Are You a Change Leader?

Patricia Sherlock

Last week, I discussed the four horsemen of business success —being faster, better, cheaper and friendlier and how this challenge has faced companies and their leaders for centuries. As Sydney Harris, a well-known journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times, aptly said “our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” Getting better, unfortunately, always means that things will be different and that is hard for employees to accept. This is why change initiatives don’t need change managers but change leaders.

In a great book by Randy Pennington, Make Change Work, he discusses how to design and implement change that will drive results. Pennington’s core message is that employees want the manager to lead them through change. He lists seven steps that leaders should follow when implementing change in an organization. They are:

1. Linking the change to the mission, vision and value of the organization. If the change that is being considered doesn’t advance your mission, vision and values why are you doing it?
2. Building a sense of urgency. If there is not a compelling reason for change, inertia will win every time.
3. Establishing measurable goals and metrics. Defining what success looks like. Improving needs to have quantifiable numbers attached to it.
4. Building support. Constant communication on why the change is important and needed can never be too much.
5. Aligning process, structure and systems. This is where the leader gets the real work done. Is it time to tinker or reengineer? The leader must ask the hard questions on what the organization is capable of supporting and sustaining change.
6. Building the capacity. Change can require that knowledge and skills be retooled. Whether through training or hiring new skill sets knowing that change should be made is not the same as knowing how to do it.
7. Empowering action and ensuring accountability. Once the change process is in place, it is time to hold people accountable. This is the time to use the goals that have been installed and measure that the results are being achieved.

The question for this week is: Are you a change leader?

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