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“Change is good; you go first.”

Jim Hemerling is an author and a senior partner/managing director at the famed Boston Consulting Group.  One of his particular areas of expertise is change management, so he must be a very busy guy these days because there’s a lot of change to manage.  Change is coming at us rapidly, and it’s accelerating.  He recently gave a TED talk entitled, “5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change.”  In that talk, he outlines strategies for coping with change without allowing the relentless nature of it wear us out.  To learn more about his “5 Ways,” please continue reading below.

“Change is good; you go first.”        ~ Dilbert, cartoon character.

Change is all around us . . . social, economic, political, regulatory, and of course, technological changes buffet us every day.  And all this change can be discouraging.  Just when we have things humming along nicely, something changes and we feel like we’re back at square one, starting all over again.  So how do we adapt to this rapidly evolving world we find ourselves in?

We have written many times here about Employee Engagement, and while Hemerling doesn’t use that particular term, he does talk about “putting people first,” a theme that is the common thread for all five of his “5 Ways.”  So then, here are the five strategies Hemerling suggests we pursue to make the challenges we face “invigorating instead of exhausting.”

  1. Inspire through purpose. While upper managers may go weak in the knees and get all aflutter over increasing revenue and cutting costs, most other people in the organization probably don’t.  If we’re going to ask them to help adapt to all the changes before us, we need to give them something that is inspirational, something they can feel good about.  True, we can’t all be saving the whales, but our customers don’t buy from us because they want us to make money.  They buy from us for reasons that are important to them, reasons that matter.  Tap into those reasons to find an inspirational purpose.
  2. Some changes may require cost-cutting, even layoffs, but your people will also want to see something more than just battening down the hatches to ride out the storm. They’ll want to see initiatives that are forward-looking and that say, “We’re not only going to survive this change, we’re going to thrive in it.  We’re going to come out of it better and stronger than we were.”
  3. Give people the capabilities they need to succeed during the change. They may need training, or tools, or technologies, but whatever it is they need to be successful, you had better find a way to get it for them because if they’re not successful, you won’t be either.
  4. Make your place a place of learning. If people can see grappling with change as a learning experience, they will be more likely to embrace it as a means to grow in their jobs and to increase their value to the company.
  5. Leaders need to hold people accountable to achieve results, but they have to do it in a way that is less directive and more inclusive. This is a real key. People don’t want to be seen as minions who scramble around after the boss throws down a few lightning bolts.  They want to be seen as colleagues who have valuable thoughts, ideas, and opinions to share.

So Hemerling didn’t use the term, but if “Employee Engagement” is the goal, his “5 Ways” will get you there.

When you’re confronted with the sorts of challenges that rapid change brings, you need creative, innovative thoughts and ideas to overcome those challenges.  Don’t limit yourself to only you and your management team for those thoughts and ideas . . . get everybody involved.  When you’ve got a tough problem to solve, it should be an “all hands on deck” moment.  It only makes sense to seek help from the people who are in the trenches, hands on, dealing with that problem every day.  Hemerling’s “5 Ways” is a pretty good path to get you that help.

If you would like to watch Hemerling’s TED talk, use the link below.

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