Meaningful Change Requires Leading Without Knowing

Implementing meaningful change that drives substantial results for an organization, is a true test of any leader. And successful leaders have gotten where they are today by knowing what success will look like and proving how to get there.

However, leading change that transforms a culture of an organization requires leading people to a different future while not knowing exactly what it’s going to take to get there…let alone knowing what specific results to expect once you arrive. “Not knowing” isn’t what most leaders would refer to as their “comfort zone” …why? Because “Not knowing” is risky and requires conviction to a future with little or no ability to prove how to get there, in short, it requires faith. And to complicate matters, leaders of change can be faced with immediate resistance, fear, uncertainty, and doubt from those that they must lead.

So how to lead without knowing?

If you spent any time looking for support on how to effectively implement and lead change, you would have noticed that there isn’t a shortage of resources:

Change Management Books

And after spending endless hours looking at these resources for help, one of two things likely occurred: 1) you determined that partnering with an expert is the right call, 2) you left scratching your head on how to implement advice like:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Train people on what you can’t simply communicate.
  • Expect that things won’t be perfect.

Change management is difficult and partnering with an expert that can be an advisor, guide, and pair of hands can be the right call (Shameless plug). However, if outcome 2 occurred, then you need more than communication and training to get started. Below are some helpful tips that will better enable you to lead change “without knowing”:

Articulate the Vision

To effectively lead anyone in change, a leader must first articulate, in writing, a vision for the future. A clearly articulated vision answers questions like:

  • What factors led to the need for change? I.e. market changes, competitive pressure, operational inefficiencies, etc.
  • Why is this change important to the company? Why is it valuable?
  • What will happen if we don’t change?

 Engage People in the Vision

Complex changes require a series of strategies to engage people in understanding both the value and impact of the change.  Change Management isn’t a “one size fits all” process/approach, an effective leader of change takes into consideration how the change impacts job roles differently. Effectively engaging people in the vision should answer questions like:

  • How do I do my job in the changed (new) environment?
  • What will be expected of me in the future that is different today?
  • What is required of me to be successful in the future?
  • What’s in it for me?

Enable Leaders to Lead and Take Risks

Creating an awareness and desire for the change is most effective when led by the most senior leaders in the organization and then consistently reinforced by directors, managers, supervisors, and even informal leaders/influential employees. It’s important that these leaders not only understand the need and impact of the change but are enabled with the resources to effectively prepare their teams for the change.

Empower people to be involved in the change and try new things. Empower them to provide feedback as they practice and empower them to learn from any missteps along the way.

Remove Barriers

Anxiety and frustration associated with change are expected, however, an effective leader of change can minimize this by identifying and removing any barriers. Look for barriers within the environment as well as within individuals:

  • Examples of environmental barriers: ineffective processes, tools, systems, and even ineffective leadership.
  • Examples of individual barriers: Lack of skills/knowledge, motivation, capabilities, etc.

Change Management isn’t easy, but if you are willing to lead without knowing exactly what it will take to get there, it will be effective!  If your organization is preparing for a change and you came to the conclusion that you need a partner that can be an advisor, guide, and pair of hands… let us know, we’d love to help.

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