How can you control the pace of change without exhausting the troops, or worse, inciting a rebellion?
Before embarking on your campaign for change, take the time to understand the role and influence of your predecessor. You may have big shoes to fill, or a massive leadership vacuum. Assess the impact of the departing leader on the overall culture of the organisation.
Follow Dan Ciampa’s advice: “No matter how sophisticated and mature the new leader may be, rushing too quickly toward early wins can deprive the new leader of the insight needed to understand the culture and build relationships.”
Think about your own leadership style and the success you’ve had elsewhere. Don’t assume that what’s worked in another organisation will necessarily suit your new role. Also consider how you will engage your leadership team and staff in painting the new future.
Leaders often feel they need to have all the answers. Purposeful leaders need to have great questions and the ability to draw out solutions from others. When asking ‘why do you do it that way?’ – a phrase commonly used by new CEOs – take the time to unearth the values and beliefs that drive the reason, rather than just focus on the process aspects of the task.
Your enthusiasm to create change, or external pressure to force change, may need to be tempered against the capacity of the organisation to deliver. Invest in understanding the corporate values and beliefs which drive behaviours, actions and results.
Only once you’ve done your homework is it time to prepare your plan for change. A clear First 90 Days strategy (broken down into three 30-day action plans) will help you create the momentum for change and take your key stakeholders along on your journey.
Your plan needs to include a compelling vision which you clearly, patiently and regularly share with everyone in the organisation.
The authors of Harvard Business Review’s Leader’s Handbook remind us that the fundamentals of leadership haven’t changed.
The best leaders with the most impact almost always deploy these six classic, fundamental practices:
- uniting people around an exciting, aspirational vision
- building a strategy for achieving the vision by making choices about what to do and what not to do
- attracting and developing the best possible talent to implement the strategy
- relentlessly focusing on results in the context of the strategy
- creating ongoing innovation that will help reinvent the vision and strategy
- “leading yourself”: knowing and growing yourself so that you can most effectively lead others and carry out these practices.
Don’t forget to celebrate “quick wins” and remind your team how these achievements fit within the bigger picture. And if your plan stalls, look again at the values and beliefs of the organisation, your leadership team and yourself. These are the true wheels of change. Oil the squeaks and you’ll be back on the road to change in no time.