Regular visitors to these pages will know that I have discussed a number of approaches to leading change over the past few months. These have predominantly looked at some of the psychological methods by which we can help people adapt and accept changing times, breaking down barriers and overcoming resistance.
Now, with the New Year, perhaps this is a good time to pause and take a look in the mirror. After all, it’s one thing to understand how the rest of the team might tick and how we can guide them through calm or stormy change, but what are the qualities we need to draw upon to be effective when leading change?
Listen to your people
I wrote a piece about communication a few months back, in which I talked about how this is a two-way street. It is essential to remember this during a period of change. With everything else we have discussed, it is easy to shut out dissenting voices and assume that they are simply failing to adapt or understand the change in the way they need to. Stop, listen and think about what your people are saying – they might just have a point.
A good change leader is a good politician
The change you are championing will undoubtedly have manifold benefits for the organisation and the people within it. But that is not enough to make it a good thing for everyone. Each individual has his or her own motivations and drivers, and there will always be individuals whose personal interests are negatively affected by change.
Let’s say you are bringing in a new piece of software. It will make everyone’s lives easier, it will be more reliable, faster and deliver numerous other benefits. Who could have anything against that?
Well, the individuals who have been using the old system for years and are the only ones who understand its black arts will suddenly find that their special knowledge is no longer needed. By understanding these personal agendas, you are in a better position to meet the challenges head on and avoid bruising any egos, even if the real reason for concern is never openly stated.
See the broader picture
A project that requires major organisational change can sometimes seem all-encompassing. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the details that you can assume everyone else is constantly thinking about it as well. Many change processes affect multiple departments and functions, and an effective change leader must have a constant awareness of what is important to them at any given time.
For example, with accounts deadlines at the end of each month or year, that is all the finance team are going to be focused on, while in the run up to a Board meeting or AGM, the exec team are going to be suddenly far more interested in progress updates on long-term projects than anything else.
Be determined and persevere
Championing a process of change can sometimes be a lonely job, and you can feel as if the world is either against you or has more important things on its mind. So, the final quality you will need to draw on is ample reserves of determination and perseverance. See it through to the end, and don’t give up. Good luck!