Just recently, we talked about the most important skills in change management, and one of the biggest points we touched on was the close relationship between leadership and change management. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the room to really take the time to talk about that to the level of detail it really called for. Leadership is indeed the most important aspect of change management, for a number of reasons we couldn’t really flesh out.
Today, I’d like to actually spend a minute explaining several reasons why leadership and change management are very tightly knit concepts, and provide a few important tips to be certain that leadership is up to snuff for affecting change properly and smoothly.
#1 – Role Models to Abate Opposition
One of the biggest hurdles often outlined in change management writing and models is combating opposition to change. This isn’t wrong – it is indeed one of the bigger challenges a change management professional will have to deal with.
This is because as we’ve said before, people are creatures of habit, and will form comfort zones within how and where they work and live. Time makes this comfort and introversion stronger incrementally, so the longer a system has been unchanged, and the longer the employees have been there, the more opposition you’re likely to encounter.
This is one of the first points where leadership is crucial. Some people are naturally adaptable and will go with the flow with changes, but these people are an exception, not a rule. Many models will spend a lot of time focusing on thawing opponents and converting them to proponents, and while this model works, a strong leadership strategy from the get go will serve you better.
Upon introducing yourself to the organization you must affect change within, it is important to immediately paint yourself as an intelligent, wise and experienced individual in whom they can confide and whom they can safely follow into the wilderness without fear. Many opponents to change will thaw a little just at knowing a strong yet approachable personality is on top of things, and others will be much more willing to talk about their concerns and hear you out in face –to-face meetings where you can readily thaw them into proponents.
#2 – A Gentleman and a Scholar
Well, you may in fact be a lady and a scholar just as easily, but that’s not the point. One of the other big responsibilities for leadership in change management is to train everyone in the changes that affect how they do things, be it new software, new processes or new regulations, you name it.
The key here is to understand training and how learning in adults works. Too often, change strategies fail because leadership look on training as a supplementary part of affecting the changes, and will use the default lecture/classroom model which simply does not work.
Consider organizational training models and methods of engagement that, with good friendly leadership in place, work well and will help you bond with the people as well as effectively train them.
#3 – A Guiding Hand
Finally, there’s the culmination of the other elements in that change is a very personal thing to an individual within the organization. While the changes may be broad and sweeping and affect upwards of even hundreds or thousands of people, each one will take it kind of personally, and their own sense of inconvenience, uncertainty or apprehension will play heavily in their own involvement.
As a leader, you must be a reliable, constant point they can look to for reassurance, which they can know is on top of everything and that as long as they defer to you and trust in you and their own abilities, that the world turning upside down for change will, in time, right itself and be better for it.
This kind of trustworthiness, as well as the show of competence and good teaching skills are why leadership and change management must be so tightly knit, and focusing on these three points, on the people side of things, is going to ensure better results all around.