9 Keys to Effective Change

Change is tough work and it never comes with a 100% guarantee of success. Sometimes we even have to change the change effort for it to be successful! Despite its many challenges, there are some things that can help change leaders be successful in their endeavors. Here are 9 keys to effective change.

1. Change Yourself

John Maxwell wrote, “The more you change the more you become an instrument of change to others”. It’s simply a true statement. Leaders start by leading themselves, and change leaders start by changing themselves. It was Gandhi himself who said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world”. If you’re looking to drive successful change, you’ve got to first change yourself before you look anywhere else. Further, I’ll put a giant caution stamp on this one! It’s too easy to pass this one over. Changing yourself, really changing yourself, may be the most difficult part. Be sure you’re ready to really lead yourself through this process, then get out in front and lead by example.

2. Give People a Voice

One of the greatest roadblocks to change is lack of perceived input. People often don’t resist change itself as much as they resist being forced into something. Giving people a voice and input into change will significantly increase chances of success. Of course it’s much more difficult to lead change this way (but the right way usually is). Leading change by giving people a voice means you are going to have to exercise influential leadership instead of dominating management. You can’t make them to go with you, you have to invite them, motivate them, and show the why.

3. Empower People & Drive Out Fear

Fear paralyses. Empowerment motivates. Great change leaders can smell fear in their people. You’ve got to drive it out and remove the roadblock. Empower your teams to move forward and quickly tackle and remove fear and concern. Fear will only hold you back. Caution is wise, but fear will bring you to a dead halt. Feed your people empowerment for successful change.

4. Motivate People & Drive Out Complacency

Earlier on the Thrive Blog I stated that stagnation is where ideas go to die! You’ve got to keep your people motivated and keep the ideas moving. When change meets unmotivated and complacent employees you loose all of your critical momentum. Hire internally motivated people when possible and take the time to discover what motivates everyone under your direct leadership. All of us have unique things that keep moving when change gets tough. Use these motivating factors to keep the momentum up and keep the change from stalling.

5. Keep Pumping Vision

Vision is critical. We’ve got to know where we are going and why. For change to be successful we need a powerful picture of the future to run after. Further, leadership expert Bill Hybels often states that vision leaks. You’ve got to keep the vision in front of people. Keep painting the picture of where you’re going and why. We forget so quickly and become disillusioned. Keep the vision pumping!

6. Focus on Greatness

Often change will initially find mixed success. In some areas or with certain people it my find great initial momentum, while in others areas it may struggle. Often organizations or teams will have early adopters that find success quickly. Focus on this success. Communicate this success openly and by sure others know how and why it is working. It is too easy for us to fall into a trap of assuming, “this isn’t working” or “this will never work”. If it’s working, even a little bit, be sure you communicate well. Find out why it’s so successful and see if you can duplicate the success. Focus on areas of greatness. Dan and Chip Heath write, “These flashes of success – these bright spots – can illuminate the road map for action and spark the hope that change is possible.”

7. Meeting Before the Meeting

There will be a time when you get your team or organization together and make your big change announcement. Whether it’s a smaller change you’ll announce via e-mail or a massive change you’ll announce via press conference, they’ll be some form of mass appeal. Here is the key: your announcement should be the second time the key players hear about it. In fact, you shouldn’t even be announcing until you already know all of the key players are on board. Have the meeting before the meeting. Communicate the change one-on-one or in small groups with your key leaders and change agents. This should all happen before you ever actually announce the change effort, no matter the size.

8. Deal with Non-performers

Everyone needs a little motivation sometimes, but some are simply non-performers. You’ve got to deal quickly with these employees. Non-performers become a festering issue. They become the employees that don’t change simply out of spite. They have no motivation, no work ethic, not interest in the success of the organization. These people have to go before the change needs to happen. They’ll drag like dead weight on your forward progress, and often they can completely pull you down. As leaders, we’ve got to keep that from happening for the good of the entire organization.

9. Anchor People

It’s amazing how much we are creatures of habit. Certain changes that may not seem significant can absolutely rock people’s world. In a time of ever evolving business some employees will resist change to simply find an anchor. Be sure you are providing somewhere for your employees to anchor – some sense of normal amidst all the change and transition in this world. Effective change leaders know that change will be successful because of healthy relationships and great working environments, not in spite of them. Work at giving all of your people a sense of “normal” whenever possible.


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