Every change begins with a leadership decision. Making the decision to institute change is not always easy. Change can be precipitated by economics, market forces, the environment, or the need to just “mix it up a bit”, to create new energy. Being prepared with focused planning, and creating a solid team of people to work with you, will make not only the decision but the process a lot easier.
A study conducted in 2013 by Willis Towers Watson found that only 25% of change initiatives are successful over the long term. That’s a 75% failure rate, which means that even the best planned and managed change initiative will have challenges, at the very least. So how can we minimize the risk?
Begin by putting yourself in a positive frame of mind. Change can inherently cause stress levels to rise and creating a starting high point will counter that upward trend. If you are the leader managing the change process or even one of the team, a steady hand will guide the team through stressful events. Be the reassuring and active force throughout the whole process.
As I tell my clients, and as I have written in this space before, there things you can control and there are things you can’t. It is impossible to prepare for every possible situation, so planning for the known is critical, and being ready to add time or extra room for the unknown is even more so. When you encounter an unexpected event your schedule should not be put off by much if you have built in some space. It will provide that buffer that gives you and your team the ability to deal with the unknowns and keep rolling with the change process.
Surround yourself with people to whom you can delegate, and be confident in their abilities and skills. Be clear with both your “intentions and expectations” about the process. Communicating and providing feedback are the keys to successful delegation; make sure your team understands this. If communication fails or there is not accurate feedback the chances of a success are lessened.
An issue that sometimes arises when delegating is micro-managing. Be wary and avoid the pitfall of micro-managing, as you can quickly lose track of events and it will negatively impact “the big picture”.. Delegating is a skill that takes time to develop as you must first learn the strengths and weakness of your team and know what tasks you can and cannot hand out. It may not always be possible to delegate, but when it is, you have a great resource at your disposal.
Always be available during the change process. Be prepared for the process to disrupt normal daily activities and events, even personal ones. Let the team know that you are available for them and you are there to provide them with the necessary resources to lead them through the change. Make it clear to them that you are available and focused on keeping the communications lines open.
Always be aware of rumours — they will happen before, during, and after any change. Do not ignore any rumour, but put out honest and clear communication as soon as possible, again being clear about your intensions and expectations. Reassure your team that if they hear a rumour, they should seek out more information from a reliable source.
People do not like change, plain and simple, nor will everyone agree on the change. Keep in mind that these feelings are normal. Be ready for potential pushback and resistance by some of your team members. Continue to provide facts and data to show why the change is necessary and reassure them of the need and benefits of the change. If you encounter an extreme case of pushback, provide choices that can fall within the spectrum of the intended change. They should then feel more involved in the process and it will help alleviate the negative mindset they may be experiencing.
John Whitehead, coaches individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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