Small changes occur on a daily basis, but nearly all organizations experience major changes at least once, if not several times over a lifetime. Changes can range from transitioning to new software to a complete reorganization of the company. The ability to respond to change is a key role in any leadership position, and how well you cope with change and direct the overall transformation is crucial to your organization’s success.
When an organization places trust in leadership, employees look to those leaders to direct the upcoming change. Dr. Carter McNamara from Authenticity Consulting defines leadership as “someone who sets direction in an effort and influences people to follow that direction.” Change without leadership can cause chaos or distrust from employees or investors, and the vision of the change could be lost. Poor leadership results in negative responses from employees and instability within the organization. Leaders are responsible for demonstrating the need for change, establishing common goals, and appearing as a noticeable and convincing leader during the change process.
One of the hallmarks of successful leadership is communicating with others openly and building trust among employees. Listen to concerns, and take accountability for the change that will occur. Communication builds relationships with stakeholders such as customers, peers and the community. When solid relationships are established, the change process is met with less resistance.
At times, resistance to change is unavoidable. Competent leaders will attempt to understand their peers' emotions by communicating about possible fears or anxieties regarding the change. The transition is confusing for many and is often accompanied by fear. Adopt a role model mentality and acknowledge all parts of the change process and make yourself accessible and approachable for employees to discuss any reservations, ideas and thoughts about the impending change. Jill Geyser, head of the Poynter Institute’s Leadership and Management Group, notes that “Leaders should be role models for learning,” especially if employees are nervous about new technology or changing expectations and roles in the workplace.
Effective leadership will oversee collaboration between departments, ensuring that processes, proper training and preparation are aligned with the overall goal and mission of the change. Leaders work to reduce conflict between departments and other employees that results from uncertainty about the change. Outwardly support the change by becoming passionate about the process, the change itself, and the positive outcomes.
While it is important to understand your employees' response to change, your own response to change cannot be forgotten in the process. When you are open to learning, you will build better relationships among your employees, which will enable you to respond to challenges along the way. Unplanned situations, unexpected responses and dealing with ambiguity is part of the leadership role while managing change. Your positive response to change will serve as a guideline for others to imitate.