The Change Manager
12 August 2015
What does it take to be a successful change manager? Are there particular attributes or characteristics that belong to standout change managers? Cubic Consulting explored this question with Paul Lee and Hope Shaw - two highly experienced change managers, who provide different perspectives on the question.
Paul Lee has over twenty years’ experience in the change management field. He specialises in helping organisations embed new ways of working to deliver significant business benefits.
According to Paul, a successful and effective change manager has three key skills: empathy, assertiveness and instinct.
Much has been written about how change projects fail at the organisational level; however Paul views it from the individual level.
Empathy, according to Paul, is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position and see and feel what they are experiencing. This is something not often discussed within a business context.
Assertiveness is having the courage to speak up and explore something further. Paul has found that people often know there is something wrong, but don’t stand up and say something. He is clear to differentiate assertiveness from aggression.
Instinct is another characteristic Paul identifies as crucial for successful change managers. Instinct is the ability for picking up on less tangible things, being able to read body language and being able to act on a feeling that ‘something isn’t right here’ and explore that. This is something project managers may miss as their instinct is usually very different from a change manager.
Hope Shaw has another perspective when it comes to the attributes of a successful change manager. Hope is a Principal Consultant with Cubic Consulting who has an extensive background in change management, particularly for large scale ERP implementations.
Hope believes a successful change manager is someone who: builds strong relationships, takes a matrixed approach and who is agile.
According to Hope the key to being a strong relationship builder is to listen, and listen properly. Listening allows you to understand your audience’s needs and issues and leverage that to build a targeted change program. This doesn’t mean giving them what they think they want. It means understanding the program objectives, the current business, and working with stakeholders to help them transition.
Taking at matrixed approach means change needs to be multi-layered and multi-dimensional. Engagement, communication, and support need to be robust through all levels of an organisation and all groups and levels need to be included in the plan. Hope adds that change managers need to be visible. Successful change management cannot be achieved from behind a desk. You cannot underestimate the value gained in seeing a stakeholder’s workplace in operation, or the goodwill that is gained from going to them.
Being agile is another key attribute Hope feels is essential for a change manager. Agility gives you the ability to ‘think quick’ and adapt. Change managers need to jump from presenting to a steering committee to meeting with blue collar workers on site. As such, agility doesn’t just apply to a change manager’s physical presence in different locations; it also applies to their ability to authentically adapt their own style and approach for different groups.
So while we have two different approaches to the same question, Paul and Hope do have one thing in common: adaptability. These change managers know how to adapt and respond to the situation while building relationships.