By Kyle Steffens, Manager-Strategic Accounts, AmeriFleet
“Change is the only constant.” We’ve all heard it over and over, and it’s true! Change surrounds us in all aspects of our daily lives; it challenges us as individuals and as organizations to adapt and do it quickly. The pace of change is also astonishing. The world was amazed when Twitter hit 50-million users in two years – and we were amazed by that until “Angry Birds” did it 20 times faster in just 35 days.
How do we and the organizations we manage cope with the frequency and lightning pace of change? What can we do to help lead ourselves and our peers through these stressful yet exciting times?
Much has been studied and written about leading through change. What we’d like to share are a few key components for successful change leadership.
At our company, we often use the phrase “there’s no such thing as over-communication,” and that also happens to be true. Studies have shown that humans need to hear something seven times or more for it to have impact. Add to this the fact that individuals all have preferred methods for internalizing information: some are visual learners (“I need to see it”), some are auditory learners (“I need to hear about it”) while others are tactile learners (“I need to do it”). These are real challenges to effective communication, but they can be overcome.
Some ideas to help you: first, rephrase and repeat messages often. When you feel you’ve said it too much, say it some more and you’ll probably be closer to the right number of repetitions! Second, utilize all available communication methods: videos, email, social media, live and recorded messages. Finally, identify key peer influencers in your organization and enlist them as your “army” of on-the-ground communicators. Remember, there’s no such thing as over-communicating.
- Don’t forget the “why”
Remember, people bring not only their hands to work — they also bring their hearts and minds. Studies have shown that unsuccessful change leaders spoke exclusively about the “what” behind the change. While successful change leaders spoke not only about the “what” but the “why” behind the change. Also remember the “why” should connect to a higher purpose to truly engage employees’ hearts and minds.
Purposes around numbers (e.g., “We want to double our business, increase market share by X%”, etc.) will not excite the heart or mind, but connecting to your organization’s higher purpose and values will yield increased organizational buy-in.
- Celebrate the wins, both big and small
Don’t fail to applaud great work. In a hectic change environment (and they are all hectic), it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming so focused on management activities that we forget to recognize teammates who make things happen in the middle of the chaos.
Suggestion: Put reflection and recognition time on your calendar and do it! Reflect on the prior day, week or month, find those small and big wins and have a standing “recognition moment” set aside to communicate the accomplishments and congratulate the team members that made them happen. You’re letting the team know that you value their efforts, that you need their support and that the organization wouldn’t have come this far without them.
- Never stop learning
As leaders, it’s healthy to recognize that as soon as you feel you have all the answers, you’ve stopped learning. In today’s world you’re either learning every day and becoming smarter or you’re no longer learning and getting “less smart” (let’s be frank: you’d be getting dumber!). Constantly ask questions of people both inside and outside the organization. Set up both formal and informal feedback processes.
Question yourself, your assumptions and recognize that we all have biases. It’s been proven that unsuccessful leaders of change failed to ask the right number of questions, didn’t capture accurate information or they dismissed it, leaving them without the insights needed to adapt as things changed.
So, in short: Communicate (often and in different ways). Let your people know “why” (a higher purpose engages hearts, minds and hands!). Celebrate (there will be more wins than you may recognize; reflect and find them!). And never stop learning (ask questions, get feedback, get smarter!).