Change Lab Consulting
Change Lab Consulting

The role of a change leader (spoiler alert: you have to change too)


Effectively navigating through change in an organisation is often top of many business leaders’ lists of priorities. Yet time and again we hear of changes failing to become embedded. Major change programmes are complex beasts, and with that comes a myriad of things that can scupper your attempts at introducing new ways of working. Despite this, those leading the change can make a significant difference- but it won’t be easy.


They can see straight through you.


You may have spent weeks, maybe even months wordsmithing the perfect vision, now it’s time to show your organisation how you are signing up to it. The first step is communicating your vision, and once it’s out there people will be looking for signs of change. Leave it too long and cynicism will soon set in. Consider how you will demonstrate what the vision means to you, and how you feel about it. I shudder when I think of leaders who have articulated a vision with all the enthusiasm and passion of a wet fish. This is a call to be authentic, articulate the vision in a way that is a consistent with your usual style (unless it’s in the style of a wet fish, then you might need to experiment with some other styles). One way to prepare for this by explaining to yourself how the changes link to the values of the organisation.


“After all is said and done, more will be said than done”, Aesop.


Teaching on managing change is well-embedded into many leadership development and MBA programmes. This has led to many leaders understanding the theory of managing change, and what levers need to be applied to successfully transform how an organisation operates. Yet, we see that this has not translated to more successful change outcomes.


Jump across the knowing doing gap. Before you think it, I know it is easier said than done. It may even feel physically uncomfortable- cue the twisty feeling of angst in your stomach- when you think about having to take on some of the changes you are trying to introduce. If you are finding it hard, just think how hard it will be for the teams that are being asked to change. This will take courage. Showing you are willing to go through some pain too is leading by example, and shows your organisation you are personally invested in making the change happen. If you are still experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance (the tension of holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time) by this point, you may need to ask yourself if the change is what is needed.


Break down barriers to change


Barriers to change will continue to appear long after you have implemented your new system, structure or process. The job is not done once a project has gone live. You and your leadership team have to continue to hold up positive examples of the new behaviours being demonstrated, be role models and challenge old ways of doing things. If you identify teams where old ways of working persist, engage them, uncover the root cause and work with them to make the shift. And when you are through the other side, thank your people. After all, you know how hard change is.

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