Change is good, right? Especially if you want to ensure that your organization remains relevant. Change is also often uncomfortable, stressful, and, well, messy. But it doesn’t have to be.
In my career journey, I have discovered that the steps below tend to facilitate effective, meaningful change, whether you are a company seeking new ideas or a potential candidate preparing for a senior role.
1). Measure your current situation.
Metrics matter. Check margins, operational metrics, sales comps, etc. to see where there’s room for improvement. Remember, it’s a slippery slope if you’re in the bottom 50% of the industry range because you’re probably moving backward. If left unchecked, that can lead to eroding market share and unnecessary risks to your company. React quickly to formulate a plan for success. I love this quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
2). Get everyone on board.
This means everyone at every level—from the boardroom to the C-Suite to managers to sales to every single associate who represents your brand. Sound easier said than done? Worried about push-back and opposition? Start with a small win. It’ll establish you as a leader who follows through while demonstrating that your strategic plans lead to positive change. Brent Gleeson, at Forbes, writes, “In a study by Human Capital Institute, employees that were surveyed from a wide cross-section of high-performance companies . . . believe their leaders, managers and peers to be highly trustworthy.” Read that again. Trust in leaders is a common factor in companies that perform well.
So when the small win has firmly established trust in your leadership, you can present the next big shift. Chances are, your company will embrace it with ease.
3). Empower your associates.
I’ve found getting true change to stick requires involving 100% of your direct reports. Challenge employees with the overall idea—the strategy—then, turn them loose. You’ll be amazed by the creativity that surfaces. Associates will have a much stronger buy-in, better execution, and increased confidence in both your abilities and their own.
4). Celebrate the win!
Give credit to your associates. Always. This step often gets missed, but it’s essential for morale, to seal the bond between you and your associates, and to lay the groundwork for the next time you need to implement a plan. As a leader, it is your job to inspire ideas, turn your people loose, and then celebrate the wins! Don’t look for personal credit; instead, give 100% credit to your staff. A recent PeopleSuite blog shared that “employees want to feel that they are part of the team and appreciated. Some of today’s best examples of great places to work value their employees’ opinions, listen to what they have to say and set them up for success.”
And this stuff works. Years ago, I had just taken over as CEO of a company. Sales were negative, expenses were out of control and the bottom line was slipping. But with metrics, buy-in and empowerment, the team took ownership and change happened. In a big way. The result? The two most profitable years in the company’s history.
Every employee, at every level, got credit for that.
Looking for more lessons on leadership? Check out Dylan Cochran’s Leadership Skills from a Bartender-Turned Recruiter.