Five ways to effectively lead change
Are you struggling to transform your business to thrive and survive? Putting the right people at the helm has launched many high-profile, highly successful turnarounds, from Jack Welch in his early days at GE, to Meg Whitman at eBay. However, companies don’t have to fire the entire C-suite to put “new” leadership in place.
Although leadership is the key to successful major organizational change, it has had a failure rate of 70 percent for decades. It IS possible, however, to lead successful and sustainable change, IF it's led effectively. The problem has been that, so often, it’s not.
Workforces in every industry - from manufacturing to service to health care to high tech - are confused and bruised. Employees in this economy thirst for guidance but are distrustful and disenfranchised. They are not engaged, empowered, or equipped to do what is needed to help their organizations transform to survive and thrive.
The solution? Those who lead change must first change themselves.
Here are five simple but effective ways to do that:
- Change Your Story - Reframe resistance. Resistance in organizations is like the immune system in the body; it protects against harmful invaders from the outside. Just like pain in the body is a symptom something is wrong, so resistance is a sign to which managers should pay attention. The goal is not to eradicate it, but to allow it to surface, so it can be explored and honored. To lead more effectively, learn to see resistance as your ally, not your enemy.
- Change Your Stance - Picture a triangle. So often, we view ourselves on one angle, others at another angle, and "the problem" on the third angle. In our minds, it feels like it's us against the other people as well as the problem. That's exhausting. Instead, re-envision yourself and the other people all working together to solve the problem. Move from being and feeling and acting against others, or doing something to others, or even in spite of others, to working with and even for them. If you can make this simple mindset shift, how you relate to others will almost immediately become palpably partnership-oriented to them.
- Change Your Seat - What you see depends on where you sit. Change looks very different at different levels of the organizational hierarchy. Those at the top are typically isolated. Those at the bottom are most resistant. Those in the middle are squeezed. Sit in others' seats and appreciate their pressures. Adapt your approach and messages to the very different needs and concerns of these very different audiences.
- Change Your Style - We all know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. To lead change effectively, follow the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as THEY want to be done unto. Tell stories they can relate to. Share statistics relevant to them. Demonstrate what's in it for all of you to work together in new ways.
- Change Your Strategy - So often, what looks like resistance is really that people don't get it, don't want it, or they are unable to do it. Engage the brain by explaining the "why" and "what" of the change. Help the "head" understand your vision, mission, and goals. Paint a clear picture of the target and the end game. Inspire the "heart" to care about the change objectives by engaging with others, actively listening, dealing with fears and insecurities, and building trust. Help the "hands" apply the change -- provide tactics, training and tools, and eliminate barriers standing in people's way.
The good news is that none of these prescriptions require leaders to change who they are. They are instead all about shifts in mindsets and behaviours. It's about the flexibility to adapt your leadership approach to get everyone moving in the direction where you need them to go. It's amazing how when we adapt our thinking and actions and make changes, others change as well.
It's been said before -- because it's true: Be the change you wish to see in the world. That's leadership.
Reprinted with the permission of Barbara Trautlein PhD, author of Change Intelligence: Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks (www.changecatalysts.com).