Change is always hard. It’s even harder when it’s not your choice. . . which is the case for 98% of company employees who have no ‘voting share’ in the change initiative.
Think about it. Today’s corporate reality is that it’s usually only the C-Suite that make the decisions around change. And then it’s up to rest of the organizations’ leaders to help explain, defend and motivate the masses affected by the changes. Unfortunately, we’ve all been there, done that and witnessed first-hand the difficulty employees have dealing with the handed-down change. Productivity takes a nosedive, morale goes out the window and, often, your best people leave.
This blog is dedicated to helping all levels of leaders more successfully implement change and avoid the pitfalls that can come with it. No surprise, the key to successful change is providing your people with the tools and the time to cope, adapt and progress with a healthy and positive perspective.
Key Strategies to Help Your People ‘Keep a Healthy Perspective’ During Times of Change
- Layer Communication throughout ALL Levels of the Organization
Company-wide email is NOT an effective form of ensuring your employees have been ‘communicated’ with appropriately around change efforts. It’s only the FIRST step in communication.
Why? Because, in times of change, EVERYONE has questions. Unanswered questions lead to assumptions. Assumptions lead to negativity and rumors. And negativity and rumors leads to ‘un-necessary’ resistance all because people are unsure how THEY are impacted.
Company-wide emails can’t answer these more specific questions. That’s where it’s essential that Directors and Managers follow up the company-wide announcement with team Q&A sessions. This process allows people to ask more specific questions and better understand the impact to them, their peers, their team, their department, etc.
Until these questions are fundamentally answered, there is high likelihood that there will be ‘change resistance’ somewhere within the system.
- Determine the ‘Support Structures’ Needed by your People and Provide Them
Keep the communication train going by encouraging an open door policy to let your team(s) know you’re accessible and willing to listen. Reinforce this open door policy by reaching out and asking your people what you can do to provide the support that they need to adjust. Check in often. Keep on checking in until the actual transition completes itself.
This kind of ‘openness’ and tailored approach creates a personal connection that will help accelerate acceptance of change, and hopefully, create a domino effect of acceptance across the organization.
- Provide a Clear Road Map or At Least Clear Sense of Direction and Timeline
This step creates a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ which is critical to employee morale and productivity. This applies on both a professional and personal level as I well know.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, my then-fiancé and I were separated for 3 ½ years while she completed a commitment in Venezuela. This was one of the longest periods of my life but we worked together to reach that ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ And we’re closer today because of that experience.
It can work the same way for organizations. People bond through difficult times but they can only persevere if they have a clear sense of direction, focus and timeline around the change. While I know it’s difficult to ‘pin down’ exact timelines and such, at least provide direction with set goals. This will help your employees properly plan and do the ‘mental’ work necessary to develop the discipline, attitude and actual steps they need to take to properly adjust, handle and work through the change.
- Don’t ‘Sugarcoat’ the Change if there’s No Truth to It.
Ever have a doctor or dentist tell you a procedure will only hurt a ‘little’ and then you find out otherwise? If you’re like me, I no longer trusted them and looked for another provider.
Same concept works in business. Transparency might hurt, but at least it’s the truth!
You are not helping your people cope with change by ‘lightening the blow.’ If anything, you are setting yourself up to be perceived as someone who can’t be trusted because what you say contradicts what people are experiencing.
Manage your communication, support and change strategy appropriately. Determine who really needs to know first, second, next, etc. And don’t ‘sugarcoat’ if there’s no truth to it. Be as transparent as possible. Your employees might not like it. But they will respect you more in the long run.
- As a Decision Maker, Show Your Human Side
It’s easy for employees to perceive themselves as the ‘victims’ of change, and the decision makers as the ‘enemy.’ But change is difficult for everyone, including the decision makers.
That’s why decision makers need to show their ‘human side.’ People ultimately follow leaders not dictators.
I’m not saying portray yourself as a ‘victim’ but as someone that is in this change transition with them. Prove it by ‘rolling up your sleeves’ and being a part of the change with them.
- Take Time to Celebrate the Milestones that Occur During Change
Remember Step 3 and the advice on creating a timeline for change. The best way to do this is to break down the change into goals . . . and then celebrate achievement of each and every one of them.
This practice reverses the tendency to only focus on what we are losing versus what we are gaining through change. Help your people focus on what they are ‘gaining’ by actually taking time to celebrate the little ‘wins’ along the way that lead to more value and meaning for all involved.
Your Challenge: Is your company, team or you, yourself, going through change right now?
Examine where you or your people might be struggling. If you are experiencing ‘resistance,’ stop barreling through, slow down, re-address, and do whatever you need to do to get everyone ‘back on the bus’ and moving in the same direction. The success of the change effort depends on it.
I’d Love to Help You, Really
Privately send me your challenges, questions and comments at email@example.com. I can’t guarantee I’ll have all the answers, but I will be candid, truthful and genuine at all times with you. All of us deserve to be inspired and joyful in our lives. We simply need to work towards it.
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