As a leader in an organization, at some point you will be faced with the difficult challenge of managing change. Scary! Not only for you, but for the people you are expecting to make the change right along with you. Sure, there are some people that love change, that thrive on change. They really annoy those that don’t.
Change isn’t implemented to make things worse but very often the benefits of change are buried beneath disruption and the sense of being back at square one that comes with learning new ways of doing or looking at things. The bad news is that during the change process, work will become more chaotic, more confusing and perhaps less efficient.
The good news is that with the right strategy, the time spent in chaos and confusion can be shortened.
When it’s up to you to deliver news of and implement change in your team, consider these tips:
1. Involve key players early on. Key players does not mean highest up the ladder. Key players are those people who will be most affected by the change. Key players are those people on your team who influence the opinion of others. When you pull people into the process and let them help you shape the plan, they become part of the plan and become part of your support team. They also provide you an example of the types of questions you will receive when the change is introduced to all.
2. Don’t wait to the last minute. Your team will need time to process the change request. What does this mean to me? How does this impact my job? What new things will I have to learn? Waiting to the last minute to deliver news denies them that opportunity.
3. Recognize the emotion behind the resistance. Fear of change, fear of not being the expert anymore, fear of being outside of one’s comfort zone is usually the real reason behind push back. Focus on the emotion, not the behaviour (unless extreme). Be honest about your own discomfort. Ask yourself, “What can I do to help alleviate the fear?” Do they need more information? Perhaps they need you to meet with them and work through the question “What’s in it for me?”
4. Provide the training, tools and support needed. What training is required to develop new skills or knowledge needed to make the change happen? Perhaps they need an understanding of the change process and that their emotions are valid. Identify what training is needed and put it in place.
5. Be upfront and honest. If you have mapped out every step of the process and have no intention of deviating from it, don’t pretend otherwise. False team meetings, town halls, whatever you want to call it are incredibly damaging. It is viewed as manipulative, deceitful and condescending.
6. Be willing to compromise. Hold meetings, ask questions, listen to concerns and then see where you can may be able to compromise. It may be as simple as a change to how you communicate or the training plan. Someone may come up with an idea that makes the plan even better. Be as open to positive change as you want your team to be.
7. Recognize and reward. Don’t wait until the change is fully implemented and moving along nicely. Recognize and thank the key players for their role in the process. Acknowledge the people who jumped on board early. Acknowledge movement in the right direction from the resisters.
Change is scary for many people. Managing change is scary for many leaders. Recognize that managing change means acknowledging the emotion and planning for it. When you do that, the chaotic time of confusion and uncertainty will be shortened. Ignore the emotion and the results could be truly frightening!