3 October 2023

Leading the Way to Successful Change

Start the conversation

We all know workplace change is inevitable, but badly-managed change is worse than no change at all. Michelle Gibbings suggests ways to avoid the pitfalls.

If you’ve worked in any organisation for a while, you’ll likely have experienced some form of organisational change.

Sadly, your experience of the change may have been sub-par.

The history of organisational change is littered with examples of projects and initiatives that didn’t go to plan — never finished; de-scoped; poorly implemented; partially implemented — I could go on.

There may have been a lack of vision and strategic alignment, insufficient employee involvement and engagement, poor communication, inadequate resources, and poor planning.

All these elements can lead to a lack of progress, employee resistance and change stagnation.

Almost always a lack of leadership is the root problem. If you want to increase your odds of success, it’s imperative to focus on the leadership style accompanying the change.

Research by McKinsey found that organisations with effective change-management programs, which included a specific focus on leadership, were 1.7 times more likely to out-perform their industry peers.

There’s a saying: “We are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

The more we do something, the more ingrained it becomes in our behaviour.

So if you are a leader who needs to be at the forefront of change and leading from the front, what leadership habits do you want to cultivate?

Countless leadership books offer long lists of the attributes of effective leaders. However, the most effective leadership style is often situationally driven — with circumstances dictating the best approach.

For example, if you are leading a crisis, you must make decisions quickly and, at times, with limited consultation.

However, if you are leading an organisation through a large-scale transformation, you’ll need to be more consultative.

From my experience, the best change leaders exhibit six essential qualities.

Discovery focused: Change leaders are curious and focused on discovering what needs to change within them.

They know they must embody the change they seek to inspire and lead by example, demonstrating the behaviour and attitudes expected from their team members.

They remain open to new ideas, take calculated risks, encourage experimentation, and know they set the standard.

Their actions create a ripple effect throughout their team, and potentially organisation (depending on their level).

They challenge the status quo, and view setbacks as learning experiences rather than failures.

Deliberate: They are deliberate about what they do, when, and where they spend their energy.

They know how to effectively allocate time to be ‘in the detail’ and ‘above the detail’ and when to focus on tasks or what team members need.

Disciplined: Change leaders continuously monitor progress, assess the impact of the change, and make necessary adjustments.

They track metrics, measure outcomes, and provide feedback to employees.

They also drive continuous improvement by actively managing and adapting the change strategy and approach when needed.

They don’t become locked into ways of working that aren’t working.

Decisive: Successful change leaders involve employees in the change process, empowering them to contribute their ideas and perspectives.

This means the leader knows when to delegate, debate, direct and decide.

They are not afraid of taking action and are happy to correct course when needed.

Determined: Change leaders anticipate and address resistance and obstacles proactively. They listen to employee concerns, support, and address misconceptions or fears.

They also accept that change can be complex and is never a straight line. There will be ups and downs and a few detours along the way.

Consequently, they use their resilience and bounce-forward approach to learn from mistakes.

Most importantly, they know how to inspire confidence in their teams to take calculated risks, try things, improve and progress.

Dedicated: Trust is essential during times of change. Leaders build trust by being transparent, actively listening to employee concerns, and addressing them appropriately.

Effective change leaders are dedicated to their team, understanding what each person needs to progress through the change.

They involve team members early, seeking their input, ideas, and feedback.

By empowering their team members to take ownership and contribute to the change initiative, leaders tap into their collective intelligence and foster a sense of ownership and commitment.

There may be other qualities that you would add, and this list isn’t intended to be exhaustive. It’s intended to get you to think about your leadership style.

If you are leading a change, it’s critical to be conscious of your leadership style during the transition and to know what’s working or not working.

In doing this, think about how your leadership style is received by those around you.

Remember, change happens. So make it work for you and for those around you.

*Michelle Gibbings is a Melbourne-based change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. She works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at https://www.changemeridian.com.au/latest-news/.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.