“There is nothing permanent, except change” – Heraclitus.
Although this is true, some changes are easier than others. And, of course, when other individuals are involved, it becomes even more challenging. Nonetheless, if we want to grow, change is unavoidable, which is why leaders must be able to handle change management effectively.
So, in order to help you we have gathered some tips, but first, let’s talk a bit about change itself.
The theory of change
DISSATISFACTION x VISION x FIRST STEPS > RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
David Gleicher first outlined the first “Formula for Change” in the 1960s. Richard Beckhard and Reuben T. Harris transformed it to a modern change equation in the 1980s, and Kathie Dannemiller simplified and popularized it in the late 1980s and 1990s.
This formula provides a solid foundation for change management. It’s easier to comprehend the points we need to successfully cover in order to prosper through change if we keep this in mind.
Dissatisfaction: The WHY. WHY are we dissatisfied? This is the reason behind the change.
Vision: The WHAT. WHAT can we do instead?
First steps: The HOW. HOW can we achieve that? How can we make sure we achieve change.
Resistance to change: The BUT. There will always be a but, some kind of resistance, but if we can ensure that the first three points outweigh the resistance, we will be one step closer to success.
This formula is simple to follow, and we can almost certainly recall a time in our lives when we changed and were able to pinpoint these four primary points.
However, most of the time, change is a personal experience, and the individual who makes the decision to change is the one who must actually carry out the task.
As previously stated, the more significant challenge of change management is that it is not just about you; it also involves other people. As a result, our suggestions are based on a strategy that puts people at the centre of the change management process.
The most crucial element is that individuals believe in the change and are prepared to work together to achieve success.
You will have to employ a more dictatorial approach to leadership and change management if people are unwilling to collaborate in the process, which will make the process much more difficult.
Tips to succeed in change management
For any change to take place, effective communication is essential. We’re sure every manager who’s gone through a change management process believes it’s for the best, but when it comes to change involving other people, your vision is only as good as your ability to convey it to others.
“Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future.” – Sarah Clayton.
So, how can we achieve successful change management communication?
- Everyone should be informed. Every person who will be even remotely impacted by the change should be involved in the communication process from top to bottom.
- Complete transparency. Everyone should be aware of the entire storey. Don’t make the mistake of simply communicating the reasons for the change, or the entire picture, to managers. To be successful at change management, you need everyone to work together, and the only way to do that is for individuals to buy into the change and commit to it. Otherwise, you’re going to face a lot more opposition.
- Make communication reciprocal. While dealing with change, everyone will have different opinions, concerns, priorities,… so make sure you provide a safe space and time for everyone to speak up. Not only before but throughout the process.
Tell a story
One of the most powerful methods to communicate is through stories. Humans have been telling stories since the dawn of civilization; in fact, it is the reason we have been able to build a society.
Stories help people remember facts better, make them more empathic and engaged, and strengthen our sense of connection, all of which boost collaboration.
However, there are a few factors to bear in mind in order to write a compelling story:
- Stories are more meaningful because they tap into people’s emotions. So make sure your story has an impact on people.
- Also, stories help people feel more engaged with others because we can relate to the characters in the story. So, make your story relatable to them.
- Make sure the story involves them. Use the narrative to communicate how the change will benefit them, make them feel part of the story, so they know the value of their effort.
Consider every movie or book you’ve ever seen and combine it with the theory of change to help you write your story’s narrative:
- Dissatisfaction (WHY): This is the beginning of every book or movie; there must be dissatisfaction for the characters to act.
- Vision (WHAT): Every movie has a vision; every character of every plot is attempting to achieve something.
- First steps (HOW): Action starts to happen, the characters begin to do something, but they have probably started small.
- Resistance to change (BUT…): Again, every story has a character that is resistant to change, otherwise why would they not have done it before?
You don’t have to be Charles Dickens to be successful at change management, but creating a compelling story will help you engage and involve others.
When dealing with change, the CEO of a large European bank with over 30000 workers understood the value of tales. So he put his development plan and ideas into a story that every bank employee, from the top to the bottom, could comprehend and use to encourage them to change.
Don’t forget about trust
Another reason why change fails often is that people don’t trust the person in charge. When you don’t trust someone, it’s even more difficult to trust them to guide you through a challenging situation.
This can be a more challenging task in large organisations or if you are new to the role or organisation and have already begun a change management process before being able to create trust within your team or organisation.
Trust, on the other hand, can be built. Furthermore, humans are more trusting than we thought. (Read more about how to create trust here.) The essential thing is to remember this and act accordingly.
Make change accessible and as smooth as possible for everyone
Certainly, the changes you want to make will have various effects on different people. So don’t expect everyone to react to change in the same way.
For example, some people may be put off by change because it would require more effort on their part or because they have been doing things the same way for a long time and are more likely to find change difficult. Whatever it is, think about how you can make change more bearable for them.
- Spend additional time with them to ensure that they feel heard and valued.
Change must also be consistent with people’s skills and abilities. Many change management initiatives fail because leaders expect people to change without first teaching them how to do so. So, bear in mind what you’re asking them to perform and what they’ll require to complete it:
- When necessary, provide training.
- Adapt the process to the talents and needs of the participants.
Remove failure out of the equation
Another reason people resist change is a fear of failure; however, if we eliminate the possibility of failure, we can make it simpler to overcome this fear.
Looking at failure from a different angle is the key to removing it. Change management must be viewed as a learning process with a learning curve, in which people will make mistakes until they become accustomed to the new way of doing things. (To get inspired, watch this video from the CEO of @Lifeisgood.)
Use positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to achieve change. We are more likely to repeat behaviours or actions when they have a positive impact on us. So, you can use this to your advantage when it comes to change management.
- Establish milestones that are more easily attainable and can be recognised. People will be more driven and engaged as a result of this.
The Optimist view…
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter.
When it comes to change management, we are sure to face resistance. On the other hand, change is the only way to grow, and a great leader should always strive for the progress of those they lead.
People will be willing to follow you on the journey if you are honest, open, and authentic throughout the process.