Change is the currency of leadership. Stated another way, if leading change isn’t part of your skillset, you will never be the leader you could be. Yet far more is written about managing change than leading change. I want to talk about the difference and give you four ways to begin truly leading change in your organization and with your team.
The Difference Between Managing and Leading Change
Much is written about managing change because it is important – we need to understand how to organize and plan for a change. The bigger the change, the more important this becomes. But in a classic sense, managing change is more about the mechanics of the process. If we focus too much on the steps and the plans, we miss out on the human element – the people implanting and impacted by the change.
Change leaders remember that they must focus on who is involved in changing as much as the change itself. This realization creates a new set of skills to use. Here are four skills that will help you lead, and not just manage, change.
How to Lead Change
Turn off the PowerPoint. Anyone managing a change knows that they need to communicate what the change is, and how it will be implemented. If being communicated to a group of any size, chances are there will be PowerPoint slides involved. The problem is that too often the slide deck becomes the communication plan. That information sharing is important and necessary, but not enough. When you are leading change effectively, you create a real conversation about the change to understand people’s concerns and worries. That conversation can blossom after you turn off the projector and create conversation.
Ask more questions. If you are managing the change and want to create the conversation we just discussed, you must ask more questions. Don’t come (only) with information, but with questions too. People will have questions and concerns about the change, but until you open the floor and yourself to a real conversation, those questions and concerns will likely remain silent. Generate conversations both formal and informal about the change by talking less and asking more.
Focus on the choice. At the end of the day, people are making a choice to get on board with the change. Think about it this way: if people don’t want to adopt the change you are implementing, they can always choose to leave the organization. Even if people don’t make that choice, when they feel forced to change, while they may comply, they won’t be committed and fully on board with the change. Which would you rather have, compliance or commitment? Change leaders focus on helping people conclude that the change is valuable and a good step forward.
Be (a bit) more patient. When you are leading change, remember that you don’t always understand and commit to a change in an instant. In fact, time is one of the best tools to help anyone make the choice to change. The best change leaders have a sense of urgency – they want the change to move forward – but they know that not everyone will make the choice at the same time. Give people space to think, process, and really understand the change personally. When you do that, you will be leading more people who are more committed to the new direction you are implementing. And isn’t that what you want any way?
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