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Are you outsourcing your change leadership?

How to be an effective change leader when your business is going through a transformation.

Technology is changing all aspects of how we work and live, with the inevitable result being constant and rapid change in the workplace.

To be successful, leaders need to work across boundaries, embrace new ideas and learnings, and be innovative, authentic, compassionate and courageous. Most importantly, they need to role model the idea that successful organisational transformation involves personal change for them.

To do this, they can’t outsource their role as a change leader.

Leaders need to lead

To help us better manage and cope with change – particularly in an organisational setting – there’s a raft of methodologies, processes and approaches.

Despite this, the ability to make change happen in organisations is still something many struggle with. There’s a number of reasons for this, but often what lies at the heart of the issue is leaders not leading the change.

Making a change brings ambiguity and instability, as team members wonder about the change and what it means for them.

It’s even harder for people to cope if the change is introduced into an environment where people don’t know the role they need to play and feel unsupported.

The team naturally looks to the leader for guidance and direction. They expect the leader to be able to help them make sense of the change and how they will be impacted. They also expect the leader to be ready to provide support and show genuine interest in their needs.

As Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter says “Change is a threat when done to me, but an opportunity when done by me.”

Recognising this, leaders need to step up and be equipped to confront the challenges, have the difficult conversations, be transparent about what is going on, and understand their team’s needs and offer support.

These aren’t activities that can be outsourced to anyone else – the project manager, change leader, or consulting lead for example.

Challenge yourself

To check how engaged you are as a change leader, ask yourself:

  • Am I stepping up and leading the change or seeking ways to take a back seat?
  • Am I getting the right people involved at the right time throughout the change?
  • Is the team clear about the role they need to play and am I making sure they are equipped to do that?
  • Does each team member know how their role and work effort contributes to the team’s success and outcomes?
  • Am I really listening to people’s ideas and concerns, so they know they are being heard?
  • Am I willing to accept that with change there are often unknowns so I may not have all the answers?
  • Am I consciously looking to create the right team environment where people are actively involved in the change?
  • Am I looking to provide enough space for challenge and learning, and am I ensuring the team feels supported and encouraged to try new ways of working?

Delegate wisely

This doesn’t mean you need to ‘go it alone’. Leverage the skills of those around you to help plan and execute the change and be clear about who needs to be involved and why.

For example, you may have people in lead roles (other change leaders and advocates), support roles (change agents and technical experts) and delivery roles (project and technical managers). You will also have the people who are impacted by the change, and they need to be involved and engaged throughout the production.

Most importantly, be clear on the role you are playing so you can ensure you have:

  • The right people involved at the right time
  • Role clarity across the team, so they know how their role and work effort contributes to the team’s success and outcomes
  • Awareness of the project’s goals, timelines, dependencies and potential challenges
  • The optimal environment so people feel engaged and inspired, and are actively involved

Change happens and this is about you as the leader making sure the change works.

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