3 Things You Must Do To Build Leadership Commitment

Pop Quiz: Name one of the top two causes of organisational change failure.

Answer: Lack of leadership

(Source: PMI’s 2014 Pulse of the Profession)

Unfortunately, just because someone holds a position of leadership doesn’t mean they know how to lead change.

We all understand that leadership commitment is critical to the sustainability of any change – but how do we achieve it?

Our holistic model of change capability, developed with Deakin University, includes three dimensions of leadership commitment to change: sponsorshipaccountability, and capability.

We’ll explore what each one means and some tactics to achieve them.

1. Visible sponsorship from leaders

Question 1

Local leaders are committed when their leaders are transparent, actively and visibly role-modelling behavioural changes, and encouraging feedback. This helps to build trust and reduces cynicism.

Things you can do

Ensure that an important change is on the agenda whenever senior leaders engage with local leaders. Senior leaders must be briefed on likely questions and challenges and be prepared to discuss specifics, not just general platitudes. It’s ok if some of the answers are “we don’t know yet, but we’re working on it.”

2. Systemic accountability

Question 2

When there is internal, top-to-bottom accountability for benefits realisation, leaders are more committed. The same study that found leadership is a cause of change failure also found that organisations that focus on ownership and accountability are significantly more effective than those that don’t (84 % vs 24 %).

Things you can do

Identify who is accountable for the benefits – most likely a Sponsor – and who is responsible for achieving them – most likely local leaders who oversee day-to-day performance. At the outset, the Sponsor should clearly articulate to the local leaders these responsibilities and how they’ll be supported to achieve them.

If the Sponsor clearly explains her expectations and supports local leaders to be comfortable in their roles, she is demonstrating accountability and role modelling the behaviours of a change leader.

Of course, benefits realisation should be included in the KPIs of all leaders involved.

3. Commitment to change capability

Question 3

This is more role modelling we encourage from senior leaders to demonstrate their true commitment to becoming a change-capable organisation. Middle and front-line leaders are more likely to commit when their leaders understand and publicise the importance of building change capability.

Things you can do

A personal connection, or a personal story, can humanise what may come across as abstract or “management speak.” For example, senior leaders can talk about a workplace change that personally affected them and what they’re doing differently.

Learning to lead change

At Change Synergy we believe that all leaders need training in their role in change.

Our preferred methodology, People-Centred Implementation (PCI ®), focuses on change leadership at the organisational and local levels. It helps you assess your leaders’ capability to lead change and recommends tactics to overcome any weaknesses.

How do you build leadership commitment to change? Let us know in the comments!

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