“Did you hear the manager’s excuse for failing to manage change?
He said nobody got his faxes.”
Baddum bum. Well, assuming you’re reading this on a computer screen and not a fax printout, you’re demonstrating the point of this marginally funny joke, which is this: change is a fact of life in the business world. Certainly, there are some forms of change which can be an easy sell within an organization, like, the replacement of the fax machine with digital technology. However, having people be amenable to change for less fashionable and unforeseen reasons isn’t such an easy proposition. Change that’s required from factors such as increased competition, flat earnings and their constant companion – poor morale, isn’t so easy to implement. Yet change in all its various forms is a constant, so how do you champion it as a leader?
I have some pointers, but first a little perspective.
If you’re like me, you may well recall “those” staff meetings when higher-ups giddily announced new plans to address whatever scourge happened to thwart the current status quo. No matter what the reason or amount of positive the spin that was applied, everyone knew that changes were afoot. Invariably, the news was met with a measure of eye rolling, suspicion and wariness. It’s this inherent aversion to change that can make implementing initiatives difficult.
If you Google the subject, you’ll find various methods of leading change, including those of the esteemed Dr. John Paul Kotter, who outlines eight steps. As much as I fully endorse Dr. Kotter’s methodology, I can distill leading change into the following five pointers:
1. Believe the words of Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “Change is the only constant.”
Change is inevitable, so embrace it. If you think the iPhone is the biggest thing since tater tots, just you wait.
2. When you’ve made a decision to change tack, announce it to the crew immediately.
If your decision is to change course, subordinates will be far more amenable if you do it quickly and explain why.
3. Maintain a sense of urgency.
You’ve instigated changes for a reason. Include deadlines and incentives.
4. Be realistic, patient and empathetic.
If your vision isn’t happening when you envisioned it, or if people aren’t embracing it right away, take a chill pill and have faith. Just because people don’t immediately catch your drift doesn’t mean they aren’t on board. If you’re realistic, patient and empathetic you’ll find leading change eminently easier.
5. Embody the change you are trying to instill.
I won’t dwell on this one, but let’s just say if you’re trying to encourage the use of public transportation, don’t show up for work in your Humvee.
If you’d like more insight on Leading Change, please feel free to fax me any time.
Thanks for reading,