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success comes when you seek to lead change rather than to impose or dictate or force change
We live in a world of change. The pace of technological development brings the potential for change virtually every day, millennials and generation Z taking their place in the world see things through different eyes and expect different outcomes, and whilst Shakespeare may still be popular that doesn’t stop musicians and writers from creating new material and developing new art forms.
In short, the human race thrives on change, it is built into our DNA, it is the reason why we are what we are today. Quite frankly, without change we would still be living in trees and scavenging for berries and small insects. So why is it that in so many circles change still has a very negative connotation? Is it the fear of the unknown, the thought that we might be taking a risk, or is it simply that we have become too comfortable and change requires effort?
Whatever the reason, great leaders know that there comes a time in the life of every organisation where small incremental change is no longer enough. Perhaps the organisation is not meeting the needs of its customers, perhaps disruptors have taken market share, perhaps employee engagement levels are such that active disengagement is imperilling the organisation, or perhaps the world has simply moved on leaving the organisation foundering in its wake. This then is the time for true leadership, for stepping up and taking bold decisions in order to bring the organisation back onto a sound footing.
There are many strategies for leading change. In fact, entire libraries of books have been written on the subject and if you type leading change into Google then you’re presented with so much reading matter that your organisation will have long gone before you get halfway through. And we’re not going to try and coalesce all the theories into one article as that too would be far too long to assimilate easily. Instead, we are going to offer three simple rules which above all else are key to successfully leading change. They are plan, live the change and take your people with you.
Let’s start with plan. When the driving imperative is to change it is all too easy to embark upon change for changes sake; to throw out the good as well as the bad, to react to the instant rather than creating the future. Take time to analyse and to understand, to consider the options and only then to develop a cohesive plan which is right for your organisation, its people and its customers and which will take you from a known starting point into the future.
Why should you live the change; surely developing the plan and announcing change is sufficient? Well no, if you want your people to really believe in change then they have to trust your judgement. So it is up to you to demonstrate every day that you have taken the new values and attitudes, behaviours and expectations into your own relationship with the organisation. Anything else, and people will mistrust what you have said and the chance for change will be lost.
Finally, people don’t just want to see you living the change, they have to be taken on the change journey. You’ve done all the research, you’ve taken the time to build understanding and to create a viable plan, now it is time for you to take your people on the same journey. Of course, they don’t have to do the research, but they do have to understand the research. Of course, they don’t have to come up with the plan, but they do have to take personal ownership of their part within the plan. So you explain and you share and you anticipate in order to overcome objections.
Above all else remember that success comes when you seek to lead change rather than to impose or dictate or force change. When you lead, when you capture hearts and minds, when you engage people in the change your chance of success is considerably enhanced. We live in a world of change, let’s make it one which we can all engage with and be proud of.