By Chris Garland, Change Management Consultant at Vertiba
As a Change Management Consultant, there is one constant with every single one of my clients. Early in our engagements, I eventually lead or attend a meeting where I hear the proclamation that “Everyone hates change!” This statement is typically accompanied with a bewildered look due to my lack of shock. As if my client was unique to having employees that hate change.
I always counter by asking the room the following questions:
“Who here has something they want to see change? In your job? In your department? In your personal life? In your family? Your favorite sports team?”
It doesn’t take long before everyone in the room raises their hand.
It’s not that everyone hates change. Most people want change. It’s the way change happens that people hate. It’s when employees can’t contribute to the change. It’s when their ideas aren’t heard and they aren’t involved.
However, not every company utilizes a thoughtful approach to Change Management the way we help our clients at Vertiba. Luckily, that does not mean employees can’t make it through a change successfully.
As an everyday employee, you sometimes have to navigate through change on your own, which obviously is not fun when your concerns might relate to job security or potential changes to your job role. It’s easy to fall into the trap of discussing concerns or venting about your frustrations with peers. However, your coworkers probably don’t know any more than you so it can be therapeutic, but not always productive.
Focus on what you need to be successful in the change.
- How will the change impact you personally? Start with your immediate supervisor. Ask what he or she knows and keep in mind he or she may not know more than you.
- What new skills will you need to learn? Reach out to your organization’s training resources. Ask how training will occur.
- Who can you provide feedback to? Identify the project team members and reach out. Offer your time to participate in the change.
- What’s in it for you to believe in the change? You likely believe in the vision of your company. Now’s the time to take advantage of any open door policies and pop in your department lead’s office and ask how the change aligns with the company vision.
Without structured Change Management, you may not get immediate answers. However, these are all harmless questions if asked with genuine curiosity, and may even help prod your organization towards better preparing you and your colleagues for the upcoming change.
As a manager, you have to learn how to lead your employees through the change. That can be intimidating when you have to coach your teams on new skills and processes you’ve yet to fully understand yourself. It can be even more frustrating when your highest performers are threatening to quit due to the change.
Focus on what you need to successfully lead your teams during a change.
- How will the change impact your ability to manage? Start with your department lead. Ask what will be expected of you as you lead your teams through the change.
- Will you have a chance to learn new skills or processes before your teams? Reach out to your organization’s training resources. Ask about opportunities for supervisors to receive training early to be able to have answers for your teams.
- Who can you provide feedback to? Identify the project team members and reach out. Let them know you have very vocal team members threatening to quit. Ask what opportunities there are for the loud dissenters to become more involved, which can lead to them becoming cheerleaders.
- What’s in it for you to believe in the change? You likely believe in the vision of your company, but you care more about how your department might be affected. Work with your department lead to identify ways that all the managers can work together to provide consistent messaging to employees.
Any structured Change Management approach recognizes that managers/supervisors play one of the most crucial roles in a change, if not the most crucial role. This is an opportunity to develop and show leadership ability. Take advantage of it and help your organization successfully transition to the future.
CEO/Directors/Department Leads/Vice Presidents
As a leader, you can’t simply delegate the execution of change to your project teams.
You might also be tempted to keep the change a secret until it’s nicely packaged to share with your employees. This might seem like a great idea, but I always liken it to Christmas gifts. It’s always more fun to give gifts that are a secret, but it’s never fun when the recipient doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the well thought out present. When it comes to change, it’s better to play on the safe side and share the ideas and even ask what your employees want as to avoid surprises. This also helps manage expectations.
Focus on how you can inspire your company to change.
- How does this change align with your vision? Your employees care about your company and the mission. However, they may not care about a change that doesn’t fit into their perception of your organization.
- How will you support the initiative? Change initiatives can easily fail when leaders aren’t the ones leading the change. You can delegate the work to project teams, but your employees want to see that you are involved. They want to hear about changes from you.
- What’s expected of your managers during the change? Your managers play a key role in the success of the initiative. However, they likely feel stressed about their employees’ concerns and their own concerns, while worrying about the increased workload that a transition typically entails. Think about ways you can reduce the burden your middle management and employees might be facing.
- How will you reinforce changes? Leadership that dives into the front lines is a crucial success factor. Leadership that celebrates a project’s successes shows that a project is on the right track. Leadership that consistently recognizes the folks responsible for the successes keeps employees engaged.
A Change Management approach is only as effective as the leadership within the organization it’s being utilized in. This is not a laundry list of how to be an effective leader. Rather, it is meant to shed light on the fact that Change Leadership is one of the most critical factors in a successful change.