Leading successful change

I have had and heard many conversations about cybersecurity recently. It’s a growing concern as we adapt more college processes and systems to the technology-driven world around us.

The rapid advancement of technology is virtually impossible to keep up with, but it is imperative that community college leaders understand the ramifications of change and the implementation of anything new.

With the possible exception of the rapid rate of change, technology is not the only change that needs to be well-managed and changes intended to advance the institution are nothing new. Community colleges are built to respond to change. As a leader, how responsive are you to change?

This article comes from the February/March issue of AACC’s Community College Journal. Read the entire issue online.

Change is an interesting topic that is often discussed in leadership circles. Leading successful change is seen on many job descriptions for presidential roles. But how can we measure success in leading change? More importantly, how do we lead transformational change?

You’ve heard me talk about collaborative processes and policies that reflect various constituent input. I stand by the importance of collaboration and active listening to constituent voices. But, are changed policies and processes effective measures of success when it comes to change?

Explaining ‘why’

We may be missing a key part of a successful transformational change model. We need to be sure that we are addressing the human side of our resources and truly leading change in a collaborative and inclusive way. As the president, you have hopefully clearly articulated “why” change is needed. Engaging the college community in a meaningful way to commit to the “how” to make the change is critical to success.

It is not enough to hold a meeting and consider that collaborative input. Engaging everyone (even those that disagree) in the process of change and articulating the “why” includes acknowledging the feelings, fears, past accomplishments and value of each contributor within the organization.

If you are changing something, chances are it has an impact on the operations of the college which means someone’s job is changing. Even if everyone agrees that the change is necessary, it can still create negativity on campus if you do not acknowledge the impact of change for your employees.

Addressing concerns

Personalize the experience of change by sharing a time in your career where change directly impacted your job duties. How did that make you feel? Even if your experience with change was good, you should acknowledge how change may create fear or insecurity for some.

It is important to share and be willing to show vulnerability. It is not always easy, but it builds trust which is especially important if you are trying to implement successful change. Giving your team a voice in the change and acknowledging their previous contributions can help you achieve the “how.”

Whether it is technology advancements or new state regulations, managing change is always a challenge for leaders. Clearly articulate the “why” keeping in mind the human resources, anticipate unintended consequences and acknowledge what came before the change and you may find success in implementing the “how.”

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.