Leading & Managing Change

As the turbulent period the world is going through, seems to know no end, being agile and implementing change needs to be high on the agenda of every business leader. Yet I still see many family businesses and business leaders who still fail to understand the importance of all this.

As we all know, change needs leadership. Leadership is about many things – setting a strategic direction, creating a shared sense of purpose – but effective leadership often boils down to something even more basic — persuading people to change and do things differently. In such a turbulent period it is very likely that the work of leadership is becoming more and more the work of change – pushing colleagues and team members to overcome the natural tendency to resist change. This becomes more challenging as people have the tendency to seek comfort in the old ways of doing things, especially when the world around them is changing dramatically.

So the natural question is – How can leaders persuade people to do things differently and overcome resistance?

There is a tonne of research on managing change that spans over a number of decades. However there are practical techniques that can be used to turn any needed change into something digestible. One of such techniques, especially when you need to get people to change something big, or do something hard, is to first ask them to change something small, or do something easy. By agreeing to the request, and then meeting it, people develop a sense of commitment and confidence that makes them more enthusiastic about agreeing to the next (bigger) request. In other words, the path to big change is paved by lots of small steps, where each step builds on what’s come before.

There is however another type of technique used which is opposite to the one mentioned above. This second technique is based on reversed psychology. As a business leader you could insist with your team members to pursue a change even bigger and more dramatic than what you actually have in mind, and then when they refuse or resist, your downsize the change to meet your real objectives – making it seem more “doable” in comparison. The leadership lesson here is not that you should routinely make demands that you know people can’t or won’t accept, or that it is acceptable to try to bluff your colleagues with phony goals in order to hit the targets you really have in mind. Rather, the idea is that by setting aspirations for performance and change that seem extreme or unreasonable, especially in organisations that suffer to deal with change, you can persuade people to consider innovations they would not have considered otherwise.

The techniques used by you as a business leader, to lead change, depends on your personal style, the kind of challenges your organisation faces, the culture in your organisation and the personalities of your team members. Ultimately, there is no one right way to lead change and unleash exceptional performance. However there is one universal challenge: to persuade people to do things they would rather not do, to change as the world around us is on an increasingly fast paced change path, with no signs of stopping.

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