How to lead in the face of change

Britain is facing an uncertain future. Yes, we are going to mention the ‘B’ word, because it is happening and it is going to bring to change to business. The changes that Brexit will bring for businesses are still largely unknown, but it is important that business leaders are managing how these changes happen, and most importantly, adapting their leadership style to ensure that any transitions are met by their workforce in a positive way.

Change is often a word that sends ripples of fear throughout a workforce. We are predominantly creatures of comfort, and that applies to our roles in the workplace. Change may mean uncertainty; more work, less work, learning new skills or a loss of control – it is going to push us all out of our comfort zone and leaders and managers are going to face resistance unless it is approached in the correct way. And even then, you are going to meet challenges, after all, Robert F Kennedy once famously said: “About twenty per cent of the people are against any change”.

What can leaders do to help their workforce adapt and embrace change?

Firstly, embrace this change yourself. Understand what is expected of you, what your business needs to achieve, and have a very clear strategy of how you are going to meet your end goal. Once you have a clear, well-defined process in place, you need to get the buy-in of your managers. As the team that has the most day to day contact with your workforce, their perception of what is to come and how it is being managed will have a direct impact on how your teams react and cope with change. Even if you and your managers are dealing with change on an intellectual basis, the rest of your workforce will be looking at it from an emotional perspective – what it directly means for them, and the impact it may have on their lives.

Communication is key

When dealing with change, what you say may get lost if it is not delivered in the right way. Fine-tuning your emotional intelligence and creating individual focus will help you to communicate your message in a way that gains the trust and respect of your workforce. Understanding the worries and concerns that your employees face and voicing them is important, as is listening. Having empathy with others and being honest and open will give you the means to create trust. Allowing your employees to share ideas, voice their concerns and comment frankly on situations will allow them to feel more invested in the change as their voice is being heard.

Manage Expectations

Ensuring that your employees are clear about what is expected of them and what they need to do to fulfil their part in your organisation’s change is essential, but so too is understanding what your employees expect from you as their leader. Clearly define each employee’s role, whether it has changed or not, and make sure that they understand what part they play in company operations. Understanding what training or development your employees need to embrace their new roles and responsibilities will ensure that you are helping them to succeed, and give them more flexibility to ensure that the new challenges they face will not create undue pressure and stress. Make sure that your employees have access to the support they need and reward them for their successes, however big or small.

Change in UK business is inevitable. It may be Brexit today, but tomorrow it could be Artificial Intelligence or automation. We have Brexit, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 5G and the IoT all looming large on the horizon and change is going to happen. How you manage this change and lead your employees through it will determine the success of your business for the future.


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