Your Two Hats – Leading Change Successfully

We were working with two senior leaders last week who have been contemplating significant change for many months. As we worked with forty-four of their team members, we had to keep reminding the leaders that they had already had time to work through their change. They needed to give their teams a chance to catch up.
This is one of the many challenges of leading change. Change leaders must focus on the change while keeping the business running.  In order to do that, leaders must wear two hats – a functional leader hat and a change leadership hat.
It’s easy to allow the functional leader hat to take precedence over the change leader hat. Unfortunately, when organizations experience significant change, a functional focus is insufficient.  Both hats become essential for organizational success.
There is no formula for how much time should be spent on functional leadership versus change leadership.  What is clear, is that failure to make time for specifically leading change is a recipe for failure.
Essentials for leading change:

  • Set a context for change. Other people don’t know what you know. This doesn’t mean telling them everything. It does mean creating a clear case for change that helps everyone understand the WHY?
  • Communicate needed information . . . Often. Announcing a change at the beginning is only the beginning. Repetition and consistency is the name of the change game!
  • Connect the dots between the information and the context. At the recent NeuroLeadership Summit there was a lot of discussion about the importance of coherence. This is the scientific proof around the importance of creating a framework so that people can connect the information they receive in a meaningful way. It’s the leaders job to create collective meaning from the random facts of change.
  • Support and be an exemplar of the desired outcome of the change in both word and action. There is nothing that kills a change faster than a leader who talks the change and acts counter to their talk.
  • Reward changes in behavior that support the outcomes needed for the change. You get what you focus on. So be intentional about calling out and rewarding successful change behavior.
  • Celebrate success. This is so easy to overlook as you move on to the next change. Periodically pause to celebrate. You’ll be amazed by the progress and perseverance of the team. Leaders spend a lot of time looking forward to a horizon that will never get closer. It’s only in looking back that you realize how far you’ve come. Celebrate that journey.
  • Change leaders, remember that you wear multiple hats. When you lead a change, you have to “do your day job” and the job of change leadership. Lead wisely as you balance the demands of both change leader and functional leader.
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