Five Things Great Leaders Think About Before Making Changes
By: Liz Wilson
Change happens. People change. Companies are acquired or sold. Job responsibilities evolve. One reality of today’s business climate is the frequency and rapid pace of change. Technology, economics, global business, elections…these are just a few of the factors that cause change. When you layer in the changes in our personal lives, the average person experiences an untold number of changes throughout daily life. In the business world, this creates a challenge for leaders. How do I maintain my team’s performance when things are changing?
History isn’t in your favor as a leader. Up to 70% of organizational changes fail.[i] Fortunately, there are things you can do to set your team up for successful performance.
1: Analyze the Impact of the Change.
By the time you implement a change, you’ve had time to internalize it. You’ve tried it on. You’ve run it through in your head. It isn’t NEW to you. Take some time in advance to identify the stakeholders who will be impacted by the change. Is the impact on processes? Will it impact how people feel about their jobs, the company, themselves or you? Change is about an Event (The Change) plus the Transition (How People Experience the Change).[ii] Think about both of these before you implement the change.
2: Involve People.
Change can trigger feelings of being out of control. Push yourself to involve people in advance. These people will not only help you anticipate how the change will impact processes and people; they will help provide the support to others in the organization once the change takes place.
3: Plan Your Communication.
Great leaders think about their audience and logistics BEFORE the change. They plan who, what, where and when. They consider what combination of formal, informal, public and private conversations are needed. They coordinate with other leaders, teams and stakeholders. Advance planning frees the leader AND the team to adapt to what we can’t plan – the unknown and the unexpected. Take a lesson from the military —plan and practice anything you can so you have the bandwidth to adapt once the change is implemented.
4: Follow Up.
Patrick Lencioni talks about trust as the foundation of team performance.[iii] Great leaders make themselves available to the team and individuals after the change has been implemented. Be present and accessible. This can include formal touchpoints, such as town halls. It also includes L.B.W.A. (Leadership By Walking Around). People will ask questions and share concerns if they believe you are sincerely concerned about their welfare. This gives you the opportunity to reinforce your expectations, identify problem areas, strengthen relationships and secure commitment to the change.
5: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.
There’s a reason the majority of changes leaders make aren’t successful. It is too easy to underestimate the impact of change and overestimate your team’s bandwidth. Don’t make changes in a vacuum, involve thought partners. Lean on seasoned leaders in your network. Read a book or watch a Ted Talk and apply what you’ve learned. Hire an expert.
Change can be challenging, rewarding and lead to enhanced performance. Your team CAN be successful. You CAN achieve results. Sometimes it happens quickly; sometimes it takes a lot of time. As a leader, the ball is in your court. You’ve got this!
[i] Research varies on this number, which ranges from 10% – 50%. One expert cites a 30% change success rate average across research studies. “The Dirty Little Secret Behind the 70% Failure Rate of Change Projects”, D. Conner, 2012.
[ii] Managing Transitions, William Bridges, 2009.
[iii] The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni. 2002.