Many participants on our leadership courses here at Excel talk about the challenges they face when organisations need to change and the difficulties they experience in leading their team through those changes.
Change only happens when individuals embrace that change and are willing to carry it out. Senior management can initiate all sorts of projects and ideas, but if they don’t engage their employees, these ideas are going nowhere.
Without a commitment from the workforce, no proposed change is going to happen, or at least it’s not going to happen easily.
As a leader, it‘s crucial to understand that you are pivotal in initiating change, acting as a role model for your team.
Great leaders change first! It’s a fact.
In his research, McKinsey confirms that there is a direct link between leading and managing change and the willingness of leaders to change first.
Leaders who have a positive mindset and agile thinking are more likely to embrace change first, reflecting internally on their own behaviour patterns and their influence on others, and leading the way.
For example, a recent client in a sales company wanted to introduce a new way of working with clients, meaning that some of the team would inevitably need to start working with new clients and lose their old contacts.
Although the idea held merit, the senior team who had envisaged the plan had failed to recognise the impact on employees. The expectation of the management team was that the team would just ‘get on with it’.
Of course, as I’m sure you can imagine, the reality was somewhat different.
Resistance to the proposed change was strong, as no consideration had been given to training needs, extra workload or lack of potential bonuses for individuals who were losing their established client base.
Embrace Your Self-Awareness
It’s an uncomfortable fact that not all leaders are self-aware. We see it all the time at our training events.
Despite the rise in the understanding of the importance of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace, some senior managers have yet to embrace the need to look internally and manage their own thoughts and drivers to adapt to change before expecting it of others.
If you want to be a truly inspirational leader, you need to look inwardly at your internal experiences as these influence how you take action. In other words, your motivations and inner dynamics are the components that drive everything you do and say in the external world.
So, the first thing a great leader will do is deal with how they feel about the change themselves, rationalise it and come to understand the reasons for the transition that go beyond the individual’s needs and preferences.
Once clear in understanding change, you will become more receptive to it, and by embracing positivity, you will be able to see the positive reasons for change and how it can open up new opportunities.
Communicate Transparently And Effectively
A good leader considers how to communicate change to their team.
Once you have a clear understanding of the changes in your mind and can anticipate your teams‘ concerns and questions, it’s imperative to get the team together to explain the situation.
Transparency is crucial in not only getting the change message across, but it is establishing a positive mindset within your team from the start. A clear and honest message will enable them to feel included in plans and give them the opportunity to voice any concerns or queries (or suggestions) they have.
When individuals feel listened to, it encourages ‘ownership’, and if your team has ownership, they are going to look at the change in a much more positive light.
Having ownership will be of enormous advantage when it comes to implementing the change – employees who are on board with the concept and feel involved will be more ready to embrace the changes.
Make sure you are honest when explaining the change, and clarify the reasons behind it, so your team understands the rationale. Your integrity will be paramount in gaining their trust and ensuring a smooth transition can be implemented.
Listen To Your Team
Communication is a two-way street.
So, not only do you need to tell your team what is happening, but you also need to be prepared to listen to their responses. That means setting aside time for meaningful conversations and dealing with any worries, concerns or questions your team has about the proposed changes.
Bringing your leadership skill of empathy into play will enable you to understand how they feel about the change, and by working with them and making them feel their opinions are respected and listened to, you are more likely to get them on board with the concept.
Additionally, listening to the team will potentially give you insight into their pain points and enable you to plan in advance to avoid problems.
For example, if your team is worried about being able to work with a new process, you could organise training in their diaries at an early date to counteract the worry this may cause.
Be Prepared To Support
Leaders listen when told training is needed to instigate change.
If your team are concerned that they will need additional training, be prepared to provide it. As a good leader, it is up to you to ensure all your team are fully equipped to handle change before it happens.
So, ensure training dates are organised in your employees’ diaries to counteract any concerns or stress they may have about handling the new system, procedure or plans.
Avoiding unnecessary stress in the team will keep up morale and help them see the change as a step in the right direction.
Consider if there are any other barriers to change – wise leaders plan a strategy to handle these, to avoid being caught off-guard.
Make Change Happen Smoothly
Check–in regularly with your team to ascertain how they are handling the change.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you doing all you can to ensure the change is as smooth as possible?
- Can you change anything in the process?
- Is there something you are not doing that you should?
Opening up a conduit for ongoing discussion will allow you to keep in touch with how the change is affecting your team to make sure you are providing them with full support and leadership in what can be, for many, a difficult time.
Additionally, by developing your emotional intelligence, you will also build the capacity to lead change and deliver impact as a leader, improving not only your leadership qualities but achieving a forward–thinking and agile team who are ready to be inspired by you.
Change is a constant. Remember, it’s not what happens but how you deal with it that makes you a successful leader, ready to embrace change like a boss!
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