Leading and Embracing Change in Challenging TimesSteve Adubato, Ph.D.
For any business or organization, regardless of the industry or field you are in, the status quo is never an option. The theory behind the book “Good to Great”, written by Jim Collins, is that businesses are constantly seeking to achieve organizational excellence. You will never find a bestselling book in the business reference section of your local book store called, “We Are Good Enough...And We’re Staying that Way”. Like I said, the status quo is not an option. Organizational change will always be a must, particularly in these competitive and challenging times.
Consider the following tips and tools for any leader or manager not simply looking to deal with change, but rather to embrace it and get those around him or her to “buy in” in a big way:
- When communicating about change, accentuate the positives, but don’t act as if there won’t be challenges and obstacles, because that’s simply not true. Some say this is risky because it can potentially distract your team or organization. That’s ridiculous. In fact, it shows that the leader is realistic about the difficult road ahead.
- Create an open environment that allows team members to ask ANY question on ANY aspect of the change without fear of reprisal or retribution. (Because they are thinking it anyway.)
- Remember, even if a change is challenging or difficult, many team members will “buy in” if they believe in you as a leader, because often the messenger is at least as important as the message. How many times have you been inspired or motivated by a particular leader, even if you disagreed with part of his or her message? People don’t buy in to change because of how it looks on paper, but rather how it comes to life when it is embodied in the messenger communicating it.
- It is essential to explain WHY the change is taking place, because if the change is seen as “change for the sake of change”, it is likely to fail. Beware of “change fatigue”, which occurs when organizations continually begin a new change before the previous change has had a chance to succeed. Doing this communicates a lack of seriousness about the importance of the change and wears your people down.
- Leaders who embrace change anticipate the pushback that is likely to occur, and are prepared to facilitate a candid and spirited “conversation” around it. In fact, GREAT leaders actually bring up the likely “opposition” before anyone else does.
- Be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. REAL change takes time, and those who are looking for a “quick fix” or an immediate “turn around” will be deeply disappointed. There are no magic or silver bullets in business. There is only hard work, dedication and persistence to constant improvement and change that seeks organizational excellence.
- If you want to be popular, then don’t propose any real change. General Colin Powell, Former U.S. Secretary of State, once told me in a PBS interview that great leaders must make tough decisions, which only guarantees that some team members will be angry at them. If you want to be popular 100% of the time...watch out. Leading change is not for the faint of heart. If you are going to lead and embrace change, you MUST have a positive attitude...the alternative isn’t an option. I know it sounds simple, but it’s true. Most people want to follow a leader who gives them a good feeling about themselves and that can’t happen if that leader is walking around angry at the world and complaining about his or her circumstance. A positive attitude is essential when leading and embracing change.
Steve Adubato coaches and speaks on communication and leadership and is author of the new book "What Were They Thinking? Crisis Communication: The Good, the Bad and the Totally Clueless" (Rutgers University Press). Write to him at The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, NJ 07102, visit his Web site at www.stand-deliver.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.