Many business leaders at this time of the year take the time to reflect on “how can I make a change” or “what should we be doing differently to serve our clients better and faster?” And if you’re like me, you’ll question how the vision will be different, better, and more compelling. “How do I communicate to my colleagues that I’m personally committed to change?” More importantly, do we, as an organization have the capacity to make change? How ingrained is our current culture and does it foster innovation? Finally, will the change actually deliver the identified outcomes?

For better or for worse, change is very much part of your business. Your ability to effectively manage change lays the groundwork for growth and helps you build a company focused on results and creates positive corporate culture.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of business change initiatives fail — an estimated 80-85 percent, according to the authors of “The New York Times” best-selling books “Influencer” and the forthcoming “Change Anything.” The good news is, you can reverse those odds by focusing on a few key points in your own approach to change management.

Tools for the CEO

Many wise leaders are looking at the benefits of coaching and peer-to-peer advisory groups and hiring outside consultants. Outside experts are able to examine, without prejudice, how well divisions are functioning: They are able to create employee workspaces that encourage team dynamics and invention. Time and again outside influencers lead to change-management capabilities in which leaders and team members build confidence that frequently lead to positive change. Leaders and team members are more likely to rethink and expand their business offerings.

Coaching groups such as Vistage, a global business peer advisory organization that helps CEOs and executives grow their businesses by making better decisions and achieving better results through collaboration. Vistage members repeatedly say that they bring new thinking into their company that bring positive cultural changes: driving personal accountability and the company’s mission. “

The only constant characteristic about change is that change is constant. If we are not open to change, we will either stagnate or perish. Change requires courage and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling eventually gets easier as we feel the energy and excitement that newness brings with it. Change requires being open to new ideas, new ways of being and listening more and judging less,” says Leslie Grossman, Vistage Chair and author of “Link Out” (Wiley).

At the top

The number one key to successful change management is leadership. Change initiatives must touch all aspects of your team and be driven top-down by the senior team.
Your staff looks to you to help “manage meaning” within the company. Your team turns to your company’s leaders to get guidance on how to read situations, how to perform in client situations, and to confirm the values that guide them at work. More than anyone else, leaders create the conditions that directly determine people’s ability to achieve superior results.While the leader is in the hot seat, he or she will not solve all the problems of an organization. In reality, the CEO’s number one responsibility is hiring people that create organizations that stand the test of time.

Ask the right questions

If you’re a leader reading this article, are you constantly scanning the competitive environment, analyzing trends and patterns in the marketplace, and do you have the assurance to effectively answer the following questions:What is our strategic vision and who are our customers/clients? Is our organization fully aligned to its vision and client and customer needs and if not, how should our company be structured and what processes do we need to employ? Do we have the right people?It’s difficult to be self-reflective. As leaders we are human and often we form attachments to people who are no longer the right people for the job. Systems and procedures that worked 10 years ago, are no longer valid business tools today and yet, it is easier to hold on to what we know then to create something new.

The critical success factors

Once you’ve established a need for change you need to manage the success of personal and organizational change. Successful change hinges on the following critical success factors that leaders must recognize and manage:

• Create a sense of immediacy
• Line up the change initiative with the business strategy
• Identify passionate stakeholders for change on the senior team
• Develop attainable actions that your team can implement
• Ensure constant communication to all stakeholders
• Highlight personal and organizational flexibility
• Establish clear measures/metrics tied to business performance

The great communicator

Of all the roles leadership plays in managing change, none is more important than the role of communicator. Communication is not only a means of informing data, but also a strategic tool that leaders use to create alignment for their strategic vision and gain support for necessary change.

What is the value of organizational communication in creating alignment or gaining support for a strategy or vision?
For one thing, if people at all levels of an organization understand and support the strategic vision, they are able to make specific decisions, actions, and outcomes simply by asking one question: “How does this decision, action, or outcome reflect and promote our strategic vision?”

Also, if everyone understands and supports the company’s vision, employees are more likely to feel a part of the organization and therefore perform to their maximum capacity. A truly successful organization appreciates the involvement of every individual.

Effective communication is a way to engage every employee. And the responsibility for generating and delivering a successful communications strategy falls squarely on the shoulders of the CEO and the leadership team.