By Craig W. Ross
One of the biggest factors in the success of a company is its ability to be nimble and embrace change. Being able to evolve with—or even ahead of—customer needs helps keep organizations relevant and ahead of the curve. In fact, many of the leaders we work with report that 90 percent of their work is about leading effective change.
But, in some cases, leaders say their attempts to create change backfire. When an effort to implement change fails, it can negatively affect a team—employees lose their excitement, relationships suffer and creativity is suppressed.
What dictates this end result? How can leaders ensure that the implementation of change is effective in their organization?
What we’ve found is that some of the guidelines for facilitating change that leaders have learned are faulty. And these precepts actually make change harder than it needs to be. Imagine the difference it would make if healthy change were a natural function, owned and driven by every member of your team.
Before taking steps to leading change, ask yourself the following questions to determine if you’re making the process harder than it needs to be.
Am I letting challenges cripple my confidence in leading change?
Most leaders must deal with deadlines, budgets and staffing issues. Another discouraging fact is that the idea of change instills fear, discomfort and confusion in many organizations. Ask yourself how you perceive these challenges and how it affects your ability to get buy-in from your organization. For example, viewing a tight budget as an opportunity to be creative and encouraging your employees to help uncover a solution can help restructure this challenge into a chance for them to step up. How you view challenges will not only impact your confidence as a leader, but will also set the stage for how your team views challenges that arise during the change implementation.
Am I limiting myself to a traditional approach to change?
When preparing to lead your organization through a transition, your automatic response may be to apply everything you have learned about implementing change. Limiting ourselves only to what we already know means that we may be using an old, standard formula that can create resistance among employees and diminish an organization’s return on investment.
The traditional approach to change consists of four steps: Identify the problem; Have an “expert” determine a solution; Tell people how to change; Try to overcome the resistance created by the first three steps.
Using this approach not only costs us time, it also leads to revenue and morale loss. It also sabotages future initiatives for change and can cause work relationships and job satisfaction to deteriorate.
Accomplished leaders are replacing the traditional approach to change with a new formula based on a different paradigm. They realize how people handle change determines whether the organization moves backward or forward. For them, change does not indicate danger—it signals opportunity.
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