In such unprecedented times, how to adapt to become an effective “change leader”?
Often, we have clients in senior management who land in a new organization and opine that there is need for “culture change.” We are experiencing such rapid change we often forget to appreciate the velocity and yet that inherent challenges organizations face in implementing “change” initiatives.
I always enjoyed speaking with my elderly neighbor, Richard Harrington, prior to his passing at the age of 94. He shared many experiences from his long life as an award-winning photo-journalist long before digitized smart phones. He was equally mesmerized by my kids and their comfort with technology at an early age. When Richard passed away, he was still mentally sharp and had seen a lot of change in the world.
We’ve seen more change in the last decade than our grandparents saw in their lifetimes. Here’s the thing, though: The world is changing, technology is changing, customer consumption habits are changing, and organizations are changing rapidly – but people are not. It’s because of this that in the drive for change, stress runs so high. Whether we’re looking at the response to global tech induced disruption or labor relations in North America, the need to change is creating challenging levels of tension for some. There’s no question that it’s easier to plan change than to manage people during its implementation. Change is necessary in a changing world, but if mismanaged, the result can be a serious decline in productivity.
Whether you look at the rise and decline of Blockbuster Video’s 9000 stores, the past challenges of Blackberry in the mobile space, or the current impact of Amazon on Walmart, the lesson is clear: Sustainable growth requires a culture of constant innovation and change. As celebrated in the annual Most Admired Corporate Cultures produced by Waterstone HC, Culture can be a Competitive Advantage.
Here are a few things that effective “change leaders” need to watch for while managing through the process.
3 Things Managers and Change Leaders Need to Keep in Mind
1) People don’t “change” – they “transition”. That’s why managers at all levels need to coach/lead people through it with dialogue, vs. managing (telling) them to do it. When people experience job/organizational change, job loss, grieving the loss of a loved one, or going through a divorce, they will inevitably go through stages of transition until they arrive at a new perspective and acceptance of the new reality. In his book, Managing Transitions, change strategist Dr. William Bridges documents that transition is a 3-phase psychological process that people go through.
- Ending – Letting go of their old perspective
- Neutral Phase – a sort of “no man’s land” in between the old reality, and what the future holds
- New Beginning – Starting over again with new passion, vision, and sense of purpose. This essentially is a new identity.
To be effective leaders will need to be patient and use a coaching dialogue with team members.
2) Different Strokes… Not only is a process of transition with stages, but it is a process that will be approached differently by different people. In a team where there are a range of behavioral styles (think DISC styles) , you will encounter a range of approaches. Managers need to understand the behavioral style needs of their Direct Reports, in order to tailor their coaching styles through transition.
In some cases, a team member may feel they are no longer a fit with the new focus, in which case the job of the manager is to be open and coach them to be “successful elsewhere” (within the organization or not). At the end of the day, it’s about engagement that stems from a “Right Fit” with the new role. Better to have a team member engaged elsewhere than remaining unengaged in the evolving role.
3) Nurture the Culture. Continuous change requires continuous learning. Organizations need to embed a coaching culture that equips managers with the capacity to coach staff to evolve comfort zones with confidence (rather than fear), practice continuous learning, and ultimately to initiate and embrace new ideas and innovation to serve changing client needs. The challenge comes in balancing the urgency of change (Step 1 of Creating Change in Harvard Professor John Kotter’s 8 step process) with the strategic coaching of people in transition, to result in effective organizational transformation.
Whether it be the print media or Yellow Pages brand navigating to a new digital value proposition, a political administration leading change, or a media provider evolving to a mobile platform streaming culture, change is constant. What is certain is that organizations that end up succeeding will be those that succeed in aligning change with a culture of coaching the transition of their talent in serving customer centric transformation . Coach your team to transition through the change. Align a coaching style that matches communication styles and lead a culture that helps teams get comfortable with ongoing transformation. After all, Organizations don’t innovate or get results – people do.