Culture

3 Ways Leaders Can Embrace Change

By

Kathy Oden-Hall

| Sep 20, 2018

Today, the one certainty in business is change. It doesn’t take stacks of research and analyses to conclude that with the rise of technology, companies are becoming nimbler out of necessity.

Jobs that didn’t exist a mere 10 years ago — app developers, cloud computing specialists, social media managers and data analysts, to name a few — are suddenly in high demand. A change in business isn’t confined to new job opportunities; it comes in many forms: a generational change, change in scale or management changes.

Business leaders must understand that an ostrich approach, or hiding in the sand instead of adapting, is an inadequate solution and only delays the inevitable. Below are three ways leaders can embrace the unknown and engender a change-ready attitude in their workforce.

1. Build trust

Despite buy-in from management, embracing change can be difficult for employees. People grow comfortable with their daily tasks and routines and may be wary of anything that disrupts the norm. It’s human nature to fear the unknown; in fact, research done by the NeuroLeadership Institute found that uncertainty registers in the human brain “much like an error does.” Instead of balk, leaders bringing in new management or hiring a new generation of employees should remain empathetic and open to those on their team who seem averse to change.

One way to assuage fear is by building trust. Employees who trust their leaders are more likely to follow them, even if it takes them outside their comfort zone. Trust takes time, so leaders should begin laying the foundation of an honest, open relationship with their workforce before they champion that shiny, new initiative.

2. Go on a listening campaign

Leaders are expected to add value with their ideas and communicate those ideas in a clear and compelling way. Thus, there’s a common misconception that leaders are loud. Though many of the best leaders have been charismatic (think Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa), they are also the ones who balance communication with listening.

As the author of the Harvard Business Review article “Listening Is an Overlooked Leadership Tool” points out, “With so few anchors in our work environment, and so many variables we can’t control, it’s important to double down on the things we can control.” Leaders can control how they listen to their workforce.

But how does listening encourage change? A workforce is made up of people from various backgrounds, experiences and cultures. Leaders who listen show their employees that they care about their opinions, which makes transitions and shifts smoother. Before a big change occurs, managers should go on a listening tour to identify new, valuable perspectives and potential roadblocks they may unintentionally overlook.

3. Encourage lifetime learning

With many industries and roles expanding and adapting, staying up-to-date with skills and knowledge is crucial for businesses to thrive. A robust lineup of engaged, agile employees is the answer to a shifting economy, and one way to keep them engaged is by embracing companywide lifetime learning. Education incentives, mentorship programs, conferences and online classes are all ways that a workforce can gain crucial knowledge that will open them up to new ways of thinking.

Leaders are able to set the stage for their organization, and if they focus on proactive planning, listening and learning, they’ll be well-equipped to capitalize on change.

About the Author

Kathy Oden-Hall

Oden-Hall is an award-winning public relations, communications and marketing professional with over 20 years experience driving corporate strategy for Fortune 500 companies. Her Oklahoma roots and passion coupled with her global experience and creative flair have helped her drive numerous successful strategic initiatives. She joined the Paycom team as in 2012 and is Paycom's executive vice president and chief marketing officer..

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