Change has been on our minds a lot lately (Exhibit A and Exhibit B). Maybe it’s because the last few years have taught us that the ability to pivot and change is a necessary skill that all businesses, especially manufacturers, need to have. While we hope the next couple of years will get back to business as usual, learning how to not just embrace, but to champion change, is something that all manufacturers must work on.
The truth of the matter is that attitudes towards change come from the top. An organization will only effectively deal with change if its leadership champions change. Leaders who can effectively champion change are highly valued but are often hard to come by—however, this skill, like many other business skills, can be developed.
Read on to learn seven essential techniques and skills you need to become a champion of change in your workplace.
How to Champion Change
Leaders often emphasize the what of change but neglect to communicate the why behind it. To effectively champion change in your organization, you must help your teams understand not only the destination they are moving towards but also the reasons for undertaking the change in the first place.
Sound familiar? This is one of our CEO’s top tips for how to effectively implement an ERP system—one of the biggest changes your organization will ever make.
You must explain the purpose of the change, how it aligns with your organization’s values and the impact the change will have on both your workplace and your customers. Effective communication should be transparent and clear, creating trust—even if you don’t have all the answers.
Change for the sake of change isn’t going to get you very far. Change must be coupled with innovation to create a meaningful impact within your organization. By simply making changes without innovative ideas and approaches, you risk merely shuffling existing elements without any substantial improvement or advancement—and losing your team’s trust.
However, when change is coupled with innovation, it opens up new possibilities, creates fresh perspectives and encourages the development of creative solutions that can move your business forward. Creating a culture of innovation at your company encourages employees to think creatively and find new inventive solutions to problems—and to become more comfortable and familiar with change.
Leading change involves providing direction and holding others accountable for results. But successful change also requires you to inspire excitement and energize people to embrace change and tackle challenges. Leaders who can inspire and motivate are crucial to any successful change efforts because they have the power to instill a shared vision and ignite a sense of purpose within the organization.
The ability to communicate the benefits of change in a compelling manner resonates with employees, creating a sense of excitement and enthusiasm. By fostering a culture of trust, open communication and support, you can empower your staff to overcome resistance and fear of the unknown, encouraging them to embrace change and tackle challenges with renewed determination.
Learn to lead by example. It may be a cliche, but it’s true that your actions speak louder than your words. Exhibit positivity, resilience and a willingness to step out of your comfort zones while handling the challenges that come with change. By modeling these behaviors, you will promote them throughout your organization and help employees at all levels to deal with change.
5. Look Outside Your Organization
During times of significant change, it’s easy to become too internally focused on your company’s problems, failed initiatives and unmet commitments. Remember to look outside your organization to not only gain perspective but to find new ideas to help drive change forward.
Leaders who can analyze differences and study competitors’ responses to market changes play a vital role in navigating their organization through difficult times. By looking beyond the confines of your own company, you can identify emerging trends, best practices and innovative strategies that can inspire and help you move your company in the right direction.
A big part of leading change involves spending time with your employees to gauge their concerns and understand obstacles. Learning to do this with compassion means shifting attention away from your own concerns and assumptions and genuinely focusing on employees’ well-being.
While company-wide meetings and emails to communicate change are a start, engaging in small group meetings and one-on-one conversations with your employees creates greater trust and candid exchanges. Learn how to listen intentionally to create a space where employees feel heard, understood, valued and respected.
7. Speed and Execution
Slowly implementing change is more painful and less effective than a swift execution. While change efforts should be well planned, organized and effectively communicated, once initiated, swift execution leads to greater success and acceptance. Leaders who act promptly get things done effectively and make change easier for everyone.
Few leaders are born with all these skills, but instead, need to learn and improve them through experience and practice. Being a champion of change requires a combination of disparate techniques and skills: For example, leaders must learn how to communicate effectively with compassion, but also how to bring fresh perspectives and execute change quickly. Leading and championing change is an ongoing journey of learning, growth and adaptation—but as you learn and apply your new skills, you will help to guide your organization forward and adapt in uncertain times.
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