Building change leadership from the bottom up

As change accelerates and disruption abounds, leaders at all organizational levels need support to adapt faster, better, and stronger. Here are the main areas of focus when building change leadership.

As employers and employees grapple with the wake of a global pandemic, new work models, technological advancements and growing talent shortages, leadership change is more difficult than ever. Capacity building for change is cited as the Development priority #1 for HR given concerns that today’s leaders and managers “are not equipped to lead change”.

In fact, DDI’s 2021 Global Leadership Forecast suggests that only 3 in 10 leaders are effectively prepared to handle the complexity and speed of change today. In short, driving change is not easy. Organizations are turning to talent managers to help them rally teams during the crisis, reduce team burnout, and improve virtual leadership skills with a hybrid workforce.

For talent managers, creating and sustaining change leadership amid explosive change patterns can be a lot like trying to change tires on a moving car. Although the effort may seem daunting, a consistent focus on the following key elements will build individual and organizational capacities for change from the ground up.

Continuously improve leadership development

Many change initiatives fail because leaders are unclear about their role and lack the skills to manage both the people and the process side of change. Additionally, the shift to a more remote workforce brings new challenges to identifying and developing talent and leading virtually. To close skills gaps and move beyond a growing shortage of leaders to fill critical roles, talent managers need to ensure that the characteristics and skills needed to drive change are well defined and change capability development methods and processes are aligned with the dynamic needs of the business.

To this end, high-quality development experiences include the combined use of self-reflection, action learning, extended assignments, coaching, mentoring, and game-based simulations in which participants are placed in real-world scenarios where they must lead change.

Coaching is a particularly effective way to build change leadership from the ground up, with leaders at all levels saying they want external coaching and development assignments to improve their interaction skills. Telus, a Canadian telecommunications company and winner of the 10x ATD BEST award, has restructured its corporate coaching program involve all employees in coaching and feedback, not just leaders. Additionally, Telus has prepared 70% of its workforce to work virtually through the use of industry-leading social channels that emphasize self-directed and peer-to-peer learning with easy access to relevant learning content and groups. of learning.

Prioritize communication skills

Talent managers need to help leaders understand that employees prefer to hear messages of change directly from their manager and that How? ‘Or’ What change is communicated has a major impact on how the change is embraced and adopted. Teaching managers to be intentional and proactive in communication should include the following guidelines:

  • Repetition is good, communicate often and regularly
  • Use a variety of methods (town halls, stand-ups, lunch-and-learns, checking stuff out, asking an expert about websites, games, wikis, blogs)
  • keep it simple
  • Have a clear vision that appeals to hearts and minds
  • Be inclusive. Create opportunities for middle managers, frontline leaders and individual contributors to engage
  • Give people a voice to express what they think, feel and experience
  • VSclarify expectations for new behaviors

Finally, emphasize the role of two-way communication and the simple power of listening as a way to build commitment to change, create an inclusive environment, support growth, and be actively sensitive to “ weak points” and the various needs of the employees.

Create communities and networks

The capacity for change is not limited to the actions of a single charismatic leader or stand-alone leadership development programs. Change networks, change academies, and communities of practice are strongly linked to successful change management and are effective approaches to building change-ready teams from scratch. Developing the capacity for change in high potentials who are frontline leaders or individual contributors also increases access to future talent.

For example, a manufacturing client with operations in 47 states shifted from viewing change management as a series of isolated events to viewing change capability as an ongoing strategic imperative. To build internal change skills, the OD team integrated over 50 change management tools and templates into existing Six Sigma frameworks. They also provided company-wide training in the principles, tools and skills of problem solving, process improvement and change management, which were immediately applied to projects. The company has relied on a change network at three levels of leadership – the leadership team, managers and a group called “change champions” – to help embed change capabilities and increase readiness for change. change.

Changing mindsets and expectations

Shaping mindsets and expectations is just as important as shaping skills. Companies that take the time to identify deeply ingrained mindsets are much more likely to rate their change initiatives as successful. Consider Microsoft: A growth mindset was a key goal of its transformation into a more agile and adaptive organization in 2014. Microsoft’s culture change strategy included the use of education and training programs, guides conversation, town hall meetings and redesigned talent management processes that foster a growing mindset. Since then the company value has more than tripled.

Talent management professionals can also shape mindsets by leveling the beliefs and expectations that

employees can “turn on a dime”, produce behavioral results quickly and juggle all old and new responsibilities without wasting time. Most employees experience a “performance dip” once new processes or behaviors are introduced and many are eager to meet change expectations. Fully remote workers tend to be less confident and more concerned about meeting expectations than on-site workers.

To minimizing anxiety and increasing confidence, talent managers must work with leaders to remove barriers at work, improve incentives for performance improvement, and provide more initial training when and where needed during change efforts. It is also important to help managers integrate risk and error as a natural part of the change process. Internationally renowned executive and former WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge calls the mistakes a “teaching moments” to reduce the risks associated with performance anxiety or fear of failure.

Monitor change fatigue

Change fatigue is a major risk to change success and one of the biggest obstacles to change readiness. Change fatigue sets in when people feel pressured to make too many transitions at once or when change initiatives have been poorly thought out, rolled out too quickly, or implemented without adequate preparation. Prosci studies suggest over 70 % of change participants are near, at or past the point of fatigue and saturation.

Talent managers must alert leaders and managers to the impact of constant change on employee motivation, the risk of burnout, and the overall ability to perform. With fatigue and burnout rates at record highs, talent managers can encourage leaders to perform periodic “temperature checks” with their teams during times of change or crisis. Emphasize the value of taking time to recharge. MozillaComment shut down the whole business for a “wellness week”. LinkedIn, Cisco and SAP have set up weekly “Mental Health Days” to allow global teams to recharge their batteries. Managers who care about the well-being of their employees are 2.3 times better prepared to prevent employee burnout and the resulting turnover.

It is also important for talented leaders and managers to continuously monitor their own level of fatigue, as managers tend to be at higher risk of burnout. Encourage leaders to serve as effective role models by sharing their own challenges and experiences of change and by having others do the same safely.

Building change leadership from the ground up has many moving parts and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Growing business change leadership is best viewed as a holistic, multi-faceted strategy that requires dedicated, long-term commitment. Organizations that dedicate time and resources to building collective change leadership are much more likely to have exceptional businesses, organization and people. results such as:

  • on time, on budget projects
  • improved engagement and adoption of change
  • increased confidence in leadership
  • increase in customer satisfaction
  • Improved innovation in products and services

As talent managers, we play a critical role in helping leaders and teams gain the confidence, skills and knowledge to drive and sustain change in this rapidly changing and turbulent landscape. Change is everywhere, the pressures for change leadership are real, and the disruption is here to stay. How are you answering the call and stepping up to leverage your role as a strategic change agent?

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