Few leaders realize how often workers look to them for inspiration and for an example of how to behave within the strategic and cultural framework of the organization. It is a huge responsibility to have a legion of followers. Eyes are on you all the time. But it is also a huge opportunity to shape the way your employees handle change.
To do it right, you must avoid the pitfalls of leaders who mismanage change and lead their followers into dangerous shoals. There are so many ways to do it “wrong.” If you are seriously committed to effecting positive change within your organization, check that you are not exhibiting any of the five ways you can lead your employees astray and sabotage crucial change initiatives:
1. Lack of clarity
Unless you are crystal clear about the need and direction for change, your employees are left on their own and apt to work at cross purposes. Every single worker should know what piece of the change they are responsible for and why. Give them the guidance they need and stay involved to adjust their actions as needed.
2. Lack of conviction
You yourself must be convinced that the change is absolutely necessary for the future health of the company. If you waver or withdraw support at the first sign of difficulty, your change initiative will lose momentum and likely fail. Organizational change is never easy. Many employees will resist it. The role of a leader is to define the path and hold to it so others will follow along.
3. Lack of accountability
For change to succeed, employees need to feel that there is something in it for them as individuals. As they make efforts to follow your lead, make sure you recognize them appropriately. And if they work counter to the direction of change, make sure there are proportionate consequences. If there is no reward for the right behaviors or “punishment” for the wrong deeds, employees will act as they always have…it’s the path of least resistance for them.
4. Lack of involvement
It is not enough to point toward the compelling goal. Good leaders must set the example as they strive to model the new way. Every time you have an opportunity to point out the new priorities or support the change in a public way, do so. It is critical that you change first because you are the most visible guide for the transition.
5. Lack of interest in input
Stay tuned in to your workforce. To keep on target, you need to be aware of any real resistance or opposition to change. Keep your ear to the ground and ask regularly how things are going. Chances are that, if you keep an open mind and welcome thoughtful suggestions, you will get some valuable input from the front lines of the change implementation. The more you listen to your workers, the more they will feel valued and committed to the path you have defined.
As a leader, remember that you are carefully watched all the time. Take advantage of this opportunity to do change right.
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