Supporting Academics to lead people change

Supporting Academics to lead people change

You’re an expert in your chosen academic field.  You’ve researched, studied or taught for years to develop a reputation in your area.  But how do you also manage, lead and inspire people when the sector is facing immense change and challenge? 

Promoting academics into people management roles is inevitable but the transition is not always easy.  Managers are responsible not only for supporting their teams to perform during ‘business as usual’ but also leading them through one of the most challenging, fast-changing periods the sector has ever witnessed.   

The challenge is undeniable.  Deeper than just needing new skills and behaviours, for many this provokes an identity crisis – the values and motivations that inspired them into academia can feel conflicted, as well as the additional dynamic of leading academic peers.   

Using our experience of supporting academics with these challenges we have developed a Leading People Change programme that addresses four key areas:  

Aligning team or faculty purpose:

  • Re-framing personal purpose and vision
  • Aligning team purpose with organisational strategy
  • Engaging everyone with the part they play

Smarter ways of working: 

  • Innovating through new ways of working
  • Symbolic change to accelerate progress
  • Embedding new ways of working to achieve benefits

Maintaining performance through change

  • Strengthening emotional intelligence (EQ) to balance IQ
  • Supporting self and others through change
  • Creating win-win relationships with team and stakeholders

Agile decision-making and problem-solving:

  • Better decision-making through prioritisation
  • Implementing new levels of authority and accountability
  • Effective empowerment and delegation

The structure of the programme is dependent on the organisation’s current situation, priorities and challenges and is menu driven; in some cases, all four quadrants will be used whereas at other times it will mean prioritising one or more quadrants. Practical tools are used to take learning into day-to-day working practices and follow-up coaching is available to make sure that new habits become fully embedded. 

Tailoring the programme 

The first step is to understand the specific challenges you are facing and the benefits you want to achieve.   

Answers to these questions will help create clarity: 

  • Is the University purpose and mission clear, relevant and embodied by all?
  • Does each faculty/team experience ownership for their part in realising it?
  • What is the essence of your change? For example, becoming more student focused, developing quicker decision making, working in a more collaborative and agile way, greater empowerment and accountability. 
  • How much support have you given people leaders so far, what worked and what do they need now? 
  • What does great leadership need to look like in your organisation?   
  • Are the senior leaders creating conditions for this to thrive? 
  • How much experience do you have of leading people change in your leadership population? 
  • How will you know it is working?   

We tailor the programme in collaboration with a small group of future participants to ensure it addresses the real challenges they are facing.  Working in partnership with HR and OD / Change functions ensures alignment with existing people and performance policies and processes.   

The tools that support this programme are powerful yet simple to use and when we have delivered them in an academic environment, participants have reported engaging and memorable experiences that continue to last beyond the session itself.   

What have participants valued most from Leading People Change?  

  • “the best development experience I’ve ever had at the University” 
  • “the facilitation was excellent and the models will be very useful for cascade development”  
  • “timely reminder of the responsibilities of being a leader at a time of personal uncertainty”  
  • “frameworks to help think through future change”  
  • “getting to know senior colleagues much better and developing trust in each other”  
  • “time to reflect on my own attitude and approach to change”  

We’re always keen to hear how your own experiences measure up. What have you found to be the greatest challenge in your people management responsibilities?  What has been the most effective strategy that your own managers and leaders have instigated when leading change? We’d love to hear from you. 

Image for header: Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash 

Subscribe to be notified when a new insight is published