1) Have a clear strategy
When you are a leader it’s your job to engage others to move in a specific direction. If this direction is not clear to you it certainly won’t be for them. So if you’re to have any success leading people you need to have a good strategy which includes;
• Make it simple and clear
• Link it to the success of the business
• Explain why it is important
• Involve representatives from all parts of the business in its creation
• Communicate continuously to all groups of employees
2) Master your amygdala
Your amygdala is one of the structures in the brain responsible for emotions, if it perceives a threat it can ‘hijack’ the rational part of your brain causing you to act irrationally. The key indicators of a hijacking are:
• A strong emotional reaction
• Sudden onset
• Realisation your reaction was inappropriate (after the fact)
This all happens automatically however you can learn to gain some control by recognising the reaction, labelling the emotion and understanding why you are feeling it. Ultimately, if you do experience this your best course of action is to take yourself away from the person/situation. This period of time will allow the hormones and neurotransmitters to disperse and your rational brain to regain control.
Having said that, it’s really important not to shut down your feelings completely. You need to be able to empathise with those around you as well as register your emotional reactions and use that as information to inform your actions.
3) Listen, Listen, Listen and Act
No one person can ever have a detailed knowledge of everything involved in the running of any one company. Even in small companies you need to take into account the individual motivations, career aspirations and insecurities of each employee. Moreover people by their nature hide their real concerns so sometimes you have to delve deeper to really understand the situation.
Therefore to ensure your change strategy is sound, the implementation goes smoothly and the programme will be successful you need to ensure you listen then act. Creating forums for employees to share their concerns and demonstrating that you have listened to them (including explaining why you may not have taken their advice) is essential. Also demonstrating your ability to flex your plans (based on other people’s needs) whilst still achieving the overall strategy will ensure success.
4) Find and involve allies and influencers
Change doesn’t happen through one person alone, even the most charismatic and influential leaders have their advocates who help spread their word. You’ll need to build relationships and create a group of ‘go to’ people who will help you achieve your goals. Then have a plan for how, when and why you involve them. Key people to include are;
• Senior leadership
• An objective advisor (organisation development manager or external consultant)
• Networked influencers (whether they are for or against your plans)
• Representatives from all areas of the business
• A personal mentor
5) Be brave
Change is threatening to the majority of people. It is scientifically proven to have a significant effect on your brain and overall wellbeing. Therefore in every change programme there will be some people who don’t want it to happen. To protect their status quo they will try all kinds of strategies to derail the change. Therefore you will experience setbacks and even actions that can appear as a personal attack. You can minimise these by following the advice above but they won’t disappear completely. So you need to be brave, stick to your guns and know the bad day will be followed by the success of the change and ultimately the company!