Do you have what it takes to lead change?

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Only a small percentage of leaders possess the breadth and depth of capabilities needed to deliver change that is truly transformational. In fact, research conducted by HBR puts the number of ‘strategists’ – leaders who are highly effective change agents – at just 4%. 

Organisations have and will continue to struggle to deliver transformational change when they fail to identify, develop and retain leaders with the right capabilities and attributes. According to industry research, while 83% of employers believe it’s crucial to develop leaders at all levels, only 5% actually do so – which is probably why just 14% of organisations possess the leadership talent needed to significantly grow their business.

Fail to develop your leaders, and they will almost invariably hinder rather than help your transformation efforts. It takes enlightened, as well as strong and powerful leadership to deal with the ambiguity change presents, forge new opportunities, empower adaptable tools and processes, and inspire teams and entire workforces with the appropriate mindset to sustain the change. 

Leadership alignment is critical to a successful transformation

Leadership alignment’ is an integral component of successful change initiatives and therefore cannot exist in isolation. 

Leadership alignment covers:

  • The vision for the change being successfully and sustainably delivered.
  • Understanding the nature of the change challenge “what is the rich mix of technical vs adaptive change” required?
  • What is happening and why, in the organisation system today.
  • How leaders behave and engage their people through change.
  • What needs to be done differently to ensure the transformation is a success
  • Embracing both the capacity as well as the capability to lead change, as individual leaders, and as a Leadership team.

Only once the leadership team is aligned, can you capitalise on the workforce and leverage employees’ collective intelligence. Rather than your leaders being responsible for making decisions and tackling the tough business questions, you create an environment where people really engage and want to step up to challenge ways of work and bring new ideas to the table.

The path to alignment

Successful change requires you to think and do things differently. For example:

  • Involve people so they feel change is done ‘with’ them, not ‘to’ them.
  • Change from ‘outputs’ based KPIs to ‘outcomes’ that solve specific challenges.
  • Focus on ‘brilliant basics’ and deliver tangible value every 90-days.
  • Upskill the team through coaching and mentoring to develop future leaders.

We enable our clients to accelerate their leadership alignment around transformation using our three-phase approach:

Phase 1: Setting the course 

Initially, you need to identify where alignment is needed, how it can be achieved, and define the roles that individual leaders and leadership teams must take to engage their people in the change journey. Fail to set the course, and you risk not securing the executive buy-in, which can make successful change hard (if not impossible) to achieve. 

Complete Phase 1 to ensure your leadership team is aligned on:

  • The purpose of the change and desired future state.
  • The nature of the change challenge, potential barriers and enablers that could affect change.
  • How the leadership team will make decisions based on long- and short-term results.

Phase 2: Evolving the team 

Next, you need to develop a greater capacity to achieve a step change in leadership effectiveness – both individually and as a team. Leading through change is very different than leading during business-as-usual. It requires leaders to adapt their style to maintain employee engagement while navigating change to deliver the expected outcome(s). Fail to evolve the team and you risk resistance as people default to their ‘natural’ ways of working. The phrase ‘change is the norm’ is very much in the business language today, but the default of organisations steadfastly prioritising BAU is more real than ever.

Complete Phase 2 to ensure your leadership team is aligned on:

  • ‘Practicing what you preach’ to demonstrate a shared commitment – “Acting your way into a new way of thinking” (as opposed to over thinking what it would be like to be working in a different way).
  • The need to understand and grow their individual and collective capacity and capabilities to lead the change. 
  • Consistent communication about the vision, purpose, agreed values and behaviours.

Phase 3: Creating energy for change

Finally, we need to broaden what it means to be a ‘leader’. Everybody has a role to play in successful transformation, and it starts by positively engaging middle and line managers to help define how their people need to be engaged for change to succeed. Fail to create that energy for change and you risk ignoring those who can make or break the transformation.

Complete Phase 3 to ensure your leadership team is aligned on:

  • How to turn your (potential) strongest detractors into your greatest advocates.
  • The right approach, authentic messaging, and consistent communication that secures wider engagement.
  • An effective feedback mechanism to update the whole business on progress and success stories during change.
  • Understanding the importance of ‘holding steady’ when it gets bumpy, and it will get bumpy!

Develop your leaders with S&S

Our Change Agents are experienced at coaching and mentoring change leaders to transfer the skills they need to lead through change, and develop the leaders your future business needs.

Find out more.

Stuart Williamson
Written by Stuart Williamson
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