Change is accelerating. No business is future proofed. No business can afford to be left behind.
Even if you’re an immensely credible celebrity chef, your restaurant empire can come crashing down. Last month Jamie Oliver issued an emotional statement after his UK restaurant chain collapsed into administration, putting at least 1000 jobs at risk¹.
If the only constant is change, then successfully leading people through change is core to effective leadership. That sounds so obvious doesn’t it, and yet it’s one of the primary reasons why change so often fails or gets derailed.
Managing change as a process isn’t rocket science. The problem with the process is that it doesn’t teach leaders how to lead.
Simon Sinek says the requisite of being a leader is having followers: people who willingly choose to go where you are going.
People will only want to follow you as their leader if they have their core needs met as a starting point.
Have you ever asked yourself, what does everyone in my team need of me to meaningfully connect into the journey ahead?
Team performance is typically measured by the results achieved (eg: quantitative measures like actual numbers and dollars compared to goal targets) and how those results were achieved (eg: qualitative measures like ‘living the values’ behaviours). Goals are great for milestones and measurements, but they don’t motivate and inspire². Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer’s motivation research³ tells us that people are more motivated by a sense of meaningful progress than anything else.
Therefore, answering the above question centres on achieving the results in a way that people in your team:
- Feel a sense of belonging
- Know that they matter and that they are valued
- Understand how their contribution, contributed toward a greater good.
Trouble is, most of us are operating in a pressurised ‘deliver more with less’ environment. When it comes to leading people through change, leaders often face these three common realities:
They are too time poor to give this the attention it deserves
Under pressure leaders stay in their comfort zone and let their biases and assumptions impact how they respond and adapt to the change they are supposed to be championing.
Their goals are not aligned
A lack of an overarching game plan means that leaders look after themselves and their priorities first, and forget they are co-leading across the business.
They don’t know how to manage people with negative mindsets who resist change
When leaders don’t have the coaching toolkit to initiate tricky conversations around the negative attitudes and behaviours they observe, negative thinking infiltrates through the team and divides the team over time.
These realities mean that it’s easy for leaders to experience change as just more work, and when we’re in that mode, it’s easy forget what our teams need from us, and how they are thinking and feeling about change.
Use this 7 tip checklist to help keep the change you’re leading on track in a way that meaningfully connects your team in.
1.Believe in the change. Find something in it that you can connect with. Your mindset and attitude will impact how others see it. If you don’t believe in it, why should others?
2. Create a compelling case why for why the change is needed and what success looks like. Your leadership narratives need to accommodate people’s different sources of motivation.
3. Give people time and space to express their concerns and issues. Listen and acknowledge where people are at. You will only bring them with you, if you lead them from where they are at (versus where you think they should be).
You cannot change someone’s mind, but you can influence their thinking.
4. Where you can, give up ownership. Involve people early and let them take the lead.
5. Set the expectations for the dimensions for change and what the new benchmarks are. Ensure people know what they are responsible for by setting clear and aligned expectations from the get go.
6. Encourage people to learn new skills and give them the tools and resources they need.
7. Acknowledge early wins and steps of progress. It’s easy to focus on the gaps and issues when it comes to change, and we need to also remember to also focus on what we can acknowledge people for. We all love getting positive feedback.
Bringing it all together
Leading change isn’t easy. People are complex which means that leading change takes time, energy, and effort. Your communication toolkit is the lynchpin. Which of these tips could help you ensure you’re meeting the needs of your team in a way they want to follow you through change? I’d love to know.