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5 Steps to Positive Change: Leaders, Take Note

Leadership can be challenging at the best of times, not least during a global pandemic that changes everything about the way we work. 

But change should be embraced.

If you’re a leader, you can use change as an opportunity to reevaluate how things are done and reinvigorate your team.

What’s more satisfying than transforming challenging, uncertain circumstances into something positive?

Inspired by the many change management models that exist in the professional world, we’ve compiled some top tips for leading with finesse – even when everything is upside down.

silhouette of person leading group over landscape

Instincts – ignore or embrace?

Until the day that androids take over every business function, leaders will always have human emotions and instincts guiding their thoughts. And that’s no bad thing.

We’re big believers in bringing your personality into the workplace, and sharing your values.

That’s not to say you should over-share or be overbearing, but dropping the robotic facade can really reassure your team. It can also lighten the mood, which is kind of vital in uncertain times.

Think about how some great world or business leaders have shared a slice of their emotions throughout this past year.

But, like they have, there are some instincts that you should learn to override if you want to be a truly effective leader.

Don’t be tempted to:

Downplay the seriousness of a tricky situation or the impact of the change you’re imposing. 

  • Instead, use transparency to keep your employees fully aware of what’s changing.

Wait for good news if all you’re seeing or receiving is negativity and uncertainty. 

  • Instead, use urgency to push for change and motivate the people around you.

Double-down on your miss-steps when your efforts fall flat or anger your team.

  • Instead, take responsibility for all of the changes that you implement.
person's hand holding new plant growth

Navigating change – the essentials

It’s not hard to find change management models to fit your organization.

There are some timeless techniques: you might use Kotter’s 8-step model, or even fit the Kübler-Ross stages of grief to your business needs.

But we’re keeping it simple with five essentials that’ll help you lead through change and uncertainty.

You might need to learn how to lead a remote workforce (just like the Zyro team), or you could be preparing to spark change in an outdated organization. 

Whatever the situation, here’s how to make it work:

1. Communicate

This is really the cornerstone of change management. Communicating with your employees will do everyone a favor – including you.

Be sure to communicate early and often throughout change. This will:

  • Build and maintain trust. Prolonged silence from leaders during periods of change will only serve to aggravate people. Chances are they’ll think you’re plotting something that they are going to have no say in.
  • Empower others. Communication gives way to discussion and feedback, which you’ll value. When everyone knows what’s going on and feels supported, they’ll support you. 
  • Give peace of mind. Don’t assume that your team will think that no news equals good news. Change can be unsettling, so use communication as a tool to reassure people and boost transparency.

2. Collaborate

birds eye view of team collaborating around table with laptops, note pads and tablets

Great leadership means including other people in your decision-making processes. Deciding what’s best for a team of people with no consultation is a slippery slope.

Building a task force of coworkers from the outset will help to unite your organization. We suggest:

  • Getting employee buy-in. Whether you’re navigating unprecedented change (like a pandemic) or instigating change, ask for opinions and input from the get-go. Just because you’re a leader, doesn’t mean you hold all of the best ideas.
  • Creating a coalition. Set up a team of people from across your business, at varying levels, who can help you to manage, implement, and motivate through the journey you’re about to go on.
  • Talking to experts. This could be people in your industry or those in totally different fields that you now rely on for something like resources or publicity. You’ll probably uncover something that you would never have thought of without outside influence. 

3. Create

It pays to develop and communicate a clear action plan as soon as you’re able to. As a leader, you need to rapidly establish timelines, structures, and required resources.

But you also need to be prepared to pivot your strategy and stay open to learning lessons. Work like this:

  • With your team. This will give you a view from the front line. Working alongside your coworkers to navigate change will give you great insights, as well as a direct means of communicating with the people you manage.
  • Behind your team. Don’t breathe down their necks, but give yourself a chance to step back and monitor the work being done as part of your change strategy. This zoomed-out view can show you what is and isn’t working.
  • Apart from your team. Zooming out even further will allow you to see the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s tough to see the positive (or negative) impact of change when you’re so stuck in the detail of things.

4. Congratulate

group of people making a toast with drinks over a table

Motivating your team isn’t just about keeping the lines of communication open, or involving them in decision-making. Sometimes, they just need to feel like they’re winning.

It’s tempting to go head-first into creating immediate or long-term change, but be sure to:

  • Celebrate short-term wins. Plot some changes into your strategy that are achievable and positive within a tight timeframe. Give your employees the opportunity to enjoy these and it’ll push them forwards to embrace the bigger changes.
  • Remember the basics. We’re talking about time off, team lunch breaks, and social events – even if they’re over Zoom now. It’s the small but frequent gestures that will show your compassion as a leader. Change can take its toll.
  • Give rewards to key players. You’ll probably be asking your employees to go above their usual roles during a period of upheaval. Thank and incentivize people along the way, and make it clear that they’re valued despite all the change. 

5. Commit

You’ll probably hit curveballs or roadblocks while your business is navigating change. Even if you instigated it, you will probably come up against unexpected challenges.

It’s your job to stay positive and committed, though. People are looking for your guidance – remember this:

  • You don’t have to fake positivity. Instead, find it: talk through your doubts with your friends or peers, or shift gears on your strategy if it doesn’t feel right. Just make sure your team is able to see a confident leader.
  • Stepping out of your comfort zone is normal during periods of change. Take on a growth mindset and embrace all of these new challenges so that your outlook remains positive and clear.
  • Change takes patience and resilience. Not only will it take time to implement adjustments, it’ll take time to get used to them, too. As long as you’re clear on that from the start, you can lead the way with relative ease.

Written by

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Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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