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How to Win at Leading Change

Jul 15, 2008
What happens when you want to introduce change in your business? Let's look at a typical example.

In many companies, a big change is discussed in meetings and memos for weeks or months by the top team. They eventually reach a decision, prepare a presentation and call all the staff to a big meeting.

Well, the change is announced, with an impressive array of PowerPoint slides, and the employees are encouraged to go away and 'be more productive', or 'sell more products' or 'implement the new marketing strategy' or whatever.

Admit it, it can be frustrating when the staff, looking none too impressed, file out of the room whispering 'here we go again' or 'what a waste of time'. And then come the deputations of angry staff who spend a huge amount of your precious time attacking the new plan.

In some ways the obvious, angry and aggressive attacks are the easiest to handle. One manager told us: "You just have to take it on the chin, stay firm, keep the testosterone levels high and keep on like a broken record." I'm not sure I agree, but it is a common strategy.

The less obvious, underground attacks are more difficult to deal with. What's being said round the water cooler? Who is using the informal networks and the company corridors to build roadblocks for your strategy?

And if you think you haven't got informal resistance - you're wrong. You just haven't found it yet.

If there's a lot of resistance to change, you may feel tempted to force the change through. You may say 'What the company needs is immediate action', and you may believe that allowing people to debate the issue is a waste of time.

Resist that temptation. Without persuading enough people in the organization that there is a need for change, the change process will fail.

And most change efforts fail. There's research to suggest four in every five change efforts fail.

So you've got to get people on-side. And a bit of political forethought on your part can avoid a failure. So let's take a step back.

We know that people like to be given a say in big changes. Of course, you may have the responsibility to make and take the big decisions. You're the boss after all.

But your people need time to understand the original problem. And they need time to accept the solution you've come up with. Debating that change and being heard is an essential part of that process.

They also need time because maybe the idea you've come up with can be modified or improved.

And if you're the strong manager we think you are, maybe you'll have the courage to accept someone else's idea, if it's better than yours.

So have the courage to open up even the biggest debates. You will win greater success, faster. Trust the process.

And remember that resistance is useful. It tells you that the change process has begun.
About the Author
If you want the leadership success you deserve, get the leadership training you deserve. Download more free articles and leadership training videos from Steven Sonsino, an international business school professor and author of the Amazon bestseller "The Seven Failings of Really Useless Leaders"
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