7 Critical Skills Leaders Need for Successful Change Management

The Inevitability of Change 

Change is the only constant; in the future of work, an accelerated pace of change is expected. According to a report by Gartner (2020), organizations today have on average gone through “five major firmwide changes in the past three years—and nearly 75% expect to increase the types of major change projects and initiatives they will undertake in the next three years.”

Equipping leaders with the right skills and attitude to enable excellent change management is even more essential now because employees and teams can respond to the changes positively and with minimal stress. Already we are seeing indications that the current skills and attitudes of those leading change management in organizations are lacking – the effects of organizational change that is poorly led – A well-managed change provides a valuable opportunity for a more empowering corporate strategic vision to emerge.

Change can be initiated both externally and internally. Forces from outside the organization, like market shifts, new regulations, or internal changes because of shifts in organizational structure, employee needs, or competing priorities. With this ever-present sense of urgency to change for the better, faster, and more agile, leaders must develop the skills and attitudes needed to drive organizational change.

Defining Change Management

Change management seeks to expect, prepare for, and create change in positive ways. It minimizes disruption and improves performance. This article will share some ways you can manage change within your organization.

Importance of a Sound Change Management Strategy

Search “change management” in Harvard Business Review, and you’ll see 2,600+ results. Change management is complex and there is much to learn about. However, research has also shown that for organizational change to be successful, it not only needs to be rolled out effectively – it also needs to be sustained. Yet, 15-year research from McKinsey has found that “less than one-third of respondents who had been part of a transformation in the last five years say their companies’ transformations have been successful at improving organizational performance and sustaining those improvements over time.”

That is why you need to have a good change strategy.

4 Steps in the Change Management

Effective change management begins with setting a strategic direction for your company’s culture and vision so that it stays relevant. It also involves implementing the changes thoughtfully and gradually until the entire organization is on board.

According to the SHRM, an effective four-phase change management model can be utilized to initiate and manage organizational changes.

  1. Define—Align expectations regarding the change’s scope, timing, and business impact.
  2. Plan—Analyze the impact of the change and develop a plan to assist those affected by it.
  3. Implement—Collaborate with leaders and associates to bring about the change.
  4. Sustain—Develop strategies with leaders and staff to track adoption and create lasting change.

No matter which change management model you use for transformational change, one thing is clear. Leaders are at the heart of change management so read on to discover the skills leaders need to guide the organizational change process.

7 Critical Skills for Business Leaders Managing Organizational Change

How can you manage and implement? To effectively manage change means being both strategic and tactical. Here are our suggestions for what skills you need as you plan your change management efforts.

1. Define a Common Understanding

To understand change management processes, consider establishing the “ground rules” and adapt as you go along with an agile mindset.

  • Define what remains unchanged despite the transformation. It would likely be your mission, vision, or values.
  • Acknowledge that internal structures and key performance indicators can change, even if they have been there for a long time.
  • Create continual feedback loops that allow for gradual adoption from old to new. This would also include your communication plans and the frequency of communication
  • Involve people in improving workflows or organizational processes

2. Engage and Communicate Effectively

The key ingredient to being successful in managing organizational change is good communication. This includes your middle managers, not only your senior management teams. Leaders at every level must communicate the transition constantly in sustaining acceleration and overcoming resistance gradually. When you share change initiatives with your organization, you will empower employees — brief your key stakeholders on change programs.

Keep your people involved when implementing new technology, systems, or procedures. This includes preparing your middle managers so they are ready to handle objections and receive feedback from the ground. Employees need to feel like their opinions are being heard and considered.

Effective communication between managers and employees can help smoothen the process of change. Likewise, poor communication can cause confusion and resentment. Encourage direct dialogue before a change occurs. This way, you can answer questions before any backlash from employees. An unpredicted response could slow other changes in progress.

3. Lower Resistance To Change by Being Transparent

We might then think that people’s natural reaction to change is to resist it. However, research by Marcus Buckingham and the ADP Research Institute has found that the more changes employees experience, the more resilient they become.

The key?

