How to avoid a ‘secret resistance’ during change management

Three management experts weigh in on the HR mistake that can lead to poor employee practices during organisational change.

Speaking to HRD magazine recently, bestselling business authors Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner and Michael Bunting outlined why failing to lead by example can be an organisation’s downfall.

They argued that during change, leaders need to get their communications right, put new processes in place, consult with key stakeholders and organise training – among other things.

“One key element in the change process that’s often overlooked and undervalued is what we call ‘Modelling the way’,” they said.

To decipher whether your leaders are engaging in this process, they suggested asking the following questions:
  • Are your leaders modelling the behaviours needed for the challenge of change to succeed?
  • Are leaders in your company open to feedback?
  • Do leaders resist the God complex and admit they are learning too?
  • Are leaders totally and unrelentingly honest with themselves when they are unwittingly road-blocking change?
“Without engaging people’s hearts and minds, successful and efficient change is nearly impossible,” they continued.

“But the moment people see their leaders failing to model the way, a secret resistance begins which leaders are usually the last to know about or understand.”

Posner recently conducted an analysis of over 950,000 leadership assessments and found that Modelling the Way accounted for the most variance in leaders’ impacts on the engagement and performance of their colleagues and direct reports.

“As a leader, employees are highly likely to mimic your behaviour, and if you’re not modelling the behaviour needed for successful change, they won’t be either,” he said.

How an executive can impact behaviour

Posner outline five ways in which executives can positively impact the behaviour of others:

1. Form connections

HR executives should help leaders make the connection between their own behaviour and the intended organisational transformation, and implore them to personally model that behaviour in order to send the right messages to the rest of the organisation.

2. Keep it simple

Transformation practice at a personal level is highly challenging, so don’t try to change more than one behaviour at a time.

3. ‘Model the Way’

Model your own behaviour change to set the standard. You lose all credibility to challenge and inspire others if you’re not walking the talk.

4. Show accountability

Run regular review meetings and ask executive team members to cite examples of their new behaviour.

5. Celebrate good behaviour

People will do more of what makes them feel good. It’s an enormous achievement just changing one behaviour, and when it’s the right behaviour it will make all the difference.

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