How Can You Prepare Leaders to Respond to Rapid Change?

22 Mar

Post by Expedite

Posted in: Business Development Consulting, Human Resource

How Can You Prepare Leaders to Respond to Rapid Change?


“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

  • Bill gates, from his book “The Road Ahead”

If you ask senior leaders to describe the key business challenges they face within their organisations, most of them tend to find the same few challenges repeated: right talent, spurring innovation and driving growth to name a few. But why is it that these issues emerge year after year? And what is at the root of an organisation’s continual struggle? The answer is – change.

As a leader, it becomes your responsibility to set the pace, and keep abreast of industry and market trends in order to respond to change quickly, and help your employees navigate through this transition.

Change can be a good thing…

It certainly can be a good thing. But not if it happens mechanically. A recent study by Center for Creative Leadership revealed that 75% of change initiatives fail because they focus solely on systems and processes. Often, organisations neglect to address the human elements that accompany major transitions, including emotional complexities and diversity of perspectives.

How can leaders help their people through change?

  • Understand the individual perspectives, frustrations and fears that accompany a major transition.
  • Rather than simply monitor or oversee things – lead change actively!
  • Make it a healthy, rewarding and sustainable experience.

Are you a change-capable leader?

Rapid organisational change is considered one of the top leadership development challenges. That’s why most organisations need to advocate change-capable leadership. What does it mean? Change-capable leadership is knowing how to be while figuring out what to do. Furthermore, it’s about building a collective commitment to change, even in the times of uncertainty.

Leaders who embrace change are the first to recognise its positive potential, even if the initial steps are disruptive or confusing. They also help major transitions become successful and sustainable, as they rally optimism and bolster overall team confidence.

Things you can do to make change work for you

Empower fluid and open teams

Instead of constantly playing catch-up with structures designed to meet the needs of yesterday, adapt to fast-changing environments to fit tomorrow’s needs. Build a fluid organisation that emphasises high levels of cooperation, communication and teamwork, resulting in productivity.

According to this Forbes article, here are four design principles  you can include to build fluid teams:

  • Cross-functional/cross-silo participation
  • Fluid, diffused roles and responsibilities
  • Empower everyone to lead
  • Share a common vision beyond any individual team member’s success

Communication – Bridge the gap between thinking and doing

Painting the picture for change is one of the most important aspect in the change initiative. As John Kotter, Professor of Leadership, said: “almost every change leader fails to accurately estimate the frequency, range, and amount of communication required to bring about change.” So it’s important to communicate effectively about – what is changing, what is staying the same, what they can expect during the process, and what things will look like after.

Develop emotionally intelligent leaders

What does Emotional Intelligence have to do with managing change? Everything! Leaders who are willing to understand the varied emotional reactions that people have towards change, are also able to deal with their reactions in a positive way.

This article elucidates how Emotional Intelligence contributes to change management:

  • by developing emotional maturity
  • by increasing social intelligence
  • as a tool to avoid or manage relationship problems
  • by improving interpersonal communication
  • by helping to manage emotions
  • as a method of coping with stress
  • by influencing leadership styles
  • by helping leaders make business decisions about change
  • by supporting managers, supervisors and staff in the workplace
  • by effectively managing resistance to change.

Align appetites for risk

Change-capable leaders should have the willingness and the ability to try new things and balance risk/reward. As highlighted in KPMG Global CEO Outlook, many companies are now showing a startling departure from orthodoxy. They are instead, heralding the arrival of more agile, responsive business models. These changes are bringing complex new risk management challenges. And this is where leaders can make a powerful difference. Apart from taking a more holistic, commercial and proactive view of risk, they need to develop risk-based strategies – that not only identify threats but enable organisations to prepare for the unknown and take bolder actions.

Find out more on this topic and many others affecting the world of work at Working Futures on 23rd March at the Business Design Centre, London.