by Steve Adubato, PhD

We all know intellectually that change is inevitable, but we sometimes resist or fight it as if this were a real option. Yet, the great leaders EMBRACE change. They understand that while it may be scary and unnerving, change also offers opportunities to challenge yourself and your team to be more creative, flexible and strategic. So stop fighting change and consider the following keys to leading it:

--Accentuate the positives… but don’t act as if there won’t be challenges. People know that’s simply not true. Being honest and having a positive “we can do this” attitude about those challenges is key because a leader of change must be credible. Even when a change is challenging, many team members will “buy in” if they believe in YOU as a leader. The messenger is often at least as important as the message about change.

--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.” The key is to make it clear that the status quo is actually more dangerous and risky than the change itself. Until that’s done, people have little or no motivation to “buy in” to the process.

--Remain flexible and open to feedback regarding different approaches to implementing change. There is nothing worse than leaders who are rigid and closed minded about anything other than their own ideas.

--Create an open environment conducive to an honest dialogue, even if feedback is difficult to hear. Allow team members to comment on any aspect of the change without fear of reprisal or retribution. Open dialogue can be created in forums, employee meetings, interactive e-mail or a one-on-one with the team leader.

--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.

--As a leader, never forget that real change about real problems and issues is a marathon not a sprint. Often, organizational leaders don’t understand how hard leading change can be and, therefore, become highly impatient with how slow the process is. 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.

Obviously, change isn’t easy. We all seek stability and predictability. But, today more than ever, change keeps hitting us in the face just when we think we can afford to get comfortable. So stop fighting change. It is no use and complaining about it isn’t a viable option, particularly for those of us in positions of leadership because last time I checked “change is the only constant.”

Lata N. Reddy, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility & President, The Prudential Foundation at Prudential Financial shares her leadership advice about change management.