5 things leaders need to know about change management
By Ramonda Kyser
Change is inherently disruptive for business owners, executive teams, middle management and rank-and-file employees. When change occurs, leaders have a role in making sure it takes place as effortlessly and smoothly as possible.
Here are five key lessons I’ve learned about business leaders and change management having taught The BB&T Leadership Institute’s Leading Change with Purpose program for the last several years.
1. Change management is a given in today’s marketplace.
Managing change is the new norm. Why? Because every business of any considerable size is competing in a global economy, and the way that your customers and competitors operate constantly evolves.
Also, if your company isn’t changing, it isn’t growing as an organization. And if it isn’t growing, you may well discover that your business has become irrelevant.
2. Leaders need to recognize their change style preference.
To effectively manage and implement change, leaders need to understand their own preferences for handling change. There are three change styles:
- The conserver
The conserver likes incremental, structured change. Organizational change has to make sense to this leader. Think safe and slow without a whiff of whimsy.
- The pragmatist
The pragmatist likes steady, practical change. This leader is adaptable and amenable to reasonable changes. Think steady, with both hands on the wheel.
- The originator
The originator loves massive, revolutionary change. This leader might declare, “Let’s blow everything up and start all over again.” Think big ambitions, big ideas, big plans, big everything.
Leaders need to understand their own change style preference, so they can dial that style up and down as needed for market conditions or business goals. Also, a leader must be able to recognize other leaders’ change styles. A leadership team with too many originators with too much influence, for instance, can cause a company to crash and burn because they aren’t working in concert toward the same goal.
3. Organizational change must be purposeful.
An organization can’t change for the sake of change. Leaders and organizations change for an explicit purpose, such as becoming better able to attract highly talented employees or improving customer service metrics.
4. Leaders need to identify the right change initiatives for their organization.
Identifying the right change isn’t always easy. Multiple, seemingly equally important, changes might be competing for a leader’s efforts.
In Leading Change with Purpose, we help leaders identify the right change initiatives with a step called Understand. It involves five whys. We ask them, “What is the needed change?” When a leader identifies the change, we ask “Why?” With each answer, we ask “Why?” again. You’d be surprised how a steady salvo of “whys” can help clarify executives’ strategic thinking.
5. Change management is difficult.
If you’re managing a change in your organization and it doesn’t seem difficult, you’re probably missing something.
In my experience, executives are very good at executing tasks like implementing a new internal policy or changing a company’s name and logo, but they tend to neglect the people aspect, such as how organizational change affects their middle managers.
Great leaders consistently communicate with their employees during a change’s entire process. For instance, they make sure employees know what to say when clients ask about the reason for the new name, so the employees deliver a consistent message. When leaders don’t do this, employees will fill in the knowledge gaps with their own ideas or what they’ve heard (or misheard) via the company grapevine.
Avoid these mistakes
Over my time facilitating Leading Change with Purpose, I’ve learned that leaders typically make two mistakes about change management.
First, when employees complain about a change, leaders often get frustrated with these employees and typically view them as not wanting to get onboard with the change. I urge leaders to listen to these employees and try to understand what they are really saying. Your employees have a different perspective about the change and might have real-time knowledge about why it might not work as planned or how its implementation can be tweaked and improved.
Second, some leaders say they don’t have time for change management. Leaders who don’t focus on or address change management effectively may find that their organizations will become obsolete or outdated.
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