Change and adapting to change are both huge influencers in my life. As with most impactful actions, each comes with their own set of emotions like fear, excitement, anxiety, anticipation and uncertainty. At some point we all feel this way when something BIG is on the horizon. For business owners, organizational leaders and anyone willing to take a leap, it’s no different.
For 20 years I've researched and experienced change management and what it takes to develop success through the chaos. While simply experiencing these things do not make me an expert, the resiliency, acknowledgment and acceptance of pushing through even when failure seems so near, has provided me valuable insight that I get to share and practice with many organizations.
Too often organizations resist even the thought of change for a few, obvious reasons. First, for many, change is hard. We get through the dreaded part of learning something new, we practice the skill, we become proficient at it and then…we become complacent. Organizations can no longer afford to deflect the idea of change. Second, change creates uncertainty. Whether it’s one person, a department or a majority of your organization, uncertainty almost always is the cause of an unbalanced organizational culture which is difficult to reverse and sometimes determinantal. Finally, and I believe this is the most significant, change without communication will absolutely send your organization in a downward spiral that translates in many different ways impacting internal and external stakeholders alike.
You all have heard what I just mentioned or at least a version of it. You also might be telling yourself “Not my company. Not my staff”. Well, if you’re a one-person shop, then maybe you are right. But I can assure you, if you have a team of people and resent change, deep emotions begin to stir. Just know, there is light at the end of the tunnel, hope is near, you have a lifeline (insert your favorite metaphor here). Change is 100% necessary for success and there a few things to do prior implementing it.
Here are three areas to consider when approaching the sometimes unapproachable feat of change...
Dig Deep into the WHY. You have an idea for change that will improve your business and that’s great. But do you really know if this move will provide the change you anticipate? Do your research and believe in the data. If you believe it, your teams will believe it. And conversely, if you aren’t confident in your findings but still move forward, your uncertainty will be felt by those who count the most.
Show Your Hand and Convey Teamwork. Many leaders believe that keeping the next big thing a secret is a great idea. Too often, this tactic translates to your team as a Shady McShaderson move and approval ratings for you and your idea take a dramatic dive. Instead, show what you can to your team. Make them feel as though they own a part of the ideation process for change. Stakeholder buy-in is critical and sharing initial successes is critical for change management regardless if it’s new store hours or onboarding a new Chief Operations Officer.
Hold Strong to Your Word and Your Idea. If your plan for change is going swimmingly and your staff is behind you like a carriage to a horse in Central Park at Christmas time, you’re close to winning this thing and WAY TO GO! But not all ideas work like we plan and that’s ok. What isn’t ok is jumping ship at the first sign of adversity. To avoid creating a culture of chaos during this time, reassure the masses that you are still on track to reach the goal even if you have to switch gears. And with this, words just aren’t enough. Show them data. Show them scenarios. Explain the WHY. You might even create a volunteer focus group to evaluate the process and show how their contributed input will turn a once derailed idea into a series of successes.
Bottom line is that when change occurs, whether inevitable or by choice, there’s a right way to successfully get there and ask yourself if you have done what it takes to make those affected by the change feel as though they are part of the positive progression being presented. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that yes, these steps to a successful change management initiative will take extra time, but the negative impact of not taking the time is never worth the risk. It truly is the defining line between pass or fail.
Ashleigh Lay is owner of Eight17 Consulting LLC and a business consultant and strategist focusing on change management, business process improvements and organizational alignment. Please contact Ashleigh at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about Eight17 Consulting LLC services.