Managing Change: A Mindset Of Continuous Evolution
By Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc.
Change is daunting, especially considering that McKinsey found fewer than one-third of organizational transformations succeed at improving a company’s performance and preparing the organization to maintain those improvements. But change isn’t just a managerial buzzword — it is a necessity in today’s dynamic, omnichannel world where customer expectations seem to shift by the minute and loyalty can be fleeting. In fact, the average organization has undergone five enterprise changes in the past three years, according to 2018 Gartner data.
Keeping pace often requires continuously evolving the business model and the steady hand of leaders who know how to blend people and processes. To be effective, leaders should orchestrate change in a way that optimizes the relationship organizations have with their employees and the customers they serve.
Leaders who truly want to lead and participate in a continuous evolution with their company shouldn’t view change from the sidelines — they should be active agents of change. Here are some guiding thoughts for finding the strength and expertise to enact change that lasts.
Change isn’t an event — it’s a constant.
Some leaders view change as having a start and an end point. They hope that they will reach a “we did it” moment. But in reality, one of the only things leaders can count on is change, and the goal is to get the organization comfortable with it. To do this, you should create an environment that’s flexible and constantly evolving. Set key milestones for achieving specific wins related to change, but recognize that continual adjustments can serve as sources of inspiration along the way.
As a principle, change management isn’t about implementing a static framework. It’s about linking your strategies with the competencies and behaviors identified for success. It requires leaders to ground themselves and others in a “growth mindset” so they’re consistently able to act as, and empower, agents of change. A company with a culture grounded in a growth mindset is filled with people who are willing to experiment, innovate and put in the effort to overcome challenges and champion change.
It’s not enough for employees to comply.
It might sound obvious, but leaders should detail the “why” of change and communicate this “why” in a compelling and inspiring way. When you’re creating change, your employees need to authentically embrace what they are being asked to do. Left uninspired, employees may take on the mindset that “they told me I have to do this, so I have to do it.” Rather, employees should understand how the change affects — and more importantly, benefits — them. They need to believe in the higher purpose the change ultimately serves. Uninspired employees can almost always be compelled to comply, but I believe only an inspired workforce can turn change into a sustainable transformation.
Leaders can adjust this dynamic by providing context about changes, not making decisions in a vacuum. If you’re functioning as a change agent, you can also consider employees’ perspectives from both a rational and emotional standpoint. Make sure your employees understand the goal and are encouraged to connect with it on an emotional level during every new step. In this context, the “goal” is what the company wants people to think and do. The “need state” is what the individual requires as a baseline to move forward. The “emotional state” is how they are feeling about the change and their future state. Leaders who take the time to relay changes to employees on a deeper level through these different states will be better able to transform compliance into advocacy.
Leaders often gather reasons for change from rational perspectives, but they shortchange the emotional aspects. In order to create believers, influence your team emotionally by getting employees involved in the process. Active participants are much more likely to be invested in outcomes. They’ll see how the changes relate to their own job, interests and success. As a leader, you should consider “adjusting the lens” to see the process and impacts of proposed change from the team’s perspective. Answering the question “What’s in it for me?” can be essential to building advocates.
Make change tangible and actionable.
Consider a group of leaders who carefully consider how and why their organization needs to change. In their excitement, they relay changes in broad terms for the entire team and somehow expect each individual staff member to do their part. Maybe the staff is inspired about the leadership team’s passion, but do they have the resources or true understanding to act? The notion of participatory change precipitates the theory that employees who are most willing will not only buy into and advocate for the change, but also influence and improve the course of it. As a leader, you can inspire action through a few actionable practices, including:
• Breaking it down: Provide leaders, and the entire team, with incremental yet impactful behaviors and milestones that will build momentum and ownership of the desired change.
• Explaining how: Beyond providing the “why,” leaders should also impart the “how” — or a clear understanding of the employee’s role along the path to change and the anticipated outcome when the change is successful. By helping employees envision this path, you illustrate what change looks like and feels like — not only to the team but to the end customer.
• Playing it out: Scenario build-outs play a pivotal role in internalizing and activating the change. No matter the scenario, make changes tangible so employees can see their work in action, and point to the progress they’re making. Rather than jumping all-in on wide-scale change, you can identify small opportunities to pilot ideas, learn and iron out the kinks before implementing them company-wide.
I believe managing change is a necessity in organizations today — it is the lens through which we view it that determines success. Leaders should continuously focus on creating the next best version of themselves and their companies rather than viewing change as a “single point in time” exercise. Effective leaders act in a way that models the change they wish to see. They cultivate an environment that supports a growth mindset matched with identified changes in behaviors. And above all, they create employee advocates who embrace change as the only constant.
As published in Forbes.