Great leaders can change the direction of their community. They improve operations or resolve problems.
As such, leaders face the challenge of navigating internal change and scoping with external change. Learning how to lead that change with the people in their team is a critical leadership skill.
Managing complex Change as Core Leadership Skill
Commonly referred to as change management, this discipline is especially relevant when there is an expected change on the horizon, though it is a valuable skill and fluency to have in general for facing challenges.
This article on managing complex change outlines the resources that a leader can use their existing knowledge to make the process go more smoothly.
These skills are so valuable because:
Most initiatives the leader will implement will require change.
The pace of external change is accelerating, and without evolving teams will get left behind faster than ever.
Leading change is difficult.
People don’t change naturally –there are reasons for the status quo. There is a system in place that supports current behavior. You are not only asking them to change –you are changing that entire system.
Sometimes, it’s not apparent what is supporting their current behavior. If the team is resistant to change it will not be easy to identify what is driving that resistance. You will have to make some educated guesses and paint with broad strokes.
But that does not mean that leading change is impossible or not worth the effort. While it can be a challenge to figure out exactly what you need to do, the actual work you need to execute to move things forward may not be unnecessarily burdensome.
Importance of Change
Every great idea, initiative, or a new piece of technology you want to implement with your team will require some change management. People will have to adopt all those ideas for them to make a difference.
That is not something that happens automatically. As leaders, you are expected to set the vision and find the path forward. But getting everyone to share that path with you as quickly as possible requires some understanding of how the dynamics of change work.
People will resist change. You need to have some plan, even if it can offer no guarantees of bringing them along, to address the underlying concerns and move people forward.
Innovation happens on the back of change.
Innovation is finding a new solution to a problem and then applying that solution widely. That means that the idea alone is not the only element of the innovation equation. Innovation also requires the adoption of the community seeking to solve the problem. That adoption involves leadership that knows how to manage change.
Change can Be Learned
Fortunately, change management is a skill that can be learned. Much like the other disciplines of Leadership, we can deconstruct the navigation of change into a variety of skills that can be practiced and improved.
Proper change management is systemic. It uses core ideas and principles, combined with the knowledge you already have about your organization. Layering the basic guidelines of change management with the intelligence gleaned from your approach to the work you have done gives you the means to plan solutions.
What You Can Do
- Recognize the importance of leading change: You should start by seeing the opportunity for leading change intentionally. Knowing that there are actions you can take, and specific challenges that can be recognized sets the foundation for more effective change efforts.
- Look to the barriers for your change: To overcome the challenges your change efforts face, you need to become skilled at identifying them. Try to understand the motives of the people resisting the change. Look for the current ways the system maintains the status quo, and seek out the incentives that support keeping things constant. Finding these elements makes coming up with solutions possible.
- Commit to systems to overcome those barriers: Certain systemic solutions can help you find small actions you can take to boost the odds that they will overcome the resistance they are experiencing. The importance of having the system in place is that it shows you possible tools, and makes sure that you are applying them regularly. The consistent attempts at finding solutions are what will make the difference between a productive and ineffective change program.
- Learn how to make adjustments that will overcome the challenges: Adjustments are small but many. They give you lots of chances to be right. And you only need to be right a few times to change the equation and move the change forward. These adjustments are usually related to communication or interaction. They may have to do with small tweaks to things you are already doing or new plans altogether. It might involve a change to the design or an added initiative to make your project resonate with a different audience differently. Whatever you do, it will be important to be intentional and know why you are trying something and how it will connect with the needs of the audience experiencing the change.
You can learn to lead your team through change.
If you are interested in learning more to overcome the challenges of leading change, visit the Change Mission blog, a new project by the creator of leadership-toolbox.
You can sign up for the free mini-course on Leading Change with better communication, which guides you through the development of change communication that is more effective at leading people toward a new way of doing things.