The only thing that stays constant in business is change. This is perhaps more true today as companies of every size and in every industry continue to navigate tumultuous economic and fast-moving technological environments. No doubt, you are always trying to do more with less.
Of course strong leadership is important in times of change. But change is hard, and not all leaders are equally excited about it, or approach it the same way. The most important thing for you to be aware of is how flexible you are. In other words, how willing are you to accommodate the thoughts and actions of others?
In this column, about how to manage your team through change, I'll explain what I mean by this. This is the final installment in my multi-part series on how to best communicate as a leader. You can check out my previous columns on the approaches that will help you best get through to your team here: analytical, structural, social, conceptual, expressive, assertive.
How Flexible Are You?
On one end of the flexibility spectrum are leaders who tend to be accommodating. These are leaders who embrace change. They identify opportunities for change, and immediately begin building momentum to make it happen. They will always consider various viewpoints and options for moving forward and remain calm during stressful periods.
Those leaders in the middle of the flexibility spectrum tend to deal with change depending on the situation. Their approach varies, and the challenge is knowing which way to swing, and when.
On the other end of the flexibility spectrum are focused leaders. These are leaders who make decisions and stick with them all the way through implementation. They keep the team on target, vet potential change to make sure it's worth it, and serve as a steadying force. Sure, this type of leader can also be accommodating, but he or she prefers a narrow center of attention.
When it comes to change management, I find the more focused style is as important as the accommodating one. No matter where you fall on the flexibility spectrum, you have to tap into the other type of leader's strength, to communicate, motivate, and get the most out of your team. Here's how:
1. Help your team fine tune the vision for the change.
Get everyone on the same page and give them a clear sense of purpose and direction.
2. Express a firm commitment to the change.
Explain your conviction that this change will benefit the organization.
3. Set the ground rules or performance expectations.
Make sure your staffers know how you'll judge the implementation of the change from the outset.
How Flexible Are Your Employees?
Your team will also be comprised of people from various points on the flexibility spectrum--from those who are very opinionated, to those who are very open to suggestions. To manage change, you must address that fact. Here's how:
To communicate about change with those on the accommodating end of the spectrum, you'll need to actively consider many points of view, and convey excitement and opportunity around the change, but provide focus in order to rein it in.
To communicate about change with those in the "it depends" range, identify them and treat them as your bellwethers. They will be focused or accommodating, depending on what they believe is best for the organization.
And to communicate about change with those who are on yhe focused end of the flexibility spectrum, be prepared to make a convincing argument for the change, explain why it's happening, and what the benefits will be. Then, stay the course to the extent possible.
Contributions from all ends of the flexibility spectrum are important for dealing with change in the workplace. Knowing your own tendencies as a leader (and the importance of focus as well as accommodation) is step 1. Knowing where your team stands and how to bring different ideas to the table is step 2.
A good mix ensures that all the right questions will be asked and all perspectives will be considered.