Change Leadership Challenge 1: Active, Committed Leadership

This is the first in a series of posts about change leadership.

Image from the Boston Public Library

Image from the Boston Public Library

Today’s executives have a great responsibility to enact change. Staying competitive in business requires implementing new technologies, improving processes, reducing costs, and enabling innovation. Yet these activities – all of which have significant change-management components to them – can be dogged with challenges.

If you want to lead your organization to achieve its goals, you need to learn how to lead change effectively. The success of your organization, and your career as an executive, depends on it.

Successful change initiatives rely on five key factors. Today we focus on the first factor: active, committed leadership. Keep reading to check how well you’re doing.

Engage Employees

Employees naturally look to their leaders for direction and listen to what they say. They’re sensitive to their superiors’ unspoken and understated messages. For example, if you show up for a meeting and don’t seem engaged, your team will sense your apathy. If you don’t show enthusiasm for a strategy or project, the team members won’t either. They’ll look at their own long to-do lists and put the project in the low priority bucket. Can you blame them? If you don’t commit, why should they?

There are lots of reasons why you might commit half-heartedly to a plan. More than half of IT executives polled by CIO in 2007 reported being “challenged by an overwhelming backlog of requests and projects” and bemoan the “shortage of time for strategic thinking and planning.” Things probably haven’t changed much since then. So when the heat is on, leaders often choose priorities based on which customer yells the loudest or which project catches the CEO’s attention.

Prioritize the Change

Take the time to look at upcoming initiatives and evaluate their importance against the mission and strategies of the organization. If the initiative under consideration is truly important to the success of the organization, to the leadership team and to you, then make the commitment.

Quick Check: How Well Are You Providing Active, Committed Change Leadership?

Ask yourself the following questions to gauge how well you’re providing active, committed leadership on your change initiative:

  1. Did you initiate or endorse the change?
  2. Do you truly believe that the change will bring significant benefits to the organization?
  3. Are you prepared to kick off the project in person?
  4. Are you committed to seeing the project through to completion?

If you answered yes to all four questions, you’ve met several criteria for success. If you answered no to any question, it’s time to do some deep thinking about whether you’re the right person to lead this change—or whether it’s even the right move for your company. Save yourself and your organization turmoil by working out these important questions before launching the project.

Just like any obligation, tying your knot to a change effort can bring moments of frustration and regret. That’s why strategizing and planning up front is critical. That way, when you face one of those inevitable moments of dismay, you’ll be firm enough in your resolve to find a way through the challenges and continue to lead the change.

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