Navigating Change Management: Top Strategies for Executive Teams

Change management is a nonnegotiable skill for today’s leaders. I encourage you to begin charting a map for navigating change by reframing your approach to change. The need to change doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing things wrong. Rather, change often means that your business has to evolve in response to its circumstances. If the idea of innovative change scares you—or your team—think of change as evolution or adaptation. Is it really change, or is it just growth? Change is often simply a means to take advantage of new opportunities.

As you move forward with a positive outlook toward change, keep in mind that collaboration, communication, and flexibility are key at each step of change management. CEOs and executive teams will thrive through change by collaborating to create a shared vision, communicating to achieve buy-in, and remaining flexible during plan implementation.

Create a Shared Vision for Change

Creating a shared vision for change with your team is crucial to successful change management. Notably, leaders tend to be on board with including input from their teams; 74 percent of leaders said they involve employees in creating a change strategy, but only 42 percent of employees felt included, according to research on change management from Gartner. The key is to involve your team from the start.

Most changes begin with a single idea, but you have to be able to translate that idea into a clear, shared vision. Rather than trying to dictate a vision for change on your own, invite your team to contribute from day one. Surround yourself with people who will ask great questions, test theories, and propose their own hypotheses. Not only will you come up with the best vision, but the process will instill a sense of responsibility in your team. Creating a vision with your team—not just telling them your vision—can be a difference-maker.

Achieve Necessary Buy-in

Too often, leaders send out directives about how things are going to change without any explanation, but rarely does that result in lasting, effective change. Think about top-down leadership where the highest executive barks, “We’re making some changes around here, and if you don’t like it, well, that’s too bad.” That’s not an effective change management strategy, nor is it an effective leadership strategy. You can’t have real change without buy-in.

To achieve buy-in, leaders have to go back to the basics. Explain the “why” behind the change. Engage in two-way communication with your team, including listening to their feedback. You have to explain how the change will affect everyone. Think about their experiences. Their values. Their concerns. Ideally, you’ve already involved your team in creating the vision for the change, but overcommunication is nearly impossible in change management.

Plan How to Implement Changes

Effective change needs a detailed plan that includes communication, metrics, timelines, feedback, and accountability—no detail should be left to chance. Though it can be easy to jump ahead, don’t try to do everything at once. Break your change implementation plan into steps or rocks—priorities with clear goals and evaluation points along the way.

Even if you plan out all the details, however, you’re not exempt from remaining flexible in your change implementation plan. Don’t become so married to your plan that you fail to pivot when needed. Throughout the process, you’ll learn what’s working and what’s not working, and you’re sure to uncover ways to improve as your plan progresses. Change management is all about constant evolution.

It should be no surprise that leaders have to involve their teams in planning change implementation too. Include your team in identifying what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and who is going to do it. Gartner reported that change success increased by 24 percent when employees primarily own implementation planning. After all, your vision is nothing without the right people and the right plan to bring it to life.

Change Management and Your Organization

Your business will undoubtedly encounter the need to change, so I encourage leaders to resist the urge to change simply for the sake of change. When you approach change as evolution and focus on collaboration, communication, and flexibility, you equip your team and your organization to successfully navigate the changes that lie ahead.

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you tend to change just for the sake of change, or do you make strategic, evolutionary changes?
  2. How effective is your strategy to achieve buy-in from your team?
  3. Do you have the right people on your team to help formulate and implement your vision for change?

If you’d like to discuss how to successfully implement changes in your organization, contact me. I’d love to help you learn more about change management, leadership development, and high-performing teams.