Are you a successful leader of change?

It’s certainly true that in order to evolve and adapt to an increasingly complex future, businesses have to be constantly changing. Whether it’s implementing new technology, processes and ways of working or seeking new markets to explore, companies need to continuously think about the routes they’ll take.

Of all the major organisational projects that business leaders have to oversee, one of the most challenging can be change management. How do you promote a culture of constant, productive change, while still keeping everyone on board and without jeopardising the harmony of your organisation?

Change management is therefore one of the skills every executive should work on developing, given the massive implications it can have on the very future of the business. As recent research suggests, however, today’s organisations, managers and employees may not be entirely ready to embrace change.

Change still a stumbling block for many

Of course, to enable smooth and effective organisational transformation, a culture of change must be embedded across the enterprise. This involves having the people, strategies and tools required to drive change – but how many companies today can claim to be adequately equipped?

According to an Association for Talent Development survey of 765 professionals, 60 per cent of respondents said their business faces “three or more major changes” every year. Meanwhile, one out of four respondents said they face twice as many changes than that per year.

Despite this obvious need to make change management a top priority, the survey went on to reveal that fewer than one in five (17 per cent) said their organisation is effective at managing change.

Furthermore, less than a third (30 per cent) of respondents reported that their company actually has a change management team in place, while twice that proportion pinned their hopes of successful change on the CEO. With so few organisations having the necessary personnel to lead change, this signals a clear area for improvement for companies across the board.

However, that isn’t the only thing preventing many organisations from successfully enacting change.

What else is holding them back?

As outlined in the Katzenbach Center’s comprehensive 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey, there are myriad factors precluding modern organisations from fully embracing the prospect of change. The survey, which polled well over 2,000 people around the world, canvassed their opinions on the importance of transformation in the organisation, who is leading it and the obstacles that hamper lasting change.

When asked about the top barriers to change, the two most prominent responses were that clashing priorities lead to “change fatigue” and that the systems, processes and incentives in place do not support change.

A large part of the problem may also be behind the attitudes of the employees themselves. The survey revealed that the top three reasons staff resist change are because failed efforts in the past have made them sceptical, they don’t feel involved in the process and they do not understand the reasons behind the change.

All in all, half (48 per cent) of respondents said the critical capabilities required to sustain change are not in place.

Business leaders who can relate to these challenges and feel they are present in their organisation may want to take action immediately, as ineffective change management can have dire effects.

The consequences of poor change management

So what are some of the things that can happen if change is not properly managed in an organisation?

This was explored in Right Management’s ‘Ready, Get Set…Change!’ study, which provided some damning findings on the potential consequences of poor change management. As expected, the majority of the impact falls on employees – according to the study, companies that don’t manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent.

Additionally, of the respondents in the study who said their organisation’s change management is poor, three-quarters (75 per cent) reported being concerned with the company’s ability to attract talent in the future. A third (32 per cent) said they harboured negative feelings about whether they could hold on to their job in 12 months’ time.

As can be seen here, poor change management can have pervasive effects around the organisation, and business leaders need to think seriously about whether they are directing change in the right manner.

What are the best steps forward?

Of course, getting on the right path to change management can be a long process that takes time and effort – but it can help to know where the best places to start are.

McKinsey & Company provides one such perspective. Following extensive global research into the subject, it has come up with a list of what it purports to be the keys to transformation success.

According to the firm, companies that have been successful in transformational change have traditionally demonstrated behaviours such as making roles and responsibilities clear, engaging continuously through ongoing communication and tasking the organisation’s best talent with the most crucial change activities.

Leaders, obviously, have an important part to play too – they should make sure that frontline staff feel ownership for the change and role-model the desired changes.

Change should not be daunting to any organisation – in fact, if managed right, it can turn into a massive step forward for your company. Are you making sure your business is primed for change management success?

2015 Modern leadership: working smarter not harder

As a C-level executive do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally this year? What about over the next 18 months to 5 years? You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely they get buried in the demands of the day-to-day.

But how important is it to get specific and strategic about goal setting?

Many leaders feel as though they work very hard both in and on their businesses and yet they don’t achieve the results they want or the work life balance they need. A key reason is they haven’t dedicated time to think clearly and strategically about what it is they want to achieve. There is also a lack of accountability and follow through on implementation. An important step is to have a clear vision of what your leadership priorities are, and what you want to achieve; having a clear vision.

“More than 80% of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the recent 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77% have yet to achieve their vision for their company,” writes Peter Vanden Bos for Inc.

What if we told you the solution is to work smarter, not harder?

In New York Times bestseller What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting.

He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish them.

84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that weren’t written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals.

However, the 3% with written objectives for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times as much as the other students put together

Goal-setting paybacks

Identifying effective goals and setting a plan to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives.

This has a significant impact on productivity that is difficult to ignore, both on a personal and professional level. Whether you’re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the additional focus that is essential to reaching the top.

American business consultant and author Jim Collins offers similar advice, which is why he’s famous for coining the term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ – or BHAG.

The phrase refers to the long-term proposals that are the hallmark to some of the world’s most successful business leaders. “It is about goal setting. It is about picking a goal that will stimulate change and progress and making a resolute commitment to it,” Collins explains. “This is not about writing a mission statement. This is about going on a mission.”

Working smarter, not harder

The SMART format for goal setting has been around for many years and it’s a common practice among high achievers, as it establishes a helpful framework for gauging the effectiveness of goals and objectives.

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Achievable – specify who will do it.
Results orientated – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time sensitive – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Goals that meet this criteria have a much better chance of positive outcomes, in Peter F. Drucker’s popular HBR article What Makes an Effective Executive he states  ‘executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been transformed into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course’.

‘Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events. And without check-ins to re-examine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which events really matter and which are only noise’.

Ultimately, leaders who set goals both personally and professionally have the direction and focus required to pursue powerful strategic objectives. Modern leaders have the ability to set and achieve progressive goals and distil this into business metrics.

So how do you drive strategic goal setting? Every leader has business obligations whether it’s focused on innovation, becoming the premier distributing vendor, taking your company public or creating the best consumer experience. TEC Goal Setting is an effective way to incorporate this into your personal and professional life through a highly customised learning experience, credible resource of content and accountability.