Four Ways to Lead Change, Part II — Connect with People Where They Are

As you strive to support your team and create a culture for employee success, these ideas and action items are great reminders that our language reflects our thinking, and when it comes to leading change, our thinking drives our action. You can’t do what you need to do as a leader unless you can make change work — and you can’t do that without engaging people.slice

In an article written by Randy G. Pennington, consultant and the author of “Make Change Work,” for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Four Ways to Lead Change, below is the second way identified to successfully lead change. In this second installment, Tamika Martin, assistant director, financial aid services; Leonard Bass, East Campus dean, Learning Support Services; and Scott Bokash, manager, learning technology, share their insights about successfully leading change on their teams.

A report written by Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken at McKinsey & Company suggests that 80 percent of what leaders care about when trying to enlist support for change does not matter to 80 percent of the workforce. If support is critical for your success, you must involve them in the process. People support what they help create.

tamika-martin-270wTamika Martin shared that she views change as an opportunity to see things and/or “self” in a new light. “Change is not a one-time event as many may think. It is a process of becoming or making something different or new. I promote change with my team by not being afraid of change. Looking at a current process or “self,” takes a lot of courage. The change process is hardly ever without pain; however, when my team is able to push through to see the desired end results, we gain a new perspective on things, and it stretches us to a point we may have never known we could go to,” Tamika explained.

When implementing change, Tamika strives to be transparent throughout the entire process. “I let my team know that their thoughts, questions and concerns are valid, and I address them as they arise. I ask for my team’s input and feedback because the majority of the time, the change that occurs will directly impact them and I need to know how I can make the change process as conducive as possible for all involved.”

Tamika is a firm believer in being an active listener and showing genuine care and concern for her employees. By valuing what is important to her team, she is able to gain a willingness to commit to the changes that are being implemented, because her team knows that they matter and what they do matters.

Leonard-Bass-270wLeonard Bass recognizes that change can be hard, but also is inevitable. He thinks it is important to create a culture of trust among his team by encouraging meaningful relationships to form; thus building a sense of community within his department. Leonard believes it is important for leaders to embrace change themselves and to establish an environment that fosters change-makers at all levels.

“To accomplish this, I try to set an expectation for each member of the team, letting them know that they are important and have a specific role to play in making sure we are staying connected to our students and faculty and are responsive to their ever-changing needs”, Leonard explained. Helping his team maintain a focus on the needs of our students and faculty each day allows change to occur more freely. “I never want the team to think change is happening to them. I want to empower them and help them see that it is happening because of them.”

When involving his team in crafting and implementing solutions to challenges, he creates an environment at work that celebrates the courage it takes to be honest about the mistakes made and uses them as opportunities for learning and process improvement. Leonard holds regular open office hours for anyone on his team to share ideas, suggestions and/or their feelings about the work and what’s happening.

The greatest resistance to change is often born out of a fear of the unknown and, in particular, assuming the worst possible scenario. “An effective way to help people overcome this fear is to repeatedly create experiences where, when employees engage in the unknown, the result is positive. For example, whenever an idea or concern is brought to my attention, I try to be supportive and appreciative of the fact that they had the courage to tell me about it. I also try to understand where people are coming from and find ways to involve them or their ideas to move the department forward.”

“It is important to remember when you are a leader, your attitude permeates the ethos within your department. So, in short, I try to embrace change, help my team see the value in it and celebrate all the possibilities that come along with it,” Leonard shared.

scott-bokash-270wScott Bokash strives to understand who his team members are on a personal level, understanding their motivations, so he is able to communicate the change in terms that resonate with each of them individually. “You don’t sell people a product or an idea; they buy it. In the context of promoting change, the semantic difference between buying and selling is similar to the difference between teaching and learning. In order for teaching to produce results, the learner has to find the material personally relevant. When team members understand change in a personal way, they will be intrinsically motivated to support it in all the little ways that will ensure its success,” Scott explained.

Because Scott trusts his team members and their talents, he presents them with challenges and then listens to what they have to say. “When we help come up with a solution, we’re much more likely to support its implementation. Providing my team with the big picture and the intent of a change, allows me to trust them to adapt on the fly.”

These Valencia leaders demonstrate how they meet their employees “where they are” in an effort to create an environment of trust and accountability. Their teams are involved throughout the change process, which leads to a clear understating of the change and how they can contribute to its successful implementation. This, in turn, leads to greater team cohesiveness and effectiveness.

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