Leaders know that change is necessary. They understand the people in their organisation, do the work, influence behaviour and, ultimately, make the change happen.
If you are a leader, your role is to make the change meaningful and easier to accept. Change leadership is best when it is proactive and not reactive.
Here are five things a leader must do to champion change:
1. Sell more than tell
Leaders know how to sell their ideas.
“Telling” someone what is going to happen is very different from “selling” him the idea. By selling, I mean looking for ways to get people emotionally committed or to embrace the change.
You need to tell stories, paint a vision of a better future and engage the positive emotions of the people. Help them to stay focused on the benefits rather than the costs to them personally.
Understand that people need time to adjust to and to accept the change. You must work to inspire buy-in instead of simply asking for compliance.
2. Tune in to WII-FM
The “radio station” that most people tune in to on a daily basis is WII-FM (What’s in it for me?).
Leaders must help their people find the reasons and incentives to change.
They must know how to answer the question on every employee’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”
Note the following:
People don’t resist change, they resist being changed;
People don’t resist change if it provides immediate positive consequences to them; and
People don’t resist their own ideas, so get them to suggest the changes needed.
Leaders know that people are generally more willing to do things that bring personal benefit than they are to do things that benefit the organisation.
You must take a pragmatic, not a cynical or negative, view of human nature. See people for who they are and work to adjust your strategy to go with — not against — their natural drives.
3. Work through ‘head grapes’
Every organisation has a grapevine — an unofficial communication channel that often moves faster than official ones.
The people whom others listen to, and therefore influence the company grapevine, are called the “head grapes”. The “head grapes” have more personal influence within certain employee groups than others do.
Understand that leadership is about trust and relationship; it is not really about position or power.
Recognising this fact, you have to seek out “influencers” in the organisation to make things happen. These influencers are essential to making change happen, getting it “sold” and embraced.
Leaders must strive to get the influencers on board with the change.
Understand the power of relationships and put that power to work. Work with the “head grapes” to affect change so that they do not become part of a resistance movement.
4. Break change into bite-sized pieces
Leaders understand that people need two things: the information about the reason behind the change, and the time to adjust to it.
As a leader, you cannot wait forever to get everyone to commit to the new direction.
So you need to break big changes into small “bites” that people are more likely to ingest, digest and accept quickly.
By moving forward in small steps, you can move your organisation with frequent, continual and steady forward progress rather than through periodic big jumps.
In change leadership, you must “sow seeds” rather than “drop bombs”. Allow change to grow on your people.
5. Build positive momentum
When you break large changes into smaller, more manageable, bite-sized pieces, you position yourself to build positive forward momentum.
Leaders know that an early failure or setback can create more resistance later — even if they do manage to overcome it. It is much easier to move a rock in motion than one that is stationary.
Building a record of quick, early wins helps your people accept the upsets that can and will happen on the way to success.
Understand the power of momentum — positive or negative.
Break change into small pieces that improve your odds of success. Then pick the step that has the highest probability of success as your first move.