Over the last few years, significant, rapid change has continued to put pressure on businesses and those who lead them. Disruptive factors such as artificial intelligence, social media, big data, the gig economy, and the expectations of Generation Z are sources of relentless pressure on businesses to change or die. Today’s executives are keenly aware that 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955 no longer exist, and that fact motivates them to continue to evolve their organizations.
Modern executives understand that they need to lead organizational change to “future proof” their companies, yet more than 70 percent of change efforts fail.
So why are most of their efforts failing?
The reason is that executives simply need to get betterat leading change. To enable real, sustainable change, leaders need to be able to engage the hearts and minds of those around them. Here are four ways you can help your C-suite begin to change hearts and minds for good:
#1 Share the Vision
Craft a compelling picture of the future and a clear path to get there. Often, executives are ready to jump off the starting blocks and dive in, but you need to start slow to end fast. Make sure they step back and look at the bigger picture. Help them to clarify the tangible specifics of the future by answering the following:
- Where are we leading the organization and why?
- What will life look like for our team when we get there? How will we operate?
- What are the goals, metrics, and outcomes?
- How will we get there? What’s our roadmap for success? How will we drive this change as a senior team?
This type of vision helps people understand and believe in the future, and the ability to shape it is a special skill.
#2 Equip Leadership
Make sure leaders at all levels are prepared. You’ll need an energized and skillful group of people who can translate the vision into day-to-day behaviors for their teams. They’ll need to drive awareness, understanding, and adoption of the new model throughout the organization. To do this, these leaders need to be informed, engaged, and equipped with the skills and capabilities required to be clear, compelling, and inspiring to their teams—especially in the face of fear and/or uncertainty. They need to know how they themselves can best manage change, and they need to be skilled at helping others do the same. Ask the following:
- What does the future state look like, day to day? Are our leaders on board with the vision of the future state? If not, how will we get them there?
- Do leaders understand what will be required—of themselves and their teams—to achieve and sustain our vision?
- What training, tools and resources do they need?
- What other kinds of support will leaders need to initiate and maintain momentum going forward?
#3 Coach Your Talent
Organizations are only as great as their people. Determine what capabilities your organization needs to drive change and help your leaders assess their talent for those skills. Almost always, you’ll need to decide what to buy and what to build—that is, where will you have to add talent to fit the need, and where will you need to build capability in house? This sometimes requires difficult decisions, and always requires great coaching skills. Ask yourself:
- What capability do we have in house today? Where are the gaps?
- What capability must we buy or build to achieve our vision?
- What process will we use to we make the hard decisions that are required?
- What is our plan for managing the impact of these decisions?
#4 Engage the Stakeholders
You’ll need to ensure your senior team engages key stakeholders along the way. Start by helping identify all relevant stakeholders and taking a metaphorical “walk” in each of their shoes. Take the pulse of your stakeholders, where you can. Find out what they are really thinking and what motivates them. How can you plan for their needs, and inspire their engagement and commitment to the future? Ask yourself:
- Who are the internal and external stakeholders in this change?
- Where are they on their change journey? Why?
- How can we support them while also moving the organization in the direction we want to go?
Sustainable organizational change is an art, not a science. Today’s leaders need to be able to artfully inspire their people, and motivate them to change, by meeting them where they are—with a fully realized, articulate vision for the future, and concrete action steps to get there. Leaders must be thoughtful and intentional in their change initiatives. Only when they are equipped with the vision, the tools, the training, and the empathy required can they capture hearts and minds for good.
Christine Andrukonis is the founder and president of Notion Consulting Inc, a consulting firm that helps leaders imagine the future and lead people to it. To learn more, visit notionconsultinginc.com.