Many people don’t care for change, while others absolutely detest it. So, how can leaders successfully manage teams through change, understanding they very well may face widespread resistance to moving from the “tried-and-true”?

For me, it all starts at the top. Leaders must buy in and embrace the change first —and understand its impact on the behavior of their employees. They must also understand the concepts involved in change, and what change entails, along with the resistance and readiness that’s present — in their employees and themselves.

When announcing change and dealing with its repercussions, leaders must acknowledge that everyone will have a different response. The more familiar they are with the learning and behavioral styles of their employees, the more successful they will be in getting change buy-in — plus their responses to concerns must be authentic and empathetic to ensure sustainable behavior change.

How do you lead your team through change? By doing these 4 basic things.     Tweet This

Leaders will be well served to ensure the four basic conditions research suggests must be met before employees will positively embrace change in their behavior are present:

  • A Compelling Story: They must see the point of change.
  • Role Modeling: They must also see colleagues they admire modeling the desired behavior.
  • Reinforcement Systems: Surrounding structures, systems, processes and incentives must be in tune with the new behavior.
  • Skills Required for Change: They need to have the skills to do what is required of them.

According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, there are a number of questions leaders must ask — first at the top and then in each major unit — when defining an integrated change agenda:

  • Is the leadership team aligned around a clear, inspiring strategy and set of values?
  • Has the team collected unvarnished employee feedback about barriers to effectiveness and performance — including senior managers’ own behavior?
  • Has the team redesigned its organization, management systems and practices to address the problems revealed by that diagnosis?
  • Is HR offering consulting and coaching to help employees learn on the job so they can practice the new attitudes and behaviors required of them?
  • Do corporate training programs properly support the change agenda, and will each unit’s leadership and culture provide fertile ground for it?

The messages gleaned from these questions support the work I do with leaders regarding change management: it’s critical to involve employees, focus on culture change not just behavioral change, and teach and reinforce new behaviors on an ongoing basis. Managing change poses a significant challenge for leaders, but those who do their homework will find it goes more smoothly than it will for those who ask their employees to “just do it.”

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Photo Credit: andreeas, Twenty20