Change. It’s scary. It’s tough. It panics some. It excites others. Regardless of your personal preferences about change, it is something as a leader you’ll have to face, lead and manage.
Why Change Matters for Marketers
As I’ve noted before, higher education marketing and communication professionals have a unique opportunity to serve as change agents for campus. Because of our holistic view of the entire institution, marketing and communication leaders are in the unique position to build collaboration between campus entities and help get people energized and thinking about the university in a new light.
As I found in my research on marketing in higher education, many professionals perceived that a change-willing mindset was incredibly beneficial for leaders in higher education. One participant explained why being open to change was mission-critical for his institution.
Tips for Navigating Teams through Change
Spending time thinking about the need for universities to change, to be nimble, to be flexible…. and the role that marketing and communication members play in leading change got me thinking. Do we talk enough about how to lead a team through change?
My belief is the answer is no.
That realization got me thinking about what are my go-to practices when navigating through change. That exercise helped me come up with 8 tips that I hope will help you if you find yourself leading a team through change.
Model the Plan
Model the plan that you want to implement. In your actions. In how you approach topics. Make sure that if you’re asking people to follow new processes or take new steps you’re modeling that behavior. You should be the best example of the change you want to create.
Explain the Vision
I once had a staff member tell me they trusted me and were on board with change but could I tell them where we were going. In that moment, I realized it’s critical with any change to explain the end goal. After all, it’s hard for people to follow if they don’t know where to go.
Share the Why
The vision helps, but it’s also critical to know why. Is this to achieve a specific new goal, align with industry, or to increase efficiency? Whatever the why for the change be sure to share it with your team if you can. It will help your team understand and to trust the process.
Set Short-Term Goals
Help your team from becoming overwhelmed by setting short goals that work toward the big vision. I do these in 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days because they give easy points to asses what’s been done. These goals help your team have quick wins and stay engaged.
I used to think I could talk too much about the process and the steps. Wrong. When change is part of the equation, people tend to assume the worst, so it’s critical to tie every message back to the change. It helps people stay focused and stay positive.
Be Aware of Resistance
Not everyone will love change. That’s okay. Invite critics to the table. They may have ideas you haven’t considered. Their perspective will push you to clarify your plan, and others watching will take note you honestly considered other ideas.
It’s About Balance
Managing the pressure in leading change is hard. You must keep enough pressure on the team that they innovate and come up with new ideas. However, too much pressure causes teams to falter. As the leader, you’ll have to keep the pressure just right.
Try to Make It Fun
If you’re asking a lot of a team, make it fun. After each short goal, celebrate the win. It could be a potluck, a handwritten note, or something else. Just make sure your team has regular reminders they are appreciated and you notice their effort.
I hope these tips are beneficial and will help higher education marketing and communication professionals be less concerned about change. We have a unique opportunity to help lead our institutions and it all starts with not being afraid of change.