The rise of remote work, supply-chain shortages, generative AI, the great resignation… as the last few decades prove, the only constant in the world of business is change. As soon as you come to grips with the latest wave of change, you can be sure the next one is around the corner.  

But whether your organization sinks or swims through significant changes to your business all comes down to leadership. Your strategies and values can unleash the true potential of your people, ensuring your organization sails through changing times to a successful future. 

State your purpose 

The crucial starting point to lead through change is to clearly define—and communicate—your organization’s purpose. While short-term goals frequently change, your organizational purpose influences your long-term goals. It is, in fact, the one thing that rarely changes. It’s your company’s guiding value. 

When everyone understands the purpose and is aligned to it, accepting changes that will contribute towards it becomes easier.  Inevitably when change comes along—whether technological, functional or organizational—your people will understand why and how quickly they need to adapt to it. 

Empower your people

The people on your teams who are aligned to the purpose are more likely to feel empowered to innovate, helping to grow the business. They understand it can help trigger new ideas in their business areas to help fulfill the purpose.  

But, for some leaders, learning to share purpose and delegate innovation can be difficult.  

“Many leaders climbed the ranks by learning structural solutions to leadership, seeing themselves as the control center,” says Dennis Baltzley, Senior Client Partner, Global Head of Leadership Development Solutions. “But in today’s world, your role as a leader transcends reviewing and approving. It's about instilling a sense of purpose that unleashes the collective power of your workforce.” 

Research backs this up. When you increase people’s connection with their organization’s purpose, it leads to a decrease in employee turnover and a bump in profitability. “Because there's so much uncertainty, purpose gains 10x in importance,” says Baltzley. “When we know who we are and where we’re going, it gives us an anchor of clarity in an uncertain world.” 

Act for impact by being the agent of change—the one who galvanizes your organization around a clear business strategy and unites your people through a powerful purpose. 

Your organization should be guided by its strategy and live its purpose. “Your people and customers connect to that purpose—and you live it,” says Stuart Crandell, Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner, Board and CEO Services practice. “Get both wrong and your company becomes irrelevant; get them right and you’ll create more value, not only for all your stakeholders but potentially the world at large.” 

“Act for impact by being the agent of change—the one who galvanizes your organization around a clear business strategy and unites your people through a powerful purpose.”

Encourage risks  

“A core element to help your employees adapt to change is to create a safe space that shields them from the fear of failure,” says Tanya van Biesen, Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner, global Board and CEO Services practice.  

The reality is that change isn’t easy for many people, so make it clear that you don’t expect everyone to adapt at the same speed. Some people might need more help with new technology, while others can struggle to adapt to changing market conditions that affect their business area. Letting them know it’s okay to fail can make a big difference to long-term outcomes during times of significant change. 

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But you’ll also need to remove their very human fear of uncertainty, which makes most people proceed with extreme caution and avoid risks. This can be exceptionally detrimental to business performance, particularly when you’re being outpaced by competitors or when market forces require significant shifts in your business model. 

This especially rings true with workers in the mid-tier, who tend to be more risk-averse and less enthusiastic about enacting change than junior and senior executives. “Unlocking the frozen middle of these organizations is the code to cracking open real innovation,” says van Biesen.  

In short, you have a choice—either let change hit you, wave after wave, testing your resilience every week. Or increase your organization’s change readiness so that you don’t simply navigate to safe waters—you steer your ship to exceptional success. 

Are you ready for change? Gain more insights in our Lead Through Change content.