Several leaders in the 21st century would concur with two main facts. One, that organizational change is constant and two, that leading change is one of the most burdensome undertakings a leader will face.
Due to the fast-paced environment that leaders in these times face, change is inevitable and painfully perpetual. Working in many fields of business for many years, I am privy to the continual and incessant change necessary to stay afloat as a leader and business.
Whether it is my financial business at the beginning of my career, transitioning to more entrepreneurial ventures such as my previous restaurant business, wellness and spa business and now, consulting business, change and re-invention has been incredibly crucial to growth as a leader and my success in business.
In this article, we will look at how leaders can re-invent themselves and concurrently promote the requisite change in their organizations to propel a forward-leaning culture to be ahead of the pack.
According to Ryeson University, “change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state, to fulfill or implement a vision and strategy.”
A change effort or initiative must start with a vision. Whether change is prompted by external (political, economic, social or technological) or internal factors (policy, systems or structure), creating a vision will clarify the direction for the change. In addition, the vision will assist in motivating those that are impacted to take action in the right direction.
Ryeson University also goes further to break down the characteristics of effective visioning which is imperative to the change process in any organization. Firstly the vision must be imaginable, which means an organisation or individual should be able to envision a mental picture of the desired future reality. Secondly, the vision must be desirable.
For a vision to be desirable, it should appeal to the long-term interests of employees, clients and stakeholders. The third requirement for effective visioning is the matter of feasibility. You need to ask yourself if your vision is realistic and obtainable in terms of the goals that you set. After determining the feasibility factor, the issue of focus comes to play which serves as guidance in decision making. Fourthly, the vision must be flexible.
This means it must be general enough to allow initiative and alternative response. Finally it must be communicable; it can be fully explained in 5 minutes without the age of the listener being a barrier.
Michigan University also states that there are two common themes that unite effective change leadership. These are the 3 Qualities of leading people and the 3 key competencies inherent in leading the process.
3 Qualities of Leading People
Support: Successful change projects are characterized by leaders removing barriers to employee success. These include personal barriers such as wounded egos and a sense of loss, as well as professional barriers such as the time and resources necessary to carry out a change plan. Leaders of unsuccessful change focused exclusively on results, so employees did not get the support they needed for the change.
Sway: Effective leaders identified key stakeholders – including board members, C-suite executives, clients, and others – and communicated their vision of successful change to them. Unsuccessful leaders told us they were more likely to avoid certain stakeholders rather than try to influence them.
Learn: Finally, successful change leaders never assume they have all the answers. They ask a lot of questions and gather formal and informal feedback. The input and feedback allow them to make continual adjustments during the change. In the case of unsuccessful changes, leaders did not ask as many questions or gather accurate information, which left them without the knowledge they needed to make appropriate adjustments along the way.
The 3 Competencies in Leading the Process
Initiate: Effective change leaders begin by making the case for the change they seek. This can include evaluating the business context, understanding the purpose of the change, developing a clear vision and desired outcome, and identifying a common goal. Unsuccessful leaders say they did not focus on these tasks enough to reach a common understanding of the goal.
Strategize:Successful leaders develop a strategy and a clear action plan, including priorities, timelines, tasks, structures, behaviors, and resources. They identify what would change, but also what would stay the same. Leaders who are not successful say they fail to listen enough to questions and concerns, and fail to define success from the beginning.
Execute:Translating strategy into execution is one of the most important things leaders can do. In our study, successful change leaders focus on getting key people into key positions (or removing them, in some cases). They also break big projects down into small wins to get early victories and build momentum. They develop metrics and monitoring systems to measure progress. Unsuccessful change leaders sometimes begin micromanaging, get mired in implementation details, and fail to consider the bigger picture.
Re-inventing yourself as a leader and impacting change in your organization has become more crucial and in this age of technology you need to adapt quickly or your competition will override you in this cutthroat business climate.
Here are 4 strategies to help leaders re-invent themselves and impact change to their businesses in the process.
Communicate the Change
Unsuccessful leaders tend to focus on the ‘what’ behind the change. As successful leaders we must rather communicate the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Leaders who explain the purpose of the change and connect it to the organization’s values or explained the benefits creates a stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.
Bringing people together to plan and execute change is very crucial for leaders. We need to work across boundaries, encourage employees to break out of their silos, and refuse to tolerate unhealthy competition. We must also include employees in decision-making early on, strengthening their commitment to change. Unsuccessful change leaders also fail to engage employees early and often in the change process.
As successful leaders we must make sure our own beliefs and behaviors support change, too. Change is difficult, but if we negotiate it successfully we will be deemed resilient and persistent. We should also devote more of our own time to the change effort and focus on the big picture. Unsuccessful leaders usually fall prey to adapting late to challenges.
Leaders need to have a Plan B, C, and D. You need to explore your options before rushing into any decision that will significantly change the status quo. Involving others in the exploration process will provide you with multiple options, viewpoints, and insights – some of which you may have overlooked. Often, people closer to the issue have an insight that even the most seasoned leader will miss. Therefore we need a huge reservoir of options to choose from.
Re-inventing yourself and your organization is essential. Change management is imperative in any organization. As leaders we must be particularly strident in embracing and enforcing change when necessary so as to consolidate our influence as a leader and leverage the impact of the organization for maximum results.