When it comes to implementing organizational change, there is often so much to “do” that it can be easy to overlook the effort needed to support people in embracing and adopting new ways of being – behaviors, beliefs or mindsets – that are critical to making change stick. In a white paper by the Center for Creative Leadership (Navigating Change: A Leader’s Role), the authors reinforce the importance of focusing not only on change management, but also on change leadership – the people side of change.
It’s only natural that we are compelled to focus on the change management side of change – the operational “to do” list that is more straightforward and within our control. The change leadership side of change is more challenging because we must confront the intricacies of human behavior and emotion – a sometimes unwieldy territory that takes time, patience and ongoing commitment.
Leaders who want to see change succeed must be willing to:
- Show empathy: listen and understand the people who are being asked to change.
- Demonstrate self-awareness: understand and adapt their leadership and change style to “speak into the listening” of those they are leading.
- Embrace the messiness of change: communicate, lead and influence across functional, level and time zone boundaries, while balancing the need to ensure performance in the present day at the same time as driving toward a new future.
- Lean into every phase of change: realize that leadership is almost always several steps ahead of everyone else, so it’s essential to thoughtfully (and patiently) bring people along from the discovery and planning phases to the implementation and ongoing improvement phases. Sometimes you have to go slow, to go fast.
Change is most certainly the constant in today’s rapidly evolving business environment. Taking the time to focus on supporting your most important asset – your people — in developing their capacity and comfort to embrace change could make all the difference in your ability to succeed and stay one step ahead.