Nov 22 2018| Leadership | Values

Leaders' Perspectives on Successful Change

Guernsey CEOs share perspectives on leading successfully through change

by Phil Eyre Founder

Powered by technology, the pace of change is increasing and communication, ideas, expectations and people travel faster than ever before. This creates an exciting environment, full of opportunity as well as challenges to ensure that change is embraced successfully. Yet research shows that 89% of change projects fail.  We gathered 20 leaders from Guernsey's business, charity and government sectors to explore what -  in their experience - creates successful change.

Here are nine of their observations. What do you think and what would you add? 


1) Resist the belief that people don't want change. 

Whilst we all recognised that for most people, the initial response to change is caution or resistance, in fact, most actually want things to improve - to change for the better. We desire better work, improved lives, a better service for our customers and more. Leaders have a responsibility right at the outset to recognise that, ultimately, people do want change to happen. It is incumbent on the leaders to ensure that the vision for better - the big "why" for the necessary change - is clear and believed.  Some finesse is needed, for example where some are negatively impacted by the change. But a starting point that "everyone hates change" will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 


2) Ensure the context is understood.

Communicating the reasons for change and setting the context in which change is happening is important. Life and work are always changing, so setting the framework for a particular change project or scenario is important to help people understand why it is happening and how they are impacted. Clearly and regularly communicating that there is a beginning, middle and end to a particular change project helps people to connect with it. 


3) Communicate often and in a tailored way

Leaders can too easily assume that everyone else knows what they know and what they are thinking, when in fact key elements might not be clearly understood by the organisation. Communication, therefore, needs to be regular. Communication also needs to be tailored to suit the various audiences in the organisation; some need one to ones, others need 'town hall' style communication etc. Communicating in one way will not work. 


4) A successful exemplar

One leader described how he had made a change in just one area before launching further change initiatives. This went well, creating belief in the business that change could work well, laying a strong foundation on which to lead further initiatives. This is more successful than attempting to change everything all at once. 


5) Fail fast, fail cheap

Accept that some things will go wrong, be honest enough to recognise when that's happening, stop the process and be open enough to communicate that with the business. Admitting mistakes when things go wrong is the stronger course of action and will lead to better relational capital in the long term. 


6) Park the past and push past the push back

One leader described how they have used the phrase "park the past" to help the business move on from past hurdles, problems and habits. They also described how initial resistance to change is normal; leaders need to push past the push back, inspiring and leading their people forward into new ideas and practices. 


7) Business as usual. Do less to do better. 

In today's world, change is in fact business as usual. Adopting this mindset will make specific change projects easier to bring to the business. A different perspective on this is that for many leaders, "business as usual" is a hurdle to leading successfully through change. Strategy meetings, offsites, board meetings, change meetings are too-quickly followed by 'normal business', which results in communication breakdown and lost momentum. Leaders need to create time to think and lead change, which can feel counterintuitive when going through a change with the extra work that creates. 


8) Recruit for Values

One leader expressed their experience that technical prowess is a poor indicator of change-success; you can recruit competence and technical skill but successful change requires the right behaviours and values of the people involved. This idea was expanded by Margaret Heffernan at the recent Centre for Army Leadership conference; the top performing teams are those with strong 'mortar' - relational capital - between the individual bricks. Teams that trust each other, are open to giving and receiving feedback, that hold each other accountable are those that perform. Actively seeking people with these values when recruiting makes for success. 


9) Change leaders need to be risk takers

Change, by nature, involves uncertainty and therefore risk. Encouraging and empowering people in your organisation to take appropriate risk will create strong conditions for successful change. Rather than waiting to be told prescriptively what to do, fostering an environment where people bring their 'intent' rather than wait for orders will create success. 



About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has sophisticated expertise in psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with, and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company in Guernsey, Collins Stewart (CI) Limited, now Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Phil has served on the boards of three charities, including BMS World Mission, a UK charity with over 80 employees and a global reach. Phil also ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and served as a non-executive director for Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil is a member of the NED Forum and the Institute of Directors.

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