5 habits of strong leaders who embrace change

Campus leaders face no shortage of institution-wide changes. Transitions may come in the form of mergers, teaching innovations, or operational overhauls.

But in any organization-wide shake-up, the hard work of change management begins after the initiative is announced or the deal is closed, Edith Onderick-Harvey writes for Harvard Business Review.

Unfortunately, leaders often struggle to make the changes stick, argues Onderick-Harvey, a 25-year consulting veteran. And a poorly managed transition can disorient and disengage employees, she warns.

In higher ed's shfiting landscape, leaders who can spearhead lasting change are more valuable than ever. According to Onderick-Harvey, the leaders who handle change gracefully practice these five habits.

Habit 1: Articulate a purpose. People have a knee-jerk reaction to question and resist change. If you can't articulate a compelling argument for each change, your team won't be motivated to implement them.

Habit 2: Look for opportunities. Empower employees at every level to look for new opportunities to innovate. To build a forward-looking culture, regularly ask your team to think about current market trends or what consumers will want in two years.

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Habit 3: Ask for feedback. Any organization-wide change is bound to ruffle feathers. Great leaders actively seek out difficult conversations about what is and isn't working in the transition. To get honest feedback, your team must feel psychologically safe enough to share their failures and offer criticism. Psychological safety boosts team effectiveness because it creates a "learning culture" where employees can take risks without feeling insecure, according to research from Google's people analytics team. 

Habit 4: Encourage calculated risks. Don't let innovation take a backseat to day-to-day business. To stay ahead of the curve, leaders should empower employees to take risks. When your team finds a promising opportunity, give them enough running room to experiment.

Habit 5: Bust down silos. Your organization's most innovative ideas may come from cross-department collaborations. For example, the University of Michigan's Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) includes members who have expertise in design, behavioral science, data science, software development, and innovation advocacy, among others. Without a wide array of talents and expertise, teams won't able to fully support their innovations, say two campus leaders at DIG (Onderick-Harvey, Harvard Business Review, 5/30).

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