Leading change within a business or organization can be difficult. In the ever-changing, data- and technology-driven world in which we live, business leaders must become comfortable with change if their company is to remain relevant and thrive in the long run. In my experience I have found that the majority of senior executives understand that the business landscape and customer expectations are rapidly changing and yet, many of them are still hesitant to embrace and lead the necessary strategic changes that their company needs. But, why is this? I have summarized the top four reasons why leaders avoid change.
1. Fear of getting too far “outside the box”
Great thought leaders have often been met with doubts and skepticism when articulating ideas that are too far outside established norms; Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison to name a few. These scientific leaders were not deterred by nay-sayers and pursued their ideas to their successful end. Great business leaders must have the same attitude. While it is important to gain insights from experts and employees, visionary leaders must stay the course and move the organization into a new business direction or create change by adopting new processes, new products, or new technologies to stay ahead of changing markets and to satisfy customer demand.
2. Difficulty in adopting changes
According to Harvard Business Review, a recent survey of practitioners leading radical corporate re-engineering at Fortune 1000 companies reported success rates of only 50%, and some leaders reported rates as low as 20%. There are many reasons for the low success rates, but a primary reason is that employees find change disruptive, intrusive, and often they don’t understand the necessity to fix processes that are not seemingly “broken”. Convincing employees of the benefits of, and need for, change is not easy, but must be considered during the planning stages for strategic change implementation. Emphasizing what will not change and then clearly explaining what will, why it is critical to the success of the business, and how each employee will be key to the success, will set the change leader up to be in the success group.
3. Fear unintended consequences
Nothing stymies change like fear of the unknown. Leaders often ask themselves, “if I push forward with this change, will it actually produce the expected results, or could it be an all-out failure?” Other common fears when considering change are losing current clients and the associated funding, loss of long-time employees, how long the change will take to create and implement, and whether another company will do it better or beat you to the launch. Leaders can reduce these fears through comprehensive strategic planning and understanding that the alternative to change is stagnation and potentially the eventual demise of your organization. One need not look beyond the shopping models of retail malls and traditional stores such as Sears, Toys-R-Us, and others. They prove out that the only thing that is constant is change.
4. Resistance to investing in personal growth as a leader
Many executive leaders are experienced business veterans and can fall into a trap of not feeling the need to learn new skills, technologies, or to invest time in those activities. The issues range from not being interested in personal growth, not being adept at new technologies, or not wanting to look uninformed or not capable in front of employees. A lack of interest or desire is the most difficult resistance to overcome. Leaders are expected to stay abreast of technological advancements, customer preference trends, best practices in the industry, and other innovations that stand to affect their business, and if they have lost that interest, it may be time for them to answer some questions of their own. Employees, stock holders, boards of directors, and in the end customers, expect leaders to be visionary and truly lead the company through challenges and forward to economic and market success. The best leaders are constantly learning and taking inventory of themselves and their businesses and are very eager to lead and support change.
Pursuing change can be very challenging for leaders. It can be helpful to hire a consultant who can review what changes your business may need to make in order to thrive. The experts at Novelle will guide you through the change process and help you integrate change into your strategic planning process.
Rita Simmons is the founder and lead consultant of Novelle, where she provides business and research consulting to companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Simmons leverages her drive for innovation and excellence along with her extensive executive and military experience to help business owners grow their business, drive revenue, and achieve strategic goals. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Dr. Simmons at email@example.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.