Surveys after surveys show the critical role of change leaders in determining the success of various change programs undertaken by enterprise, be it system implementation or post merger integration. Among different expectations from leaders in supporting change, there are three gifts that change leaders have to deliver to the people who are led for the change to be successful:
The gift of clarity:
The led would like to know the reasons behind the change, its scope, time-lines, and likely impact on the self, group and enterprise level. Leaders have to go great lengths to explain the rationale behind change in the manner that can be understood by the led. Leaders cannot ignore the potential differences in perspectives, information asymmetry and varied priorities among the diverse stakeholders impacted by change while selling the case for change. The level of explanation and information sharing behind the decision is mainly influenced by the curiosity and engagement levels of the led and impact of change.
The gift of Consistency:
Most changes create gainers and losers, especially in the short term and the led needs to accept this reality. This disruption to existing equations becomes comprehensible (although still regretted) if the principles behind the decisions are appropriately shared and uniformly applied. The Led are extra vigilant during the transition times looking for alignment between what they hear and what they witness. The litmus test comes in the form of applying stated principles (with negative impact) on those that are otherwise considered close to the management. Any exceptions or deviations to the shared decision criteria severely compromise the credibility of the leadership team and provide ample ammunition to create distrust among the led. As leaders, be prepared to embrace some causalities and bruised relationships as the price for change. Another element of consistency is the professed and enacted behavior by the leaders in the context of change. To what extent, leaders are seen as binding their own behaviors to the new norms visibly surrendering some of the hereto decision making flexibility.
The gift of Confidence:
“We can do it, and do it well”, is the message the leaders need to convey to the led all the time, but even more during the transition period. The led are seldom convinced by the hollow optimism but are looking for evidence reinforcing leaders appreciation of the skill gap that needs bridging, potential dip in the performance during transition, risks involved and commitment to realistic capacity and capability plans to support change. Leaders while revoking instances of successful change in the past as effective proof of organization agility and confidence building talk, may do so in a measured tone while recognizing that the new proposed change is somewhat different and that we are wizened by lessons learnt during last change program.
To gift something, you need to possess it first. True in this case as well. Leaders need to be prepared to commit time and attention to develop requisite clarity about change specifics, understand impact of consistent application of decisions on themselves and their favorites, new behaviors to be displayed, and assurance that the enabling resources, plans and governance mechanisms are in place to instill confidence in meeting the end objective.
Satisfying gifts are those that are well acknowledged by receivers and not what you wanted to give. Leaders need to have in place mechanisms to gather response of the led to the three gifts and continually adjust content and delivery mechanisms to ensure that the led appreciate the gifts and provide commitment to change as a return gift.