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Be the change you want to see: 6 tips to succeed at leading change

July 21, 2022 - 12 min read

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What is leading change management?

How do I lead change?

6 examples of leading change management

3 common mistakes when trying to lead changes

Your next steps

Change is inevitable. You can’t avoid it, even if you want to — and your business certainly can’t prevent it, either. 

And why would you want to avoid change? Staying stagnant means avoiding possible growth. Sticking with the status quo only takes you so far. Even when you’ve been in the same role for years, you’ll sometimes face growth, organizational changes, and new approaches to tasks. 

You can play a big role in helping transition your team to your company’s new vision. While you can ignore efforts to embrace new behaviors, a better option is leading change. 

 

What is leading change management?

Leading change management is a way to make change and transition to new approaches. Change management is a framework or process that focuses on on managing people as they experience change. It’s about ensuring that people have the right resources, knowledge, and support so that they can be successful. Put simply, it’s about managing change. 

Change impacts employees of every level, from large organizations with organizational coaching to independently owned businesses with few staff members. But this framework isn’t possible without people leading it.

Poor or inexperienced leaders won’t recognize and uphold the needs of their team or inspire them to embrace shifting ideals. Change management doesn’t work unless leaders do. That’s why learning how to be an effective leader is an essential skill.

This process helps businesses cope with any challenges they encounter during growth. Plus, it ensures that any change accommodates core values, technology, and other economic factors. 

Let’s say your workplace is transitioning to working completely virtually. After many years of in-person work, you’re bound to have some bumps in the road. Change management isn’t focused entirely on equipping employees to work from home.

It’s focused on how the employees themselves will adapt to the change their workplace is experiencing, a home office, and life without a commute. This also involves considering how to mitigate potential distractions, what software or tools everyone will need to succeed, and how to maintain company culture remotely.

This type of management helps team members better adapt to change. And change can happen any day of the week. It can involve significant alterations to the projects people work on or a change in the roles and responsibilities that team members have. 

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How do I lead change?

You may not be ready to lead transformational change tomorrow morning, but you’re on your way. To get you thinking about how you can apply your leadership skills, read through these five tips on how to lead a successful change at your workplace:

  1. Make your goals clear from the start
  2. Be transparent about your new vision for your team
  3. Offer mentoring and assistance for those that need it (here’s how you can be a mentor yourself)
  4. Listen to feedback from your team members
  5. Make sure that information and resources are readily available

Is there something from this list that puzzles you? Finding someone who can help you break down your goals is a game changer. A BetterUp coach or mentor can provide you with the guidance you need to clarify how you can best lead your team through change.

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6 examples of leading change management

Change doesn’t need to be something you resist. Even as someone experienced in holding leadership positions, you might need some tips and examples to inspire you to get started on your own. 

Check out these examples of how to lead change management:

1. Establish that the change is necessary

Your team should understand that this change is urgent and permanent. That is, it’s not something that will wash away in a week. Helping others see how the change you’re implementing will impact them is a good start.

For instance, if it’s an adjustment to the corporate culture, everyone should see how the update will promote happiness and success.

2. Work with a reliable group of people

As John P. Kotter notes, it’s key to have influencers in the organization coordinate change. A powerful guiding coalition ensures that major changes are communicated to every department. That way, no one is left out and expectations are clear.

3. Be purposeful with your planning

With so much to do, it’s easy to get sidetracked with other less important tasks or pay attention to the wrong details. Whenever you sit down to think about your change efforts, make sure you’re doing strategic planning.

Evaluate how your reengineering will go in the present and what sort of future implications they may have. If you need to, consult stakeholders or other confidants you have. 

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4. Identify your barriers and remove them

You might find that previous practices or rules don't serve your business anymore as you lead change management. Leaders within your team may need to move to different departments so that their talents are better used. Or, you may find you need to implement new systems to keep things organized.

Don’t force employees to change projects abruptly, but let them know you’ll be changing leadership to align with your vision.

If the barriers in your workplace slow down your progress toward effective change, you must figure out how to remove them. Working with your team members on solutions that benefit everyone is a great way to tackle issues. 

5. Value your company culture

 A company always has a culture that might have strong foundations, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t time for a cultural change. If your employees benefit from the present attitudes and values, make sure you respect that. If transforming the culture is needed, lead by example and demonstrate new behavior.

Getting in touch with human resources will ensure that everyone understands the new organizational culture. 

6. Celebrate your short-term wins

Any wins count as progress. They should be recognized and shared with the rest of your team because it demonstrates that your change is working. Celebrating wins boosts morale amongst your team. Plus, it motivates others to be more productive while tracking your progress and helping you plan for the future. 

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3 common mistakes when trying to lead changes

Now that you know what you should follow while trying to lead change, it’s time to review some common reasons why transformation efforts fail. These mistakes can happen to anyone, so keep an eye out for them on your journey. 

Read over these three mistakes:

1. Not using the proper tools

Suppose you find that one particular task is extremely time-consuming or interrupts workflow. In that case, you could be using the wrong tools. There are plenty of resources to use for organization, communication, and other aspects to help your business.

Not using tools effectively can waste your time and hinder your progress, so make sure you explore your options. Talk to your team’s senior leaders to see if they have any recommendations or ideas about what they need.

2. A lack of commitment

It’s one thing for your team members to be hesitant about your transformational change, but are you part of the problem, too? If you don’t believe in the new vision or if something is holding you back, it’ll show.

Leading by example can help others trust new initiatives. Without the commitment to your leadership, you won’t inspire others. A sense of urgency indicates that your intention to change processes is serious.

3. Overconfidence

Confidence is great. But when we’re overconfident and make risky plans without enough planning or research, it causes problems. It’s easy to let the excitement and promise of success swirl around in your mind. Just make sure you’re not letting that influence your decision-making practices.

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Your next steps

You know you’re capable of being a leader. When you encounter change, it’s not the end of the world because you know that it means that you have a new opportunity to grow and help others succeed. Leading change is an effort to better your workplace and make a difference for its future.

Don’t forget that there’s no one formula to be an effective leader. We’ve discussed six examples of how people can lead a team, but you don’t have to cross each one off of the list immediately to be a leader that people admire. 

As you experiment with what works best for you professionally, make sure you take the time to check in with yourself. Allow yourself to take a step back and practice self-care. You can only be as good to your team as you are to yourself. 

Above all, remember that you’re implementing change that can improve work-life for a whole team of people or spark new approaches across an industry. That’s special. 

Interested in amplifying your leadership skills? At BetterUp, we love to help individuals harness the skills they already have and take them to the next level. Let us help you succeed at leading change.

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Published July 21, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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