Change can be scary and confusing – but it’s a fact of life and business. All work teams will encounter change, which can be as minor as changing a simple process, or as complicated as refocusing the team’s overall mission. Good leaders embrace change and know how to guide their members through it.
Leading through change is something you probably didn’t learn in business school. In the past, the business world (and the world in general) was more stable and change wasn’t as rapid. Today, flux is a reality and as a leader you must embrace change to be successful. Change offers uncertainty, but also opportunity. It’s a good idea to refocus your thinking to view change as a positive so you can help others do the same.
Step 1: Prepare Yourself
As Michael D. Maginn writes in his book, Managing in Times of Change: 24 Lessons for Leading Individuals Through Change, the first step is to help yourself. Leaders need to take a good look at themselves and seek to understand how change affects them.
Leaders should also address their own concerns with their bosses before communicating with their team. Try to anticipate what questions your team members might ask and be prepared with answers.
Step 2: Communicate with Clarity
Once you personally have dealt with the coming change, meet with your team early in the process and have an open discussion with them. Communicating a clear picture of the change, including why the change is necessary, and allowing all team members to ask questions and voice their concerns is the best way change should be communicated.
Understand that some team members might prefer to speak with you individually rather than in the group. This is why it’s important to understand how each of your team members works. People react differently to change, and some might take longer than others to embrace change. Focus your initial efforts on early adopters who can help bring others along.
Step 3: Tell the Stories
As the leader, being highly visible and accessible to your members during change is critical to successful change management. It’s a good idea to celebrate each and every success and make sure members continue to understand why the change is necessary. Update people along the way, and also share any failures, because your team will likely encounter some. Constants can help people anchor themselves through change, and allowing people to see benefits of the change and how it will affect them can assist in the process.
Another practice worth considering is using storytelling to lead people through change. In her book, Tales for Change: Using Storytelling to Develop People and Organizations, Margaret Parkin talks about how storytelling can help people embrace and work through change. Learn how to become a good storyteller and how to listen to the stories of others.
“The true impact of a leader depends on the story that he or she relates or embodies, and the reception to that story by the organizational audience,” Howard Gardner writes in his book Leading Minds.
The future is sure to demand even more change of businesses and teams. Embrace and prepare for change now, and you will be able to successfully deal with advancements and modifications in business.
If you’re looking for more information about teams, please check out my other team-related posts.
What kind of changes have you found to be most difficult in your work teams? Can you offer any tips to help leaders navigate through change?
Photo Credit: Alex Barth