Career Help: Getting Past the Competition

One of the traits of good leadership is the ability to change to meet new demands and to get past the competition. Here’s career help for you: you come up a great new idea. Then the real work begins.

You and your team develop the plan, set the project parameters, define success, establish the timeline, and kick off the new direction of the whole company through a series of communication events.

The project starts off with a bang and everything is going well. But when 3 or 6 months later you are not getting the predicted results, what happened? Did people lose interest? Was the change just too hard? Did everyday business demands take priority? Maybe all of these things were true.

What actions could have changed the outcome?

A key part of change management discipline is to continuously check milestones. Track progress and ask, “why?” when targets are not being met. Plan, act, get feedback, look for results, and re-plan as required. You say that you’ve done all these things and it still just isn’t coming out right?

Another key to keeping things on track is communication. An effective change effort cannot be just another “program of the month” in the eyes of the staff. Remember that leading any organization can be like steering a large ship. The size and inertia of a ship requires a lot of lead time to change course, all the while battling winds and tides. And, so with the organization. Even the best intentioned and loyal workers, who want to do the right thing, have ingrained habits and ways of doing their jobs. You need to be able to change hearts, minds and habits.

This is best done through communicating, communicating, and communicating again. You have been through it in your own mind dozens of times long before you initiated the change.  Your employees need to understand it, think about it, accept it, figure out what to do with it, and then act differently. What sounds like repetition to you is what the staff hears as consistency and a model for them to follow.

Follow through by supporting good efforts and results during the process. You will have other things on your plate – important ones, like managing customers or financiers. You need to stay the course, however, in order to reinforce your people in making the change to the new culture.

So, communicate, follow through, track, get feedback, communicate some more, measure, adjust plans, communicate, and – finally – celebrate reaching the milestones to a new and better way to beat the competition!

Beth Kelzer
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