When it comes to management of change, leadership is essential. These 7 tips will help you get more from your change initiatives.
Regardless of the size of your organization, change leadership directly impacts the results of your program.
But what makes a great leader?
In short, great leaders:
- Lead – they don’t dictate, mandate, or order
- Communicate effectively
- Know how to empathize and listen
- Have strong soft skills and “EQ”
The leader who manages change effectively will:
- Get more support from employees
- Experience less employee resistance
- Communicate more effectively
Overall, you’ll create change that has a stronger impact.
Let’s find out a few tips that can take your change leadership skills to the next level.
Management of Change: Leadership Tips
These leadership tips are designed for those interested in the management of change – organizational change, change management, and business transformation.
But these tips and principles can be applied anywhere, in any department.
1. Lead from the Ground
Leading from the ground means leading by example.
Meet your employees face-to-face, then get directly involved with the change.
This can mean:
- Having group or one-on-one meetings with frontline staff
- Soliciting feedback from customers or staff yourself
- Directly observing the change program in action
Communication, as every leader knows, is the key trait that can help you succeed.
Leading from the ground is an effective communication tool. It shows employees that you are working with them, instead of ordering changes from “on high.”
2. Embrace and Embody Change
Embody the change, don’t just mandate it.
This is closely linked to the first tip.
Rather than merely voicing change, you should be the first to adopt the change you are leading.
- Adopt new software, be the first to use it
- Change your brand image, be the first to own it
- Create new products, be the first to test, use, and learn about them
Like the first tip, embodying change will demonstrate that you are leading … not just dictating.
3. Recruit Change Champions
Change champions are mini-leaders who will help your effort.
Like lower ranking military officers, change champions will embrace, embody, and lead change.
They can be hand-picked. Or they can be recruited from change meetings and discussion rounds.
Either way, use them to build support and put your change program into action.
Delegating can be difficult – it is tempting to do everything yourself.
However, true leaders know the power of delegation.
But delegating effectively actually builds stronger support and teamwork.
By delegating, you:
- Show confidence in your team
- Earn more trust and support
- Can do less of the work yourself
Ultimately, delegating will build a stronger, more supportive team.
5. Define Your Vision in a Story
Your vision of change must be communicated.
Stories are the best, most effective way to do this.
The story will be your go-to narrative that everyone can latch on to. It can be constantly referred to in your change literature, meetings, presentations, and so on.
An effective change story:
- Envisions a new way of operating
- Tells why the old way doesn’t work any more
- Elicits emotion and motivation from the listeners
Consider what motivates your staff, and how you can craft a story that will garner empathy and action.
6. Listen to Feedback and Use It
Again, communication in change management is the most important skill you can have.
And listening is one of the best things you can do to gain support.
Listening to employees will:
- Help you learn where they are coming from
- Get information to help you lead more effectively
- Help employees feel heard
Obviously you don’t need to act on everything you hear.
But the act of listening to employees goes a long way towards building good-will and motivation for your cause.
7. Set Realistic Change Goals
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Change objectives should be set realistically for a few reasons:
- Goals set too high are doomed to fail
- This can cause disappointment in stakeholders and employees
- In turn, this can reduce future support for change initiatives
Setting realistic, achievable goals can be difficult.
One way to make sure your goals are achievable is to constantly measure your progress.
KPIs and metrics can tell you if you are aiming too high. Or, alternatively, they can pinpoint problems with your program.
Final Tip: Continually Improve
In Japanese, kaizen means improvement.
This business principle was made popular by Toyota’s manufacturing plants. But because it was so effective, it has become well-known around the world.
Today, continual improvement is a principle that has been adopted by many modern business models.
Lean thinking and lean management, for instance, are built upon continual iteration, learning, and improvement.
Every leader should apply this to their own change programs and their own leadership styles.
After all, the leader who stands still will get left behind in today’s fast-paced economy.
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.