Four Strategies for Leading and Supporting Change Management

The quote “Change is the only constant in life” is attributed to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived more than 2,500 years ago in what is modern-day Turkey. Despite its age, it’s as relevant today as it was more than two millennia ago—and what’s far more important is how people are prepared to react and reorganize in response to change.

Change management is the practice of influencing people to support a common goal through transition. Over the past twenty-five years, change management has evolved from a concept to a discipline critical to advancement and innovation for many businesses. Since the term first entered the general business vocabulary in the 1990s, it has now matured into an area of academic training and professional practice. As a result, today change management is a term familiar to many of us—and the reality is  all of us will experience it or lead it at some point in our careers.

As we all know, though, people can be very resistant to change: it’s unsettling, it takes away control, it may cause more work and stress, and the uncertainty of the future usually inspires more fear than the certainty of even a less-ideal present. Our built-in resistance to change makes business transition, disruption, innovation, and advancement all the harder—but if you can lead and support in authentic and influential ways, you’ll have an edge. Here are ways to do it.

#1: Be a champion for the change.

Whatever the change is, if you believe in and agree with it, you can lead by example. Explain the goal and the steps to get there. Express why you believe in the change, whether it’s as small as a change in vendor or as large as a shift in business model.

#2: Acknowledge that change is emotional—and can be difficult.

Even if you believe in the change, you’re unlikely to influence others by stating facts and data alone. People have feelings, and feelings should be acknowledged. Be empathetic. Use facts and data to tell a story, so that others can be part of the vision and the reason for change.

#3: Nurture support while managing resistance.

The same strategies that once worked on the playground often also work in change management. Identify those most vocal about resistance and include them in the change management process whenever possible. You might also look to amplify support by ensuring those who are most vocally in favor of change are conveying messages consistent with yours.

#4: Know when it’s time to hire a professional.

Professional change management consultants focus on behavior, group dynamics, and communication to unify people and advance them through transitions. Engaging a professional can help to speed the change management process and ensure buy-in that might be difficult with only an internal team.

Change management can help organizations more nimbly respond to market pressure, fend off disruption, or develop new and better ways of working together. And boosting your talent’s responsiveness to change can have other positive effects, like increased employee confidence and more dynamism in the marketplace, both of which can improve the bottom line. While Heraclitus could not have possibly foreseen the complexities of today’s workplace, he did understand the idea that we humans will always face change.

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