By: Pekka Juujärvi, Sales and Customer Experience Director
I recently held a webinar about People and Change with Esko Hannula, the CEO of Qentinel Group. Our topic was timely in many ways and it should stop executives to think about how their organization survives the changes they are facing today. We had altogether three themes. Since they are all topics I could talk for hours, I decided to continue them with separate articles. In this first blog I will talk about the purpose of leadership in change. I will also answer this important question: What leaders and immediate managers should do to successfully execute organizational changes?
Leader Gives the Direction for Change
Engagement is an important part of modern leadership for a reason. The basic idea is that leadership belongs to everyone and that all people are capable of making hard decisions. This results in a more productive organization, because people don’t need confirmation for everything they do from higher up. Engagement is a great thing, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for leadership. There still needs to be leadership that comes from the top.
In today’s modern and engaging organization the leader’s main role is to show direction and create a vision that people can follow. Everyone has individual opinions and desires and it would be silly to expect that they are always in line with the organization’s needs. One of the most important tasks for a leader is to make people want things that they didn’t before and that might have caused uncertainty in them. When leading a change this means that the leader has to show where change is needed and to motivate people to pursue the desired change.
Feedback and Sense of Accomplishment Encourage to Change
Most of us people share the desire to feel accomplished and get encouragement. Feedback is particularly important when leading change. During a change feedback reassures people and even the smallest steps towards the right direction are important for reaching the goals.
In our webinar Esko Hannula mentioned that the everyday heroes are the ones who rarely get feedback. This is completely true. Usually managers focus on giving constructive feedback for mistakes and praises for success. When everything functions like it should and people do what the organization expects from them, there’s barely any feedback. If you are a manager, think about how you give feedback. Don’t forget these people, who are successfully keeping the things rolling.
If you are interested in feedback as a topic, you should check out our other article: Every Organization Lives Through Feedback.
Immediate Managers Have an Important Role in Change Communication and Making Changes Understandable
Whereas it’s the top management’s job to focus on direction and motivation, the main purpose of immediate managers is to communicate about the change with their team in an understandable way. They should take the vision and make into actionable, concrete steps and to support their team in doing them.
When the news about change spread, the employees usually start talking to their managers to see what they say about the topic. If the immediate managers are negative or indifferent about the change, it’s easy to adapt the same attitude. It’s the managers job to speak to their team and to convince them that the change is necessary. In doing so they should be able to answer the question most people have: “How will this affect me personally?”. And lastly, they should give concrete answers to how the change will be executed.
It’s typical for all major changes that they hurt and are difficult. This is also a place where immediate supervisor has the most important role. They usually know their team member’s situation better than the top management and they’re able to support them in those things that are especially difficult. The immediate managers should have more discussions with their teams about the possible fears and to help them see thing differently.
More information about change communication can be found in our previous blog: Effective Communication is at the Heart of Successful Change Management.
Change Leadership Requires Talent
People and change aren’t always compatible and changes are rarely accomplished in schedule. In our webinar, Esko and I concluded that leadership has a great role in making changes successful. Change leadership requires talent, but it’s great that these skills are something that we all can still learn and improve upon every day. Let’s tackle the changes facing companies today and let’s make it together!