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5 Keys to Leading Change

The new year ignites new energy and new ideas. And sometimes, we even find the courage to pursue these new ideas for our organizations. Most good ideas come with a healthy dose of change in order to reap the benefits. And for some reason, that change, no matter how big or small is going to freak out some or all of your people! So, if you are planning to implement a new idea in your church or company this year, here are 5 keys to help you lead well through the rough seas of change.
1) Find Your Change Support Team. This first key is also the critical first step in effecting a positive change or idea in your organization. Who are your key leaders in your organization that are best positioned to help champion this cause? It maybe your senior leadership team, but it might also include other leaders in your organization that could be several layers deep. The people you need to include on the support team are the ones that are not only bought into the vision but can provide you honest feedback about the idea and its implementation. In addition, the support group needs to have leaders that have influence with their teams to build support for the change and then can support their people as they navigate the changes.
2) Clearly Define the Why. The first task for the Change Support Team is to clearly define the Why – why does this change need to happen now and how does it align with our mission and values? Don’t assume that everyone will automatically see the big picture of why change needs to occur the same way you do. The people in your organization will respond with everything from “this is awesome” to “this sucks because I have to change my lunch time.” You can’t possibly anticipate and address all the responses by your people, but you can outline specifically why this change is needed and all the benefits that will be derived so that the teams within your organization can process the details for themselves.
3) Who Will be Impacted and How. Before you start casting the vision for your new idea to the organization, the change team needs to identify the impacts, both positive and negative. This is where the honest feedback is needed from your support team because they need to define the impacts from their point of view but also how they will be perceived by the people in the company. If there are some negative repercussions to the change, this is the time to discern how it will impact the culture of the organization and if the benefits outweigh the challenges.
I strongly recommend that if a particular group or team will be impacted in a greater way or even negatively, you address these issues directly with these people. In an effort to maintain transparency, it is important that these groups know what to expect and be given a chance to talk about the issues. You will head off many rumors and much speculation and you might even come up with some new information to mitigate the negative impact and even improve the process.
4) Create a Communication Strategy. Communication maybe the most critical component of the implementation processes. Effectively communicating about the change and the implementation can not only improve the buy-in by your people but also alleviate fear and mitigate any negative impact by addressing issues transparently. The rule of thumb for discussing change throughout any organization (particularly a church) is that as the audience becomes larger, the message should be less detailed. This doesn’t mean that you withhold information from your organization or congregation. Think of this process as an inverted pyramid, with decreasing information as the audiences increases.
An example is your sr. leadership team will have explored many ideas and issues around the new idea, resolving or discarding most of them to develop the final proposal. The change team will discuss the new idea and some of the details and issues to determine how to implement change in their area. The general population of your company or church doesn’t need to re-hash all the details or issues because it will only create confusion and clutter. The message to the entire organization is the why and the benefits that will be derived by the new idea, as well as the implications of the changes to the organization.
Another critical point to remember in the communication strategy is that communication works both ways. As we have mentioned, the message to the general population is less-detailed, but that doesn’t mean there will not be questions about the idea or even great ideas to improve the process. Make sure you create channels and chains of communication so that information, questions, and concerns can be shared throughout the organization or church. Again, the goal with the strategy is transparency and honesty so that the new idea can be adopted and implemented to ensure the chances of realizing the intended benefits.
5) Pay Attention. The leader’s role in the change process doesn’t end when the vision is cast and the implementation is set into motion. It is vitally important that you pay attention to the change process to see opportunities that need your leadership. People, even your senior leadership, will get frustrated and they need reassurance of the vision and the great things that can happen when they stay the course. Victories, small and large, will occur throughout the organization and should be celebrated. Any many times, issues that were unknown or didn’t exist in the planning phase will arise that will require adjustments. Great leaders are the ones who show up when least expected, lend a helping hand when most needed, and makes sure that the vision they cast is lived out throughout their organization.

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