It is easy to say that change needs leadership. But with change programmes failing, or never even getting off the ground to start with, what kind of leadership is it that enables change and brings innovation past the wall of resistance?
It might be tempting to take a sledgehammer to the wall, just as it is tempting to drop the effort completely when your strikes yield nothing.
But there is another option: talk to the wall.
More importantly: get it to talk back to you. That wall is made up of your entire organisation, and clear, reciprocal communication leads to cooperation. Provided that your company has the right resources and a reason to change, clearing the space for two-way communication at all levels of your organisation will convince the bricks to move themselves – and, one day, the wall will be behind you.
Communication is the key to good management
Talking about the proposed changes will help you to perform two of your primary tasks as a manager and leader: directing and supporting those around you. They sound simple enough in theory, but if you alone are dictating when, why, and regarding what you are providing direction and support, your activities are of minimal use.
If your team has a need for direction or support, then that is the best time to provide it – as long as you are providing them with an opportunity to give their feedback (e.g. at regular team meetings), and as long as you are responding to their query, criticism, or its underlying fear, which you can only do by listening actively and reflecting.
Take, for example, a talking elephant who tells you that it can’t get through a small hole. Do you keep insisting that the elephant goes through the hole as it is, or do you listen and respond by making the hole bigger?
Make an effort to understand your colleagues
Be aware, though, that resistance to an idea or change is sometimes just your company’s current culture catching up with you. In which case: understand your employees’ fears. Can they really not meet the requirement, or is this another case of people only knowing what they’ve always known (i.e. the way they’ve always done it)? Get them on board by talking to them.
Are you busy? Don’t just drop the task; this leads to a half-hearted execution of the plan, which leads to ineffective outcomes and perpetuates the idea that change is bad for your company and its people. Get someone else to talk to your employees. Explain why it is important, how the change will impact their role, and how that individual is an important part of the process. That last part is especially vital – it means that, instead of depending on you to give them purpose and direction, they can start to create it themselves and gain confidence in the change.
Help others to feel important
Action and mindset change needs to come from the bottom, but this, and learning how to do it, needs to be enabled by the top. Move the bricks by mobilising and motivating people.
Take a look at our CMI Training http://whyychange.com/leadership-and-management/