Leadership for Life – Leading Change

By on September 3, 2013
Leading Change

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“The only thing permanent is change.” (Heraclites) This is especially true in business, and it’s not a new phenomenon. It makes me wonder why I keep hearing that employment, business investment, and long range plans are being held in abeyance because of uncertainties in the political environment. Aren’t there always uncertainties in the political and economic environments? Haven’t leaders figured out how to incorporate those uncertainties into their visions and plans?

So how does a leader prepare an organization for change, and enable people to take a more positive outlook on changes that will affect them?

Clear communication of thoughts and rationale will help the members of the organization see the need for change, and may prompt some of them to make their own suggestions for change or adaptations to new conditions. Of course, to make this most effective, the leader has to be open to suggestions, and not stick rigidly to a plan that may have some holes in it.

To help people accept the need for change, leaders can:

  • Present the change as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Not talking about “spin,” but real opportunities need to be considered. If you can’t find them, why are you making the change?
  • Accept the proposition that people will view change differently and be prepared to approach them using different methods. As above, it’s about WIIFM.
  • Gather and share information regarding the external environment, as well as the status of the organization within that environment. Businesses are always competing with one another, and you need to know what the competition is doing. You also need to get a handle on how your customers will view changes.
  • Anticipate internal and external barriers to needed change and prepare ways of overcoming them. Planning for the “what-ifs” is an important component of leadership.
  • Enlist the support of other leaders, both formal and informal, to encourage people to look at the changes more positively. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
  • Lead by example – if belt-tightening is required, the leaders should be the first ones to go on a diet.

Change in organizations is rarely easy, often painful, and always interesting (Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”) Effective leaders will provide the tools necessary for their organizations to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by change.

Want some help with managing change in your environment? Call me at 314-539-5329, or email me at bschapiro@stlcc.edu.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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