On Sunday, March 8th, the world celebrated International Women’s Day and in the US we celebrate Women’s History throughout the month of March. So just like last month when it was Black history month, I gave myself some time to think about Women’s History and what I think we can learn from the great women leaders in history.
What kept coming up for me was “change”. The Women’s Movement was all about change and progress, moving women forward to be equal citizens. And since this is still a necessary fight, I am reminded how difficult it is to lead change.
You see, change is the only constant and yet people resist change more than almost anything.
People associate change with loss.
Rather than focusing on what will be gained, most fear what will be lost.
People fear losing:
- A sense of competence; people say things like “I know how to do things now, the way things are, the way we have always done them”.
- An understanding of their role and what is expected of them.
So when things change, people must have the ability to:
- Let go of the old ways.
- Tolerate ambiguity.
- Adjust and adapt their behavior.
- Take risks, be creative, and try new things.
Businesses and organizations are like any system, they change. Sometimes change in organizations is driven by internal factors like growth, new internal policies, or staffing (i.e. new managers). Change can also be driven by external factors like the economy or new legislation.
Whichever the source of change, great leaders prepare their teams for change. Not only do you want a team that is flexible and ready to adapt, but also prepared to actively engage in the transition.
Change is an event (employee quits, budget cuts, stock market crashed, etc) and transition is a process. So when change comes how do you lead your team through the transition from the old way to the new way?
Here are 5 steps that are crucial to any transition:
Step #1 Listen:
Too often change is imposed and those most impacted have absolutely no say. The result is a team that feels powerless and excluded and more resistant than ever. To effectively implement change it is essential to include the voices of those who will be impacted. Your team has firsthand knowledge of what is happening on the ground and they can be an invaluable resource, providing insight on the impact of any change not only on them, but also your client or customer.
Invest the time and create an opportunity to hear how they feel about the change and validate their concerns. Together you can create a new shared reality where your team feels they are part of the process. They will be able to better recognize what is to be gained from the change and let go of “how things used to be”.
Step #2 Co-create a plan:
All successful transitions require a plan! A plan empowers your team, it helps them to know what is expected of them. It also provides opportunity to get buy-in from those most impacted by the change. Collaborate with your team to develop a step by step transition plan that clarifies roles and expectations. It should also set some benchmarks for progress to use for goal setting and evaluation of the process.
Step # 3 Educate and Train:
Make sure your team has the information, knowledge, and tools necessary to transition. Change calls into question our competence so it is even more essential that everyone has the resources to effectively deliver on new processes, procedures, and/or tasks. Be sure education and training are part of the transition plan.
Step #4 Embrace and celebrate the new:
As people begin to adopt the new ways, celebrate their progress and achievements. During times of change there is a lot ambiguity and uncertainty so acknowledge your team when they are successfully transitioning and meeting those benchmarks set in the transition plan.
Step #5 Monitor and re-evaluate:
Despite our best efforts, sometimes the change made may not have been for the best. When that is the case it is essential for leaders to monitor the impact of the change and re-evaluate its effectiveness. But more importantly, you have to be willing to accept defeat if you aren’t getting the results you wanted…best laid plans and all. Or perhaps your transition plan just needs a minor tweak or possibly a major over haul, either way, take action and work with your team to adjust the plan as needed.
This stuff only works if you actually try it! So whether you are expecting or not expecting change, great leaders have to know how prepared their team is to accept change and transition.
Is your team ready?
Here is a bit more on change and transition from my short leadership web series ” How to be the Leader You Want to Be!” This episode, “How to Create a Learning Organization” focuses on change and 3 strategies you can implement immediately to prepare your team.
And later this month, I’m launching a new online course, “Real Leadership: Empathize, Empower, and Make an Impact”. It will go much more deeply into change and how to effectively lead in transition. It is a 100% DIY course you can do at your own pace and you’ll walk away with a whole new toolbox for leading teams, empowering people, communicating with confidence, making decisions and constantly developing yourself as a leader as you go forward.
Sign up now for the launch list and get premiere access to the Early Bird rate!