For a change initiative to take hold, leaders need to personalize the new vision, demonstrate commitment to the change through action, and support others through coaching and feedback conversations. Here are 3 recommendations to ensure change sticks:
Increase Your Conversations
Our natural tendency is to resist change and to protect the status quo. When the change is announced, some employees will simply put their heads down and do their best to ignore the change initiative, hoping things will return to normal as soon as possible. Others will be vocally resistant; hoping their protests have the power to dissuade the powers that be from thinking this initiative will have a positive outcome.
The best way to ensure change initiatives stick is to talk about the change –consistently and with passion. The ongoing conversations leaders have with co-workers and direct reports will keep them focused on the urgency and the importance of the change. Leaders need to ‘paint the picture’ of the new vision. Be specific about what will change and what will stay the same. Encourage people to embrace the change by acknowledging the success of past initiatives and the efforts required to move forward. Asking questions, checking assumptions, and committing to working collaboratively to find solutions will go a long way to supporting others in understanding their role in achieving the new vision.
Listen carefully to what people are saying about the change initiative. Their comments provide you with keys to understanding where they are at in accepting and adapting to the change. It’s common for some people to hold on tight to the old ways, while others readily embrace the excitement of discovering new ways of working. Accepting the varying paces of change can be challenging and requires leaders to patiently lead individuals by continually assessing their needs.
It is critical for leaders to support their people in finding a personal connection to the change initiative. Authentic conversations help others understand why the change is necessary, what they are required to do differently and what’s in it for them. Where possible, set clear expectations that include timelines.
Get to Action
While it's important to provide people with lots of information prior to the change, it's equally important to get to action as soon as possible. Look for opportunities to begin initiating parts of the change initiative as soon as possible. (Identify the easiest changes that will have the biggest impact.) Support others in making incremental changes by focusing on their personal connection to the vision and helping them identify specific actions they are willing to commit to following through on. Holding your people accountable for following through on their commitments is extremely important during this time and demonstrates your own commitment to the change. Leading by example is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the change initiative.
Provide Coaching & Feedback
It’s common for leaders to feel frustrated and discouraged when leading others through change. Just when you think your people are finally moving forward, the voice of a dissonant seems to pull everyone back to the starting line. Coaching through change requires leaders to understand and acknowledge the current state of an employee and support them in moving just beyond their comfort zone. A coach approach builds accountability by asking an individual to identify the one or two things they will do to rise above current circumstances to support the change initiative.
It's also important for leaders to make time to provide feedback through times of change. Notice when individuals have taken action that leads towards or away from realizing the new vision and provide feedback as quickly as possible. This can be as simple as thanking an employee for offering to mentor a co-worker or acknowledging the contribution of a team member in identifying an innovative strategy.
Where there is outward resistance to the change initiative, it is important to name the behavior as well as the impact of the behavior on you, others in the organization and the change initiative. Be clear about your perception and ensure that you listen carefully to check to see if your assumptions are accurate. Feedback conversations provide an opportunity to clarify the vision and reset expectations.
Leaders can ensure that change sticks by keeping the change initiative a part of every conversation. How does your approach to leading shift during change initiatives? Share your strategies by in the comment section of this blog.
About Gail Daniels
Gail is accomplished at supporting organizations by providing the right set of planning tools and best practice processes to develop, map, document and follow through to execution of the Strategic Direction, Priorities and Actions. She is passionate about supporting and developing leaders to confidently lead people to inspired performance and results. Gail holds a MA Counselling Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching from Royal Roads University. Gail is an avid learner who actively explores the relevance of neuroscience and emotional intelligence in leadership.