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5 Essentials For Executives Leading Change

Senior Executives play a vitally important role in a changing organization. Successful or failed changes, regardless of where they occur in the organization, can be traced back to the Executive group. 

Executives set the tone for the entire organization, in times of stability and during times of change. How the Executives function, so functions the whole direction. 

 
 

Over the years I've worked with Executive groups who are all engaged, focused and pulling together in the same direction. Those organizations tend to have more successful changes than failures. 

I've also worked with Executive groups who are absorbed in their isolated functional obligations as the organization drifts into the rocks. They commit significant energy to maintaining the appearance of a cohesive team pulling in the same direction. However, that illusion of an effective senior team breaks down under pressure. 

Major change brings daunting pressure. I've worked with many Executive teams who are not bowed by that pressure. Rather they seem to thrive on it. They have learned what to do to ensure their organization flourishes as they see their strategic direction fulfilled in the face of overwhelming challenges. 

What follows are 5 essential things successful Executive teams consistently do during times of major change:

1. Unify the Senior Team

It is imperative all Senior Executives speak and act in unison. They must all have 100% commitment and conviction to ensure the strategic direction is fulfilled and the changes are successful. Any small cracks of division at the Senior level end up as huge canyons of dissent lower in the organization. 

2. Define & Engage the Current Reality

There are three dimensions to the current reality in every changing organization:

a) Strategy - these essential strategic messages must truthfully and clearly be spelled out:

  • why changes are necessary now.
  • the consequences for failure.
  • the desired direction, vision or outcome.
  • two or three priorities.

b) Change - key change messages Executives must clarify are:

  • what the major changes are, how they align with each other, connect to which priorities and support the desired direction.
  • launch and continually support Project Teams.

c) Transition - essential transition messages Executives must outline are:

  • what is over now and what isn't.
  • clearly demonstrate trust and capacity to learn at their senior level.
  • highlight early signs of success, however small, for everyone to see. 

The key to engaging these three key messages is the Executives obligation to own change communication. A few essentials that make that work easier are:

  • Continually bring Project Teams and Management Teams, including Supervisors, together to discuss the changes.
  • Enlist the support of Communication Professionals to help simplify complex messages and develop useful communication tools.
  • Continually ensure their words and actions model the way for everyone. 

3. Align Project and Management Teams

Executives do not have the capacity to plan all the changes and engage all the Employees. Nor should they. 

Their role is to launch the Project Teams and ensure they have the resources they require to develop the project plans. Executives must ensure the Project Teams are continually engaging the Managers and Supervisors for as long as they exist as a Project Team. 

Executives must also co-ordinate all Project Teams to avoid overlap, competition and isolation between the various Project Teams. Usually it is only an Executive who has the capacity to gather various Project Teams together to share progress, avoid duplication of efforts and needless confusion. 

4. Accountability and Rewards for Results

Unless appropriate performance management and reward systems are in place, the changes will not be sustained. 

Accountability starts at the top with the Executives first holding themselves accountable for the changes success. They must then hold Managers, Supervisors and Project Teams accountable for successful outcomes. Only then will the Supervisors be successful at holding their Employees accountable for the desired outcomes. 

Executives must also align formal and informal reward systems with the desired results of the changes. Nothing will sabotage change faster than telling people to do something different while rewarding them to stay the same. 

5. Say Thank You

A genuine expression of gratitude goes a long way to continued success in the pressure filled environment of a changing organization. 

All too often Executives forget the extraordinary time, effort, energy and commitment people invest. 

Simple statements of appreciation make an enormous difference to people as they deal with the challenging reality during times of change. 

When I've watched Executives show up and fulfill these five essentials for leading change from the top, there is a noticeable energy and enthusiasm amid all the hard work. Over the long haul, changes are successful. 

When they don't show up and simply demand changes get done, frustration and failure result. 

Don't let your organization be an example of the latter. 

Copyright 2018, Chris Edgelow

 

Chris Edgelow