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Leading Change: Who is really doing it?

The focus on leading change and its success, often falls on those leaders tasked with sponsoring and owning the change. However change often fails, due to the lack of leadership from leaders who are recipients of that change. They may not have been brought on the journey; not aware of why they may be avoiding or sabotaging the change; or understand how they can effectively lead their teams through change. 

"A 2008 IBM global study on change initiatives, which surveyed 1,500 change management executives from 15 countries, found that nearly 60 percent of change projects did not fully meet their expectations. People and corporate culture were identified by the respondents as major obstacles to implementing change, with nearly 60 percent of respondents saying changing people’s mindsets and attitudes was the biggest challenge. Forty-nine percent of respondents said that corporate culture was the next biggest challenge." Source: Making Change Work - UNC Executive Development 2013

There is a whole industry around change management and yet change continues to be one of the hardest things to understand and there is no one process or one answer to ensure change is successful.

Leaders are instrumental in leading others through change and key to ensuring change success. They are faced with many challenges such as:

Challenge #1: Comparison to previous changes that didn’t work

We’ve tried this before and it didn’t work. My team will be opposed to this change.

Challenge #2: Lack of leadership experience or failure to understand the change initiative’s relevance and lack of skill to lead teams through change

I don’t have the experience or confidence to influence others and bring them on the change journey.

“I’m not skilled at leading change or what is required to bring my team along the journey.”

Challenge #3: Lack of support or buy-in by leaders

We’re not convinced that this change is the right thing to do; we don’t believe in it; and don’t want to go make our teams comply.

Our teams will resist this change and we don’t believe the benefits are realistic.

Challenge #4: Perceived or real lack of time to comply

We’re already so busy, we don’t have time to learn how to do this. In fact this means we will have to work harder than ever.

Challenge #5: People are becoming change fatigued because there has been so much change

“Our people have had so much change to absorb and adopt over the past few years and there is even more to come - we’re not sure how much more they can take on board.”

Challenge #6: Lack of confidence / trust / faith in the real motives of leadership introducing change

“Our leaders are not being transparent about why we are doing this change They are hiding the true reasons behind other perceived secondary benefits. My team can see through this.”

I had the privilege of working with the large group of leaders who were recipients of multiple changes over a 12 month period. They were faced with the challenges mentioned above and more. The sponsors of the change were intent on getting this these leaders and their teams ready for the changes that were coming – however the buy-in to embed the changes within their teams was lacking. 

To help them prepare themselves and their team for the proposed changes we focused on trust (building trust with their teams and with the people rolling out the changes) and awareness (self-awareness and awareness of others in the impact change had) to build certainty and confidence in their ability to lead others through change. 

When lead well, change can be exciting and create momentum and energy in an organisation. Lead badly and change and its impacts can create uncertainty, distrust and a resistance to taking change on board. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on what happens when you are required to lead your teams through change that you are the recipient of rather than the sponsor for.

This blog is part of a larger white paper on ‘Leadership in Driving Change’. Feel free to email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) if you would like a copy.

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