Get Used to It: Embracing Change at the Leadership Level

January 23, 2019

One of the most significant challenges of business is its dynamic nature. In most businesses, it is a general rule that you will not have today’s job in 5 years. With global competition, AI advancement, evolving channels and customer bases, regulatory and tariff changes, currency fluctuations, and interest rate volatility, there is plenty to adapt to externally. And internally, promotions, leadership changes, and changes in strategy will all impact your day-to-day role. So how do you inspire an entire company to embrace inevitable change(s)–some good, some not, some anticipated, others not–that all businesses will experience over time? Healthy change starts at the leadership level. In fact, leaders must proactively engage and influence cultural resistance to change.

Whether it’s an M&A activity, company-wide organizational structure, rapid growth, or downsizing, leading during disruptions tests a leader’s communications effectiveness, leadership style, and energy. Leaders who are agile – change-capable – and not only embrace change successfully but model it will help all layers of that organization embrace the change as well, thereby increasing the chance of success.

Leading through change starts with effective, clear, and optimistic communications that articulate the benefits, challenges, and realities of the change. In addition, the communications, and change approach itself must leverage the organization’s culture as much as possible, while clearly departing from the current state. This cultural bridge-to-point-of-arrival is a communication art, and requires thoughtful narrating.

Communications must also involve every layer of an organization. Find the informal leaders and influencers at each layer, and ensure they are involved in the narrative and in ownership of the key changes.

With the right communications strategy, leadership style comes into play. More than ever, when an organization shows insecurity about change or resistance to change, leaders must address those sentiments quickly. There are two mindful approaches, and thoughtful leaders should demonstrate both: The first draws upon a mutual transparency and vulnerability–while optimistic, leaders should reflect their own personal concerns and workarounds; the second requires a sympathetic intolerance to change resistance, engaging in listening, and then with symbolic behavior, make it clear that the change will move forward.

The above all, it takes energy. The temptation is there to simply align the top, and not all layers of the organization, or to delegate change communications. Neither is effective change leadership. Mindful preparation for the marathon ahead is the starting point.

Once effective change leadership is in place, then ensure the corresponding and requisite financial and human resources to have a better change outcome.

You can read more about making business transformations work in this HighPoint Associates InSights piece.

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For business leaders seeking strategic change that sticks, the top-tier consulting team at HighPoint Associates has the direct operational and leadership experience pivotal in driving cross-functional buy-in and alignment, while ensuring sustained, transparent execution. Contact us today to learn more about how HighPoint’s consultants are adept at communicating intentions – making sure they are well understood by the organization – to support cross-functional buy-in, increased revenues, cost efficiency, and new business activation.