Keeping people in the loop. Offer them information before they need to know. Continue to involve employees and have dialogues. Here are some reasons why employees might resist change:

  • They do not understand the change and its associated benefits.
  • They do not believe they will personally benefit from this new change.
  • They feel like they don’t have any control over their future and how to put these changes in place.
  • They lack the skills to do the new job.

Once you understand their difficulties, it will be easier to address the issues.

Listen to our podcast interview with May Tuck Wong, Leadership Consultant as she shares about

managing resistance. Listen to the episode here.

4. Make Changes Attainable

Seeing resistance is normal, but you can overcome it if people believe it is doable.

Once you identify the desired change and its benefits, ensure your employees feel like they’re also benefitting. In change management, what you are actually doing is selling a vision so your storytelling or communication skills would matter here.

Telling powerful stories influences people, decreases resistance and makes changes more attainable.

Develop the essential skills to become persuasive and inspire change.

Check out our leadership story course here.

Partner with your teams at every stage through the management of change. When new changes are effected, ensure there is a feedback loop for people to surface any difficulties. Facilitate the conversations so the grey areas can be ironed out. When you involve all your team members to make changes attainable and practical, the change management and implementation process will be enjoyable because they also get to collaborate.

5. Assign Facilitators of Change Management Process

In your change management process, define clear roles for who will handle each task. Discuss how you will communicate and work out the finer details as boundaries or responsibilities clash. Organizational change management is complicated so setting up channels so that issues can be directed to the right people authorized to make decisions will make implementing change easier.

If you want to manage change and achieve success, it requires a strategic and structured approach at the organizational level so take care of this part as we have seen such issues too often.

Need to equip your managers with facilitation and coaching skills?

Talk to us. Click here.

6. Link the Benefits of Organizational Change to Personal Desired Outcomes

What’s in it for me?

The workforce wants personal growth and learning. People naturally feel more motivated to improve and perform when they see opportunities as a chance to reach their full potential.

Therefore, when communicating the benefits of organizational change to your employees, focus on the personal desired outcomes that will be gained from those changes. Show them how the new process or product can help them reach their goals and give them a sense of accomplishment. Doing this will help everyone better understand why these changes are necessary and appreciate the value of change.

Working as a team towards a bigger picture is rewarding for some employees. So one possible way to increase the joy in managing organizational change lies in figuring out the puzzle pieces together; when employees see how each contribution is meaningful, they feel personally fulfilled and satisfied.

7. Collect Constructive Feedback to Feed Forward

One of the critical components of successfully implementing the change management process is sustaining the acceleration of the implementation and adoption. Change management within your organization requires feedback.

Feedback is essential in understanding what is working well and what is not. If employees have an adverse reaction, consider if this change strays from your organization’s core values (at least in their minds). Perhaps it is a communication gap. If employees respond positively, you know they are ready for more similar changes. Observe your employees and watch out for their reactions. Strive to understand how they react to your change management plan and calibrate along the way.

Manager Competencies Are Critical Success Factors in Driving Organizational Changes

Organizational change is a necessary and constant part of any business’ survival plan. Effective change management models ensure you generate short-term wins and lay a solid foundation to thrive in the volatile business environment. This is a crucial step in managing change successfully. It will also help minimize disruption in the workplace. When people enjoy the change process, organizations can thrive.

Understanding how people respond during change management within your organization is essential. A sound strategy is a good starting point, but implementing changes smoothly and sustaining acceleration – requires a strong team of managers equipped with the right leadership skills to navigate the organizational change. Effective and timely communication, getting feedback, and removing barriers are all required for organizational change management.

Develop the competencies and attitudes in your managerial team so they can feel confident in creating a change program that will help your organization grow instead of being afraid of change.

Set yourself and your people up for a successful change journey by preparing adequately in both your strategy and your leadership skills.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Take advantage of Chuen Chuen’s extensive experience coaching leaders worldwide and her deep expertise in designing agile leadership corporate training solutions for your teams. No matter which stage of leadership you are at, we can partner with you and meet your business needs. Explore our executive coaching programscorporate training coursesor hire Chuen Chuen as your speaker so that your organization will become agile and adaptive.

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