Leading Through Change

Being an Active Participant in Change 

by Shana Hilgerson, ISU Women in Ag student assistant


“Does it happen TO you or WITH you?”  This is the question Stephanie Liska, president and CEO of Beck Ag, presented during a breakout session at the ISU Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Leadership Conference on Nov. 28, 2017.  During Stephanie’s session, Leading Through Change, we discussed not only what change is, but how we can be affected by it.

Change is often seen as negative, altering the way we operate in a business, or in life. But it is also an opportunity.  “How you lead change will determine how or if others will follow you,” Stephanie said. The first step is the hardest, but others need leadership, and by establishing that first step you are giving them the foundation to better approach the change. 

There is never a right time for change. Which means the right time is right now. Change is constantly happening around us, and is important for innovation, improvement, and personal growth. To lead through change, Stephanie gave three milestones to remember:

1.  Leaders must have vision. This means setting realistic, tangible goals. Goals that answer the questions, Where are we going? Why? And now what? By answering these questions, your followers can obtain a sense of direction and see the importance of change.

2.  Define the change. By addressing what this change means for others (consumers, employees, or other) followers can see the outcome of the change, and the steps that will be taken. In this step, it is important to listen to those involved in the change so that you can continue to define the change, and reevaluate your steps in addressing the change. 

3.  Guide. You are aiding in the change by leading your team. Some individuals will not survive the change. This is okay. Not everyone is comfortable with change, and your company may “outgrow their skillset” on the way to change. 

Overall, keep it simple. “Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal,”  Stephanie said. She advised communicating verbally whenever possible, to keep directions clear and concise. By leading through change, we allow change to work with us. If we let change happen to us, it can be overwhelming and sweep us away. By making the choice to be a part of change, we can better lead our colleagues through it and survive it ourselves.