Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: Navigating Change
Our previous update emphasized the importance of developing a deeper bench strength by empowering current employees to become tomorrow’s leaders. Part two of our leadership series will focus on creating change leaders who can garner the support of their teams to implement change initiatives.
Once upon a time, change was seen as an occasional disruption in the bustling corporate world—an infrequent guest requiring occasional adaptation. However, the truth became apparent as time passed: change is constant, and many times it accelerates exponentially. It permeates every industry, organization, and individual’s life. In this rapidly evolving landscape, mastering the art of change management has become crucial for success.
Amidst this realization, another undeniable truth emerged:
Employees lost patience with change initiatives.
The eagerness and willingness to support organizational transformations has dwindled.
A revealing survey conducted by Gartner shed light on this disheartening trend. Two primary culprits stood out as the likely reasons behind this decline: change fatigue and poor change implementation. The relentless cycle of constant change took a toll on individuals, leaving them weary and exhausted.
When there is an abundance of change initiatives bombarding employees, it overwhelms them, depleting their energy and enthusiasm. The saturation of change erodes their capacity to adapt, diminishing support for new initiatives. Additionally, if implementing change initiatives is haphazard or ineffective, it amplifies employee resistance. The absence of proper planning, communication, and support leaves employees feeling disconnected and skeptical, further exacerbating their reluctance to embrace change.
All of this is leading up to failed change initiatives. According to the Standish Group only 31% of change initiatives are successful. That means that 69% (well over half) of all change initiatives fail.
Four Keys to Developing a Change-Ready Culture
Change leadership necessitates a significant shift in mindset. When an organization undergoes changes, whether it be implementing new strategies, adopting new technologies, or restructuring processes, it often encounters resistance and challenges from employees accustomed to the status quo. To effectively lead change, a unique perspective and approach are required:
Prioritize the changes – Prioritized change involves leaders guiding employees by communicating the order of priorities, including change initiatives. Leadership teams often prioritize projects internally, but broader communication can enhance energy and effort management.
Sustainable Transformation Versus Speed – Acceleration. Good for cars, but not always for people. Give your people time to buy into the new path. Often leaders have spent weeks or months discussing the change internally yet expect employees to embrace it immediately.
If leaders want to successfully implement change they need to consider the employee experience when determining the optimal speed of change
Move from a top-down approach to a collaborative one – Shift from a hierarchical, command-and-control style of managing change to a more inclusive and collaborative approach of leading change. Involves employees at various levels in the decision-making process, allowing them to contribute their ideas and insights. This approach promotes transparency, collaboration, and collective ownership of the change process, ultimately increasing the chances of successful implementation. As leaders it is our role to clearly communicate what we want to accomplish and why it is important. Let your team determine how to do it.
The Leader’s Role in Effective Change
Leaders play a pivotal and indispensable role in leading change. Their contribution drives successful organizational transformations, steering the company towards a brighter future. One of the key responsibilities of leaders is to provide a clear vision and direction that aligns the change effort with the organization’s long-term goals. This vision acts as a guiding star, illuminating the path and inspiring employees to embrace the transformation.
However, simply having a vision is not enough. Leaders must effectively communicate and engage with employees to build trust and minimize resistance to change. They function as change advocates, passionately motivating and inspiring their team members to embrace the upcoming changes wholeheartedly. This involves clearly articulating the reasons behind the change and how it aligns with the organization’s purpose.
While communication is vital, leaders must also allocate the necessary resources to implement the change. This includes providing employees with the tools, training, and support required to navigate the transition successfully. Moreover, leaders closely monitor the progress of the change initiative, adjusting and adapting it when necessary. They avoid the mistake of setting the initiative on autopilot and walking away.
In addition to addressing processes and staff skills, leaders must recognize the significance of beliefs and behaviors. Traditional change management often overlooks these critical aspects. To effectively drive change, leaders must focus on influencing and shaping the attitudes and behaviors of individuals within the organization. They must help employees break old habits and build new ones that align with the desired changes. Creating a culture that supports the change effort is essential, including holding individuals accountable for their actions and reminding them of the new habits they should embrace.
The Pivot: Embracing Change as a Competitive Advantage
Amidst these challenges lies an opportunity. Organizations that effectively implement change can turn it into a competitive advantage. A classic example of this is the faceoff between Netflix and Blockbuster. Once a video rental giant, Blockbuster failed to recognize the winds of change. They clung to their traditional brick-and-mortar model, unwilling to adapt to the emerging digital landscape.
In contrast, Netflix had the foresight to embrace the power of streaming and pivot its business model accordingly. Netflix transformed how people consume entertainment by focusing on agility and understanding their customers’ evolving needs. Today, Blockbuster is merely a memory, while Netflix stands tall as a global powerhouse.
Tomorrow’s leaders must understand that agility is crucial to successful change leadership Organizations that can swiftly respond to external and internal changes gain a competitive edge. Agility encompasses the ability to sense shifts in the business environment, seize opportunities, and adapt proactively. It involves fostering a culture that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and continuous learning. When change is constant, agility becomes the key to survival and success.
Recommended Reading for The Next Generation of Change Managers
Change leaders possess the skills to drive transformation and inspire others to embrace change. By investing in these individuals and providing them with training and development, organizations can establish a culture that embraces change as a necessary part of growth. Setting change leadership on autopilot involves integrating change into the organizational DNA and creating a continuous improvement and adaptation culture.
The book “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything” is an excellent primer for helping leaders build the skills needed for change. BJ Fogg is a leading expert in behavioral psychology and habit formation. The book introduces a practical and effective approach to creating positive changes in one’s life through the power of small habits.
While “Tiny Habits” primarily focuses on individual behavior change rather than change management skills for leaders, leaders can adapt the book’s principles to facilitate change within their organizations. The key concepts include:
- Starting with small, achievable changes
- Anchoring new behaviors to existing routines
- Celebrating and reinforcing progress
- Supporting iteration and learning
By applying these principles, leaders can foster a culture of incremental change and help their teams navigate organizational change effectively.
Contact us if you have any additional questions about managing and leading change.