Energize Your Team for Change in 2024

Fill in the blank:

Change is __________.

Depending on your situation, mindset, and thinking style, you may have immediately thought of any number of descriptors. Imagine the variety of reactions your people may have to all the change initiatives you have planned for 2024!

The way I would fill in the blank is: Change is opportunity. As you plan for 2024, here are some keys to success for energizing your team for change.

Make sure your energy is leading the charge

As a leader who has introduced countless change initiatives, I consider my own attitude, behavior, and language around change to be one of the most critical determinants of success. People can tell if your heart's in it, and your body language will often speak volumes more than the words flowing from your mouth (or keyboard). So, before you get up on stage, be it virtually or in-person, to kick off a major change, take the time to make sure you are the number one believer in this change.

  • Articulate why you believe in this change, and how the company will look different once this change has been institutionalized.
  • Be cognizant about how you talk about the change with different audiences, and try to ensure your messaging is consistent.
  • Almost all changes come with challenges. You can never anticipate everything that may happen, but try to create a plan to mitigate or eliminate the friction you can already be fairly certain about.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you are actually afraid of, or worried about. Even writing it down or saying it out loud can go a long way toward changing your outwardly visible confidence.

Craft a compelling change story, and stick to it

In 2009, I was part of one of the largest super regional bank mergers ever. I was frozen in my tracks until a peer said to me, “Look out your 17th floor office window. See this bank, look at that bank. They are no longer your competition. Now look at JPMC, Citi and Wells Fargo. We are in the big leagues now – that is your new competition!” I immediately became energized about what this opportunity could bring – and I never looked back. It was all about helping to build a top-five financial institution. Really a chance of a lifetime. A year later, coming in on time and on budget, we succeeded in completing this M&A and received countless recognition and awards! This truly transformed my journey in adapting to change.

Once you are clear on your personal conviction, it’s time to think about what this change means to the whole organization, and to individual stakeholders. While it may be appropriate to share the message with different groups in slightly different ways, it is critical that the overall messaging is consistent. For instance, if you roll out a change with positivity and enthusiasm at an all-hands meeting, but privately express your doubts among other leaders, you can expect that to trickle out. If you feel tempted to do this, go back to step one (make sure your energy is leading the charge) and spend some more time on your personal story.

As you prepare to share the initiative, make sure to consider the following questions every single person will be asking themselves as they hear about the new change:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is the intended result of this change?
  • How does this help the company, employees and our customers?
  • How does this ultimately help me?
  • What changes can I expect in my day-to-day activities, and how soon?
  • What kind of effort will this require from me?
  • What might be the short-term “pain,” and why is it worth it?
  • What resources will be available to me as we navigate this change?
  • Who can I go to with questions or concerns?
  • How will we know when we are successful?

It is extremely important to help leaders feel prepared for employee questions and concerns. Make sure your “point people” for questions and concerns share your conviction in the change, and are prepared to listen to and empathize with a variety of employee viewpoints. It may be necessary to spend some extra time prior to large-scale communication to the company helping other leaders create their authentic buyin to the change, just as you did at the beginning of the process.

Be ready for the adaptation curve

Every leader has probably had the experience of spending months preparing to introduce a change initiative, only to roll out to a room full of blank stares. It can really erode your confidence if you don’t plan for the different adaptation styles! I like to leverage the DiSC framework to anticipate how different people may react, and ultimately, how they will make a decision about accepting or resisting the change. The bullets below correspond to the D, i, S, and C styles, respectively.

  • Those who will immediately challenge the change, especially if they feel they were not consulted or their point of view was not considered in making the decision. They may appear as almost combative at first, but if you have prepared your messaging well, you can help them feel a part of the change and they can become some of your best implementers relatively quickly.
  • Those who are instantly excited about the change, and will do whatever it takes to make it happen. They can be very strong partners in cheerleading the change, though it is important to spend time with them to make sure they understand the nuance so that they don’t attempt to drive change through enthusiasm alone.
  • Those who generally feel anxious about change. Given their strong need for stability, they may take longer to buy in, and will require a lot of clarity and reassurance. They want to feel that everything is under control, and will take time to embrace the change.
  • Those who need time to review all the data and process what they have heard. They may show concerned, thoughtful, or “blank” facial expressions. Virtually, they may be either nonreactive (their minds are spinning below the surface!), or ask extensive questions. They are likely to come around, but may take longer and may temporarily frustrate others who are on board right away.

Time will ultimately tell who will be on board and who will not, but being aware of how different people may react to change will go a long way toward building momentum that ultimately permeates the entire organization. It is not just “leaders in title” who are critical to effective change management, but people who can lead in their own way at every level.

Don’t forget to celebrate!

This is very important. Take time to celebrate the milestones the team achieves along the way. We talk a lot in business about the discipline to remain focused on our goals and deadlines. What many leaders miss is the discipline to consistently motivate the team. Take the victory laps! You might meet a goal without taking care of your team, but it may be the last time they rally to get something done, as they cross the finish line burned out and ready to look for another job, or another leader.

Everyone appreciates being recognized for their accomplishments and the extra lift, even if it is just with consistent verbal acknowledgment. When you celebrate, you drive engagement and commitment along your change journey. It’s an investment in long-term success that I have never regretted, no matter how busy I’ve gotten in the midst of an implementation.

The big takeaway

For successful change management, keeping your people top-of-mind is the best investment you can make. It begins with you, and continues with an ongoing commitment to your team that includes communicating and reinforcing clear expectations, supporting people in doing their best work, and celebrating success. Glowe is here to lead the shift toward human-centered leadership that transforms businesses and their people. If you need a partner in transformation, let’s find time to chat.

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