10 Tips For Leading Through Changes

Change is hard—proceed with flexibility, patience, and a dose of authority.

To transition your business to a more innovative company, you will need to guide a highly trained and skilled work force through some difficult changes.

As the boss, you may not have the same IQ as the smartest guys in the office, but it is your job to lead and align these high achievers, which often involves disrupting the status quo.

Ensuring that your team of geniuses is aligned with the goal, providing actionable insights, and interacting with other members of the team is critical to success.

Here are 10 pieces of advice to bosses when leading your team through change.

1. Immediate results are not possible

Anticipate that creating some semblance of alignment will take six to 12 months, especially if you are new to the team. Be flexible and patient and realize that you are working on a mosaic masterpiece and there is no way of knowing exactly what it will look like on day one. Be confident that it will be beautiful, no matter what, in the end, and share that confidence.

2. Change causes fear, and fear stifles

You are not here to change your employees; you are here to change the trajectory of the business or project. Make them comfortable, not off balance. Geniuses are not mind readers—they will read your actions for signs of things to fear. Don’t give them easy things to be upset about, like changing everything!

3. Ordain each one a leader of something

Many high achievers want to be recognized for their achievements. And in the end, it’s about getting some work done, even if it isn’t integrated and coordinated yet.

4. Invite them into crafting the problem statement

Don’t do it on your own. That will be viewed as your objecting to them and their way of doing things. Once your high achievers can see that things are not optimal on their own, you will have created a window for change to actually occur.

5. Do it their way—for a while

Invite them into crafting a solution and use their input; don’t simply take it under advisement. Show them that you can learn from them. You will learn something and become a better manager for it.

6. Avoid Positional authority

Avoid the temptation to assert positional authority when you get exasperated. There will likely be some movement then retrenchment back to the same or even worse behaviors. You will make mistakes, too. Having a positive and optimistic attitude and cheerleading is your job. Telling your team to do something “because you said so” doesn’t work.

7. Exert personal authority by letting your talent show

Deliver on a few big things that really matter, and a couple that don’t. Once your employees see you do something that they could not do themselves, or that they have tried to do and failed (like getting more money for the project) they will begin to see the value that you bring and respect you.

8. Define YOUR team

You will quickly learn which of these geniuses are the super-geniuses, which of the geniuses are followed by their peers, and which of these are beginning to warm to your lead. These individuals will have a few disciples within the organization who will have figured out what you just figured out. Poof, you just identified the change masters.

9. Go slow and steady

With the blessing and cooperation of your change masters, start doing what needs to be done to make the operation all that it can be. Go slow, but steady, maintaining the alignment of the core group as you go.

10. Determine who is on the bus and who is off the bus—then close the door and drive

At some point, the others will come in line, and there will be no dramatic showdown. Disruption, if needed, for the good of the project and the company will be tolerated at this point by the ones who matter most.

Joseph V. Gulfo, MD, MBA is the author INNOVATION BREAKDOWN: How the FDA and Wall Street Cripple Medical Advances (Post Hill Press) and CEO of Breakthrough Medical Innovations. He has more than 25 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries and is former CEO of MELA Sciences.

[Image: Flicker user Markus Grossalber]

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