“How do you make change stick?”
We’ve all been asked this question many times over the years.
And it’s no wonder: staff levels are lean, job satisfaction is low, and employees are stressed. Everyone is looking for a silver bullet to make change stick. “Do these four things and presto, you’ve created enduring change!”
Like so many things, the answer is it’s not simple. There isn’t a formula or a magical solution. Creating enduring change is all about embedding new ways of working – which requires consistent and ongoing leadership.
While there’s no silver bullet, we believe there are five things leaders can focus on to embed new ways of working – and make change stick.
1. Track performance
As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you get there?
Leaders must define what good looks like in terms of behaviour and then measure their team’s progress towards the new behaviours.
What are the old behaviours (habits, workarounds) you want people to stop doing – and what do you want people to start doing?
Identify lead and lag indicators of these behavioural changes and start measuring, recognising and rewarding good behaviour.
2. Reinforce it
Like all employees, leaders are being hit with wave after wave of change and often lack capacity to focus on embedding new behaviour.
For change to stick, leaders need the capacity to embed a change properly and to reinforce good behaviour through recognition and reward.
Leaders also need the autonomy to reward their teams in a timely manner rather than getting caught up in organisational red tape.
3. Build commitment
All leaders need to understand the stages people go through to build commitment: awareness, acceptance and then finally commitment.
Commitment is when the team owns the change – which only happens the team is empowered to build on and improve the new ways of working over time.
By understanding this, leaders can tailor their change leadership approach to the current and desired commitment level of their team.
4. Manage resistance
While resistance is a normal human response, it’s also the most visible symptom that a change is not going as planned.
Unfortunately, leaders often neglect managing resistance due to the time it takes to engage team members one-on-one.
If leaders lack capacity, a change practitioner can help by identifying the resistant behaviour, understanding the reasons for it, and coaching or partnering with leaders to build a plan to manage the resistance.
5. Role model
If we truly want to create enduring change, leaders need to actively role model the new ways of working.
After you’ve identified the old behaviours to stop doing and the new behaviours to encourage, leaders should consider some visible and public ways to show their commitment to the new ways of working.
Do you agree with this list? What would you add?