As I walked into the office, you could cut the negative vibes with a knife. "They did it again! I just got my people trained on the processes from the last change, and now we're going to have another change! I'm going to lose good people if they keep this up, not to mention customers who are tired of the extra time it takes to get things done! Do they even know why productivity is down so much? It's because of all the changes!"
This is a familiar tirade I hear from mid-level leaders. "Change?! Again?!" And, this is often followed by unprintable words.
Change has an interesting way of affecting people. It can result in resistance that ranges from fairly subtle actions, such as avoidance or passive aggressive behavior, all the way to outright defiance, hostility, and sabotage. What’s a leader to do? Expect that there will be resistance and be prepared to manage it using the CHANGE™ method.
6 Simple Steps to CHANGE
Communicate. Be intentional about communicating the parameters of the change. Give your team a clear framework for the outcomes, and where they have the opportunity to be creative. Be open to all ideas about how to move forward, and encourage your team to share their thoughts with you in a variety of ways. Accessibility to you creates a sense of ownership for solutions.
Harness thoughts. Our thoughts create our feelings, which result in our actions, and ultimately determine our outcomes. We have a choice about how we respond to change. When faced with change, ask individuals to talk about how they are feeling and what thoughts are contributing to those feelings. Then, encourage each person to become more aware of their actions around the changes to better understand and harness the thoughts that are not helpful.
Assess options. There are many right ways to move through change. At this stage, brainstorm with your team ways the change could be accomplished. This is an important step for them in moving forward and feeling in control. It represents a key turning point in mindset. Leaders should work with each person to choose options for next steps that are mutually agreeable.
Navigate strengths. It’s easier for all of us to make changes when we focus on our strengths and successful past experiences, and then use those to help us move forward. Ask your employees what achievement from the past makes them the most proud. How can they use strategies from that accomplishment to impact new changes? This is a great exercise for you, as leader, to do with your own accomplishments.
Grow skills. How can you help your employees develop the new skills they need for change? As the leader, your job is remove any barriers to progress. What training opportunities can you provide for your staff? In what ways can your team mentor each other? And, don't forget to grow your own skills in navigating change. A critical component of this phase is to provide “feed forward”. What’s going well? Where are there challenges? What options are there to resolve challenges?
Emphasize progress. Catch your team members "doing well." Focus on progress, even small ones, at the beginning of team and one-on-one meetings. This helps everyone maintain a positive outlook. There will be less stress throughout the process and your team will thrive.
Bottom Line: Take the time to understand 1) what the specific changes include, 2) who the changes will impact, 3) how it will impact them, and 4) why they might resist the changes. Then craft your course to navigate the waters of change in a successful and positive way.
Implementing change is never painless, but it can be a lot less painful for everyone when it is done with empathy and compassion after thorough analysis, planning, and strategizing.
If you, your company or someone you know needs help navigating the ever-changing element of business that is change, we’re here to help.