Organizational change is constant. Yet many people leaders and managers react to change with denial or resistance. As a change leader, your ability to help people overcome their inertia and get onboard with new initiatives is critical to your success.
Being successful takes different skill sets on different levels at different times – all of which are important and potentially impactful especially when leading others through times of change. Nowadays, all companies are exercising some type of change whether it’s their people, process or technology and the ones thrown into the middle of these initiatives are the front line leaders. They are faced with managing the expectations from above and below. It’s easy as a new manager or being new to a company to do nothing and sit around and wait until someone taps you on the shoulder. Although this is a strategy some choose to take, I would not suggest this tactic.
Having gone through a fair amount of change initiatives myself (at various levels, companies and positions) – I have discovered that the managers who deal with the change the best all possess certain traits, beliefs or skills that allow not only themselves but their people to be successful while navigating the uncertainty and ambiguity of the change initiative.
Here are 22 observations I have witnessed firsthand at different times, companies and levels of leadership:
They have clarity and certainty about what they want (and don’t want) for their team and department. They visualize and plan their best reality and outcome.
- Clear Communication
They keep a clear line of communication and open door policy with their people to ensure certainty and clarity amongst their team. This in turn limits any fear or cooler talk about what’s real and what’s hearsay.
- Solution Focused
They are part of the solution versus the problem. In other words, they innovate rather than imitate. They look for how to make the most of the current situation both for themselves and their team. Being creative and innovative during times of change can be the difference between retaining talent and a high attrition rate.
They look to educate themselves formally or informally on what’s currently taking place.
They look at the change event as a project and possess a high level of project management skills to compartmentalize the initiative even if they are unclear on all the specifics. By placing events in time, this adds certainty and some level of relatedness to the greater picture; which in return can ease any fears for themselves or their people.
- Alignment & Buy-In
They understand and value the importance of alignment and buy-in. Change never takes place without these two key factors and great people leaders understand this while working effortlessly to ensure that every action possible is taking place to achieve a successful outcome.
They are accountable to both themselves, their people and of course the large reorganization. Many times managers can get overwhelmed and hide and run away while leaving their people wondering what’s going on. Being accountable means being present and showing up in all ways on all days.
- Take Action
They take action. A successful initiative cannot remain in a strategic planning state forever. It must be actionable through focused tactical implementation over time and a great manager recognizes this. They will spear head key actions to ensure the needle is moving forward to arrive at the future state sooner rather than later.
They align themselves with like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team. They create win-win relationships everywhere and anywhere. It’s been said that the social currency in which business is done is through the building of relationships within the workplace. This is always accurate regardless of your system, process or culture.
They speak up when necessary. Just because an idea sounds good doesn’t mean it is. Great managers do their homework – they put the change initiative through a rigorous set of risk/reward and cost/benefit analyses.
They are realistic and aren’t a glass half full or half empty person – but rather that the glass is refillable. Change unto itself is a never ending process and understanding that there will be what you can control, influence and let go of – allows the time and place for to focus your time and energy.
They are of service. They do what is needed, irrespective of how they are feeling on a given day. They are selfless and present themselves with a sincere interest in being there for others.
They deal with personal problems and challenges quickly and effectively, and don’t allow it to derail their current tasks and responsibilities. They face their challenges and use them to improve themselves while managing their emotions responsibly.
While many people are reactive, they are proactive. They take action before they have to and see the value in being part of the future state.
- Self Restraint
They resist the temptation of being buds versus a boss with their team. It’s a slippery slope but good managers recognize this is a trap. Befriending your team only to provide safety or certainty for them (or yourself) is a trap and has never proven to end well for the manager. Keeping your normal cadence of both communication and visibility should suffice without embarking on too much of a social situation. If this is already part of your culture or team norms then by all means partake and continue in what you normally do but keep your emotions in check while still providing transparency in what you know and can share.
They are humble and they are happy to admit mistakes and to apologize. They are confident in their ability, but not arrogant. They are happy to learn from others along the way. They are happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory through the process.
They are adaptable and embrace the change even while it’s unfamiliar and new to them personally and professionally. They are willing to be flexible to their peers, supervisors and of course their team.
They recognize the importance of staying in shape physically and emotionally. They find the balance between work and life, which may include visits to the gym, meditation or anything else, that allows for an outlet and balance. They recognize the importance and benefits of a healthy mind in regards to showing up during times of uncertainty and leading others.
They avoid toxic people and resist the temptation to hang out, associate with or align with people who are detractors from the larger vision or effort. They see this as an invaluable use of their time and aids in their stress levels and uncertainty. They don’t invest their emotional energy in places that don’t provide value.
They will take on what other won’t. They will fight for their people and are willing to respectfully and professionally go to bat for the right person or cause while building trust and respect from their people.
They have an off switch and recognize the importance of recharging. Whether its time away, time off or time with loved ones. The value they receive from having others give back to them, have fun and change their brains wiring and scenery allows for a better fight depending on what comes their way.
They honor their word and hold themselves accountable. If they say they will do something, they do it. Period. No excuses; just commitment and focus. They practice what they preach and model integrity.
By no means is my list of personal observations any rule or precedent for what makes either a successful leader or successful change event. These traits don’t have to all be present or at any one time as I am not clear that’s humanly possible. What is possible – is to be aware of what you can provide you during times of duress and build upon existing skills and/or develop new ones. I am confident there are more items to add to this list, or some of these could be expanded upon which I respectfully and openly look to from you the reader.