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Leading through change

A leader must be comfortable with change. In fact, some leaders are brought in, just to change things. Also, there are several examples of companies that have been unwilling or unable to change that have not survived the competition. No matter if you are doing small changes or big changes, I believe there are some practical step you can take in order to make it successfully.

1. Identify the problem

As a first step, it is important to know what it is you are trying to change and why. Change for change sake does usually only create frustration and stress for no or little benefit. Knowing what the real problem is will also give you a better chance of identifying what to do about it.

2. Get support from important stakeholders

We are not always in a position where everything we say is the law. Many times we need the have the support from others in order to get things done. If this step is not taken seriously, there is a risk that you start implementing something, only to find that influential people are working against you because they are not on the same page as you. Take the time to talk to the people with the power to help or to hinder your efforts.

3. Prepare well

This is not necessary a big thing, maybe it is enough with a power point with some bullets or it can require a huge amount of work. Maybe you need to hire new people, negotiate a budget or prepare training sessions. Needless to say, there are things that you can do in order to prepare for an easier journey.

4. Clarify the purpose

Once you start to implement the change, it is important to let the people know why this is necessary and what the end goal is. If you have gone though the earlier steps you have surely done some of this already. The better picture you can paint of the end result, the more buy-in you will get. Do remember however that everybody is not convinced by a flashy presentation or a perfect speech but it an important step in creating focus and set the direction.

5. Keep communicating

There is always uncertainty in the middle of change. It is tempting to think that just because you have painted the picture of the goal, everybody are comfortable with what is happening and know what to do about it. This is rarely the case and I have found how useful it is to remind people again and again why this is so important. But communication is not just about letting people know where you are going, it is also about letting people know where you are. You might not always be in a position where you can communicate everything but maybe you can communicate something: “I am not in a position to communicate any details, but we are in negotiations with two big vendors” can be a great things to communicate. Then people know that things are happening and that there is progress. The trick here is to rather communicate little but often than seldom and much.

6. Be adaptive

No matter how much you prepare and how much you communicate during the process, you have to be adaptive in the process. It is not always possible to know ahead of time how things are going to turn out. Being adaptive means that you care more for the result than your way of doing it. Being adaptive does also mean that you have an open attitude and are willing to listen to input and new information. I have found that if people feel that you care about what they have to say, they are more inclined to care for what you are trying to do.

Good leaders learn to be comfortable with change but great leaders help others to be comfortable with change too. Here I have suggested some practical steps that I believe you can take in order to help everybody on the journey.