Change is an inescapable reality, and leading through change isn’t easy. Perhaps there’s no other entity that can genuinely attest to this than a business. Sometimes, change comes from within. At other times, it’s external, in the form of new market preferences, competitor landscape, or government regulations.
Today, the change is wrapped in crisis and uncertainty. With continued layoffs and further economic challenges on the horizon, organizations are struggling to maximize productivity and growth with fewer resources. Additionally, organizations remain fragmented by workplace changes from the pandemic, and some employees are still adjusting to a new way of working.
Change comes with challenges, too. When you consider the complexities of economic uncertainty, it can be pretty overwhelming, especially when teams already feel like they’re stretched to their limits; yet this is exactly the reason why leadership styles have to evolve as well, to respond to situations at hand.
More than anything, your project team needs adept leadership. Leading through change requires you to be adept in guiding project teams masterfully and in reaching goals successfully, even as great economic uncertainty looms.
In this endeavor, keep in mind C-H-A-N-G-E. Be an expert in leading through change by embracing the following 6 characteristics:
1. Culture: Stay focused on people as change occurs
This element is most critical in seasons of change in the workplace, especially in the context of digital transformation. Without a shift in ways of thinking, communicating, and behaving, it will be difficult to own any organizational or operational changes you introduce. A huge part of strategic leadership through change is changing the culture.
It’s worth noting, however, that just because you adopted technology in your operations or reorganized your team structure doesn’t mean you have shifted into a new culture. Leading through change is not just about doing something different, it’s also about embracing the principles behind the change. For example, introducing new technology within your organization to improve communication between project teams requires transparency, collaboration, and risk-taking, among others.
Below are a few important leadership tips to help you focus on your company culture to help with leading through change:
- Define the issue. Answer these questions when communicating to employees: Why is there a need for change? Why should the current process or team be refactored? This may not be as obvious as you think. Communicating and reiterating to employees would help them process the fact there’s indeed a need for transition.
- Describe the norms of change. How do you make change real and seen? Some examples are orientation to new technologies, weekly collaboration meetings, and rotation of facilitation duties during brainstorming sessions. Your job is to make sure your team is as well equipped to deal with uncertainty as possible.
- Deliver reinforcement. How do you make sure that at healthy culture will stick after the changes are in place? Some examples are performance evaluations and the default use of virtual platforms across operations.
2. Humility: Leadership Through Change Requires Good Relationships
In fragile transitions amid a crisis, it becomes all the more important to realize that you don’t have the answers and the solutions to everything. You may be the one tasked with leading through change, but you don’t have the monopoly of knowledge. Take on a democratic form of managerial leadership style: be open to learning, confront assumptions, and abandon strategies that aren’t working.
In other words, practice humility. Promote feedback mechanisms regarding your transition efforts through:
- One-on-one meetings with employees. Provide a safe space where they can air out their concerns. What makes a good leader in great movements of change is their ability to open and sit with difficult conversations.
- Surveys. Choose among online platforms, whichever is most convenient for you and the team. For better results, keep the surveys anonymous.
- Informal team events. Have team members share opinions in a laid-back setting, such as virtual happy hours. More than the feedback, you’ll be able to form bonds with them, which can prove beneficial in the long-term. Remember, a great part of an effective leadership strategy in the digital age is building rapport with your remote team.
3. Accountability: Be a Trustworthy Leader
Trust can easily erode in times of a great change and crisis. This is why anyone leading a team or organization through transition must assume responsibility and ownership of their actions.
Effective leadership and management entail being accountable to your employees and promoting this kind of virtue in your virtual workplace. Below are some accountability practices you can try:
- Review decisions. As you go through transitions, making decisions along the way, have a third-party individual assess those steps when possible. Your team members who see this will learn that even top executives are subject to the same performance evaluation they go through. No one is above the rules is what you’re communicating.
- Recognize mistakes. In case there have been slip-ups in the decisions made, be quick to own up to them, and acknowledge to your team that there’s a need for improvement.
- Recite progress. Commit to providing your team updates on what’s been happening to your digital transformation initiatives. Ultimately, this kind of collaborative leadership style will form better relationships with team members.
4. Not Afraid: Show Confidence to Your Team
It’s easy for everyone to feel lost during a change or a crisis. This is why it’s important for leadership to be that beacon of light: decisive and courageous. The decisiveness in you directs the next steps the organization will take, while courage inspires the people to take those steps.
Now, this can really be a huge challenge when you’re afraid of change yourself. One thing that really helps in dispelling this negative feeling is to rest your perspective on the good of the change. When you identify, one by one, the things you’ll enjoy when you accept change, you’ll welcome them, not dread them. Make a list of the benefits that your changes will bring and the problems they will address. Share some of those top benefits with your team so that everyone understands them as well as you do.
Internalize that there may be birth pains now, but there will also be triumphs and joys when you come out on the other end. With renewed motivation, you’ll be able to make swift yet calculated decisions and project boldness among your team members.
5. Goal-Orientation: Be Clear and Aim Together
Adept leadership through change also includes the ability to draw up a vision and stick to it amid a crisis. You must be able to rally your team towards the goal of embracing change regardless of the hurdles along the way. How do you keep your eyes on the prize as an organization? Observe the following:
- Set goals as a team. Since there’s a crisis, goals would need to be reviewed and changed, as needed. Although many businesses transitioned into a work-from-home set-up because of the quarantine, make an effort to set goals as a team.
Everyone should pitch in on how they think the organization should approach its new goals. This way, you’ll be able to make your staff own “the dream” from the get-go. Take note of this important management style, as this is one of the critical components of strategic leadership.
- Share the hard questions. As you set goals as a group, focus on the following questions:
- What’s most important in the short-term? While you’ve started by setting your eyes on long term growth and transformation, be realistic and identify priorities at the moment, as you cope with the crisis. Take note that short-term goals should be aligned to the bigger vision. Think of baby steps toward the ultimate goal.
- How do we measure success? Together, come up with key performance indicators (KPIs). For instance, in terms of technology training, 100% proficiency in simulations can be a KPI.
- Speak about goals often. At every meeting with your staff, reiterate your action plans. Look out for people who can be advocates of your goals. They can not only make change less jolting for the rest of the team, but they can also identify leadership potential which you can tap down the road. It’s also important to celebrate small wins such as the successful onboarding to digital platforms or virtual communications with clients.
6. Empathy: Never Forget You’re Leading People Through Change
There are challenging economic times ahead, and your staff is likely wondering what will happen. For this reason, show sincere concern to your employees, as you go through a major transition as a company. Explore different leadership styles in organizational behavior to respond to the needs of your team.
The administrative leadership style may be of help to some, as they’re able to keep track of their daily tasks. Others may benefit from an autocratic style that they need not to think through decisions and only follow whatever’s asked of them. In any case, the importance of effective and empathetic leadership can’t be overemphasized in a time of crisis.
Leading through change can be a real struggle, especially when you’re dealing with an uncertain economy. Yet, it’s the only way to go, the key to keeping your business afloat. Embrace the change. Be the C-H-A-N-G-E.