Skills for Change Leadership – Secrets for Organizational Change Agents

By Drew Stevens, Ph.D.

Thousands of books and articles are written each year on leadership and organizational management but not many on change. There is a torrent of content and research, process visuals statistics, however what is required is understanding people. The irony is that study needs to focus on change with a more candid look at how to alter behavior. Change is simple as long as one knows where and how to look.

Change happens everyday. The workplace is riddled with new policies and procedures and even new employees that create barriers. When traditional barriers are altered, those creating them are considered change agents. More importantly, change is mainstream for organization due to globalization and technological change. Practices of three to five years ago are no longer relevant and in order to remain competitive change is required. Moreover, as the United States begins a “Pre-Boom Economy” stemming from financial volatility the increase in merger and acquisition creates voluminous changes in organization.

Forces of Change

Change is maximized within all levels of the organization. Ultimately the raison d’etre for organizational change is up to the creator. In most organizations this would be the leader, however much change is implemented at the grassroots level. There are times when ordinary work institutes change. Given our increasingly growing “Knowledge Economy” individuals discover better, faster and more efficiency in workflow. Workplace change agents simply instigate better methods that increase productivity, reduce labor and instill higher job satisfaction. As such sometimes change happens for “change sake”.

Coincidentally, the multiplicity of change seeks out not only change in policy but change in behavior. As individuals begin the process of learning new tasks and responsibilities behavior alters. The affects of which are positive and negative. Positive behavior results when individuals are more comfortable with work. Consistent with Maslow’s Theory, workers desire workplace safety and security. Alternatively when habits alter so does behavior. Many individuals remain in their comfort zone and resist change.

Secrets and Skills for Change Leaders

Research on morale and productivity in the workplace supports the notion when employer/employee relationships exists, morale elevates. Further, workplace relationships are built foundationally on trust and respect. Change leaders therefore must create an aura of trust and respect. Without this change desists. By creating relationships leaders can more easily instigate change within organizations. With over 26 years working with leaders and change agents I find the following attributes helpful among change agents in moving an idea forward.

  1. Passion – No idea moves without passion. Passion is behind every great innovation, dream and radical movement. Passion allows others to believe and follow. Without passion there is inertia.
  2. Communication – The foundation for every business, there can never be enough communication. Presently, with the proliferation electronic media including email, text messaging and social media, individuals are instantly updated on change. The spontaneity of real time should enable change wherever, however and whenever it is required.
  3. Selling the Concept – The concept of change is really a negotiation tactic similar to sales. Leaders must present the information articulately so that individuals understand the benefits and value. When vision and value are transferred to the recipients and they too “see” the future, change begins.
  4. Grassroots Gurus – No movement begins without a powerful network. Leaders require support as many organizations are too hierarchical and leaders lack time and energy to speak with all. As leaders recite their passion and vision, they delegate support where others begin to carry the torch.
  5. Prudent Risk – Given the opportunity, research supports the notion that 96% of individuals remain in their comfort zone. Good change leaders understand the value of assessing and discussing prudent risk to allay fear. The effort here is allowing followers to see and believe in what leaders do while also convincing followers of diminished risk.
  6. Conviction – Without passion and conviction there is no movement. John F. Kennedy’s speech about placing man on the moon or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is filled with conviction. Others are galvanized by dogma as long as the change leader believes it.
  7. Strategic Direction – Strategy fails in implementation when change leaders do not discuss and hold those accountable for following organizational mission, vision and values. However, change policies must align with these imperative corporate attributes. Failure to do so allows others to question company motives.

Change is not easy to succumb because it requires partnership and direction. With the cacophony of projects, the stressing need for productivity and numerous corporate downsizings, leaders find it harder to initiate change. Companies are moving too quickly, as such partnerships harder to maintain.

However, the increased need to compete and product allows for constant channels of creative change. Technology allows for boundarylessness communication inciting around the clock change. As leaders seek new partners, increased communication and support, change becomes easier. However, the linchpin is a leader that is committed, has passion and can communication vision. Further, leaders must placate their followers by diminishing risk and more importantly illustrating the future. When disciples sense feel and see the change, it begins. It is imperative to understand no change begins with mandate, rather with publics that believe they can achieve.

©2010. Drew Stevens PhD. All Rights Reserved

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