“Sitting quietly in the wings whilst the business takes centre stage”
This is really important to us at Embed The Change, as getting it right is often the difference between success or failure. It largely defines whether change will last, or disappear quietly into the background shortly after launch day. So what exactly is the crucial factor at play?
It’s the powerful forces of change management and change leadership working together. That’s what enables us to implement change effectively . One without the other doesn’t cut it. Why?
Let’s take a look at Change Management
Over the last two decades, change management has most definitely matured as a profession, and as a result its reputation has grown. It wasn’t too long ago that the “change” element of a project was limited to writing some communication material and delivering training just before a project went live. That was cutting edge back in the day! I’m glad to say, things have moved on, and the benefit of incorporating change expertise in your project team is becoming more widely understood, and therefore invested in right from the start.
So what does change management look like today? You may see your change practitioners apply methodologies, tools, templates and processes, so they can effectively steer the project through the necessary stages to get the business ready for transition. You may see them managing stakeholders to gain buy-in to whatever the initiative might be. You’ll likely see them writing that communications material, and guiding the training delivered.
Surely that’s enough? Actually, no. We strongly believe that’s not true, because change management is just one part of the puzzle. Certainly, it’s a key part, but it’s not the full story. You’ll never get long-lasting, sustained change with change management alone.
Over to you, change leaders
The missing link is change leadership. A team of expert change professionals can apply all their experience and guide the business through their transition. But they can’t drive it. The driving force has to come from the business.
Change leadership is fundamentally different to change management. It comes from the heart, it’s about articulating the vision of why we’re doing what we’re doing, with passion and urgency. It’s standing in front of the change, committing to do whatever it takes to make it work. Prioritizing its importance so the focus on the proposed new way is not a “nice to have” at the bottom of the to do list that keeps rolling over to next week…..
Effective change leadership inspires and builds energy in a room. It creates an aura of emotion that you can cut with a knife. It empowers. When your team leaves the room you can feel the determination to be a part of this, make it work and make it theirs. That’s effective change leadership.
The business doesn’t really care who the change practitioners are, and that’s ok. We’re often brought in from outside the business, so they’ll likely not know us. However, they do care who their leaders are, the people they can look into the whites of the eyes of to see just how committed they are to lead this and make it happen. That’s who they want to hear from, theirleaders. As change practitioners, we’ll do all the legwork, and bring the expertise. Then we’ll let the leaders be the voice and face of the change, let them take centre stage and shine.
When you bring change management and change leadership together, the chemical reaction is beautiful to watch – a powerful combination of forces creating a far bigger and better outcome than either could ever wish to achieve on their own.
Managing the energy
We worked with a client a number of years ago whose leadership had fantastic passion and energy. You could feel the buzz as you walked through the corridors. It was certainly an exciting place to work! The thing is though, the energy wasn’t always channelled. We’re not saying you need to control every minute of every day, but without that sense of direction, masses of uncontrolled energy can result in an unintended outcome – it sometimes felt like we were watching atoms colliding and exploding!
Now if we take that passion and energy, and work with it, applying our change management expertise to coach and guide our dynamic, enigmatic leaders in what needs to be said when and how – that’s where the magic happens. All that momentum worked in such a way that people make this their own with a determination to succeed.
Don’t shy away from lack of support
Let’s have a reality check for a moment – leaders aren’t always fully supportive of the proposed change. This isn’t something to turn a blind eye to. We’d be fools to think that people can’t tell when their leaders are faking the support. They sense it, they feel it. Take the time to understand your leaders, to assess how deeply their support really goes. And if there are issues or concerns, address them. Brushing them under the carpet won’t make them go away. Tackle the difficult conversations. If you don’t do it now, it’ll be a lot harder in open forum! The investment is worth it when you stand in the wings and watch that deep seated belief being passionately delivered on stage!
Know your parts….and play them
So, change practitioners, know your place, don’t try and do it all yourself. You bring great expertise and value, but the stage isn’t for you. Guide the performance from the wings. Sorry, but it really isn’t you the business wants to hear from.
And, leaders, don’t leave it all to the change practitioners, you also need to play your part. Take that stage and own it. You’re short changing the business if you don’t.
Remember, change implementation needs all of us to make your change stick – change managers and change leaders.