Change Management Tips for Leaders: 3 Tips for Successful Change

By Chris Cosper

3 Leadership Tips for Successful Change Management

“Innovation is the key to success.”3 Leadership Tips for Successful Change Management

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

“You must create a culture of continuous improvement.”

Here are three pieces of great business advice I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred times. They all make perfect sense, but like most good advice, they’re easier said than done. The reason they aren’t easy is because they all involve change, and change is hard. Let’s face it; coming up with a new idea isn’t that hard. Creating a plan to implement your new idea isn’t even hard. It’s when you start involving all the people affected by your idea that things get messy.

Whether it’s a new process, new software, a new report, a schedule change, or a realignment of responsibilities, and no matter how obvious the need for this change is, a natural response will be resistance. Once this happens, things can go one of two ways: 1) your initiative can get bogged down in the resistance stage where it will stall out and eventually die, or 2) you can anticipate resistance and lead your team through it to the much more productive stages of exploration and commitment. The question is not whether the change will be met with resistance or not. The question is how long will your team stay there.

But here’s the good news… just knowing that resistance is a natural response to change allows you the opportunity to prepare ahead of time and lead your team through it in a healthy and productive way. And believe it or not, there’s actually a lot of value in going through this phase. By thinking through the possible points of resistance and preparing the path for your team, you’ll not only have a much better chance of implementing and sustaining the change over time, you’ll also uncover flaws in your original plan, giving you a much better outcome in the long run.

There are books and classes and entire courses of study dedicated to the topic of change management, but here are three simple tips you can use today that will help minimize resistance.

3 Simple Tips for Managing Change

1. Start with WHY. One reason people resist change is that they see it as an unnecessary distraction from things they know are important. Their intentions are good. They have a lot to do and you’re about to slow them down. When you’re ready to implement change, take the time to explain why it’s important and what the benefits will be to the company, to other stakeholders, and ultimately to them as individuals.

2. Involve others early in planning. You may be smart enough to recognize a good idea when you see one, but you’re probably not smart enough to anticipate all the potential pitfalls. Nobody understands better all the ways things could go wrong than those closest to the work, so create a small cross-functional team to help you think it through before announcing it to the full team. Not only will you build a better plan, you’ll create internal champions for the change.

3. Communicate your expectations clearly. Once people understand why you’re doing something and what the plan is, the next question they’ll have is “what do you want me to do right now?” Be prepared to provide clear instructions. What exactly is it you’re asking them to do? When do you want them to start? What does success look like? Is this optional? And it’s also good to set up a pre-planned time to get back together to review how it’s going and make adjustments - maybe your weekly team meeting is the right time for this. Letting people know they’ll have an opportunity to provide feedback in the future will relieve stress at the beginning.

Our Rhythm consultants have helped hundreds of teams change the way they plan & prioritize work, run weekly meetings, measure success, collaborate with each other, and communicate effectively. These are big changes that involve a lot of people!

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Chris Cosper


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images