Make change management your competitive advantage
By Chris Smith
Change is ever present in today’s fast-paced business world, especially at industry-leading organizations. Leaders aren’t insulated from change, but instead are heavily involved, whether the change needed is to recruit for a new chief marketing officer or to overhaul a manufacturing process to meet a major client’s needs.
However, when it comes to change management, many organizations perform badly. McKinsey’s research(opens in a new tab), for instance, shows that 70% of change initiatives fail to meet their desired goals.
Communicating change to employees
Any substantial change in the way your business operates can cause a dip in employee performance. The cause of the dip, and a chief reason for change initiatives’ high failure rate, is that leaders don’t always fully consider and mitigate the psychological impact on employees. Employees feel a loss of control and less role clarity and this psychological stress diminishes their ability to focus on the job.
In the case of a departmentwide restructuring, for instance, leaders need to clearly communicate how the restructuring will play out. When leaders fail to do this, employees’ focus gets sidetracked. They’re no longer completing the day’s tasks and checking items off of their to-do list. Instead, they’re emotionally and mentally grappling with questions like “Who will I report to?,” “What’ll my new role be?” and “Am I going to lose my job?”
When you understand that organizational changes produce a psychological impact upon employees and when you continually communicate how the change will affect employees, the dip in performance is shorter in duration and lower in intensity.
Be a purposeful leader
One of the best ways you can ensure that organizational changes occur as smoothly as possible is to manage these changes in a manner that is consistent with your leadership purpose, which is discussed in The BB&T Leadership Institute program Leading Change with Purpose™.
Your leadership purpose is your internal understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Your leadership purpose should be tied to your values, hopes and worldview. It’s what matters most to you.
Your leadership purpose helps you lead intentionally, so you are in touch with how changes affect yourself, your employees and the organization.
As we all know, organizational changes often cause a lot of internal and external stress for leaders. This stress typically leads to higher levels of negative emotions. And when leaders get overwhelmed by their own or others’ negative emotions, they tend to act reactively, as opposed to being purposeful.
Here are three leadership tips to help ensure your change management efforts are successful:
- Remember your employees.
Pay close attention to the psychological impact of change on employees. Leaders tend to over focus on tasks, not on people, so too often you can fail to fully understand and lessen a change’s psychological impact.
Listen to employees, understand their concerns and respond appropriately.
- Manage your workplace connections.
Your connections with employees are critical. The strength and depth of your connections are a main driver of employee engagement. And employee engagement is a chief determining factor in a change initiative’s success or failure.
Reach out to employees and give them the attention they need whether it’s face to face, via text or email, or over the phone. And connect with them in a meaningful, personal manner.
- Live your leadership purpose.
Change management is difficult, and it is easy for leaders to get distracted by needing to keep all of the balls in the air. Remind yourself on a daily basis of your leadership purpose – why you are doing what you’re doing as a leader. Not only will it help you keep all of those balls in the air, but it will help you lead others in a thoughtful and conscious way.
Remember: Most change initiatives fail to meet their goals. You can help ensure your organizational changes occur as smoothly as possible—and thereby gain a competitive advantage—by using your leadership purpose to guide you during those challenging times.
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