Successful change management is one of the biggest issues that organizations are currently challenged with. In our world of disruption and regular transformation, change is a constant that cannot be avoided if an organization wants to survive, let alone thrive. Effectively guiding employees through evolutions is a core value of leadership.

As a child, change wasn’t a choice for me. My dad was in the Navy and my parents were divorced, so I spent most Summers flying to dad’s current base with my sister. My childhood was one full of change and travel. I was able to see much of the United States and explore abroad, before I even had my driver’s license. While change was a constant for me throughout my life, it still to this day requires adjusting. No matter how high performing or adaptable an employee may be, everyone needs to be supported through change.

I started my career in the healthcare industry as an intern and, over the span of 9 years, was able to transition to the role of Executive. Those 9 years were made up of constant transitioning, transforming, and adjusting – sometimes it even felt like a complete career shift. These experiences have helped me understand why people resist change and has helped me understand how to help others navigate and successfully get onboard with transitions. Here are 3 insights I’ve learned over the years that have helped me lead teams through evolutions:

  • Create a culture of dialogue:-
    To know how to help your team through shifts and adjustments, you must first know how they are feeling, and what their needs and concerns are. No two teams, or two individuals, are the same and you must individualize your change management plan and approach for the group that you are working with. However, to be able to have this dialogue, you must promote discussion on an ongoing basis and not just when change occurs.
    Your team members must feel comfortable sharing their concerns and have a sense of safety in expressing their honest views, both positive and negative. Promoting honest conversations will require you as a leader to also be candid. Let your team know about your emotions and concerns as well – show them that you are all human. Change can be scary for many people, but your team must know that they don’t have to face it alone. Creating a culture of dialogue will be most beneficial during times of change.
  • Actively address the elephant in the room:-

    What is the elephant in the room when it comes to change management? It is fear. The number one contributor to the resistance to change is fear. It is also the most common area that leaders fail at supporting their teams. The time to address this is before change decisions have been finalized and not after it has been announced. Increasing employee involvement in the change management process will help address the feeling of the unknown and therefore, the feeling of fear.

    When you have created a culture of dialogue (see insight #1) you will be able to engage your team early in the process. Make your team members feel included and get them involved by having early discussions with them. Actively seek out and hear their opinions and, where possible, let them know how their feedback will be included. This exchange will also provide more organic opportunities to explain and further communicate the potential benefits of a change. Not only will involving employees reduce feelings of fear, but it will also make them feel like valuable contributors and owners of the change.

  • Be a role model:-
    The best leaders, during times of transformation, are emotionally intelligent, resilient, and measured in their plan of action. They demonstrate all the qualities they want to see in their team to successfully evolve with the organization. As Jimmy Dean has said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Leaders have a responsibility to demonstrate how to sail no matter how calm or turbulent the waters may be. Be self-aware and learn how to manage yourself so that you can be the role-model your team needs.

    Success in change management is not about how quickly a shift can be implemented or how many adjustments an individual or organization can withstand. True success is about creating a sustainable pace to implement change and doing so in a way that the long-term negative impacts on individuals and organizations are prevented.

By: Kathryn Harness, Partner, Fringe Transformation Group