Recently, I attended the community forum at my children’s school. A new Head of School was hired one year ago, and he and his leadership team, staff, and the Board of Directors are making a lot of improvements. In a short period of time, the team has changed, refocused and redefined the academic environment. It is a lot to manage and communicate.
As a parent of three children in the school, I believe in
the work they are doing, and I want to support it. As a business executive, it
got me thinking about people in general, our audiences more specifically, and how
we engage with change management. Let’s face it: most people don’t like change.
Change is hard. It means doing something differently. However, by nature of
being leaders, we have to find the right tools to manage change. When we
give our audience a clear sense of the incremental progress being made and a
full understanding of where we hope to go, change gets easier.
Here are a few tips and suggestions for how to manage change
in your organization:
- Overcommunicate: Nothing is more valuable than sharing small wins your audience might not expect you to tell them about. Find a way to email out good news, and don’t be afraid to share setbacks too. When you inform people of news they don’t expect, you demonstrate your commitment, show progress, gain supporters, and create trust that goes both ways.
- Manage Expectations: As a young investment banking analyst many years ago, I learned early about the importance of managing expectations. If you didn’t temper what your audience expected by managing expectations, your workweek quickly became a grueling, 80-hour disaster. At times, you may have a lot of information you are excited to share; however, be careful you don’t push out too much all at once. Break your message down into bite-sized pieces and release them in frequent, short bursts. Use bullet points rather than paragraphs, and remember that what you know intimately is often scary and confusing to others. You are telling a story, and you want to slowly bring your audience along.
- Be Visible: Remember that change is uncomfortable. It is even more unpleasant when it is unexpected or happens without advance knowledge. As a wise leader, you must find the best ways to let everyone know what changes are coming, why they are necessary, and how much you believe in their value. It’s not enough to be confident in yourself or your plan. Go out there and tell your story over and over. You might not enjoy the social interactions, but to accomplish your goals, they are a necessary step in helping your audience or community understand the changes and why they matter.
Change is important work, but it’s not easy. If it were
easy, everyone would do it.