an admission of failure. 

Change is most effectively led from alongside your people, not so far out front that you appear immune to the change. Pitch in to make the change happen and provide the support your people need. 

That’s how you can successfully guide your team through the challenges and opportunities that change presents. In this way you make the change a positive and productive experience for everyone. 

Want more of LeadToday? I’ve changed things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. I recently began publishing two or three videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. Sometimes a bonus video pops up at other times during the week. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $4.99 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month. 

If you’re interested in taking a look, head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet just hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success. 

Here’s the link to my Twitter… https://twitter.com/leadtoday 

The Process of Thinking

I’m a big fan of processes. I tell salespeople all the time that there are two ways to sell, by process or by accident. 

Doing things by process allows you to do things much more consistently. Having a process makes it easier to transfer skills from an experienced employee to a newer, less experienced one.

I believe in the power of planning and when people ask for my help with planning I share a well thought out eight step planning process. Things done by process are simply done better. 

Except when they are not. 

Some companies have processes that are so good they haven’t changed them in years. There is a story about a young accountant in the UK in the late 1990’s who was in his first annual budget review meeting. There was an item in the budget for “screens” and the amount was substantial. He asked what the screens were for and no one seemed to know. The line item had been there “forever” so each year they added a percent or two for the item and they moved on. 

Well the young accountant was more curious than the more experienced people on the team so he did a little investigating. He determined that the line item first appeared in the budget in the early 1940’s so in fact it wasn’t there forever. It turns out the “screens” were first purchased to place on top of the manufacturing plant’s smokestacks. Apparently there were planes from another country flying over England at night. They were using the fire at the bottom of the smokestacks as targets for the bombs that were dropped from the planes. 

The young accountant did some additional research. He discovered that it had been a good many years since that other country had sent bombers over England to destroy their manufacturing plants. And yet screens were still being replaced each year because it was part of the company’s process. 

And that’s when processes are not so good. 

When a process, no matter how effective it may have once been, is allowed to replace thinking a host of problems can ensue. 

Most leaders would tell me that their processes are well thought out. I’m sure that’s true but leaders shouldn’t be asking themselves if their processes are well thought out. The question every leader must ask, about every single one of their processes is, how old is the thinking that developed the process?

A process should never replace thinking. No team member or employee should ever be discouraged from questioning a process. Every process can be improved. Every process exists in a changing environment. To assume that any process never needs to change along with it’s environment is a very dangerous assumption. 

So think about every process that exists within your organization. Do you know how it came into existence? Do you know if it is still needed and why? Do you know when it was last updated? Do you know the last time anyone even thought about the process before mindlessly following along without even considering why they were doing it? 

If you can’t answer every single one of the questions with a high degree of specificity then you may have an opportunity for real improvement in your organization. Question every process and don’t stop until you have an answer. It’s likely those answers will bring improvement with them.

Never let a process, even a good one, keep you from thinking about how it could be improved. If you stop thinking you may one day find that even though the bombing has stopped you’re still hearing imaginary planes overhead.