During times of considerable uncertainty and difficulty, business leaders must understand the elements of change management. In short, change management allows leaders to support their teams successfully with preparation and resources.
Problem: Because of the digital age, and our reliance on data and information, businesses and people experience massive amounts of change. However, unlike in the past, disruption and effecting change are now inherent in successful business practices. Therefore, leaders must face any fears and empower their teams to do the same.
Opportunity: Remarkably, some ideas and thinking that seem appropriate are, in fact, outmoded. Thus, while other business leaders struggle with the current thinking regarding change management, you can position your business as a leader—and dominate your industry. Simple shifts in thinking will go a long way toward your mastery of change management.
Resolution: Identify where your past success and bias are limiting your thinking. By naming and facing ideas that come from a position of fear, your thinking will shift. Recognizing and overcoming tired thinking will help you move forward as a disruptor and change agent. Finally, grab your copy of Master the Pivot: How to Lead (and Win Big) in Times of Uncertainty.
What is Change Management, and Why Is it Necessary in Times of Uncertainty?
If effecting change is an inherent part of the modern business environment, then every manager and leader must understand how to deal with it.
There are three types of change management:
1. Individual Change Management
Change for individuals requires that leaders understand people and what it takes to motivate them to evolve successfully.
While you may find people who thrive on change, chances are you may have team members who resist it. Therefore, as a leader, you have to know how to recognize and understand why people resist change. For one, there could be fear of the unknown, but there could also be feelings related to competency and even loss of face. Take a look at the Ten Reasons People Resist Change by Harvard Business Review so you can recognize motivations for the resistance.
2. Organizational or Project-Based
This second type of change management is related to the business or organization. As a business leader, there may be times when you want to pilot an initiative or test the marketplace in some way. This activity requires that you lean on your sales, operations, and marketing teams. As a result, the people on those teams have to accept and support the new initiative. It's your job to help them do that. In another scenario, perhaps you've changed key leaders on your management team. This particular example often causes high stress in teams because it typically means a change in direction.
You have to understand how to support both the new executives and the teams who report to them.
3. Departmental and Team Change Management
Finally, effecting change may only impact significantly one department or area of the company. In the information age, one of the departments that exist entirely in change and disruption is your information technology team. For instance, the IT group has to ensure that your entire systems architecture works every moment of the day, and every day of the year. It is also on them to ensure that all departments have the ability and right tools to synthesize and analyze data.
Change can occur within any one of your departments or teams, and you have to be ready to support them when it happens.
What are the Self-Defeating Statements That Leaders Make, Which Seem Acceptable, But Aren't?
Mastering change management and understanding how to pivot—especially in uncertainty—are vital for successful leadership. Now that we've discussed the types of change management let's dive into the statements leaders make, which are self-defeating for effecting change. At first glance, these statements seem innocuous, but they are based on fear. We'll look at three of them. Our business management consulting firm gained these insights working with clients to achieve revenue growth.
1. “Data helps, but I'm trusting my gut.” There was a time when trusting your gut was how leaders made decisions. However, that is no longer a valid approach for effecting change. Instead, successful leaders rely on quantitative information for decision-making. If you don't know the story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and Billy Beane, check out the movie or read the book. It's an example of how data drives success.
2. “Everything is a priority, including our revenue performance.” When a business leader utters a statement such as this, it demonstrates uncertainty. The reality is that not "everything" is a priority. What's more, some activities are more pressing. Leadership does not mean having all the answers on the spot. But, it does mean prioritizing and making thoughtful decisions for change in direction as needed.
3. “I value my team because of their years of service.” Loyalty is a great thing, and it's commendable for leaders to care about their teams. However, reliability and years of service do not necessitate ongoing commitment. For instance, some people are great for start-ups, but others are excel in working in more mature companies. So, don't be afraid to make tough decisions and team changes when needed.
Is Fear Natural for Leaders, and Is It Possible to Learn How to Overcome It?
The short answer to the question of whether or not fear is natural in leadership is yes.
Every leader fears something; it's part of the human condition.
A great example of concern is the "In Case of Failure" letter drafted by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The evening before the Normandy invasion, he prepared two messages. The first was typed on his stationary, and the second he wrote in his hand. The night before more than 150,000 American soldiers and other Allied force troops stormed the beaches in Normandy, France was June 5, 1944. General Eisenhower dated the second message on July 5, which suggests the state and worry in his mind on the eve of such a monumental event.
The alternative of being stuck in place, especially in the information age, is not an option for leaders or change management, which is a necessary part of the modern business environment.
So, take this opportunity to learn and grow. And once you recognize what could impede your change in direction, find out how to Master the Pivot: How to Lead (and Win Big) in Times of Uncertainty. This resource will provide you with the necessary insights and framework to navigate the ever-changing environment of today's business environment.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.