How to Lead Your Team Through Change
Join us in a city near you at Entrepreneur’s Accelerate Your Business event series kicking off Feb 23. View cities and dates »
Business demands fluidity, which requires leaders to embrace change and take risks. Put simply, if you’re not ready to lead change then you’re not ready to lead full stop.
Mark Zuckerberg once said, “In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks,” and he was right. Leadership is not a static endeavor. Successful managers not only acknowledge the need for business development but also are willing and able to navigate their team through change.
The prospect of change can be daunting. But if managed correctly, the process doesn’t have to be painful. In today’s fast-paced society, the difference between success and failure can lie in a company’s ability to adapt.
Fail to grow your business and adjust to new ways of thinking, and your business will stagnate and die. Change in the business world is not an option, but a prerequisite for success. And leading change effectively is essential for development. Here is a road map to engineering a fruitful transition:
1. Create a plan.
Every business requires change in order to survive. If a company doesn’t innovate and react to changing market demands, it will collapse.
But make sure to not to make changes just for the sake of it. Before embarking on a journey of transformation be sure to have a solid business plan. Identify the areas of the business that need to be updated and put a plan in place for its execution.
2. Understand the end goal.
It’s critical to understand the end goal and objectives before starting out. Ask, Where is the company today and where does it need to be?
A change leader must have the confidence and capability to change tack, though, if another path looks clearer and makes more sense. Listen to employees, be bold enough to adjust the direction the company is headed toward and dispense with pride if another route makes more business sense. The path for change and innovation is not set in stone.
3. Communicate clearly.
Communication is king when it comes to corporate change. From Day 1 it’s critical to have all members of the team be behind the leader. Be sure to keep everyone fully abreast of developments and ensure that employees understand the end goal.
Keeping the lines of communication open and involving employees in the change process makes it more likely employees will get on board. Give them the opportunity to share ideas, concerns, comments and suggestions throughout the period of change.
Corporate change should be an exciting, rewarding and worthwhile experience, with effective communication being critical.
4. Identify key players.
People react differently to a transformation in the workplace and the leader's duty is to identify change advocates as well as potential saboteurs. Get key players on board from the beginning and take the time to walk them through the anticipated changes.
These team members are likely to be instrumental when new processes are put into practice and can encourage skeptics to participate and help sustain the morale of the rest of their departments.
5. Delegate tasks.
Leading from the front is important. But an individual leader cannot implement change alone. Delegate tasks to individuals across the team and assign firm deadlines for completion. Be sure to follow up with each individual and provide support when necessary.
While going through this period of change, be on hand to answer questions, provide guidance and offer support. By giving people responsibilities, more will get accomplished as others are encouraged to take ownership of the prerequisites for change.
6. Set realistic objectives.
The leader should not set up himself (or herself) and the department for failure. During a period of change it's reasonable to expect key team members to put in extra time and effort, but set realistic targets.
If the expectations are too high, not only will quality be compromised but also deadlines won't be met, morale will plummet and people will become alienated. The result? A despondent, unhappy and floundering workforce.
7. Manage expectations.
The worth of any business leader can be measured simply by analyzing his or her ability to manage expectations. When leading a department through change, managing expectations is more critical that ever. Clarify what is expected from employees, and conversely figure out what they expect from the leader.
8. Hold people accountable.
Hold employees accountable for implementing change. To do that, equip them with the proper tools, talent, resources, responsibility and authority necessary for finishing the race.
For reprints and licensing questions, click here.