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A leader's guide to change management

Fostering a critical management skill

Organizations must respond to a wide range of events that require strong change leadership to maximize opportunities. These events include adopting new technology, re-engineering processes, completing mergers and acquisitions, conducting large-scale layoffs, implementing new reporting structures, moving to a new location and addressing new regulatory requirements.

Working through big changes like these can be very difficult. In fact, a variety of research studies during the past couple decades have suggested as many as two-thirds or more of major corporate change initiatives fail to realize their intended gains.

It seems clear at least part of the reason why is the quality of change leadership.

Beliefs and behaviors

The foundation for all effective leadership—including change leadership—is self-awareness. Effective leaders must understand their beliefs at a deep level, because beliefs drive behaviors and behaviors drive results.

Simply put, a leader must establish a clear rationale for and belief in the change initiative, and reflect that belief, to foster a similar belief among the employees being asked to execute the change.

To be effective, leaders need to take stock of their beliefs and make sure they align with the behaviors required to make the change initiative work. Only by doing so can a change leader be credible in the eyes of employees, capable of altering their beliefs and behaviors and moving the change initiative forward.

The natural cycles of change

A change leader also needs to anticipate and manage the natural process of change. For example, there's a curve that employees within the organization will need to work through as they deal with the changes required of them. Each step in the cycle is necessary. The four phases of change your employees will experience are denial, resistance, exploration and commitment.

Similarly, as change leaders, you must anticipate the emotional reactions to change you will personally experience through various stages (certainty, doubt, hope and confidence).

Aligning key stakeholders

A proven organizational change framework, the ExperienceChangeTM model, introduced by training company ExperiencePoint®, consists of two distinct phases. Much of the hard work occurs during phase one, where you share information with key stakeholders to help them understand and align around the problem. The second phase is engaging the organization, where you motivate the team; establish clear roles, expectations and targets; give employees the training they need and publicize initial successes; and move into a continuous improvement loop.

Organizations don't change—people do

Change should be viewed as a critical organizational discipline—one where leaders use a variety of tools, techniques and mindsets to ensure employees are ready to engage, willing to commit and able to do what it takes to realize the full potential of great solutions.

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