In the current digital age, change is a constant. Businesses are perpetually refining their apps to be faster and more user-friendly, updating their services with user interfaces that are more efficient and intuitive, enhancing their products to be sleeker, faster and offer more features than the past model. Truly nothing stays the same – the quest for improvement is daily.
While all challenges and changes are specific to their business and people, there are things that are the same regardless of industry size, location, or product or service offered – specifically, the way you LEAD change doesn’t change.
Foundationally, leaders must do the same things when launching quick-moving or short-term strategic initiatives that they do when launching two- to three-year strategies. And in today’s digital world, one that has been forced to change in ways never predicted, leaders must be poised to move faster than ever. But even in times when speed is of the essence, there are steps that can’t ever be skipped or fast-forwarded through. No matter what.
Here are four fundamental steps to create change for your business.
Whether you’re pivoting to tackle changing buyer expectations, changing your distribution processes, or implementing new safety protocols, there are fundamentals for successful change.
Step One: Establish leadership alignment. You might think you’re aligned, but the changes you’re navigating likely mean different things to different leaders. So get clear on what success looks like for your business during this mid-term strategy shift. A great way to ensure everyone is on the same page is to use imagery and visualization. What might take pages to describe in words can often be conveyed through one image.
Step Two: Share the change with next-level leaders. Your change has no shot of being executed successfully if the people overseeing the work aren’t informed. So involving the people beyond the executive leadership team and board is imperative. The functional leaders in your organization must be just as united and clear on the big picture and the proposed change – the why, what and how – as the folks that conceptualized the plan. They need time to digest the information and ask questions. It’s also a smart idea to give these rising leaders the chance to add their ideas and insight to the mix. Often they understand the frontline challenges and customer demands much better than those in the corner office.
Step Three: Leverage the power of your managers.
Managers are the conduits to change. Your front line employees – the people battling it out on the front lines of your business – need all the support they can get and then some. That comes in the form of managers keeping people engaged, inspired, and motivated. Plus, coaching them through super tough times. Being an empathetic listener. And ensuring that people are up to speed on policies and protocols, which can be changing daily. So support your front line people by equipping your managers.
There are many great tactics to bring managers up to speed – you might offer coaching conversations with their own managers, or create a virtual micro-module that hits the highlights in short bursts of information. Figure out what will resonate and then make it happen. Investing time and funds into your managers’ development is invaluable.
Step Four: Tell a compelling story to the frontline.
The people interacting with customers each day, the ones building the products, testing the services – the worker bees that make execution a reality – need more than a policy memo. Never underestimate the power of information. Your anxious and stressed people are slogging it out dealing with anxious and stressed customers. Just knowing that there’s a plan, that you’re not only acknowledging what they’re going through, and that you and the other leaders are working to make things the best you can goes a long way for people’s mental health. And even letting them know that you don’t have all the answers.
Every employee in the organization needs to see the big picture – leaders, managers, and your individual contributors. They need to see there’s a plan. They need to see what they’re all working so hard for and possibly even risking their lives for. While it might feel costly to take time to let people explore the possibilities for themselves, when leaders don’t find the time for this conversation (yes, it is a conversation, not a tell), it ends up being more costly in the long run.
The only way to catalyze and accelerate results is through your people.
Whether today is focused on a big change or a small one, change is rarely, if ever, easy. But change is inevitable. And nothing will happen simply by sharing a PowerPoint or sending out a company memo. It’s time to tell a story. To connect with people’s hearts and minds. Specifically, everyone must understand the “why” behind the change, “what” is changing for the business, and “how” their role is changing. This is what will resonate and help drive people to accept and support the change that will lead your organization to a new level of success.