Change and Transition: Still One of the Biggest Challenges for Leaders

by Bill Swift on April 8, 2019

in Leadership


“After all this time as a manager you would think I would be better at managing transition. After all, I have been through about a million changes.”

This is the way a conversation started with a manager I was coaching through some workplace transitions. Even at our best, as managers we may find that we struggle with finding the most effective approach to bring about successful movement through a workplace transition of any size. Transitions test all our skills: Communication, relationship-building, strategic thinking, listening, time and energy management.

Fear not, there is help. Some traditional training approaches include a short list of Six Key Components for successful change. I have found this list invaluable in establishing the proper foundations for any transition. If we have all six, we are in good shape. If we are lacking in one of them, we may have some struggle getting through.

Here are the Six Key Components for Successful Transition:

  1. Clear and compelling case for change
  2. Demonstrated leadership commitment
  3. Clear “What’s in it for me” for all
  4. Concrete implementation plan
  5. Skills, knowledge, tools in place
  6. Reinforcement

The next time you are approaching a transition, try this: Rank your team on a 1-10 scale (10 is strong-1 is weak) on each of these six components. Get others to give you their rankings. You may find an area where more attention should be given. This can be a very effective group activity. We did this with a manufacturer recently who was working on some role and responsibility changes. Their eyes lit up as they realized a couple of these areas that had not been addressed.

By the way, when checking in on #3, Clear “What’s in it for me” for all, try to avoid the common mistake of explaining or selling what is in it for them. Let them find it for themselves, even if it takes some time. This is a great time to practice your active listening skills.

Do any of these statements sound familiar? “This won’t last long.” “This is not possible.” “This is not going anywhere.” “This is not worth it.” “This is not real.” “It is not urgent.” These statements may help you diagnose where your change management strategy is lacking. They all correspond to a deficit in one of the key components.

Any of this so-called resistance may actually help you diagnose which of the six components need work. What we see as resistance to change may actually be a lack of clarity or perceived need to change, something lacking in one of these key areas.

Chances are, if you are hearing, “Hey, this is working,” you have scored well on all six. This is when you can sleep better and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the next transition.

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