Taking the Heat is the Leader’s Responsibility in Change Management

Change management requires taking the heat for your team’s heroic efforts.

Change Management Heroic Efforts

They say that the only constant in life is change. Businesses need to be flexible in order to adapt to the often shifting environment we live in today. But change doesn’t always come easily. There are many stakeholders with different views and ideas that need to be swayed in an organization, which can make even the most seemingly simple changes complicated. Good change management skills are necessary to help stakeholder groups come together and make change effective and profitable.

The bottom line is that great change management requires a trustworthy leader at the helm who can engage and motivate your team to take action. Trust is something that must be maintained all the time – particularly in times of change. Realize that, when you’re inviting people to go through change, you’re still responsible. You can’t delegate that.

Of course, some level of employee accountability and responsibility needs to be built into any role, project, or initiative. But, when your team is going through a change process you must leave space for mistakes.

Mistakes are going to happen in any environment, and particularly so when your team is executing a change initiative. If you put them in the hot seat or “fly off the handle” every time someone makes a mistake (yes, even a big one), your team will become more and more resistant to change.

Heroic Efforts

In the medical profession, they have a term that I like to use when talking about change management and responsibility delegation – heroic efforts. As you can imagine, it often happens in hospitals and emergency rooms that the team worked feverishly to save a person’s life, but the person still died. That doesn’t mean there is a problem with the staff, it doesn’t even necessarily mean that a mistake was made. They did everything they possibly could. They aren’t reprimanded every time they lose a patient, they are put through multiple reviews in order to dissect their every decision and move. They need to accept what happened and move to the next patient.

If you do not support the heroic efforts of your people, they will become increasingly resistant to the change initiatives that are put forward, making your job far more difficult and resulting in stagnation.

Your team will develop an “it’s not in my job description” attitude. They won’t want to take any new risks if they’re going to get the heat every time something doesn’t work out as planned. A lot of people don’t want to be empowered because they’re afraid they’re going to get in trouble for mistakes.

It is our responsibility as leaders in change management to develop an environment to make change work. When people are doing heroic efforts to make the vision live, we’ve got to have their back. Make error something that is part of the change process, and be ready to tell the story about their successes. Maintain your team’s trust during times of change by taking more of the blame and less of the credit. Realize that when you’re making change work, it’s your people that are making it work. Our job as their leader is to make them look good.