Change Your Leadership Style

Putting the right people at the helm has launched many high-profile, highly successful turnarounds, from Jack Welch in his early days at General Electric to Meg Whitman at eBay.

However, companies don't have to fire the entire C-suite to put "new" leadership in place. Organizational change is a difficult thing to get right - and many companies have failed to enact it effectively. But if led effectively, successful and sustainable change can become a reality.

Workforces in every industry - from manufacturing to service to healthcare to high tech - are confused and bruised. Employees in this economy thirst for guidance but are distrustful and disenfranchised. The solution? Those who lead change must first change themselves. Here are five simple but effective ways to accomplish that:

1. Change Your Story, and Reframe Resistance
Resistance in organizations is like the immune system in the body: It protects against harmful invaders from the outside. Just as pain in the body is a symptom that something is wrong, so too is resistance a sign of a problem to which managers should pay attention. The goal is not to eradicate it, but to allow it to surface, so that it can be addressed openly. To lead more effectively, learn to see resistance as your ally, not your enemy.

2. Change Your Stance
Picture a triangle. So often, we view ourselves on one angle, others at another angle, and "the problem" on the third angle. In our minds, it feels like it's us against not only the problem, but also the other people. That's exhausting. Instead, re-envision yourself and the other people working together to solve the problem. Move away from feeling that you are acting against others, or doing something to others, to working with and even for them. If you can make this simple mindset shift, how you relate to others will almost immediately become partnership-oriented.

3. Change Your Seat
What you see depends on where you sit. Change looks very different at different levels of the organizational hierarchy. Those at the top are typically isolated. Those at the bottom are most resistant. Those in the middle are squeezed. Adapt your approach and messages to the very different needs and concerns of these very different audiences.

4. Change Your Style
We all know the golden rule that says to do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. To lead change effectively, follow the platinum rule: Do unto others as they want to be done unto. Tell stories to which they can relate. Share statistics that are relevant to them. Demonstrate why it's to the benefit of all of us to work together and think about our relationships to each other in new ways.

5. Change Your Strategy
So often, what looks like resistance is really that people don't get it, don't want it, or are unable to do it. Engage the brain by explaining the "why" and "what" of the change - help the "head" understand your vision, mission, and goals. Paint a clear picture of the target and the end game. Inspire the "heart" to care about the change objectives by engaging with others, actively listening, dealing with fears and insecurities, and building trust.

Barbara Trautlein is a change leadership consultant, author, speaker, and researcher with more than 25 years of experience partnering with all kinds of organizations — from Fortune 50 companies to small- and mid-sized businesses, in industries ranging from steel mills to sales teams, refineries to retail, and healthcare to high tech. She can be contacted at [email protected]