There’s a famous saying “May you live in interesting times”. There’s debate as to the saying’s origin, but there’s certainly no doubt that it applies today.
Change is everywhere. So much so that the World Economic Forum has called this wave of change the fourth industrial revolution.
Change isn’t new. It’s something we have grappled with and yet embraced throughout our history.
To help us better manage and cope with change – particularly in an organisational setting – there’s a raft of methodologies, processes and approaches.
Despite this, the ability to make change happen in organisations is still something many struggle with. This can be explained by a number of reasons, but often what lies at the heart of the issue is that leaders aren’t leading the change.
Leading through change is demanding because more is required of the leader.
Making a change brings ambiguity and instability, as team members wonder about the change and what it means for them.
It’s even harder for people to cope if the change is introduced into an environment where people don’t know the role they need to play and feel unsupported.
They team naturally looks to the leader for guidance and direction. They expect the leader to be able to help them make sense of the change and how they will be impacted. They also expect the leader to be ready to provide support and show genuine interest in their needs.
As Harvard professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, says “Change is disturbing when it is done to us, exhilarating when it is done by us.”
Recognising this, leaders need to step up and be equipped to confront the challenges, have the difficult conversations, be transparent about what is going on, and seek to understand their team’s needs and offer support.
These aren’t activities that can be outsourced to anyone else – the project manager, change leader, consulting lead for example. The leader needs to lead.
To check how engaged you are as a change leader, ask yourself:
- Am I stepping up and leading the change, or seeking ways to take a back seat?
- Am I getting the right people involved at the right time throughout the change?
- Is the team clear about the role they need to play, and am I ensuring they are equipped to do that?
- Does each team member know how their role and work effort contributes to the team’s success and outcomes?
- Am I really listening to people’s ideas and concerns so the ideas and concerns of my team are being heard?
- Am I willing to accept that with change there are often unknowns and so I may not have all the answers?
- Am I encouraging diversity of thought and debate?
- Am I consciously seeking to create the right team environment where people are actively involved in the change?
- Am I looking to provide enough space for challenge and learning, and ensuring the team feels supported and encouraged to try new ways of working?
Achieving sustainable change starts and ends with the role you play as a leader, so what are you doing to get equipped to lead change in your organisation?
Change happens. Make it work for you.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.