When people talk about ‘great leadership’, they tend to talk about things like inspiring employees, having a great vision for the organization, or being able to create effective growth strategies. But change leadership is a skill unto itself, and it’s important not to make assumptions. Today we’ll look at the top myths about change leadership.
1. I can control what happens during this change.
You can plan for the change, you can make predictions based on your knowledge of the organization, you can make as many charts and spreadsheets as you want – once a change starts, things will happen that you didn’t foresee. Remember that you can manage yourself and others through the unexpected, but you can’t necessarily control it.
SOLUTION: With a well-thought-out plan and clarity around roles and responsibilities, you’ll be able to navigate effectively through any change.
2. I don’t need to be visible during this change; I’ll just be a distraction.
People need to physically see you – the leader – during a change. If you’re absent, your people will feel like they’re on a ship with no captain. This is distracting and will get in the way of their work – and of the changes you want to make.
SOLUTION: Being more visible will give your employees confidence that you’re steering the ship.
3. This change is not big enough to warrant a plan.
In today’s organizations, departments and divisions are more interdependent than ever, and partnerships both inside and outside the organization are common. In that environment, there’s rarely a change that isn’t ‘big enough’ to warrant a plan.
SOLUTION: Creating a map of who is affected, and how deeply, will allow you to more effectively plan for change.
4. Everyone knows what they need to do – we don’t need a plan.
Unless your organization has just invented telepathy, I guarantee that not everyone knows what they need to do – and that people who think they know what they need to do aren’t necessarily on the same page as everyone else.
SOLUTION: Creating a plan which clearly articulates what people need to do in order for change to be successful will not only ensure everyone’s on the same path, but will reassure them that change is being effectively led.
5. People won’t leave – the job market isn’t that good
Remember that people don’t actually have to quit their job in order to ‘leave’ it. In a tough job market or an isolated location, people may stay with a company, but ‘check out’ emotionally or intellectually if they become disengaged. In order for a business to survive and thrive, you must have the whole person working for you. (And even in a tough economy, your top performers are often vulnerable.)
SOLUTION: Ensure employees are engaged and invested in the change.
6. Resistance is bad.
Resistance to change is information. You’re being told that there is a problem of some kind and resistance is giving you the opportunity to partner with the resisting group or individual to solve the problem. In fact, if you announce a change and there is no resistance, it’s time to be concerned.
SOLUTION: Don’t automatically assume that resistance to change is simply a result of a ‘negative attitude‘. Investigate further.
7. Saying everything once is enough.
Any time you announce a business change, it’s important to remember that your audience is comprised of individuals, all of whom listen to and absorb information a little differently.
SOLUTION: Use the 10x rule when it comes to communication: Use varied communication channels and repeat, repeat, repeat!
8. No news is good news.
During a change, a lack of information will result in people making up their own, or listening to misinformation from others who have made up their own. People have a much higher need to know what’s going on during a change – because they’re concerned about how it’s going to affect them personally – and a lack of information will only cause the rumor mill to go into overdrive.
SOLUTION: Give people as much accurate information as possible, as often as possible. The more they ‘know’, the less likely they are to ‘invent’.
9. Saying nothing is better than saying ‘something may change’.
You hired your employees because they’re smart, capable people – and smart, capable people often intuit that changes are ‘in the wind’. When you don’t address this, they start to feel a lack of stability and security. Productivity and morale decline.
SOLUTION: Being forthright with “This is the situation today. It’s possible it will change…” followed up with “…and I will tell you immediately if that happens” is not only reassuring but also reinforces your position as a leader who can be counted on.
10. People know I’m always going to do the right thing – they should trust me.
Don’t count on it. Most people generally overestimate their credibility within an organization. Ask yourself these questions – and be honest: What public actions have you recently taken that show people that ‘You always do the right thing’? Do you have a network of individuals throughout the organization that can, and will, publicly support you and the changes you’ve announced? Your answers will dictate the plan of action you need in order to successfully lead changes.
SOLUTION: Don’t underestimate the importance of honestly assessing your credibility within the organization – and act accordingly.