Training Change Managers and Change Leaders

In the past, tradition often trumped change. In most professions, people chose a career at a young age, entered their chosen profession and often stayed with a single employer for life. In the 21st century, fewer workers than ever before work for a single employer throughout their career and fewer organizations believe that tradition is necessarily better than change.

Training Change Managers and Change Leaders

In other words, for employees and employers, change is now inevitable, making change management and change leadership increasingly important in the modern workplace. In the past, tradition often trumped change. In most professions, people chose a career at a young age, entered their chosen profession and often stayed with a single employer for life. In the 21st century, fewer workers than ever before work for a single employer throughout their career and fewer organizations believe that tradition is necessarily better than change. In other words, for employees and employers, change is now inevitable, making change management and change leadership increasingly important in the modern workplace.

Defining Change Management

By definition, change management refers to the careful planning and implementation of change. Even in a world where change is everywhere, resistance to change persists. After all, all too often, change in the workplace in introduced in a way that feels forced or top-down. To be successful, change must be understood, realistic and measurable. Change management may be best understood as a philosophy and practice that aims to facilitate organizational change without inciting organizational resistance. It is a set of tools that ensures that change happens in a reasonable way with desired outcomes.

Change Management versus Change Leadership

Change management is a term that is often used in conjunction with change leadership. In actual fact, change management and change leadership mean two different things. Change management, as suggested above, is an approach and a set of tools that helps to facilitate change. Change leadership, by contrast, might be understood as the driving force behind the change process. Said another way, change leadership is about big ideas and bold visions. In a sense, if change management is about taking care of the small details that one needs to attend to whenever change is in the air, change leadership is about attending to the dreams and desires that fuel organizational change.

Training for Change

If one accepts the above definitions and distinctions between the concepts of change management and change leadership, it follows that training for change management is distinct from training for change leadership. Indeed, it suggests that moving forward, organizations need to think seriously about training leaders who can lead change and training leaders who can help manage change, but these may not be the same people. Change leaders are visionary, innovative and often risk taking. They are not afraid of change, however radical it may be, and are always ready and willing to think outside the box. They may or may not work alone or in a highly collaborative way. In short, they are people who are able to conceive of and articulate new ideas and concepts and generate excitement about them. But bold visions can be a hard sell in the workplace, and this is where change managers become essential. Indeed, most change leaders are dependent on good change managers. In contrast to change leaders, change managers need to be involved in soliciting feedback from all members of an organization, taking an organization’s pulse on a regular basis (e.g., determining if the pace of change is appropriate), identifying where the organization is going and evaluating the cost of getting there, and communicating the change process in as transparent a manner as possible.

Training change leaders and change managers, then, is by no means the same thing. Training change managers means training people to recognize the impacts of organizational change and arming them with techniques for change intervention. Training change managers also means training people who can describe and model what change facilitation looks like and help design and implement change while simultaneously assisting employees with the ownership of change and its effects. Finally, training change managers means training people to evaluate change on both quantitative and qualitative levels. In other words, training for change managers focuses on enhancing the communication, facilitation and evaluation skills of people charged with managing organizational change.

Training change leaders, by contrast, is about developing the political competencies needed to identify when change is needed and foster the buy-in needed to bring change about. Change leaders, after all, are people who not only have a vision but also have the capacity to materialize a vision. As such, training for change leaders focuses on enhancing a different set of skills than those emphasized in change management training—these skills include organizational awareness, intuition and persuasion. While training opportunities for change leaders continues to lag behind those available to change managers, there is little doubt that in the coming years, training for change leaders will continue to expand.

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