Is It Possible to Lead Successful Change?

In the book entitled, Leading Successful Change, authors Gregory Shea and Cassie Solomon offer two ways to implement and achieve change. First, focus on the behaviors you want from your employees, and second, design the work environment to foster those behaviors. Sound simple? Yes and no.

“Change often fails not because people lack the capacity to change but because the work environment does not change in ways that encourage people to employ their adaptive capacity to change…Envision the behavior and alter the environment accordingly, as broadly and as deeply as possible.”

Imagine the following scenario: you run a hotel, and the check-out counter is crowded with guests who want to check out and leave for the airport, tradeshows, theme parks, etc. While your hotel’s brand promise is to provide excellent customer service and a speedy check-out, if all employees who are working at the check-out desk are not trained properly or are experiencing trouble with your electronic equipment, your guests will soon become dissatisfied and will never return.

So how do you implement change to get the results you want? In our hypothetical scenario, you need to make sure that your employees act in an appropriate manner – even when there is a growing crowd of frustrated customers at the check-out desk. Your employees need to understand what constitutes acceptable behavior and what constitutes unacceptable behavior. Then, it is the responsibility of the leadership team to provide the environment where success can grow.

In our hypothetical situation, this may correspond to having a member of the IT team working at the check-out desk just in case something malfunctions; or one or more supervisors work alongside their teams during busy periods of activity, such as, check-in and check-out hours; or extra employees jump into action armed with iPad-type devices and walk through the line checking out guests as they go.

According to Shea and Solomon, change begins with a vision. Leaders should paint a picture of actions that would occur if things ran in an ideal world. For instance, it’s not enough to say you want people to be proactive. You need to be specific, so that all employees know what an ideal scenario looks like.

How can your business lead successful change?

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