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Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

The only constant is business is change. Sometimes the change is caused by new technologies or changing economies. There are changes that are the result of new initiatives or external forces beyond your control. How do you lead your organization through change and keep all of your stakeholders (employees, customers, community, vendors, and investors) happy?

Communicate

You are not the only one feeling confusion and anxiety of sudden change—your people feel it also and they are far more anxious than you are. Keep them informed of your intentions. Be transparent about the details, deadlines, objectives and potential crisis. Share new information as you receive it. 

Successful leaders not only focus on the “what” but also on the “why” of the change and the expected outcomes. If you can clearly explain the purpose of the change and connect it with your organizations values, the benefits create stronger buy-in and urgency for the change. It is important that everything you tell your people be aligned with your vision. Your message must be authentic, consistent and delivered through multiple channels. In addition, keeping your people informed will alleviate some of their worries, and empower their cooperation in the days to come.

It is vital to remember that communication includes questions. Make yourself available and encourage them to share their concerns with you. In addition, ask them, “Is there anything I can do for you?” to demonstrate you are committed to helping the transition go as smoothly as possible. This allows for an early-often-always approach to communicating with your people in a way that will emotionally connect them with the transition.

Plan

You might know exactly how what the change will look like in the beginning. You may be more nervous than ever before, but if you focus on staying purpose driven, your vision will start to materialize. Once you know where you need to get, plan on how to get there. Delegate tasks that can utilize each person’s unique skills and talents to help your people transition and excel. Do not just share an outline or broad picture vision for where the change is leading you. Let your people of many opportunities to give input where appropriate. Asking individuals to contribute thoughts and ideas to the game plan will help them feel ownership and boost their confidence about the directives.

When planning, it is often helpful to start with outcome in mind, and work backwards from there. You can break this down into small action steps until you get the first one on the path. This helps maintain more control of the plan. In addition, breaking your plan down to smaller stems makes the change easier to accomplish and more comfortable to others.

It is also important to consider you may need to take a few steps backwards in order to move forward. Success is not linear. Therefore, you should expect move backward occasionally when leading change. This may be in terms of status, pay or something else that is required to get to the next level. If you can accept that is part of the process and removes the uncertainly around it, it is easier to embrace.

Successful leaders ensure their own beliefs and behaviors support the change. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiate it successfully demonstrate resiliency and persistence. They are willing to step outside their comfort zone. They devote more of their own time to the change effort and focus on the big picture. 

Care for Your People

Oftentimes, leaders get preoccupied with directing and managing the changing environment or direction of their organization. They forget to thank team members, both privately and publicly, when they do great work in the midst of the transition. Set aside a time at the end of each week to reflect on the great things your team has accomplished. Start Mondays off by delivering well-deserved praise. It is the best way you can show that your team’s efforts are invaluable—and that you could not have made it this far without them.

As a leader, you know that the most important people are the ones who work with you. Your people are the men and women that will create a reality of your vision. They are the ones in the trenches making whatever change your organization is going through is a success.

Depending on the size of your company, look to invest in your people as much as possible. The organizations that are passionate about developing and building their people are the same organizations that win and come out on top. 

Successful change occurs when leaders work to remove obstacles from employee success. This may include personal obstacles such as wounded egos or a sense of loss. In addition, professional obstacles such as time and resources required to carry out the change. If your people do not feel they are getting the support they need, your transition is unlikely to be successful.

Persist

No one enjoys change. This is especially true for employees. They will be tempted to give up, slow down and lose focus of the overall objective and purpose. It is your job as a leader to instill a culture of persistence. It is frustrating when you cannot see the result when feels as if nothing is being accomplished.

Persistence is not a characteristic. It is sense of purpose of the organizations that completely thrive during times of extreme change. Persisting, focusing on the outcome and staying the course even when progress seems to be minimal is an absolute must when leading through change.

Fail

Most of us never learned to fail. Our entire school system is set up so that success is rewarded with a gold star and failure is ridiculed. This is unfortunate because failure, when done properly, is a good thing. It is a learning tool. It is required for taking on risk and pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors. That is, if you do it the right way. This means do it quickly, inexpensively and never the same way twice.

In Conclusion

Change is inevitable. It is all the more difficult when external forces cause it. However, you can lead your people through change by engaging them, keeping them informed, and most importantly caring for them. 

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