“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher and humanist; 1469-1527
Niccolò Machiavelli’s words may be deep-rooted, but they don’t ring more true than they do today. Stagnant leaders and businesses may enjoy success for a time, but continued success relies on change with the times.
But change doesn’t come easy, and people are often resistant to it. Forcing change upon employees doesn’t work in the long-run because they haven’t bought into the new idea. Rather than taking the new ideas and running with them, you will grow a disgruntled workforce that will return to the status quo at the earliest opportunity.
Leaders can feel powerless when trying to lead change. According to Mary Lynn Manns, Ph.D. and Linda Rising, Ph.D. in a study published in the Graziadio Business Review, “…leading change is not a science. Rather, it is a gradual process of discovery that prompts the leaders to react to problems, setbacks, and small successes along the way.”
So where do you start and how do you affect real, purposeful change in your organization?
- First, you must inform your employees of your overall objectives. What is the purpose of the change? Where do you hope to drive the organization? What isn’t working that demonstrates a need for the change? While a blast email to all members of your organization isn’t necessary at this point, have the answers to these questions ready.
- Every business has key influencers, and they aren’t necessarily part of your management team. These are the people who often speak for others in their department or who you will find other employees rallying around. Find out who they are, then bring together a core team, comprised of managers and key employee influencers to get their buy-in first. If you introduce your ideas to the entire staff before getting buy-in from your influencers, you could set yourself up for failure when the vocal employees don’t immediately see the benefit of change.
- If management and key employees are going to commit to the change, they need to know what’s in it for them. Why will the change benefit them?
- Don’t demand change. Once employees know what’s in it for them, ask for their participation.
- As your change strategy goes into effect, be sure to communicate frequently with everyone involved. Regular, sustainable communication will help to keep the change moving forward. And remember that communication is a two-way street. Be sure employees and management, especially your core team, have the opportunity to communicate with you in an open, non-threatening way.
- Change needs to happen for a reason, and sometimes our best-laid plans need modifications so change can be effective. So be flexible during change and be willing and ready to use feedback from your workforce to improve on your ideas.
Change or Die by Alan Deutschman explains that individuals very often will not alter behavior even when faced with the likelihood of dying prematurely as a result of bad habits. Don’t let this be you or your business. Change, while difficult and time-consuming, can be the mainstay that sets your organization above your competition.
“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” Peter Drucker