Mark Twain once noted, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.”
Related: How to Lead Your Team Through Change
Change is hard work. It requires a 100 percent commitment to see it through, especially when it involves our habits and what we need to change to be successful. It is usually preceded by a crisis or challenge and represents a defining moment for each of us, especially if we are in a leadership position.
Why? Simply put, effective leaders are responsible for results. To achieve the right results, they are often called upon to challenge the “status quo.” When that happens, change is right around the corner.
The ability to lead during times of change, or even upheaval, is a critical responsibility for a leader that will test their leadership foundation and skills. How a leader manages change will define what type of leader they truly are. Change comes with a number of moving parts that involve process and people, as well as productivity and profitability. All of this will test a leader’s ability to think on their feet, make decisions based on incomplete data, stay focused and maintain a healthy sense of urgency.
For a leader to guide his team through the challenges of change, they have to function as the “eye of the hurricane.” When everything is swirling around them, they have to maintain some level of calm throughout it all. When a team sees the leader calm and under control, it gives them confidence that the leader will show them the way.
Given all of this, here are five steps a leader can take to manage his or her team successfully through challenging times of change:
1. The leader needs to first define the current reality; what needs to change and why. When explaining the why, they must be sure to explain to their team the impact of maintaining the current status quo and why it is not a good idea to do so.
2. Next, define the new reality or, in other words, create a vision of where the team (and company) needs to go and why. This should include the benefits of the new reality to the company, the team and their customers if applicable. These first two steps are critical for the leader to demonstrate to his team that he knows what needs to be done. His communication skills will play a key role in earning the team’s trust so that they follow him.
3. Next, the leader needs to create the plan to bridge the gap from the current reality to the reality of the new vision. The plan should include the timeline, tasks, accountabilities, and required resources, as well as any possible obstacles and how they will be handled. Again, the leader’s communication skills will be key to success. In addition, when he builds the plan he has to make certain that he solicits the input and ideas from the team. This will be the critical step that will enable the team to see the plan as their mission and buy into it completely.
4. Get the entire team together and make sure everyone understands what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and why it needs to be done. The leader wants to be sure of this step before he launches the plan to minimize false starts and mistakes.
5. Finally, the leader needs to take action and monitor closely the status of activities, being quick to take corrective action as needed. In addition, when he or she sees someone doing something right, that should be acknowledged to reinforce that behavior for the next time. Throughout the entire process, the leader needs to be visible to their team. Like the captain of the ship on the deck during a storm, the leader provides a sense of both control and calm that helps the team stay focused on the task at hand. Once the goal has been achieved the leader must make certain to acknowledge the efforts of the team.