Four Key Elements of Change Management for Leaders

Jenny Korth

Future-seeking organizations are familiar with change. It is a part of what keeps them growing and thriving. While change may be common in the healthcare industry, it doesn’t always mean that people are comfortable with it. In fact, there are few people who would embrace change with open arms, no questions asked.

For the majority of people, change is a struggle that brings uncertainty. Will this work? What does this mean for me? Will things get better or worse? It is much more comfortable living in the known, even if you are not happy with your current reality.

This is the situation healthcare leaders find themselves in when trying to implement a new initiative. This is when leadership must step up and lead their team through change. This is not always easy, as those in leadership positions may also struggle with change. But leadership’s buy-in is crucial for seeing a successful outcome. Key elements that a leader should utilize when leading through change include:

Clear communication

To prepare an organization for a successful project initiative, a clear definition of why the change is occurring is essential. Many people get caught up with what is happening and lose sight of the reason why it is happening. Leaders should communicate with their staff what will be asked of them and explain the benefits of the new initiative. Following up each individual’s role in the project with why the change is necessary will give them personal accountability to see it through.

Be empathetic, not sympathetic

A significant factor that could easily sidetrack a leader during change management is being sympathetic to their staff’s concerns. Good leaders genuinely care about their team members, so it is often difficult for them to see a team member struggle with change. A defining moment is how leaders deal with this situation.

When attempting to comfort a team member complaining about change, a leader makes is cautioned against statements such as, “I’m not too excited about it either.” This communicates the message that the leader is not in support of the change, so why should the employee be? An overly sympathetic response like this can give employees the option of not buying into the change, since their leader is not entirely supportive of it, either.

Leaders can support their team by lending an empathetic ear while keeping everyone aligned with the objective. When a team member is communicating their concerns with the project, the able leader responds to resistance with “How can I help?” Employees then know their leader is there to support them while the project moves forward.

Work with the willing

Leaders are often drawn to those who are struggling with change. They can focus an unnecessary and unproductive amount of time trying to align change-resistant mindsets with an initiative. This can derail a project’s momentum. A more valuable way to see a successful implementation is to devote their efforts to working with those who are willing to do their part. Champions of change should be supported and exemplify personal accountability to the project.

Hold staff accountable

Accountability is an important value to uphold when managing a workforce. Setting expectations and promoting personal accountability creates a culture of responsibility. Accountability can be a powerful motivator for employees to perform. Staff satisfaction is tied to accountability and appreciation for managers who hold those who are not accountable to the standards expected.

Change requires new habits to align with organizational objectives. It’s not an easy process and doesn’t happen overnight. Leaders play an exceptionally important role when implementing change in their organization. Strong leaders support and encourage their employees to adapt, knowing the organization will be stronger as a result.