In my experience as a leadership expert and consultant, change is never easy. It is not easy for leaders, managers, or employees. Change poses a threat for most people, especially when it comes to their career or position within their organization.
Even if change is positive and will benefit the organization, it is difficult for people to accept because it represents a disruption to the status quo. People like consistency, and change creates uncertainty that makes people uneasy. Transformative leaders understand how to frame organizational change effectively.
A Leader’s Attitude About Change Sets the Tone
Your attitude as a leader and how you approach change will set the tone of how change will be viewed and accepted internally. Even though there will likely be some resistance from people in your organization, this is lowered when leaders set the tone. It is no secret that employee engagement is an issue in most companies, and setting a positive tone can have an impact on how change is perceived.
For example, if your approach is to mandate change from a position of fear, using it as a way to get people to conform, you can expect a negative reaction. This will make employee engagement and buy-in less likely. On the other hand, approaching change positively and with enthusiasm for the future re-affirms that change is good, which helps to initially engage people when it is announced.
Understanding the Employee Perspective
Even if you know that making change is best for the organization and is beneficial for future success, it needs to be handled carefully and framed properly to get your team to buy in. One of the most important things that leaders need to understand is that other people may not see change in the same way or from the same perspective. Certain benefits of change may be obvious to leaders, but not necessarily to others in the company.
Leaders need to be able to answer “What is in it for me” from the perspective of different people within the organization to properly frame change. As discussed in How Transformational Leaders Make Organizational Change Stick, how you frame change makes a significant difference. When framing change, it is important to understand your teams’ perspective, how they view change, and the emotional factors that are at play. Tapping into people’s emotions and framing change in terms of inspiration, opportunity, while giving people the ability to voice their opinion allows transformational leaders to frame change correctly, and communicate the need for change in a way that can make it stick and become part of your company’s culture.
Communicate and Create Incentives and Motivation
For change to be accepted, leaders need to clearly communicate the purpose of change and outline incentives and motivations for people if you want them to accept it. Outline:
- Company growth, goals, and objectives
- How change ties into organizational vision and values
- New opportunities internally
- The training and coaching that will support change
- Short term and long term benefits
- How change directly affects people at all levels of the company
- How people will be held accountable
The key is for leadership to regularly and openly communicate with people across the organization. Organizational change must be handled with care so that people do not become fearful of the future. Failure to communicate why change is needed, how it will impact people individually, and when it will occur will negatively impact buy-in.