When new leaders join organizations, they bring with them their passion and energy for business. Quite often, they see and hear many things that need to change, and change quickly. However, the best leaders understand the need to slow down and fully examine the organization, the staff and the culture before making any sweeping changes. Further, they are aware of how critical it is to get the perfect balance between their desire to move forward and the team’s need for guidance and exceptional communication.
Understand the team’s perception of change
Many leaders are hungry for success and see further ahead than others in the organization. This often makes it difficult for them to look at the business from other people’s perspectives, which is imperative. Even more, the team may not see the vision of the new leader, and frustration can ensue. In turn, frustration often leads to constant changes in priorities, and then to confusion and impatience.
How can leaders avoid short tempers and aggravation within the organization due to proposed changes? They must study how team members are directly or indirectly impacted, and do the background work necessary to successfully make changes. Asking questions and really listening to the answers will give them insight into how others see the proposed changes. Most importantly, leaders must overcommunicate — by repeating the message over and over at the start.
Change and context
Tolerance for change varies from one business to another; every business is unique. The context of change in the new organization is important, and listening to the stories and advice of team members can help leaders to understand those contexts. There are many factors that affect change tolerance, and getting the balance right is key. Systems and processes can help immensely, as can proper communication, expectations, measurement tools and schedules for implementation.
Nearly all resistance to change is emotional in nature, which is why calm and rational explanations for change might cause uproar. New leaders need to understand their teams’ emotional attachments to the way things are, and they must find ways to connect with team members on a more emotional level. A calm approach and a story of how the change will benefit the team will help people get on board.
Put in the time, and finish what you start
Leaders must understand that they can’t step in and start demanding changes on day one. They need to take the time to survey the landscape, look for areas of opportunity and formulate a plan for positive improvement. Further, they must have persistence and patience to finish the upgrade project they start.
In almost all cases, there will be obstacles that were not easy to foresee, but a true leader is nimble enough to work through them and quickly get back on track. The leader must be committed to leading change and dealing with any consequences.
Leaders must be self-aware, and they must understand how to balance their personality and leadership style with that of their team. Leading change at a slower pace to decrease resistance and resentment is wise, as is encouraging change at a fast enough pace that the team does not get frustrated that nothing is happening. The key is balance: If there is a large gap between the pace the leader expects and that of the organization, it can cause problems and failed leadership.
Continually monitoring how changes are implemented, and how the changes are impacting the team, is critical to instituting fruitful changes in an organization. Keeping the lines of communication open, the pace appropriate, the processes simple and the team members committed are all keys to success when making positive changes. One of the key themes is that sometimes moving slower equates to moving fast during a time of change. As I have stepped into my journey with a new organization, these are the areas that I am focusing on as a change agent.