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How Leaders Can Kill a Change Effort

By Perry Holley | September 6, 2023
How Leaders Can Kill a Change Effort

Leading change is one of the most important things a leader can do. The ability to lead change is a crucial differentiator between being a manager and being a leader. Managers operate within the scope of how things are. Leaders operate with the scope of how things can be. While you must manage and lead, producing change is 80% leadership (establishing direction, alignment, motivating, and developing people) and 20% management (planning, budgeting, organizing, and problem-solving).

Killers of Change

Leading change in today’s fast-moving world can be challenging enough, even if everything goes right. To keep the odds of having a successful transformation, avoid the following things that can quickly kill a change effort.

1. MAKING YOUR MOVE BEFORE THE INFLUENCERS HAVE BOUGHT INTO THE CHANGE.

Successful change leaders invest time in influencing the influencers in the organization before proceeding with the change effort.

2. SUGAR-COATING OR UNDERSELLING WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE CHANGE.

Under-communicating what is involved in the change effort will lead to discouragement and discomfort among the people. Be honest and upfront about the work that is required.

3. TALKING TOO MUCH AND TAKING NO ACTION.

It can be easy to talk about what we want to do or what we will do without actually doing. Communicate direction and then move forward.

4. MISTAKING THE BEGINNING OF CHANGE FOR THE COMPLETION OF CHANGE.

This is a big one. Leaders can be fooled into thinking that since they launched the effort, the effort will continue toward completion. Change is a process and not an event. Great change leaders continue to share the vision and the end goal while ensuring progress toward that goal. They don’t merely hope things are moving forward; they have the tenacity to stay involved and ensure results.

5. OVERVALUING MANAGEMENT AND UNDERVALUING LEADERSHIP IN THE CHANGE EFFORT.

As mentioned above, both management and leadership are required for successful change. It can be tempting to focus on management tasks like planning, budgeting, organizing, and problem-solving. However, since change involves people, leaders need to chart the course, align the team, and motivate and inspire their people toward a different and more promising future.

6. IMPLEMENTING TOO MUCH CHANGE TOO QUICKLY.

Leaders move at a faster pace than their followers. This can make change efforts challenging. If the team is working on one change effort and the leader is already planning the next, change fatigue can grip the people and slow all efforts. Leaders must slow down and walk among the people. Notice how change is affecting the team and respond accordingly.

Two-thirds of all change efforts fail. Leaders often assume that if they can articulate the change and why it is better than where we are today, then the change will happen. Change is a process, and it requires leaders to not only communicate the “where” and the “why,” but also to be present to encourage and inspire the “how.”

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