They say that change is the only constant, and yet change is universally unpopular. Change pushes us out of our comfort zone into unknown territories. It requires a measure of conviction and resolve. It invites tension. Change can be even more unnerving as a leader.
Changing business and market conditions require companies to evolve regularly. Leadership during these changes will largely determine their success or failure.
How can you most effectively navigate your team through times of change? It’s not enough to accept and embrace change yourself. You must inspire your team to do the same, though they may be facing a variety of their own reservations and challenges.
Three strategic approaches will help your team traverse the landscape of change with minimal casualties.
1. Set a clear vision
It’s not enough to have a plan; you must also have a vision. What is the difference? You inspire your team with a vision, you guide them to execute with a plan.
An aspirational vision of the desired outcome will communicate why change is beneficial and build alignment among the team. With buy-in to the vision, your team will be empowered to engage with and take ownership of the strategy to achieve the necessary change.
Illustrate how the future will be different and how they can make that future a reality.
2. Stay on a steady course
Empower action to maintain momentum, but be mindful of how the work is carried out. Clarity and consistency in actions taken during times of change are crucial.
Work to remain steadfast to the vision. If you allow old ways of doing things to creep in, you risk sending mixed messages about the organization’s commitment to change. As the leader, you are establishing new attitudes and behavior that will ultimately determine the success of the transition.
3. Live in the new normal
As the vision comes to fruition, the team and organization as a whole will have experienced the benefits of the transition. Be sure to communicate these wins along the way, without declaring victory prematurely. Successes will reinforce confidence in the vision and help to cement it as the new reality.
It is important to anchor these changes into corporate culture so they no longer feel new. Build the new reality into organizational norms and provide updated policies and support mechanisms to ensure continuity and return to a sense of stability.
Everyone agrees that change management is essential. Making it happen effectively, however, lies in the hands of our leaders. In times of change, the leader is the captain of the ship. While setting the course, steering the ship and managing the crew, it is most important to remain calm in rough waters.
Greg Lignelli is COO of System One Holdings LLC, which delivers workforce solutions and integrated services to help clients get work done more efficiently and economically, without compromising quality.