Change Management Leadership: The Key to Overcoming Obstacles to Change

Change Management Leadership: The Key to Overcoming Obstacles to Change
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In many evolving companies, change management leadership is the missing link to success.

When you have synergy between management and leadership, obstacles are easier to overcome. Results are better, success is more common, and failure rates are reduced.

Below, we’ll explore the obstacles that stand in the way of success. Then we’ll look at the role of leadership. And finally we’ll explore ways to successfully lead and manage change.

Overcoming Obstacles to Change

There are many obstacles to organizational change.

Some are preventable. Some are unpredictable. And others are unavoidable.

Hurdles of one type or another will face any company that undergoes transformation. A few include:

  • Fear of change – Fear of change is common. Unfamiliar territory can be unsettling, and cause lethargy, decreased productivity, and resistance, mentioned below.
  • Resistance to change – Employee resistance is one of the most common obstacles to change. This makes transformation tricky, because people are the driving force behind change. Without support, nothing can move forward.
  • Change fatigue – Processes that drag on can exhaust workers. When they become too exhausted, fatigue can slow down the initiative. And in worst case scenarios, it can even cause the change to grind to a halt.
  • Inertia – Change requires effort, because people are used to doing things a certain way. To effect change, you need to push against organizational inertia and change the way people think.
  • Change that doesn’t stick – Without reinforcement, people revert to the old way of doing things. Unless new habits are continually reinforced, old ones can easily resurface.

Note that these obstacles can all be traced back to employees.

It’s for this reason that change management focuses heavily on changing human behavior.

And one of the best ways to influence human behavior is by providing reasons to change, as we’ll see below.

Why Change Management Leadership?

First, let’s clear the air.

Many people – and some industry professionals – use the terms change management and change leadership interchangeably.

But they’re actually two different functions.

Let’s start by reviewing the definitions of both:

  • Change management – Change managers run the show … at least when it comes to business changes. They manage, administer, and often design change implementations.
  • Change leadershipChange leaders envision the change, focus on the big picture, and establish goals. They are the drivers behind the change.

So what’s missing?

In many cases, there’s a gap between the two.

If the gap between the leaders and the managers is too great, then the aforementioned obstacles can become more of a threat.

Typically, the biggest problems occur when workers lack a purpose.

Change leadership that sits in an ivory tower can’t communicate the vision effectively.

The result?

Change without purpose, stagnant motivation, low productivity, and slow progress.

And this is where change management leadership comes in – closing the gap between vision, strategy, and tactics.

How to Bridge the Gap

A prerequisite to effective change management leadership is ensuring that change leaders work closely with change managers.

Together, they can create a vision, a strategy, and an action plan that bypasses the obstacles mentioned above.

Here’s how:

Everyone Must Own the Vision

Leaders envision the change and embody that vision in a set of end goals.

But when that vision doesn’t get relayed to managers – or when managers don’t relay it to the workers – problems crop up like weeds.

What often lacks is ownership of the vision.

When people feel helpless, “besieged by change,” and when they don’t understand the reasons for change, they resist.

To avoid this problem, craft the vision’s story so that it include employees at every level.

Total Participation from the Very Start

Typically, strategy will focus on methods for meeting change objectives.

This includes creating goals, deciding on a change model, choosing change management tools, and developing change procedures.

However, many companies fail to include employees in the decision-making process.

Studies have shown that inclusivity boosts results and reduces resistance.

On top of that, remember that employees actually can offer valuable feedback and suggestions for improving implementation.

How to Communicate the Change

Holding round table discussions with employees is the necessary first step towards bridging gaps. But it’s just the first step.

To actually instill ownership, managers – and leaders – should have open discussions with the staff:

  • Understand their concerns, listen to their fears. And take their suggestions seriously
  • Personalize the impact of the change, both positive and negative
  • Find creative, fun change management techniques to motivate employees and encourage participation
  • Explain the reasons for the transformation, and ensure managers at all levels can discuss it
  • Whenever possible, provide employees with choices and opportunities to help out

This mentality of inclusiveness will ensure that employees feel empowered, important, and relevant.

Conclusion: Bridge Gaps, Boost Results

Employees that feel disregarded or unimportant are more likely to resist.

Reduce this risk by bridging the gap between change management and change leadership. You’ll see a drastic reduction in resistance and significant boosts in results.

Plus, employees will be happier and more productive.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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