Change Management is the New Leadership

Posted on: Jun 04, 2019

Categories: Change Management, Leadership

Change is the new normal, and change management is the new leadership.

Every company and every organization that I’ve worked with in the past few years has been undergoing major change due to technology, restructuring or rebranding. And they’re not just making changes for the sake of change—they’re making changes because it’s a matter of life and death for their brand. No one is safe in today’s rapidly-changing marketplace—and it doesn’t matter how big or successful a company is today.

This is so serious that there is a new job opening being listed by corporations all over: A Change Management Professional, someone who helps both individual employees and the corporation at large to have a strategy to navigate change moving forward.

My keynote “Living Life at Performance Level” is a crash course in navigating change, getting uncomfortable and writing new scripts, so I was thrilled to share it at the ACMP Change Management Conference and to spend a couple of days with 1,200 friends talking all about change and the impact it’s having in every industry.

acmp change management conference

But as I was at the conference, I kept thinking about how change management isn’t just for newly-hired Change Management Professionals: It is first and foremost for leaders.

In fact, I’d wager to say that the new definition of leadership is change management. So: If change is the new normal in your world, here are the keys being the leader who brings company-wide success and whom people trust in times of transition.

1. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see.

Managing change right comes down to one thing: attitude. And a good attitude is a trickle-down effect from the leaders of an organization.

Leadership isn’t just about telling others what to do — it’s about demonstrating it every single day. What would happen if you exemplified the behavior you wanted to see in your employees?

If you want your people to embrace change, you have to be a change agent yourself. It’s not fair—or effective—to ask something of your employees that you’re not doing yourself.

Do you have a strong enough passion about your product or service to inspire excellence in the people you’re paying to deliver it? If your answer is no, then maybe it’s time you found another job.

2. Be willing to fire people.

I know this one seems counter-intuitive—but it may be the most crucial.

There are two ways that you can get the right people on your team: You can fire half of your people and blow your company up, but that will leave a lot of debris, and people will get hurt who weren’t causing the problems to begin with.

The other way is to take time to assess what the changes really need to be and to evaluate your people individually.

There are three types of people in an organization when it comes to change.

Change-resistant employees complain whenever any kind of technological change or organizational restructuring occurs. They’re tied to “the way we’ve always done it,” and they lose energy when they’re asked to do something new, refuse to adapt,  and eventually, they choke your progress as a company.

Here’s the truth: Companies with employees who are clinging to old scripts are the companies that file for bankruptcy. If an employee or a group of employees has consistently shown to have a negative attitude in the face of change, it’s time to make some cuts.

Change-tolerant employees do what they’re asked, but they don’t think ahead or adjust their processes without being prompted to.

If you’re dealing with teams who tolerate change but fail to proactively prepare for it, invest in an energy-boosting meeting that empowers your employees to take control of their own lives understand their role in the success of your company. (Sidebar: I love spending days with teams to boost momentum within organizations!)

Change-enthusiastic employees are proactively on the lookout for changes happening in your industry, and they independently initiate new processes and strategies to keep up with technological or industry-wide innovations. They believe in their capabilities and are excited to work on new projects.

Promote your change-enthusiastic employees ASAP. They are the lifeblood that will propel your organization into future success.

3. Unite people to work together.

The best thing you can do to equip your people to adapt rapidly is to bring them closer and make them excited to work for you.

It may feel like a waste of time to invest in fun, team-building activities and conferences when your people could be making sales or developing new products, but I guarantee it’s not. Events have the power to be culture changing for companies, but only if you do them right. (Want to know how? Click here to download my eBook, 5 Elements of a Life-Changing Event.)

Team-building experiences dissolve silos and fuel the innovation that your organization desperately needs to stay relevant.

4. Be honest about the “why” behind the change.

Resentment boils under the surface of an organization when employees don’t understand the why behind rapid change. If your people think that you’re making changes that make more work for them just for the heck of it—news flash: They’re not going to like you.

On the other hand, if you’re transparent about difficulties and explain that in order for your business to stay alive in the new marketplace, these changes are imperative, your employees will be on board with you.

It also helps to explain who is causing the change. Without being told, your lower-level employees might assume that you are the driving agent behind the change. Really, you’re making changes as a reaction to what the marketplace is demanding.

It’s easy to explain changes when your team is small, but what about when your team is thousands of people? My team and I have found that ongoing messaging campaigns have amazing results when it comes to uniting large groups of people. 

5. Look on the bright side of the change.

While managing change can feel frustrating and like you’re playing a never-ending game of catch up just to keep up with your competitors, it’s actually giving you incredible information about your company and your employees.

Because here’s the truth: The big changes going on in your industry actually aren’t creating new problems: They’re just highlighting the problems that are already there. As a leader, part of your job is to get people out of their comfort zones so that they grow closer and innovate more. Change makes this necessary.

Change isn’t the bad guy.

Change shows you who your lifeless employees are and who your rockstar employees are.

Change creates challenges for your people to overcome, which brings teams together.

Change keeps your work fresh and exciting, which means that office hum-drum will become a thing of the past.

Change is the new normal, which might be the best thing that ever happens to you and your company.