Leading through change
"The last few months have bought massive change to the way that we work, adapting and evolving is more important than ever to a company’s success. Leaders are having to embrace change and try new things whilst preparing for an uncertain future."

Leading through change requires a different type of leadership and a different outlook.  Let’s face it, the past few months have shone a spotlight on the leaders who understand this and those that do not – with very public results.  There is also a difference between crisis management and managing longer term change.  Whether you lead a country, a large multi-national, your own business or a team, working out how you can lead and effect change will continue to be crucial in the coming months and years.

Adapting and evolving is the way forward now (with a bit of strategy thrown in of course!).  Leaders need to fully embrace and understand how change works, try new things and be brave in order to inspire

It is really popular to say you love change  – it implies you are innovative, ‘strategic’, proactive, adaptable, an early adopter [insert buzz words here].  The truth of the matter, however, is that pretty much everyone dreads it.  Why? Because change is a lot of hard work, for everyone.  Most change programmes we come across are way too cursory and short-lived to be successful.   

How does change work?

We find two basic things are useful when thinking about change: use a process model for change and understand the diffusion of innovation.

A really easy process model is Kurt Lewin’s unfreeze, change, refreeze model.  This is freely available and is a really effective way of planning any change programme.  It is important to understand and implement each stage fully.  We often find that essential elements like ongoing employee training and support get left out and this is one of the most vital parts!.

How long do you think it takes to introduce something new to the ‘market’? On average,  3 years.  So apply this rule of thumb to your change initiative.  The Diffusion of Innovation (E.M. Rogers – again freely available) states that effecting change amongst the ‘late adopter’ and ‘laggard’ groups takes a long time.  Ongoing information, support and training helps reach these groups. In summary, fully understand how change works and how long it takes and then put in place the mechanisms to support the change

What’s leadership like in your organisation?

Understanding what leadership is, what it means, how it’s practised in your organisation is also really important.

Historically the leadership style that is the default in a crisis is command and control. There are a whole range of different styles that exist along a continuum where the leader exhibits more authority, such as autocratic, to a much more democratic style, such as people-orientated. Some are more suited to different levels of experience and leaders may need to flex their style according to the situation.

There are many examples of good and bad behaviour in the public domain, what’s clear is that people will remember how companies responded. The same applies within companies.

We’re big supporters of authentic leadership – it’s highly inclusive and focuses on developing your own style versus that of incumbent or historical leaders.  Finding out what you really believe and care about, modelling that for your employees and listening to their own experiences and views is possible for everyone.

 It also gets results – check out the stars of this pandemic.  Female leaders have over performed. Just 7% of heads of state are female, but countries that have executed clever thorough, well-executed plans include Germany, Norway, New Zealand and Finland are all led by women.

Why is listening important?

A big feature of making any change is listening to people and showing you understand.  Listening is a sorely under-valued and under-utilised skill however it can be learned. 

When you engage with someone your behaviour does one of two things it helps or hinders your understanding and strengthens or weakens the relationship. Listening is your best bet on both counts!

Learning to be a good listener improves how you give and receive feedback and helps discover people’s motivation. Successful teams listen to each other.

Listening builds empathy

Listening builds empathy – another trait that is ignored or underdeveloped.  96% of employees consider it important to demonstrate empathy but 92% think it’s undervalued.

To demonstrate empathy put yourself in someone’s shoes, this requires:

  • Not judging
  • Recognising emotion and making sure people know they are understood
  • Communicating that you’ve recognised it

The first crisis of the pandemic may be over but we’ll be dealing with change in the workplace for some time. As an organisation, it is important to recognise that change is a process not a moment in time. People will adopt at a different pace. A one size fits all approach to leadership won’t work. Adopting an authentic leadership approach is the best way to lead a team through change: listen, learn and adapt.

If you’d like us to run our “Leading Through Change” workshop in your organisation get in touch.