3 Tips to Becoming a Successful Change Leader | Fierce

4 people in a meeting discussing change management

Moving an organization into the future is the job of the leader. With vision and execution comes change. Unfortunately, most leaders are not prepared with the skills that change demands. How will you become a successful change leader?

When employees across various industries were surveyed on leadership readiness, 71% felt that if change was needed, their leaders were not prepared or skilled to guide them into the future. This statistic rippled across businesses around world. Many organizations have been forced to reevaluate leadership training and systems to assist with change management. 

At Fierce, we’ve seen organizations enter this crisis point where change is needed but the tools to lead and manage change are outside their grasp. As we have worked with both small and large organizations, the initial starting point must begin with the leadership. Organizational culture always flows from leadership where, oftentimes, culture creation is unconscious on the part of leaders and their intentions are not expressed clearly enough to direct the culture they intend. 

To begin the process of effective change:

These 3 Tips will begin to build the process of aligning your team and effectively communicating your vision.

1. Increase Transparency

Transparency builds trust, but it can be demanding as you work with your team. Many leaders feel that being too transparent about their decision-making, will show cracks in their ability to lead. You may know where the organization needs to go but not always have the answers to understand how to get there. 

Open communication with leadership, begins with being honest about what you see about the future therefore being open to feedback needed to accomplish that vision. As important conversations develop, transparency can spread outward into the organization building consensus and execution. 

Susan Scott, Fierce Founder, and CEO discussed trust and radical transparency in a podcast interview with TalentGrow. She explained that “trust is built one conversation at a time, and it’s also lost one conversation at a time. Trust requires persistent identity, [which] means me showing up as myself completely, consistently, all the time, every day so that I’m not different depending on who I’m with.”

Articulating this poorly can actually lose trust — a leader’s worst nightmare is that they are seen by their team and clients as inept. Being transparent isn’t a display of incompetence, it is being vulnerable enough to look strategically at the help you need from others. As a leader, it is impossible to see all the differing viewpoints and potential solutions. You can rest in this fact and be open to the potential insight you can gain when being transparent about the direction and your limitations for crafting the strategies to move forward. 

Transparency isn’t solely about putting what you don’t know on display to your team. Transparency makes intentions known, so your team understands, exactly, what must be accomplished to move into the future.The most successful leaders we’ve seen realize that learning to be transparent is a skill that can be gained. 

Successful leaders communicate the “what” and the “why” of change. Explaining the purpose of change and connecting it to the values of the organization along with the future benefits creates stronger adoption and urgency for change to be implemented. 

2. Learn to Confront Unproductive Behavior

One of the greatest barriers to change management inside an organization is a toxic culture. A culture of backbiting, gossip, and complaint is contagious and can spread quickly throughout the ranks. Many times leaders are blind to what is under the surface of their employee’s attitudes about work. 

Toxic culture often manifests in unproductive behavior. Here are several markers to look for inside your organization to examine whether toxic culture must be mitigated before moving forward successfully into the future.

Markers of Toxic Culture:

  • High rates of absenteeism
  • Not meeting deadlines
  • Criticism of others
  • Unhealthy competition
  • Aggression to leadership and their team

To get everyone’s best in the organization, as a leader you must make it clear that unproductive and undermining behaviors will not be tolerated. 

Sound uncomfortable or daunting? Yes, but like any leadership skill, confrontation skills can be learned using successful models and templates leading to positive behavior. One of the best places to begin is looking into your feedback culture. Implementing effective feedback systems for employees will reduce the need for difficult confrontation conversations by 70% or more

When managers engage in regular feedback to employees, engagement increases mitigating the seeds of toxic culture. Gallup’s Global Workplace reports that 98% of employees will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.

3. Foster a Culture of Collaboration

To move forward into change, you need the ideas and intentions of your people. A large startup clinical research firm was committed to tripling in size in 10 years. Emerging as a startup, the leadership within the organization was full of independent lone wolves comfortable with acting quickly without input from other colleagues. This worked early in the growth of the business, subsequently they needed to scale to meet growth challenges in their next decade they were forced to collaborate.

As the leadership team gathered in a meeting to discuss strategy for future action, it was apparent there was little consensus on the way forward however, many opinions were in direct conflict. To solve this stalemate, collaboration was needed. Each leader put forward their ideas among the group who were committed to fully understanding each person’s point of view. Clarity around terms and language began to emerge until they had a common language that could be used to describe what needed to be done.

The vision born from collaboration allowed them to communicate a shared strategy allowing each team to accomplish as they grew into the future. 

Your organization has the seeds of collaboration built in. You only need to harness them.

The more diverse your workplace, the more innovative your organization can be. Different perspectives and backgrounds provide different ways of approaching problems therefore creating solutions. Open discussion allows solutions to be weighed and evaluated so the best options rise to the top.

Effective leaders build collaboration and encourage feedback among their team members and colleagues by keeping lines of communication open.  Embrace differing and conflicting opinions because that is where the best ideas and innovation can take place.

Significant change rarely involves individual accomplishments. It requires synergy, for example, new ideas, new processes, and greater efficiencies are needed for growth, and that demands collaboration.  As a leader, it is your job to bring key knowledge holders to the table and keep the idea funnel flowing until positive change happens.

The Bonus Tip

Did you notice a common thread among all the top 3 skills? Each one is reliant on the ability to clearly communicate your ideas. The words you say are important however the images and emotions you build in the minds of the listener are critical.

As a leader, identify the conversations needed to take place in your organization. You don’t need to fear transparency, confronting toxic culture, and building structures for shared ideas. Not only will the organization grow but individuals will thrive both personally and professionally through change.

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