Effective Change Leadership in 5 Steps

We live in interesting times. Undoubtedly, the topic of conversation around your office has something to do with the passionate displays of protest witnessed here and across the globe as a result of the actions of America’s new leadership. No matter your political stance, the scenes being played out on television and social media just underscore that, even under the best of circumstances, change makes people anxious or even fearful. Furthermore, when those in charge mismanage their roles in change leadership, it can lead to breakdowns across the board.

As a manager in your company, one of your most important roles is facilitating organizational change for your employees when it occurs. You’re the one who must overcome their natural resistance to change because comfort in the status quo is inherent inside everyone. Even positive change brings discomfort to a certain degree.

Whether the change is implementation of new policies, major structural shifts in management, downsizing, or even fear of the unknown caused by outside forces (both planned and unplanned), you must gain your employees’ support to see the changes through successfully.

To do that, use the following five change leadership techniques to create a positive environment that employees will draw upon to accept change easier. These steps are the keys to keeping your business healthy and thriving even during times of stress.

  1. Give the team a reason to do something different. This generally happens with an urgent change, such as a loss of market share, a financially-bad quarter, or worse, if your company’s latest big product tanks. Because time is of the essence, use it as a positive and let your employees try to do things differently to achieve better results.
  2. Seek out the unofficial power brokers on your team. These are people who have a natural power or presence about them, regardless of job title. Because of this, they exert tremendous influence over the rest of the team. Spend extra time with these people, making sure they know what the changes are and why they are needed.
  3. Help team members see the opportunities. People will usually respond positively to an articulate vision — or a challenge —if they see the possibilities of what could be. But they won’t recognize them unless you show them first. Obviously, before you can do this with them, you must believe in the possibilities yourself.
  4. Empower your team. Provide as much information, responsibility, and authority as you can, whenever you can. Show your employees that you have faith in their capacity to digest it. If possible, allow them to continue to function as a team for as long as possible and alleviate some stress.
  5. Keep thanking or rewarding your people along the way. Don’t wait until you have 100 percent buy-in from the entire team to start handing out “thank-you’s” or rewards. Don’t, because it will likely never happen. Change leadership requires publicly recognizing team members making an effort to embrace the change. If rewarded correctly, their positive attitude will rub off on the others.

Remember that even if you do these steps perfectly, there could still be employees who resist. They require more convincing as to why they need to adapt to the change.

Keys to overcoming employee resistance to change:

  • Previous to any announcement, identify what the resistance might look like and who is most likely to demonstrate those behaviors
  • After the announcement, ensure everyone knows WHY the change is happening and the impact it will have on their daily work
  • Create a willingness for people to change by modeling the behavior in yourself
  • Be alert to resistance and consciously work to overcome it
  • Motivate people to change and be excited about it

Finally, if people flatly refuse to embrace critical changes, help them see the following realities:

  • Change will happen whether they want them to or not
  • They can anticipate, monitor, and adapt to change quicker with your help
  • They have the power to enjoy the change if they choose

If resistance persists or gets worse, document all of your efforts with the employee and their actions in response. You might need it if the end result is termination of the employee. Some people will only change if they see that there will be consequences if they don’t. Change leadership is a singularly difficult part of your job, but if done correctly, one of the most satisfying.


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