Whether you’re a small-business owner, a manager at a mid-sized company or CEO of a large corporation, you’ve had to cope with constant change over the course of your career, and you’ve learned at least one thing: More change is inevitable.
Between the constant evolution of technology, shifting corporate cultures, changing consumer expectations and global challenges, change is the one constant you can rely on. Effective change management has become crucial for successful leaders of any size business, requiring a complex skill set and a mindset that’s focused on the needs of employees as they cope with change.
Employees and business leaders alike can have responses to change that are as unpredictable as the change itself. Some employees embrace change, eager to make the most of what they see as unlimited potential. Others fear it, worrying that everything they thought they knew no longer applies. Most fall somewhere in the middle, feeling wary or skeptical of change — and looking to their leaders for clues as to how things are going. Leaders need to take the reins and show the way through the change, with a clear vision of the ultimate goal, even if the path to get there is less than clear.
What techniques can business leaders use to become more effective at change management? The training experts at Dale Carnegie offer some guidelines.
Before the proposed change is implemented, carefully evaluate both the opportunities and potential risks from the change. Careful planning can anticipate and avoid possible surprises, limiting a domino effect of one change causing further disruptions.
Because too much change at once can be overwhelming for anyone involved, coordinate efforts with all the other stakeholders, making sure to include anyone who will be affected in the planning as well as implementation of the change.
3) Commit resources
Plan to commit enough time, funding and preparation for everyone who may need to take on new responsibilities as part of any change initiative. One of the most common reasons people resist change is lack of confidence, so make sure your employees have the skills required to handle any new challenges.
4) Get leaders on board
Ensure that all the leaders in your organization are fully committed to the change. Consider how it will affect them by taking their point of view. Ask questions and make sure every leader is involved in the process to ensure success. All of the organization’s leaders will be responsible for communicating the desired vision for the change initiative, and employees will look to them to understand the need for this change.
Make sure everyone in the organization understands the need for the change, and can visualize how things will be different once the change is implemented. Focus on the company’s goals and communicate how those goals will be better met as a result of this change.
6) Be others-focused
Try to see things from the point of view of others in the organization. Focus on the opportunities for individual growth that change can bring, and help everyone look to the future.
7) Be cooperative
Show respect for the opinion of others, and ask questions instead of giving orders. Remember that those closest to the situation often have the best ideas and solutions.
8) Enhance trust
Build trust before it’s needed by being consistent, honest and true to your own values and principles. If employees trust leaders, they will be more likely to positively embrace proposed changes.
9) Magnify improvements
Focus on what’s going well, no matter how small those improvements may be, and give prompt, sincere and specific praise. Communicate your praise publicly, and connect those achievements to the overall vision of the organization.
As Dale Carnegie once said, “Keep your mind open to change all the time. It is only by examining and reexamining your opinions and ideas that you can progress.”
Mid-level or experienced business leaders seeking to hone these and other skills can enroll in A Leader’s Guide to Managing Change in the Workplace to further develop ways to become a successful change manager.
For more information about the complete training program, Leadership Training for Results: Unleash Talent in Others, visit dalecarnegie.com.