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The Role of Leadership Alignment in Change Management

Change is inevitable. How effectively change is managed in a business setting determines if a business can successfully realize long-term company outcomes. When the leaders guiding company change expertly balance consistency with compassion and leadership alignment, the transition can be the key to progress.

Why is Change Necessary for an Organization?

Being able to adapt is necessary for businesses not only to stay relevant, but also to survive. Take Bethlehem Steel for example. Started in 1904, Bethlehem Steel was a forerunner in the steel industry. It manufactured 1,127 ships for the U.S. for World War II. Its steel was used in the Golden Gate Bridge, the New York City skyline, and in the tunnels and bridges between New York and New Jersey. Today, the Bethlehem Steel Stacks sit as a rusty, sad reminder of what happens when you don’t adapt to market changes.

What happened? As new competition entered the market—preconstressed concrete and aluminum—and as foreign companies found new, cheaper ways to process steel, the leaders at Bethlehem Steel felt no need to change. They continued with their expensive, outdated processes thinking they could ride on the previous success and survive. They didn’t.

[minti_pullquote align=”left”]DID YOU KNOW?

Family can be a big reason why some business don’t change. Bethlehem Steel was family-owned at the time of their collapse and they serve as one of the most profound examples of family business succession failures. For private companies, we often find resistance to change amongst the family owners that have control, essentially handcuffing their board and executive team.

SHV Coaches can help your family plan for organizational change.

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If a mighty giant like Bethlehem Steel can fail, any business can. Market changes, political changes, and new technology can impact a business. It’s important to keep a pulse on what’s happening outside the organization and assess the impact those things can have on your business in the future.

As this example indicates, stagnation hinders progress. When organizations get comfortable in the familiar, established norms, it is not easy for them to shift or pivot from that routine.

Besides avoiding bankruptcy, organizational change is valuable because it promotes individual and collective growth in the development of new skills and acquired knowledge. It promotes innovation and is vital to the endurance of a company that wants to remain relevant, become an industry standout, or sustain an already established competitive advantage.

Why Does Change in Business Need Leadership?

Change means something known is ending and something uncertain and new is beginning. So, it often triggers fear and confusion. Emotions can run rampant as team members experience anger, sadness, and even loss. There will be some push back in the form of resistance and possible displays of emotion. Business leaders will need the team’s buy-in and support for any transition to be successful. Team members must accept that some of the old ways of doing things must come to an end and they must give the new way of doing things a real chance. Navigating this challenging atmosphere requires strong, sound leadership. Emotional intelligence also plays a huge role in the success of the change.

An excellent tool that can help leaders understand this process is the Transition Model, created by William Bridges in his book “Managing Transitions.” His model prefers the use of the word “transition” instead of “change”. He states that “change is situational and happens without people transitioning, while transition is psychological and is a 3-phase process where people gradually accept the new situation”. Bridges’ model focuses specifically on the process that an individual’s mind goes through when forced to confront a major shift. He shares three stages of transition that people experience at their own pace:

  • Ending, Losing, and Letting Go – Denial, Shock, Anger, Frustration, Stress
  • The Neutral Zone – Resentment, Low Morale/Productivity, Anxiety About Role/Status, Skepticism
  • The New Beginning – Enthusiasm, Hope, Importance, Acceptance, Skepticism

Leaders must have a solid understanding of this process. They must balance acknowledging all that the team is feeling and their resistance to change with continued forward movement for the organization. They should be able to provide a safe space for open communication, and actively listen while also clearly defining what is happening, giving the team time to accept it. Change leaders must also provide encouragement and assurance that team members are highly capable while providing the tools and direction needed to ensure a smooth transition. Without this level of leadership, there will be a lack of understanding and support needed to ensure a smooth transition and resistance to change is inevitable.

Why Should Leaders Be Aligned in the Process of Change Management?

In addition to the synergy necessary between team leaders and team members, organizational change management requires leadership alignment. For leaders guiding the change, it is important that each person is on the same page on the method of information delivery and on the steps that will be taken to make the change happen.

A major transition is, by default, mired in confusion and fear. As leaders, the goal must be to quell those fears by providing clear and concise direction. Aligned leadership is powerful messaging that can catapult the team successfully through the challenges of change. Leadership alignment supports future vision casting, clear coordinated messaging and communication, and a genuine care and attentiveness to team concerns that can effectively guide the team through the process.

On the other hand, conflicting messages that are communicated through misaligned leadership are extremely detrimental. They only increase fear and uncertainty. Leadership alignment on goals, priorities, and plans presents a united front that creates calm, stability, and trust.

Plan for Organizational Change & Prepare for Leadership Alignment

One of a business’ greatest risk is not properly planning for transition. We provide consulting and coaching services for leaders dealing with organizational change management or transition within their company.

Because team members are continuously looking to their leaders for stability during uncertain times of transition, a commitment to concise decision making and clarity in the delivery of those decisions is key to the successful transition of an organization. We help leaders navigate their way through the necessary conversations and develop a plan for success.

Let’s get a plan in place for your business. Schedule a call with Scott Hackman Ventures today.

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