Engaging Change with Effective Leadership

Engaging Change with Effective Leadership

The book, Engaging Change by Mark Wilcox and Mark Jenkins, provides a very practical and convincing process for a people-centred approach to managing change. There is a strong necessity to have a structured process like this when things are in turmoil and people are anxious. It provides reassurance that, as a team, you are going in the right direction.

We all know that change will happen. There can be confusion with that change, especially if not managed correctly. This  well tested process for engaging change offers greater clarity and reduces that confusion. The book provides excellent case studies of how it has been used by some global companies.

The authors explain four critical elements to this process, Explore, Envision, Engage, and Execute, which are best understood by reading the book. Central to all of these is leadership. I would like to share just the key aspects of leadership, which I particularly liked from this book.

  1. Leadership and change

Ineffective leadership is one of the main reasons why change programmes fail. All too frequently we hear in the media that initiatives have failed due to lack of leadership. In contrast, change will happen when you have positive leaders, who are prepared to engage with others. They will take ownership and responsibility to make things happen.

Effective leaders don’t tell or take control, they role model the behaviours required. They are the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage’.

It starts with a positive self belief and credibility, so that all stakeholders believe you have the confidence, courage and capability to lead and deliver the required change. Your message and your behaviour need to be congruent. Being incongruent will create a climate of confusion and distrust. If there is a choice of message, people will tend to believe your actions over the words you say. This is something we focus on in our Speaking as a Leader course.

As a leader, you need to develop and articulate a clear, future focused direction for the business; a vision for change.

  1. Vision for Change

Visions can be created with the best of intentions but with little inclusion of others. This can lead to failure because of lack of colleague support, rather than lack of technical merit of the vision. Alternative ideas need to be listened to. A vision seldom has much relevance to those facing the day-to-day realities of the shop floor; unless they are engaged and involved in the process.

When predicting the future, assumptions have to be made. Your team may have the right concerns and questions to challenge those assumptions. The more minds that are involved allows a greater opportunity to determine:

  • how vulnerable these assumptions are?
  • how critical each one is to the planned change ?
  • what contingencies need to be put in place if they are proved wrong?

When you have created a change programme, it can seem like ‘your baby’ and you can be blind to some of its flaws. A welcome touch of reality can be introduced by involving and engaging those lower down the organisational structure. By inviting each team member to participate, you can convey a strong message that strategy setting and change leadership are activities that everyone could and should be involved in.

  1. Engaging Change with Individuals and Teams

Change brings fear and anxiety. Our personal identity is shaped by our understanding of our place at work, our contribution and our career ambitions. We become very anxious and disengaged when these things are threatened or changed without our consent or involvement.  This ties in with the latest research from the Neuroleadership Institute.

Each team will have its own identity, culture and behavioural norms. You need to be able to assess, align and harness the power of these norms to support change. Your thinking, behaviours and actions can positively influence the team for engaging change.

Individuals need to understand what’s in it for them to enhance their motivation to change.  Teams need common goals to unite their efforts towards something they can only achieve together. Clear, compelling, challenging goals are one of the factors that define a high performance team. Exploring relationships and methods of working together can be as important as finding alternative options for the business.

As a leader, you may have your own fears about change. That should not stop you communicating with your team. There are consequences of not disclosing strategic intent. Incoherent and inconsistent messages from senior leaders can lead to a breakdown in trust. This can cause disengagement of people and the development of ‘blockers’, who are intent on delaying or derailing any change.

Managing the blockers is crucial. They hold the key to success. I know from my own experiences how draining and sometimes destructive these people can be, if you don’t win them over. They have the power to hamper or facilitate change; especially if they are in key decision making positions. It is vital to involve them, so that they perceive ownership of the programme.

If you are a leader that needs your team to embrace change, then I recommend this book, Engaging Change. It provides invaluable information on a process to help you lead your people to success.

Picture By “droid” [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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