Sticky Notes: Become a Change Master

Keep in mind the three pillars of leading people through change.

There’s nothing new about change. But there can be no doubt that the pace and scope of change is greater now than ever before. People tell me every day about the pressure to adapt to changes at work: learning new skills, knowledge, wisdom; performing new tasks and responsibilities; working with new machines, managers, co-workers, customers, and rules.

There is so much literature on “change leadership”—implementing lasting changes in systems, practices, and competencies— but not enough on leading people through all these incessant changes that we couldn’t stop if we tried. In the course of my work, I’ve come to know what I call “change masters” over the years. That is, leaders and managers with great track records of successfully leading direct reports through minefields of change. From these change masters, I’ve learned what I call the three pillars of leading people through change:

  1. Remind yourself (and others) constantly of whatever is constant. What is never going to change around here?
  2. Engage in regular contingency planning—and encourage others to do so, as well. What is likely to change? Exactly what will we do if that happens? Coach your people through practice runs of regularly recurring scenarios.
  3. When the unforeseen occurs, adapt and improvise. What else can you do? 
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