So you want to make the sweeping changes announced by your senior leader last and you’re ready to take a structured approach as outlined in this last post. You know the business outcome must be clear and you have a comprehensive list of questions, but what do you do next?
Active listening is the best place to start.
In an immensely helpful book called Wholistic Change, Michelle Smeby provides seven skills all change agents needed to be successful. One of my favorite skills is active listening, which she illustrates as follows:
- Restate What You Heard: Am I correct that the main challenge with the change is …?
- Clarify: What is the biggest concern or issue that you feel we need to address immediately?
- Show Empathy: It sounds like this has been a very frustrating experience. I know that change can be hard.
Now armed with a framework for active listening where should you go? Research from PR0SCI indicates few people talk to the most influential people on any project – the sponsor. A recent PROSCI survey of change leaders indicated only 25% “equipped their sponsor“; however, those who did so found it 97% effective.
How can you equip set senior leaders when a change manager typically has little authority? What could you possibly offer someone who is an established leader in their field of expertise? Whether it is building your own rapport with such people or coaching them on how to effectively lead their teams to change, you will never go wrong if you start by actively listening.
On a practical note, this means three actions should be done as soon as possible at the start of a new project:
- Establish a Meeting Cadence: Don’t settle for a high-level one time kick off meeting with your sponsor. Make a point to either send a regular one-on-one or joining regular touch base meeting with the project core team. It’s ideal to have a regular one-on-one meeting because you will have more influence over the agenda topics.
- Quickly Demonstrates Your Positive Intent: Take any follow-up actions you commit to in front of the leader. Ensure you are gathering information the leader will find helpful for the project and proactively report back to them.
- Be Candid: Don’t sugarcoat difficult decisions or trade-offs the sponsor will have to make. Remain positive and proactive, but don’t gloss over difficult decisions that must be made for the change to succeed in the long term.
These are a few simple steps to start a new change project successfully. I’d welcome you to deepen your understanding of these topic in three ways:
- Comment on This Post: What has helped you build rapport with your project sponsor? How have you demonstrated active listening? Post your comments below and I’ll be glad to provide additional insights in the discussion.
- Download Free Proven Change Leadership Tips: Sign up here to receive proven tips on how you can develop change leadership skills.
- Schedule a Free Consultation: If you or your organization are undergoing any sort of change, I would be glad to brainstorm on how to apply a structured approach in your business.