How to lead effectively through change with a vivid vision

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What are the qualities every person needs when leading through change? In this blog, we share the top 3 traits that put you in the best position for successful transformation…

Change is happening all the time. The problem is that as a business grows in size, change becomes more and more complex. To modernise feels like a huge undertaking where you need to stop everything and start afresh. It’s a big headache that no one wants, which is why change is constantly kicked down the road to address at a later date. But this is a huge risk. Fail to keep pace with change and very quickly you can find yourself stuck in the past, following old-fashioned ways of thinking and working that are inefficient and ineffective.

Successful change is led by great leaders, who understand how to perform the fine balancing act of strategy, people and technology – and manage change ongoing.

Here we consider the key qualities every modern leader needs.

During one of our ChangeRedy breakfast events in Manchester, we considered what the key qualities every modern leader needs.

The best leaders can transform their vision into reality

Being a leader during a change initiative doesn’t mean putting your fingers in lots of pies to retain control of everything. It means recognising where your talents are best used, which for a CEO, is creating a ‘vivid vision’. But then surrounding yourself with competent people with complementary skills who know how to execute on that vision.

You need to be unwavering in your commitment. It doesn’t matter how crazy an idea sounds because if you believe it’s possible, others will follow.

In organisations where there is a disconnect between the vision of the CEO and what those on the front line perceive, it’s due to a lack of consistency. As a leader during change, you are responsible for setting the direction and stepping aside so others can move the business towards the vision of success so they feel responsible for making change happen. The best leaders are those who then continue to share progress to get the wider organisation excited about what’s happening and why, and keep them united behind the vision. They know that with a clear vision in place, they can push decision making down the hierarchy to empower others, free up management time, and accelerate the pace of change to allow the business to thrive.

The best leaders have a strategy

A good strategy has purpose and meaning because it starts with ‘why’. It both states your reason for being, as well as the impact it has on the business and its people when you get there. And it doesn’t matter what that ‘why’ is.

Often, leaders set out with an exit strategy in their mind, perhaps wanting to set the business up ready to be acquired. But they fear sharing this knowledge. They believe that it could cause upset and encourage a lack of commitment from workers across the business. But what they don’t realise is that it’s the ‘norm’ to change jobs every few years. So why not be open about your plans, solidify the team behind the vision and get them excited about change – just think how great the acquisition will look on their CV, the experience they’ll gain and the opportunities that will open to them in the process.

Knowing what the business is aiming for means you know where the value needs to come from so you focus on changing the right areas of the business. The bonus – it’s going to improve your culture too.

When a business works in silos people naturally enter defensive mode. Rather than think about the wider picture and what’s best for the business, they become very focused on their job, they question what’s in it for them and feel they constantly need to prove they’re the expert in the room. 

It shouldn’t be like that.

Get people on board as early as you can. Even if you’re looking at a technology change project, you still need to include a people element in your change management strategy – just because your new system implementation was deemed a success doesn’t mean it will be adopted. You need to take people on the journey so they feel ready for change.

The best leaders are confident

In well-established organisations, there’s always a nervousness that comes with change. Systems, processes and cultural norms are so ingrained in their DNA that modernising feels like an impossible challenge – even if they are behind the vision and believe change is necessary. 

Often, the nerves are a result of lack of experience, which is perfectly normal when the business has simply kept ticking over and change has not been embraced as a constant. It takes a specific leadership style to support the business through change because you need to feel comfortable with the uncertainty surrounding it.

During change one of the best things that you as a leader can be is a role model. Think about investing the first few minutes of your day walking around the business. It makes you visible, seen as approachable, and assures people there’s nothing to fear. The casual chats enable you to take the pulse of the business and discover those capable of supporting you to execute the vision. Plus, you can identify who the influencers are and use them to best effect – if your influencers buy-in, they create the groundswell of excitement that makes the change stick.

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Written by
Sullivan & Stanley