By Steve Adubato, PhD

In most cases, change can and should be a good thing if done at the right time, for the right reasons. Change keeps us on our toes and ready to turn obstacles into opportunities. However, leading BIG change is not for the faint of heart. Consider the following keys to leading and embracing change:

--When communicating about change, accentuate the positives but don’t act as if there won’t be real challenges. People know that’s simply not true. Being honest and having a positive “we can do this” attitude about those challenges is a key to leading change. A leader of change has to be credible.

--Create an open environment conducive to an honest dialogue, even if the feedback is difficult to hear. This approach allows for team members to comment on any aspect of the change without fear of reprisal or retribution. Do this because team members are thinking these things anyway. Open dialogue can be created in forums, employee meetings, interactive e-mail or a one-on-one with the team leader.

--Anticipate push back and be prepared to facilitate a candid conversation around it. Truly great leaders have the courage and confidence to proactively bring up potential opposition before anyone else because they’re not afraid of it. They confront it. They deal with it directly and take it on by making the case that the status quo is absolutely not acceptable.

--Explain WHY the change is taking place. Don’t be the leader that tries to direct people to change by telling them “just do it” or “because I said so.” Leaders of change must communicate that the status quo is actually more risky than the change itself. Until that’s done, people have little or no motivation to “buy in” to the change process. This approach is about motivation and persuasion and not about compliance, command and control. Simply put it’s about real leadership.

--Be clear on the reasons for the change while remaining flexible and open to feedback regarding different approaches to implementing the change. There is nothing worse than leaders who are rigid and closed minded about anything other than their own ideas.

--Never forget that real change about real problems and issues is a marathon, not a sprint. Change takes time and leaders looking for a “quick fix” or some kind of “immediate turn around” will be deeply disappointed. There are no magic or silver bullets in the change business and there are definitely none in leadership. There is only hard work, dedication and persistence to pursue constant improvement that seeks organizational excellence.

--Celebrate and recognize any success or accomplishment associated with the change effort no matter how small. People need to see progress in order to “buy in” to the change. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team.
--Finally, make it crystal clear what the payoff or tangible benefits will be of implementing this change. Don’t assume your people know this. It is your job to make it real.