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Covid has been active for over two years, and a lot has changed in that time. For some, this change could be something as simple as new working arrangements, but for others, it could be a bigger upheaval like changing jobs or a new strategic direction. No matter what it is, we are all facing change on some level, and as leaders we must tackle this change head-on and lead from the front, bringing our teams along with us.
On a recent project, I asked the participants what they found most challenging when leading through change. The answer, almost unanimously, was dealing with their people and teams, or the ‘human’ side to change. The human side to change is often unpredictable and can be exceptionally challenging for leaders to navigate through when implementing a change initiative.
The author William Bridges says that there are two sides to change; the human, and the business, and has noted the difference between these dynamics in distinguishing change from transition.
He writes, “Change is situational; the transition is psychological…without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.”
Bridges states that change, and how people respond to change, is always very different. The human response to change is a transition, and this can take time, often moving much slower than the change driving it.
Leaders, therefore, must be attuned to the human dynamic and how it is enabling or impending change. Questions leaders should be asking themselves are things like: How are my team feeling? Do they understand what is changing for the business? For themselves? What could they be afraid of? What outcomes are they hoping for? What do they need to make this change a reality?
If leaders ask these questions from the outset and effectively involve and communicate with their people to find out their answers to these questions, the chances of success are much greater.
As leaders, we naturally tend to focus on either the business dynamic or the human dynamic in times of disruptive change, and this is usually driven by our skills and strengths in a particular area. However, successful change leaders must balance both dynamics.
As a first step in ‘getting on board’, employees need to understand the organisation's context for change. They then must understand and come to terms with what that means for them and their work. And as leaders, we must support them in this journey toward embracing change and communicating openly and transparently along the way.
Change is inevitable throughout our working lives, and as leaders how we handle these times of change can define our careers. Lead from the front, communicate effectively, and remember to balance both the business and human dynamics to ensure success