Change is an inevitable aspect of life, but it’s not always easy to embrace. Nevertheless, growth requires change, and both personal and business growth necessitate learning and doing something different. 

The critical factor determining the success or failure of change initiatives is leadership quality. According to a Harvard Business Review article, employees are losing patience with change initiatives, especially when poorly communicated, implemented, or aligned with the organization’s vision and values.  

Employees may feel overwhelmed, confused, or threatened by change and resist or disengage, which often results in lower performance, morale, and retention. 

A people-centric approach is required in change management.

Leaders are driving change at an unprecedented rate, burning out their organizations. 

According to Gartner research, in just six years, the average employee experienced: 

  • a 500% increase in the number of planned enterprise change initiatives, and 
  • a 42% increase in resistance to change management

Even more telling, only 15% were confident in their leaders’ ability to manage change effectively. 

It’s no wonder Gartner found that only one in three organizational change initiatives are successful, while half are dismal failures. 

Change is essential for growth, innovation, and even survival, but it can also cause stress, resistance, and fatigue. How can leaders overcome these obstacles and lead effectively in a dynamic world? 

Conventional change management frameworks are not enough. 

Most leaders are familiar with the Bridges’ Transition Model, which combines the phases of change with the human response. The model helps understand human resistance factors as they relate to the stages of moving from one norm to another. Kotter brought this together with an 8-Step How-To model for leaders, providing practical actions to bring about the change desired: 

  1. Create a sense of urgency 
  2. Build a guiding coalition 
  3. Form strategic vision and initiatives 
  4. Enlist a volunteer army
  5. Enable action by removing barriers
  6. Generate short term wins
  7. Sustain acceleration 
  8. Institute change 

While these eight steps are useful and formulaic for managers, statistics — like the ones mentioned above — demonstrate that success is elusive.  

In the past, the top-down, process-driven approach had moderate success, but it doesn’t fit the current collaborative, dynamic workplace environment. It tells a leader WHAT to do but fails to define HOW managers carry out each step.  

When people experience a change that directly impacts them, they are uncertain, even fearful, that they may not be successful in the new normal. They are confident in managing in the current state and will resist a change that puts their success at risk.

Kotters 8-Step Model
Kotters 8-Step Model

Viewed as a threat, self-preservation sparks responses that sabotage successful adoption. As soon as the pressure is on, people will revert to the familiar old ways and completely unravel any progress made.  

Managers are conditioned to tell others what to do and provide answers and solutions. When they do, they disengage their teams from the outcome. This is the top-down culture of the past, and it naturally creates resistance and pushback. Lack of trust and confidence in their manager’s abilities assures bare minimum compliance, let alone engagement.  

So, how do leaders face the challenge of driving change at an unprecedented rate while also managing the expectations and emotions of their employees, customers, and stakeholders? 

Overcome resistance to change with engagement. 

The key to success lies in HOW leaders engage their teams to accomplish Kotter’s eight steps (WHAT).  

We have found that the successful adoption of change is directly related to the extent to which managers can engage the thinking and input of their teams. The more they engage their people, the faster their fear dissipates, and they embrace the new.  

Therefore, a people-centric approach is required.  

A people-centered culture begins with managers rethinking what it means to be a manager. The mental model of being in charge and the one with the answers needs to be replaced with new behaviors that invite people to contribute and are acknowledged for their contribution. And this is a huge behavior change for managers. Most are promoted for what they knew and did. Giving this power away is risky. After all, that’s what created their success.  

However, ownership changes when people are involved in the solution and actively developing it. It becomes “my project” versus “my manager’s project” and all the work and personal risk it encompasses. With ownership, people consider themselves essential – to the team and its success. They feel consulted, valued, and validated.  

The process of changing managers’ management style is not formulaic. Behavior changes require habit changes and significant self-awareness. 

Breaking habits cannot be done in a five-day workshop. They are too ingrained. Repetition of small changes building upon one another over time, reinforced with positive feedback when exercised, is critical.   

Breaking this habit requires learning to stop and arrest our natural response to tell others what to do and solve problems. Understanding the triggers that invite us into that telling mode is a critical self-awareness awakening. Then, we must consider the best way to invite others into the problem-solving process by asking insightful questions and gaining commitment to act on the solution and follow through. This experiential learning self-reinforces continued exercises as managers notice changes in others’ responses and actions to their new behavior. 

O.C. Tanner’s research supports our experience using a people-centered approach. Tanner found that employees were 12 times more likely to say they were managed well and 11 times more likely to say the change experience was positive when people were the focus of the change process.  

Teaching managers to develop an authentic, empathetic, inquiry-led approach to leadership engages people to think differently. Most programs teach skills or utilize role play but rarely accomplish long-lasting transformative change.  

The STAR® Manager 

The STAR® Manager is unique in its ability to bring about the mindset and behavior changes required at a scale to create an engaging culture that welcomes innovation and ownership. The STAR® Manager development program is unique in its success in transforming manager effectiveness and bringing about successful change. 

Accelerate positive change through people-centered approach in change management. 

Creating a great culture that embraces change begins with great management. When we introduce STAR® Manager in an organization, we employ change management practices to prepare and excite your leadership for the transformation they will encounter. They embrace it as the change program they need to succeed in today’s dynamic environment.  

In one hour per week, working as it fits their schedule, managers will begin to see tangible results in just four weeks. On average, managers free up one day per week, do less firefighting, and focus on higher-value activities. On average, their teams are 60% more productive, 47% more engaged, and have six times greater retention.  

In months, your organization will speak a common language and reap the benefits of heightened employee engagement, loyalty, and satisfaction.  

Let the change begin!

Take the first step of change in management by booking a discovery call with us — free of charge; we just need you to show up so we can assess how the program can help you and your organization.