One of the greatest challenges for leadership today is keeping up with the rapid changes in their industry. As communication tools and cultural norms begin to morph, it can be difficult for leaders not only to keep up with the necessary changes, but to implement them in a way that is healthy for the company.
When we approach change in our organizations, there are three guiding principles we should follow.
There’s nothing worse than being faced with a big decision or new change and not understanding why it’s happening. Getting employees involved in the decision is key to ensuring its success. In fact, Torben Rick, an operational and change management expert, says the key to implementing change in a successful way is to tell a compelling story. Rick states “before leaders can get buy-in, people need to feel the problem. People aren’t going to consider anything until they are convinced there is a problem that truly needs to be addressed.” Provide clarity on what problem this new change is solving and offer insights into any other possible solutions you may have explored before landing on this one. You may find that employees not only support your decision, but become change agents themselves.
This goes hand in hand with clarity, but it’s also important that you don’t just talk about the benefits this new change will bring, but also the challenges. The sad truth is that 70% of all change initiatives fail. As a leader, explain why this risk will ultimately bring rewards. As a basic guide, your conversation around changes should include answers to the following questions:
- Why is this change necessary?
- What actually is going to change and how does this affect each of us?
- When will we introduce and implement this change?
- How do we communicate this change?
- What will determine that this has been successful?
- What challenges will this change bring?
- How can we motivate and support people during this change?
Beyond these questions, offer to address any specific concerns employees may have, and follow through on that promise. Transparency offers the opportunity to shape the conversation into a more positive and exciting tone that could otherwise be one of confusion or fear.
Someone once said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”. We don’t often pair humility with great leadership, but we should! Understated, but incredible valuable, humility is a quality that every leader should possess. Humility drives leaders to think about how others might be feeling in a certain situation and empathize with their concerns. This is especially important when dealing with new information or even a shift in the organization. However big or small the change might be, by practicing empathy, we can ensure our employees feel heard and understood. In fact, what they’re trying to tell you may surprise you.
Have you dealt with a large change in your organization? What are the hurdles you overcame? Share your advice in the comments!