One of the biggest challenges most leaders face is implementing change. Let me say, I know change is inevitable and necessary, and there is no way to avoid it. Change generally is never easy for most people. And it gets more difficult when a leader comes along and attempts to change things that people are used to.
Many leaders find it challenging to implement changes either because the people are resisting the change, or the way the leader has decided to do it.
I can recall while pastoring I came up against having to make changes with some inflexible people who I knew would resist the changes. It was difficult, I was able to make some of the changes, and some I had to accept were not going to happen under my leadership.
Here are some things I have learned about implementing change.
Know what deeply held values the people have about the thing you want to change. In other words, do they care if it is changed, do they believe there’s no need for change, are they determined not to change the thing, or do they want it to change, or maybe it is something they want to change but they are not ready. Like you, everyone has context and experience for how they view things.
Clearly explain the ‘why’ or need for the change and allow the people involved to challenge the reason for the change. Don’t tell them you are implementing a change without having given them an opportunity to have challenged the reason(s) for the change.
You may be the one with the power to insist on the change, but don’t forget, the people have to agree to implement it.
Nothing causes people to resist change more than when they are not allowed to challenge the reason(s) for the change and are told to implement the change by someone in authority over them.
Give people time to work through their resistance to the change. Because change is never easy, resistance is a natural part of implementing change. You have to expect it, prepare for it, and give people time to work through it. This is done by entertaining their questions.
Many leaders struggle with this part. When considering questions of resistance, rather than just answering the question, leaders usually find themselves going into long discussions or explanations in defense of the changes they want to make, and people leave feeling like they were not heard. When you are asked a question, just answer the question and resist the temptation of wondering off into your defense for the change.
Be well prepared to talk about the change. Do your research, come prepared to share the benefits of the change, the cost, the challenges, resources involved and when you would like to see the change implemented. When possible give the change a trial period. Depending of the type of change it could be a trial period of one, three or six months, or in some cases it could be a year.
When people see you are well prepared to talk about the change, it instills confidence in them to trust you with change.
Remember, you are not asking people to change, you are asking them to be part of something different you are doing. Rather than making it about them changing or not changing, making it about them becoming a part of something you want to do that is different.
When talking about the new way of doing something, you need to avoid criticizing the way it was done in the past. Talk about the benefits of the way it was done in the past, and how moving on now will make things better. Give examples of how it will be better.
Change is never easy and is often met with resistance, especially when it is related to something that has been around for a long time and people are set and comfortable in doing things in a certain way.
However with some planning, intentionality and patience, change can be implemented. Even if you have failed at implementing some changes in the past, I want to encourage you to try again this time using some of the suggestions above.
If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.