Strong and considerate leadership is a fundamental element of any transformational change. If the leadership aren’t completely onboard, employees will sense their reluctance and see little reason to engage. You can’t enact change without buy-in from the top. It is critically important that the education of the leadership is a priority and that they’re given the necessary tools and training to communicate it back to subordinates.
Remember, leadership during a transformation comes from more than just the CEO and the Board. Every single manager and supervisor needs to be well-informed and committed to the change as they’re the ones that employees see on a daily basis. They have the greatest influence over employee actions and so have the potential to affect the greatest change.
But how can they do it?..
1. Considered Communication
When it comes to communication, consistency is key. Mixed messages from different people will simply cause confusion, reduce efficiency and potentially even lead to an unsuccessful change. Employees are most likely to listen to their immediate boss which is why every manager needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet, so to speak. Managers should be trusted to interpret communications from higher up, giving them the license to emphasise the most pertinent points for their department and convey the message using their employees’ preferred means of communication. For example, a face-to-face meeting, email or an internal messaging system.
At the heart of all communications should be an expectation of what needs to happen for the transformation to succeed. In order to be as efficient as possible, employees need to be crystal clear on what their new responsibilities are and how and for what they will be held accountable. The more specific leaders can be in their instructions, the smaller the chance of confusion and mistakes being made.
2. Commitment To The Change
Every leader involved in a transformation needs to act as an advocate for it. They should be championing how it will boost the performance of the company, outlining its benefits and not shying away from tackling any thornier, more complex obstacles. Essentially, they should be role models for other employees to emulate and draw strength from. That means ensuring that their actions reflect their words and presentations.
3. Willing To Be Held Accountable
An excellent leader is willing to hold both themselves and others accountable for their actions or inactions within a transformation. The change is only going to succeed if everyone is fully onboard and pulling their weight. Should anyone prove to be resistant to the change and fail to fulfil their responsibilities, their manager needs to work with them to understand what the sticking point of it is. If they still fail to engage, they should be held accountable for that choice.
Equally, there should be a mechanism in place to ensure that leaders are also held culpable for their actions. This will give them the impetus to truly commit to the project and see it through. Rather than walking away from problems and dooming the project to fail, they will work to find and implement a solution.
4. Be Decisive
To keep a project moving, the leadership team needs to be decisive. Countless unexpected obstacles and hurdles will arise as part of a transformation, but a good leader should be able to deal with them. If they know they don’t have the expertise to deal with the issue themselves, they should know who to delegate to or whose advice to take. Time is critical as drawn out deliberations will simply suck all of the momentum out of a project and reduce employee engagement. Should multiple issues arise at once, the leadership team should be able to prioritise which to tackle first.
Finally, a leader needs to motivate and engage their employees. They should take the initiative and reach out to concerned individuals, putting aside time to understand their perspective. Empathy can go an awfully long way to increasing engagement in a transformational change.
Want to see how a transformational change works in practice?
Below is a full account of when we partnered with a global Oil & Renewables organisation to support their end-to-end transformational change programme. This included defining the drivers for change, competitive analysis, organisational design, composing the change plan, and building a bespoke competency assessment framework.