Managing Change for Maximum Impact and Minimal Stress
The managers quietly filed into the room, anxiety written all over their faces. Because their organization was going through tremendous change, these leaders had come together to learn how to manage the process. I began the session with a detailed (and anonymous) list of worries, fears and concerns their employees had shared with me. At this point one manager spoke out rather gruffly.
“Well, this is all news to me. How did you get this information?”
With a smile I replied, “I asked questions and listened to what your people told me.”
Every concern was a valid one. We spent the next several hours addressing the issues and developing a plan to facilitate change with minimum stress for all involved. Our goal was to help management and support staff work together and stick together through the entire process.
Whether you’re leading change within your department or your entire organization, you’ve probably already noticed that team members are struggling with questions. And they’re not alone. You’ve got your own list – and it grows longer every day! How will you have to think and act differently? What new attitudes and behaviors will you have to model? How will you communicate openly, honestly and inclusively as appropriate? What is your plan to strengthen teamwork and deliver results?
If you look at some of the synonyms for change – transform, adjust, adapt – you can see why it’s an uncomfortable concept for many. Leaders have to face the fact that most people don’t like change and don’t want to change. Your job is to help your people accept change and move forward. Utilize these success strategies as you develop your plan.
1. Your leadership team must speak with one voice. Discussion – mild, heated, or somewhere in between – must first take place among your leaders. Consensus must be reached before anyone takes information down the line. If you’re speaking with more than one voice, confusion and chaos will surely follow.
2. Your staff doesn’t know as much as you know. When there is no information forthcoming, people invent their own. Gossip and rumors run rampant. Open, honest, direct and inclusive communication can stop hearsay before it has a chance to work its way through every department and division.
3. No one can read your mind and know what you need or want from them. It’s your job to clarify roles and responsibilities, set ground rules for achieving goals, and communicate the time frame in which those goals must be accomplished.
4. You may have had time to digest certain information and get comfortable with it, but your staff probably hasn’t had the same opportunity. Be prepared to explain (clearly, concisely and honestly) what needs to happen and how the process will work.
5. Remember that everything you say and do sends a message. Since actions do speak louder than words, don’t send mixed messages. If your words and actions don’t match – if they aren’t congruent – people realize they can’t trust you. Once trust breaks down, communication breaks down. At that point, effective leadership is no longer possible.
To get to the heart of success in making change work, you must develop a plan to manage the dynamics of change at every level. It’s about taking the lead to ensure that management and staff work together. I’ve worked with leaders at every level in healthcare, business and industry, government, education and associations to successfully lead their people through change. The Good News is that they all survived! And so will you!