Organizational Change

Leader’s Job and Roles in Organizational Change

Change management Graphics courtesy of Maryville UniversityOpens in new window

The old saying “The one unchanging principle of life is the principle of change” contains an important element of truth: Change is an inevitable feature in the lives of today’s leaders and their organizations. For leaders and their organizations, some facets of change are slow and nearly imperceptible, while others occur quite rapidly. In addition, the impact of change processes can vary from quite minor to truly substantial.

Regardless of the type of change, lots of leaders want change, but only a select few actually help make it happen. Leaders are responsible for helping to successfully implement change. As a result, leaders must deal with the frustrations and anxieties that usually accompany change, and address some difficult questions:

  • Will the employees resist the change?
  • When should my employees be informed of the change?
  • Am I capable of implementing the change?
  • What other changes will be necessary as a result of this change?

Change Roles for Today’s Leaders

What do leaders really need to be doing to drive successful change? Five roles that leaders must play in times of change are:

  • Communicator — communicate with direct employees about the change.
  • Advocate — demonstrate support for the change.
  • Coach — coach employees through the change process.
  • Liaison — engage with and provide support to the project team.
  • Resistance manager — identify and manage resistance.
  1.     Communicator About the Change

Employees want to hear change messages about how their work and their team will be affected by a change from the person they report to. Leaders are a conduit of information for employees about the organization, the work that is done and changes to that work resulting from strategic, operational, and tactical initiatives.

The answers to the following questions are best delivered by an employee’s leader.

  • What does this change mean to me?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • Why should I get on board?
  • Why are we doing this?

The change leadership team needs to provide talking points and pertinent information, but those messages should ultimately be delivered to employees by their immediate superiors or bosses.

  1.    Advocate for the Change

Employees look to their leaders not only for direct communication messages about a change, but also to evaluate their level of support for the change effort. If a leader only passively supports or even resists a change, then you can expect the same from that person’s direct reports.

Leaders need to demonstrate their support in active and observable ways. The key is this: leaders must first be onboard with a change before they can support their employees. A change leadership team should create targeted and customized tactics for engaging and leading the change.

  1.    Coach for Employees

The role of coach involves supporting employees through the process of change they experience when change and initiatives impact their day-to-day work.

The ADKAR model describes this individual change process as five building blocks of successful change:

  • awareness of the need for change,
  • desire to participate and support the change,
  • knowledge on how to change,
  • ability to implement required skills and behaviors, and
  • reinforcement to sustain the change.

Leaders can coach individual employees through this change process and help them address the barrier points that are inhibiting successful change.

  1.    Liaison to the Change Team

Leaders liaise between their employees and the guiding coalition or change team, providing information to their direct reports. But perhaps more importantly, they provide information about the change from their employees backup to the change team.

Leaders are in the best position to provide design input, usability results, and employee feedback on particular aspects of the solution back to the change team. They are also positioned to identify and raise valid functionality needs and concerns during the implementation phase of the change.

  1.    Resistance Manager

No one is closer to a resistant employee than their immediate boss. In terms of managing resistance, leaders are in the best place to identify what resistance looks like, where it is coming from, and the source of that resistance.

They are also the best suited (when provided with the training and tools to do so) to actively manage that resistance when it occurs. They can use the ADKAR model to hone in on which element of the change process is driving resistance and address it accordingly.

  1. By T. R. Ramanathan, The Role of Organisational Change Management in Offshore Outsourcing ..., (p.20-22) Nature and Dimensions of Change