Leading Change in the Workplace

The blog earlier this month addressed how leaders can prepare themselves to manage workplace change effectively. It is important for leaders to master those individual skills so that they can become change leaders in their organizations.

The term change leader can refer to either an organization or an individual, performing at any level within an organization.

A change leader is an entity or an individual who has the qualities, skills, and abilities to:

  • Be willing to lead change.
  • Have the know-how to lead change.
  • Reframe change into opportunities.
  • Look for change.
  • Be ahead of change, anticipate change, and appreciate change.
  • Make changes work within the organization as well as outside of it.

This seems like a monumental endeavor, one requiring fine-tuned abilities; however, the skills and abilities can be learned and implemented. Being a change leader involves demonstrating outstanding performance in at least the following 3 major areas of expertise:

1. Balancing change and continuity at the same time.

  • Although continuity is the foundation for an individual as well as an organization, to thrive, both must prepare for constant and rapid change.
  • One effective method is to create long-term, continuing relationships with internal employees as well as outside partnerships. These relationships or partnerships are invaluable in today’s global change environment.
  • The sharing of critical information is key for continuity and relationships. With every change comes a crucial question, “Who needs to know about this?”
  • Both innovative and continuous improvement ideas must be rewarded and recognized.

2.   Knowledge of effective methods of implementing change.

  • It is impossible to conduct market research on something totally new.
  • The most effective strategy is to find someone who wants to champion the new product, service, or idea.
  • Another strategy is to find a customer who is willing to work together to make the new product, service, or idea successful.
  • If this pilot test is effective, it will indicate what, where, and how to implement the new change.

3. Systematic strategies for inevitable change.

  • Creating a policy of innovation or creating change affects a mindset that views change as an opportunity.
  • The policy should include a plan where you are frequently looking for changes that could be opportunities.
  • Areas to look for possible changes include:
    • Inconsistencies in customer behaviors.
    • Demographic changes.
    • Process needs changes.
    • Industry or market changes.
  • Questions then need to be asked about what kinds of changes might be innovative.
  • Related risks need to be identified and then mitigated or limited.

A skilled change leader can guide their team through change, manage multiple change initiatives at any given time, and understand a variety of change models. Below are three common change models that many companies use for change initiatives:

Lewin’s Change Management Model
The Rational Approach (Michael Beer)
Top-Down or Bottom-Up?

Teams need strong leaders to guide them through chaos and ambiguity. As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop your individual change management skills, and then develop the skills necessary to encourage and support change in your organization.

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