Leading people through change is difficult. Lead poorly, and you won’t have anyone following you through the change. Try to be a forward thinking energetic catalyst for change in an entrenched, “rear-view mirror looking,” fear based culture and you have my prayers and my box of tissues. Cast a vision, create buy-in, and implement the vision with bite-sized action steps with strategic timing, and there is still no guarantee. The number of potholes and potential land mines navigating through change is mind blogging. This post attempts to provide a little more food for thought when you need to be the one to champion change.
The leader must…
- Get thick skin.
- Wear a bullet proof vest. (not serious.)
- Prepare to be lonely. (yes serious.)
- Be a fast learner, recalibrate quickly.
- Put your head down to make targets. Then lift your head and set your gaze for the horizon. Keep your eraser handy. BECAUSE…
Change causes ripples at multiple levels…
- Change can impact the culture and the direction of an organization.
- Established power structures can feel threatened by change, and may in fact have very good reason to feel threatened.
- Change, most importantly, impacts people, and the impact is always individualized.
People will wonder…
- Why this change?
- What is wrong with the way we currently do things?
- How will this change positively impact us corporately, and me individually.
You must communicate…
- Proactively. Clearly. Repeatedly.
- Anticipate and articulate the critic’s position better than the critic can. Then, provide reasons why they should support the change. Do this before the critic first opens their mouth, and you might gain an ally. (Well, a person can dream.)
- Face-to-face when possible, especially with your biggest opposition.
- Be patient with the slow adopters.
- Keep key leaders on the same page using the same language, as they communicate the change to those under them.
- Provide a compelling vision for the future, and what will happen if change does not happen. Don’t be doomsday Debbie. Be realistic, it will carry more bite.
- Help people who perceive they will lose power in the change, realize what power or role they will have in the future, and how it’s crucial they get on board. The fact is, whether you like it or not, you need them for change to stick. You cannot afford the power that they currently have to be converted to sabotaging power.
- Use multiple forms of written communication, and communicate orally in various settings. If it is a church, that person up in front every Sunday better be on board. That monkey better dance real good, and bang his cymbals real pretty. The congregation will feed off of whatever energy the pastor provides. (Generally speaking, obviously it depends on the church.)