When Leading Change, Think Like a High-School Machiavelli
BY Kasey Wehrum
Bringing about a transformation in your business is never an easy process. Organizational expert Maya Townsend says cynics and peer pressure can be your friends.
The statistics on change are rather bleak. According to McKinsey Quarterly, only 38 percent of leaders who recently attempted an organizational change rated the outcome as better than somewhat successful.
Not exactly a great track record. Speaking at the Inc. 500|5000 conference, organizational expert and founder of Partnering Resources Maya Townsend shares some easy-to-implement tips for creating an environment that is open to change.
1. Implement change at every level of your organization. As Townsend explains, successful change needs to take place at all three levels of your business--the individual level, the social level, and the structural level. "The first part of creating change is getting individuals understand what you're doing and why," she says. Once you've explained the motivation to change at the individual level, the next task is to institute change at the social and structural level of your business.
2. Overinvest in skill-building. Making sure that there are easy ways for your team to get help when they need it in adopting change is vital. Townsend says that periodic, just-in-time training tends to be the most effective. Have short snippets of training available for employees when employees need it.
3. Involve everyone in the change. "Rather than having change come from the top leaders, engage informal leaders to help in designing the change," says Townsend. Like it or not, employees tend to be be more reticent when dealing with the company's top brass. Instead, find the main influencers in the business and bring them in to help their peers adopt change.
4. Harness peer pressure. "No matter what your mother told you, peer pressure isn't always necessarily a bad thing," Townsend says. A good example of that is the positive peer pressure employees feel to conform to the example set by co-workers. "Seeing peers adopt change is a powerful force," she adds.
5. Engage the squeaky wheel. "Every company has someone who is extremely smart and extremely cynical," says Townsend. These are the naysayers who can always point the weakness in any attempt at change. Rather than trying to silence them, Townsend suggests bringing them in on the process early and getting their feedback as to how you can make the change more successful. After all, they may be naysaysers, but very often their objections are valid.