7 Strategies for Leading Change

Change leadership is the courage, capacity and capability(*) to influence people to move in the direction of the future vision.
Once a leader has defined the vision, the game that they are playing (the strategy) and how they will win (the KPI’s or measurements of success) then it’s time to get in the game.

Here are 7 strategies as you lead change:

  1. Urgency is essential. Why does this change matter, why now? Get clear on your answer and then share it repeatedly. Don’t talk about a burning platform (that creates a brain threat.) Be real, be honest and explain why you cannot continue doing what you are doing. What needs to change and what does the future look like? Reassure people that it’s not going to be easy but that change is possible.
  1. Resistance is normal, anticipate it. Determine who is for (or against) the change and why. Sometimes people need more information, sometimes people need a chance to internalize the change. Address the resistance but recognize that it’s a natural response.
  1. It takes time. Change can happen quickly, transition varies from one person to the next. As William Bridges explains, “Change is situational…. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.” You can create lots of external change but the transition is something you cannot accelerate unless you apply excellent change management.
  1. Do NOT exceed the capacity for change. Each human being has a limit to the amount of change he or she can absorb. Exceeding capacity places your change in peril. When you put more change into the system than your people have capacity, you cannot successfully complete all the changes or achieve the intended benefits.
  1. Create certainty during uncertainty. Leaders often have a high tolerance for ambiguity. Do you know that uncertainty creates alarm bells in the brain? The brain CRAVES certainty. Change creates uncertainty. Leading change well means providing milestones along the change journey. You don’t need to know all the answers but you do need create as much certainty as possible for your people regarding what’s next.
  1. Connect the dots. Start with the who. Who are you speaking with? What matters most to them? Meet them where they are and then follow that with the why. Why is the change important? Why this? Why now? Then explain how all the pieces fit together. Remember that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So put the pieces together and wrap it in language and story that connects with them.
  1. Focus on building trust. There have been many statements about how you have to repeat something over and over in order for it to stick. There’s something that comes before repetition. If you do not have trust, it doesn’t matter how often you repeat something. When you are leading change, focus on building trust it’s the most essential element of leading successful change.

Apply one or all seven of these strategies to increase your effectiveness in leading change.

(*) Our definitions for courage, capacity, and capability:

  • Courage – is the action you take to move forward before you have the full confidence that it will succeed.
  • Capacity – a human being’s finite ability to absorb change. This includes personal, professional and world impacting changes.
  • Capability – the skill or proficiency to adapt and respond to change.

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