19th December 2016

Top 10 Tips for Leading Change

Change is usually unpopular but nevertheless inevitable. Since the mid-2000’s organisational change has been an ongoing feature of the business landscape, whether it’s implementing new technology, restructuring teams or adapting to new markets. Leading is crucial for change initiatives, as leadership is about influencing others in order to achieve a collective task. These top 10 tips are designed to provide insights into leading change.

1. Communicate the vision
Communicate a clear message as to why the change is happening and why it is necessary. Communicating a vision will allow your employees to ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’ and keep them motivated through the difficult times change can bring. You must ensure that the communication is continuous throughout the process. Encouraging two-way communication by getting feedback from your employees will keep them engaged, and reduce resistance to the change.

2. Explain the benefits of the change
To maximise your employees’ buy-in to an organisational change you need to communicate the benefits the change will bring them. Identify how both the organisation and the individuals will benefit from the change, and acknowledge their efforts and sacrifices that will need to take place in order for the benefits to be achieved later on in the change process.

3. Take a structured approach to change
A technique called Force field analysis, originally developed by Kurt Lewin, is a tool to help you put the coming change into perspective and to plan how you can take action to mitigate potential outcomes of the change. To carry out force field analysis you begin by listing all of the restraining forces which will work against the change, then give these numbers depending on their level of influence. Then look at the driving forces behind the change. You can look at this plan objectively and work on the forces which could restrain the change, and strengthen the positive driving forces. This analysis gives you an opportunity to step back and look at the overall impact of change, and then put actions in place.

4. Openness and Transparency
In times of change and uncertainty it is vital to be a transparent leader. Keep your employees in the loop at an organisational level, by keeping them informed and engaged with what is happening. Keep your messages consistent and ensure you make achievable promises. Employees will be more likely to share their thoughts and opinions, which can be beneficial for you as a leader, in gaining the bigger picture. This will build trust and help to prevent unnecessary fears.

5. Participation in the change process
Participation has been found to be associated with positive attitudes towards organisational change and reduced resistance to change. Therefore, getting your employees involved in both the planning and implementation stages can be crucial for a successful change initiative. Your employees, especially those on the frontline, have important knowledge as to where problems may arise when implementing a change, and exposure to how customers may react to change. So involvement of your employees will lead to better cooperation and enthusiasm towards a change.

6. Understand your employees feelings
It is important to understand how your employees may be affected by change. The change curve below outlines the typical phases that people go through when experiencing change. It is important to recognise when your employees are going through these stages of change, as it will enable you to proactively help and empathise.
Stage 1: Shock and Denial
The initial shock comes with a temporary loss of productivity, shortly after this denial kicks in. Here people tend to focus on the past with the feeling that everything will go back to how it was before.
Stage 2: Anger and low mood
In the stage of anger people tend to focus the blame on someone or something, the lowest point of the curve is when people start to realise that the change is imminent, here anxiety levels are high and performance is at its lowest. In extreme it may lead to depression.
Stage 3: Acceptance and integration After hitting the lowest point people begin to develop a more optimistic view, they are likely to start working with the changes rather than against them and productivity should slowly start to recover.

7. Provide Support
Organisational change can bring about a mix of emotions and feelings as seen in the change curve; providing support shows to your employees that you care about them and not just the success of the change. Research shows that higher levels of organisational support is linked to more positive responses to change. As a leader, make sure support is available to your employees and that employees are aware it is there, whether this is arranging catch up meetings or simply asking if help is needed.

8. Find the positives in a negative situation
There is research to suggest that people are at their most creative when there are high levels of unpredictability in an organisation, in other words ‘on the edge of chaos’. Dr Robert Builder suggested that this gives people freedom to explore and it is in this environment that creativity flourishes. You can use the impact of uncertain times to your advantage to get the creative juices flowing in your organisation, what can your organisation offer other people in times of change? Creativity is a great solution to help overcome and work alongside the changing future.

9. Lead by example
Ultimately, if you want to get people on board with a change initiative, be enthusiastic and confident about the change process. People model the behaviour of others, so if you lead your employees through change in a positive manner, they will pick up on your energy and this will reduce the cynicism that usually surrounds a change initiative. Leading change with a positive outlook will help with your employees’ commitment and motivation towards the change and even help with change in the future.

10. Celebrate progress
Achieving your overall change vision will not happen overnight, and visions often change due to unforeseen events. Therefore, as a leader it is important to celebrate small successes and give your employees the recognition they deserve all the way through the change process. Identifying and congratulating steps in the right direction will ignite your employees’ motivation and encourage efforts to continue working towards the vision.

Change is fundamental for organisations to cope with new, more challenging market environments. Often organisational changes fail miserably due to the organisation ignoring the psychological effects of change and how employees will react. As you can see from our top tips for leading change the focus is around involving your employees and keeping a positive mind set throughout the change process. If you want to learn more about these tips and how to implement them within your organisation, please contact [email protected]

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