Change is tough. Just when you’re comfortable with a certain process or protocol, there it is, ready to upend your sense of security.
Tougher yet is when you’re the one enacting the change. Not only do you have to be confident that your approach is better than what’s currently in place, but you also have to rally support for your cause.
So how can you be an effective change-maker knowing the steep challenges you’re up against?
At EverCheck, we work with enterprise health systems who are responsible for rolling-out new software to thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people. And this is only after they’ve procured multiple rounds of leadership buy-in.
Without a doubt, there's much to learn from those who successfully guide their team through these enormous roll-outs. We’ve observed a few qualities, or best practices, shared by the most-effective of these changemakers.
Here are a few common practices that they embrace:
1. Promote micro-leadership.
Not all roles are leadership roles in the way we traditionally think about them; however, there are opportunities for leadership moments in everyone’s day. Have you seen someone recently who encouraged their coworker to speak up during a meeting? Or perhaps they spoke up themselves and steered the conversation in a positive direction.
These are examples of microleadership - small acts of positive encouragement that promote a more effective and cohesive way of doing things. When you see microleadership in action, acknowledge and commend it. Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so by promoting a culture of microleadership, you’re actually promoting a culture of community and collaboration - the perfect climate for effective change.
2. Help them understand.
Have you ever used the phrase, “Help me understand…?" It’s a great one, especially in management, because it conveys the speaker’s intent, which is clarity. When we ask this, we seek to understand the why behind a certain behavior or response.
Any time you roll out a new change, imagine your team is asking you: help me understand why we’re doing this.
Making change is easier when you’re transparent about the why behind the change. Transparency appeals to our sense of autonomy. Generally speaking, people prefer not to be told what to do. Helping people understand the objectives and intended outcomes of your new initiative can help change the narrative from “you must do this” to “let’s do this together.”
3. Humble yourself when needed.
Failure is bound to happen from time to time. Not all change will be effective. Analyze your project benchmarks carefully - what is the data telling you? If it’s coming up short, set a hard and fast date to decide whether to continue (because you’ve seen a turnaround in the success of the project) or to pull the plug. It’s better to acknowledge that your initiative failed to deliver on intended outcomes sooner rather than waste even more time hoping it succeeds.
If it doesn’t work, acknowledge it, learn from it, and move on.
4. Think big, work small.
Analysis paralysis can mean stagnation in creating real change. At EverCheck, when we’re struggling to make our ideas cohesive, we create what we call a clarity document.
We’ve found that having a well-defined sense of what we’re trying to achieve helps bring clarity to the vision. The document includes things like:
- What is our end game? What are we trying to accomplish?
- Why are we trying to accomplish this? What are we hoping to solve for?
- What are our key performance indicators for success? How will we know what we’ve done is working?
Once we have clarity on what we’re trying to accomplish, we begin mapping out how to get from point A to point B. Everyone involved knows their role, their importance in the project, and their tasks. We’re able to focus on the big picture and also recognize how each of our small steps will help us accomplish our goal.
5. Drive for results.
If you don’t have concrete goals you can hold the project accountable to, how will you know if it was a success? The goals should be centered around the challenges the project intends to solve for.
Focus on well-defined metrics:
BAD: "We want to save time on license verification."
GOOD: "Reduce total man hours on data collection and entry from X to X for an X% decrease."
BAD: "We want to know sooner whether someone isn’t clear to work based on their licensure status."
GOOD: "We want to reduce time-to-action on suspension-worthy licensure infractions from 30 days, on average, to <24 hours."
Having real results to drive for gives you and your team a sense of accomplishment when these metrics are achieved. Plus, you’ll know whether it was time and potentially money well-spent!
6. Use your voice…
You aren’t where you are by accident. You are in your role because you’ve earned it, and you deserve to be heard. Shush that voice in your head that’s telling you your ideas aren’t good enough. Minimize self-doubt. Speak confidently and with conviction, because what you have to say matters.
7. ...But know when to listen.
Empathy is one of the greatest skills any changemaker can have. Make your team feel heard. Involve them in the conversation early and often. If you ask for feedback, have a plan to act on it. Build-up a team of people around you who feel confident that you have their backs - because you do. In return, they’ll have yours - through times of change and more.