Leading Change: How Do You Know You’re Ready?

In today’s ever-moving environment, all great leaders must be captains of leading change. Captains of change know how to steer toward unseen horizons, navigate through uncharted seas, watch and react to storms, and keep the crew energized and focused on “getting there” together.

We’ve all heard the statistic that a whopping 70% of change efforts fail. Change is multifaceted and touches a variety of dimensions of a business, requiring leaders to attend to a number of organizational needs in parallel. To increase the likelihood that your organization will “get there” – here are some tips to help you chart your course.

Find Your North Star

No great captain sets sail without a strong vision.  The trick is getting your employees to see it, too. Help make your vision clear by engaging your employees’ heads, hands, and hearts:

  • Heads: Enable people to think differently. Meet them where they are, then both share with and engage them in the planning and consideration process.
  • Hands: Organize people to do work together. Help them understand the current scope, set goals as a team, and let them know that there will be regular check-ins and course corrections as you go.
  • Hearts: Engage people toward a common purpose. Be transparent about the reasons for change. Listen to and empathize with them through the transition, but reiterate that you’re all in this together.

Enlist the Right Crew

  • Your company can only get as far as your people take it. Building alignment within your leadership team and enlisting others who are committed to your shared vision is essential. If they are not aligned, take steps to understand why.
  • Cast a wide net around both the “early adopters” and “influencers” (those who believe in the cause and will recruit others) and “detractors” (those who are actively opposed to the change). When you can harness the energy of your supporters and convert the dissenters by listening to their reasons for resistance, you’ll have amplified your ability to engage the rest of the crew.
  • Perform an audit of what capabilities may be lacking. If you’re embarking on a new journey, chances are there may be some new skills needed to get you there. Figure this out beforehand – then determine the best way to go out and get them. If you have any dissenters, take steps to pull them closer to the center.

Communicate Early and Often

Plan to talk…a lot. Change may require you to be in the galleys more than usual, and that’s as it should be. Leading change is hard, and a leader should be willing to show she or he is shoulder to shoulder with others. You need to talk again and again about why this change is important – letting people hear directly from you. Equally, you must know when it’s time to listen, and do so deeply with the intent and commitment to take action in some form, based on what you’ve heard.

Prepare for Stormy Weather

While you cannot anticipate all the inclement weather that will likely surface while leading change, you can determine how you and your team will address it.

  • Use the right dashboard to scan for danger. No modern-day mariner would attempt to go to sea without weather scanning technology. Nor should you. As you chart your way, keep an eye out for environmental threats as you go, while also monitoring the health of your company and people each day. This requires finding and tracking the metrics that can give you near-immediate data and information.
  • Have a plan for your plan. Ensuring your major players are at the ready to quickly assess and determine the right intervention requires a prior agreement being in place. Understanding the “What” and “How” is key: each team member should know exactly what they are to do in times of trouble (because they have a clear line of sight to their role in the change, as well as purview), and how they should do it (think your company values). This will ensure alignment before you hear the first thunder clap.

Planning a trip that could take months (perhaps years) is both exciting and daunting. As many of us know, the constant rate of change requires that we be out at sea more often than at port. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to ready yourself and your team for the journey of leading change, starting today.