How to Lead and Manage Through Change and Uncertainty
Darwin said ‘It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.’
As the UK continues to reel from the political and economic instability surrounding Brexit, strong leadership is required from the UK’s business leaders. With unprecedented levels of uncertainty and change, leaders need to focus even more on their core skills and competencies to demonstrate their ability to lead and manage through major change. Executives need to implement change management principles and be visible, honing their skills in building effective working relationships, negotiating and influencing, creating and communicating a revised vision and strategy, making sound leadership judgements, creating a culture of innovation and growth and developing resilience.
Leaders face increasingly tough decisions around key challenges, from the potential relocation of offices and teams in to continental Europe, to the renegotiation of trade and partnership agreements, as well as employment contracts. Successful leaders need to be able to demonstrate authentic, collaborative leadership, leading from the front and by example, in order to drive through necessary changes with an unsettled workforce.
What Successful Organizations Do
The organizations that are most likely to succeed in this uncertain future need to be agile, able to overcome resistance to the high levels of uncertainty and change, ready to seize new opportunities, adopt new and improved ideas, as well as creating and embedding different values, attitudes, norms, and behaviours. Leaders need to increase their levels of communication to allay fears and anxiety by addressing the associated shock, resistance, confusion and possible stress associated with ongoing uncertainty and change; their aim is to move team members along the change curve towards the more desired reactions of problem solving, acceptance, openness and learning in order to avoid disengagement and a fall in productivity.
During times of uncertainty and change, those leaders and organizations who succeed tend to be able to embrace change as an opportunity to create a new vision and strategy, improve processes, seek new markets, identify areas for greater profitability, viewing change as an opportunity to learn and evolve. Such leaders and companies will often buck the trend and witness increased productivity, improved employee engagement, with a renewed sense of pride and ownership.
One of the ways to address the fear of an uncertain future and the potential negative effects of change is to greatly increase levels of communication, with regular updates on progress, whilst at the same time obtaining feedback from team members. Business leaders need to show authority and confidence in defining new directions with specific goals in order to continue to motivate and inspire their teams, build organizational unity and a united culture with values, such as honesty and trust being clearly demonstrated. Leaders should try to demonstrate enthusiasm and positivity to address the uncertainty and change, adapting their leadership style to become more ‘commanding’ and ‘pacesetting’ in Daniel Goleman’s terms, in order to allay fear, give strong direction, to drive and implement necessary changes, motivate teams and create some short term stability. Younger team members in particular are often asking to be led.
With any change, such as an organizational restructure, managers should try to explain options and empower team members to problem solve. Individuals working internationally or in virtual teams may now require more clarity on their roles and responsibilities. In order to keep teams engaged, short term tactics and objectives should be set, creating a sense of urgency as well as asking for patience until the future becomes clearer. Business leaders are being forced to become even more proactive, seize the initiative, and be highly innovative in order to survive the economic and political uncertainty and try to embrace the further upcoming changes.
Leading not just Managing Change
Whether we like it or not, change is constant. Here are 10 advice points to better lead, manage and implement change:
- Align your individual priorities with the company strategy and key organizational goals; be proactive in linking your daily activities with the overall change initiative in order to stay ahead
- Learn to live with ambiguity; those who approach change with a positive mental attitude tend to benefit more from it
- Understand your Leadership Style first in order to maximise your strengths and improve your communication style
- Change what you can first – yourself; change your attitude and behaviours to cope better with the new organizational structure and objectives
- Influence what you can’t change – others; give timely feedback and model the behaviors you want to see in others
- Become an early adopter and ally for change; being enthusiastic about change creates a more positive working environment
- Demonstrate that you are a champion of change; lead the communication and the change projects
- Help others to cope with change; identify who is struggling with the uncertainty and change, practise active listening and help people deal with their emotions by providing rational discussion
- Encourage communication; to avoid the rumour mill communicate much more often and clearly than normal
- Believe in the change and speak up; show your enthusiasm and be creative about the new opportunities that change always brings
At Natural Talent our Change Management Programmes are highly practical and involve assessing and developing key Leadership and Management Competencies and Behaviours. In addition to the training on Strategy and Vision, we emphasise the importance of leaders and managers ‘walking the talk’ and increasing their general activities during times of high growth, uncertainty and change.
Equally important is the need to improve skills in Communication, including Active Listening, Open Questioning and giving Feedback, as well as creating a Positive Mental Attitude by working on individual exercises, identifying Leadership Styles and levels of Emotional Intelligence. Managers and teams work on real life business scenarios to build their Resilience levels and cope better with uncertainty, pressure and change.
Clients who have experienced our Change Management Programmes have observed excellent ROI with many tangible results, including individual team members being promoted, a significant reduction in employee absence, an increase in employee engagement, as well as greater productivity and an overall improvement in morale.
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