8 Essentials for Successful Change
A change process can produce a roller coaster of emotions, for leaders and for their teams. Leaders need to navigate these themselves but also need to guide their teams through them. This can be challenging as not everyone will go through the stages of change at the same time. Leaders must actively manage the energy for the change to be successful. Here are 8 Essentials on the journey to successful change.
1. Courage to Change
Change always starts with courage. Courage to question the status quo and courage to make a change, courage to make bold decisions and courage to slay sacred cows. Also the courage needs to be maintained throughout the process. You will need to lead from the front with the change. You will have to brave resistance and you will have to make some unpopular calls through a successful change process.
2. Lead with Vision and Purpose
Create a sense of meaning and urgency at the start to engage your people. Having a clearly articulated vision and purpose for the change project will be the leader’s compass for all the difficult decisions. But it will also provide a clear context and motivation that everyone can follow. Show which pain points will be addressed and what opportunity and upside this will create so that everyone wants to be part of the change.
3. Clarify Benefits and Manage Fears
To fully engage everyone in the organization you need to clarify the “What is in it for me” question for people participating in the change. When people recognize that there are benefits not just for the organization but also for the individuals and the teams they are more likely to engage. Sometimes however, despite having all the best reasons in the world people still don’t engage in the change process because they have a level of fear. This can be slight concern, to outright panic that the change will fail. So it is crucial to listen actively, hear the fears and the potentially limiting beliefs that will hinder successful change and find ways to address them in your change process.
4. Focused Activity
At the beginning people will often feel excited and enthusiastic, frantically trying to do something to make things happen. Because the energy is frantic it is often not as focused as it needs to be and the actions don’t go as deep as they need to. You as a leader need to help your team channel the energy in the right direction.
5. Coach actively
When results don’t happen as fast as expected people start doubting the process and themselves and start to feel anxious. Depending on the size of the organization and the size of the change project this typically happens about 3-9 months into the change program. In our experience this anxiety occurs especially when people have unrealistic expectations in regards to how quickly they will be able to see a result. This might happen because they have underestimated certain aspects of the change. In this phase it is crucial that you keep hold of the vision and remember the purpose of the change. You need to help your team members identify what investment each person has to make to achieve the desired result. This investment typically is in personal infrastructure, systems or skills. Intensive Coaching is required to help employees do the hard yards that will lead to successful change.
6. Hard Conversations
At this point there will be some people that will not be prepared to make the required investment of time and effort to make the necessary changes. You as a leader need to manage this proactively and make sure that people not committed to the change find other opportunities to pursue. Otherwise it will have a negative impact on the people putting efforts in to make the necessary changes. If leaders do not act in this situation they will loose credibility and the change movement will loose momentum.
7. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
When you think you have communicated enough, communicate some more. In the absence of communication people make up their own stories and rumors start spreading easily. The more you communicate the more you get to influence the perception of what is and isn’t happening. The more you get to manage expectations and debunk rumors at the start.
8. Celebrate Successes
With the right team on board change will accelerate, especially when everyone invests in the right activities to achieve a successful change. Make sure you celebrate even the little achievements along the way to bring awareness to the fact that you are making progress and that change is working. Acknowledge people achieving results. The more examples and stories there are of the change succeeding the more people will believe in the successful change. Then, of course it will be a self fulfilling prophecy!