On a recent leadership event the group were exploring their appetite as a team for change. The discussion revolved around how ready, willing and able they were to implement change in their organisation. 
Prior to the event they had all completed an online diagnostic. One of the outputs was an indicator of how confident they were that positive change would follow from their work on the event. Nearly half of the team reported low confidence or were not sure about the statement. When we explored this further two factors emerged that they felt hindered their organisation’s will and ability to implement change and improvement: 
1. Time 
The team could see that they were so immersed in solving today’s problems that despite their positive intentions their plans for change were often side-lined. 
2. Disengagement 
In the past there had been ‘false starts’ on the agenda for improvement. Leaders and their teams had lost belief and even disengaged from change initiatives even when they did make it on to the agenda. 
There is nothing unique about this team’s experience. A 2013 survey carried out by the Katzenbach Centre found that only 54% of major change initiatives succeeded. That is a big problem because failed change efforts can destroy morale, waste business resources, increase staff turnover and ultimately crush the bottom line. Every false dawn sucks a bit more belief and energy from your business until the latest initiative complete with catchy strap line becomes a focus of derision and office humour. You know it’s happening; the staff have become tired of change and their body language and comments are telling you so. 
Whilst I empathise with leaders who are under pressure to deliver short term results, too often ‘time’ is used as an excuse for deprioritising important changes and improvements. The forces currently at play in technology, global markets, regulations and politics make the need for innovation and change ever present if businesses want to thrive. Surely then this is one of the most critical roles of a leader and should be high on the list of important and urgent things to do. 
So, how can we help leaders make the shift from being ‘change agnostics’ to ‘change activists’ in their organisations? 
First and foremost, we need to overcome the barrier of time. I’ve yet to meet a leader who isn’t busy or hasn’t got an overflowing plate at work. There are a variety of ways to win back precious time and refocus on those plans for improvement: 
1. Prioritise 
Think hard about where the real value for your business is going to come from. Effective change initiatives balance today’s needs with those of the future. The trick is to focus your time on the things that will add the most value for the least effort (Pareto 80/20 Rule). Be strategic and don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is better to have a few achievable objectives for improvement than going for it all at once. 
2. Lighten your load 
We’ve all got a ‘to-do-list’ but few of us have a ‘not-to-do-list’. What’s on your plate that if you frankly never touched would have no, or at least a neutral, impact on your results. Be ruthless and scrub it off the list. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find no one cares! 
3. Talk about your goals 
Whatever your role, we all have a different perspective of what needs to change or improve in our organisations. Talk with people about your goals for change to help them understand, focus and engage in the right direction. Listen to their thoughts about what it means to them, how they can contribute, what excites them and disappoints them. Leaders can’t please everyone all the time, so it is equally important to talk about what you are not going to do and why. Regularly revisit and discuss progress against the goals to demonstrate commitment and momentum. 
4. Diarise 
don’t wait for that spare minute to do the work needed to implement change because it won’t come. Schedule time into your calendar and be disciplined about protecting it from other urgent stuff. Consciously hold others in your team accountable to the same principle until it has become a habit and the norm. 
5. Involve and work through others 
Hand-off and handover more to your team. One of the common causes of disengagement from change initiatives is employees feeling they are not involved. Involving people in critical projects or tasks is a great way to keep the team motivated, unlock their potential and get some personal time back. Challenge people to identify the small things they can change in their daily activity and behaviour that helps contribute to change. Create cross-functional ‘task forces’ to lead key pieces of work. 
6. Celebrate successes 
People need to see and know progress is being made to build belief and momentum for further change. Look for the small signs and symbols that indicate progress. This might be changes in behaviour, examples of work that fit your new world model or a pattern change in performance indicators. You don’t need grand recognition or award schemes. Just spot it and talk about it often to as many people as you can. 
7. Have it out with energy sappers 
Where there is change there is resistance. This is perfectly normal as the human brain is hardwired to resist it. Scepticism is healthy but persistent and regular talking down of change initiatives and open displays of disengagement are not. These acts sap the energy of others who will be grateful when you step in to have an adult-to-adult conversation with the perpetrator. Seek to understand the resistance and encourage your energy sappers to find ways they can overcome their barriers and engage more positively. In the end it’s OK to have a no tolerance policy to energy sapping and to expect the team to commit to this. 
As a final thought, leading change is an exciting and rewarding experience. At Newland Partners we work with our clients to build the mindset, behaviours and skills needed to form an enduring continuous improvement culture in their organisations. In our experience this is not achieved by a quick fix training solution but a long-term learning partnership that delivers individualised development and results. 
If you want to find out more about how we can help you build a culture of learning and improvement in your business contact us for a free consultation today 
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