Managing change to create value out of uncertainty

Published on Business stage: Scaling, Unlocking

Sean Sankey, Director, FORM 

Can you really “manage change”?

So there’s an infinite amount of material out there on this nebulous thing called “change management”. A lot of what I’ve read would even suggest that the term itself is redundant as you can’t really manage change, the best you can hope for is to navigate it.

All that said, business leaders who are trying to grow their companies constantly face the challenge of adapting to change, leading their teams through uncertainty and helping their clients make the most of shifting circumstances.

The best of the literature out there on change boils down to a few essential principles on what’s really important to pay attention to. This post focuses on one of those big ideas, which is to first of all respect that all change represents a form of loss. And nobody likes losing things.


Reality check

Think about it for a second. Even if you’re a total optimist that thrives on innovation, starting new things and / or making things better, you have to accept that change involves letting go of old things and embracing new ones.

There are a few people who find this really easy simply because they’re wired that way. If you’re a go-getter type leader reading this blog, the chances are that you might be one of them. The reality is you’re in the minority.

For the majority of the population, change – and in particular change that is enforced or imposed – is hard to accept. And one of the dominant reasons behind this is that all things being equal human beings tend to prefer the security of what they know versus the uncertainty of what they don’t. Even – and here’s the crucial thing for leaders to realise – even when the change holds promise of something better.


What to do

An interesting point about Leadership was recently brought up by author Andy Stanley in a talk he gave at Leadercast. In all of the research done on what people want in a leader, the top finding is that followers want leaders with integrity. Someone honest who isn’t afraid to call it as it is, say what they mean and do what they say. What’s fascinating however, is that the leaders that people end up following often aren’t those with the most integrity… they’re the people with the most clarity. In shifting times people utterly crave certainty, so the point Andy rightly makes is that the best leaders are those who stack one on top of the other – clarity on top of integrity.

So, when you’re taking people through change – either clients, team members or whoever – if you can be honest about the loss that change is going to involve, bravely setting it front and centre so people can nod and acknowledge that a real conversation is being had. AND THEN after acknowledging the anticipated loss, set out a clear vision for what the new will hold, then you have the best chance of taking those people with you. It’s this kind of leadership that helps organisations align their people and their stakeholders around what’s needed to create real value out of inevitable uncertainty.

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