Developing change: What skills to develop and how to put them into practice

Written by GaintheLead

July 20, 2021

Implementing change is a major business challenge. Is your leadership up to the task?

If you’re in a fintech or payments firm you’re probably familiar with change management programs. From leadership transitions and restructurings, mergers and acquisitions, to regulatory changes, there seems to be constant unrest in the workforce of these dynamic industries.

Well executed change can be one of the best team and loyalty-building exercises an organisation can carry out. However, most change programs miss out on a massive opportunity to boost motivation and employee retention. Instead, they focus narrowly on profitability and scalability. This often leads to resistance and poor staff retention.

 

Why change is a good thing

Sure, change programs can be disruptive to your daily activities. But they also offer a rare opportunity for executives to do something extraordinary and to develop their leadership skills and build their careers. When executed well, change programs lead to increased employee satisfaction, with higher performing, better coordinated and target oriented teams.

 

Getting change right can be challenging, though

The incentives – and therefore the key performance indicators – of change management programs are invariably centred on increasing profit. So it’s of little surprise that human elements tend to be overlooked. Meanwhile, leaders spearheading change programs are often ill-equipped to carry out the task at hand because they lack support and time to be effective.

Pro tip 1: Add KPIs that target employee motivation and a high level of enjoyment to your change program.

Pro tip 2: Ensure leaders and employees have the time to execute the change. Do not try to pile it on top of an already maxed out workload.

Being a great leader through change requires sensitivity to the needs of others. That starts with listening to those around you. As a leader in a fintech or payment firm you’ll typically know about a forthcoming change program ahead of your colleagues. You’ll also have been part of the iterative process with other leaders who are also privy to the upcoming change. You’ll understand how the program sits within the broader corporate strategy and why it’s necessary to implement.

But ironically the employees whose daily routines stand to change the most are those who will have the best insight when it comes to addressing the main challenges of the change program. They will often phrase them initially as resistance. They might say things like, “we have always done it that way, it works. Why change it?” Or, “we tried that, it won’t work here.” This is where excellent leaders prevail.

Exceptional leaders  listen carefully, clarify exactly what the challenges are behind the initial resistance, visualise them and then help the team prioritise the challenges and turn them into actionable tasks.

Pro tip 3: Behind every piece of resistance is a selection of real world challenges that needs dealing with to succeed in the change. Listen, clarify and work through them one by one.

 

The role of stress and anxiety in change

Sudden change can trigger stress and anxiety. And our response to stress means we can absorb much less information than we would in a relaxed state. So if your team is mentally ambushed with a 90 minute presentation on your upcoming change program, it’s not likely to go well. While you are talking, the listeners are already thinking about all the challenges and getting worried. So they are not listening fully and missing key points.

You don’t want your team members to come out of a meeting thinking ‘is my job secure?’, ‘is my role changing?’ and ‘will I be overworked?’ Instead of overwhelming your team with the whole roadmap in one go, bring them on the journey with you from a much earlier stage.

Pro tip 4: Involve a selection of frontline leaders and employees from the very start of your thought process, long before decisions are made on what the change should look like. This challenges most leaders, but early feedback from operational levels will shape a better change program and help to identify challenges much earlier. This makes the entire process easier and the motivational boost to teams can be massive.

 

If we want change to be better, we need to change the way we do change

It’s time to step outside of the senior management echo chamber. You’ll need to demonstrate appreciation for each member of the team and take the time to truly understand their concerns and the challenges they’ve identified, in a secure environment. Encourage all to question elements of the program and reward them for doing so. Only then can you help the team feel confident in your ability to implement a program that puts their needs at the forefront.

As discussed above, your team will need time to absorb the key components of your change program in incremental pieces. Too often change programs are dumped in front of teams, who become overwhelmed with a range of new and unfamiliar goals and targets to deliver. This leads to a culture of fear, mistrust, low productivity, a lack of motivation and, ultimately, high levels of staff turnover. This is easy to avoid, but it requires an acute awareness of what the concerns of individual members of your team are. You’ll need to review these concerns, make relevant adjustments to accommodate for these concerns and monitor progress in a transparent manner. In doing so, you’ll reassure your team that they can count on you to take their feedback into consideration.

Pro tip 5: Take the time to explain all your thoughts and background information, connections to the big picture and the way the market is developing. Bassicall explain in many different ways WHY the change is required.

“People have only truly understood the why of a change if they can correctly phrase it in their own words”

 

Planning successful and enjoyable change

Establishing a strategic approach takes careful planning and is time consuming. But you need to weigh this against the future benefits – you can easily save 20% of your workforce’s time while increasing motivation and productivity.

Your communications and change execution plan should demonstrate you’ve taken into consideration the specific concerns and challenges faced by each team. Ensure you address obstacles head-on while celebrating successes as your team reaches new milestones. Embolden your teams to ask ‘why’ and bring open, transparent dialogue into your communications channels.

Pro tip 6: When planning change don’t just consider the functional steps. Take into account the human ones too. It will take some time, which is well invested as the payoff is much greater.

Let’s not forget change is not just necessary, but it’s a good thing – particularly in fast-moving sectors like fintech and payments. If you can embrace change and help your team enjoy the journey with you, the outcome is highly rewarding. By listening, adapting and communicating effectively you can help your teams and colleagues evolve and challenge themselves by acquiring new skills and perspectives.

Do all the leaders in your organisation possess the leadership skills required to implement large change programs? In a manner, that they are not just very successful but are also an excellent team building exercise?

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