Ever had a new puppy? It takes a lot of work to teach them “house manners”. They need new information provided in a way that they understand, consistently.
You have to reinforce positive behavior, encourage them when they are not quite sure how to do something - all while keeping a vision for what you want them to be able to do down the road. It takes a lot of work in the beginning, but it’s worth it to have a well-trained dog.
Supporting employees through change takes a lot of the same strategies.
Maintain the vision. When change gets tough, it can be easy to get mired in the details and forget the bigger picture. Remind your team often of the outcomes they are working toward. It will be easier to see the frustrating details as a bump in the road rather than a stopping point.
Manage meetings. Begin each team and individual meeting with a focus on, and “celebration” of, the steps that have been accomplished toward the targeted outcome. Encourage employees to recognize even the small steps as progress.
Maximize successes. One effective way to help employees stay focused is to hold regular 10-15 minute stand-up meetings. Choose one person to share their progress and how they have created that progress. Acknowledge the hard work of that person, then brainstorm ways the rest of the team can make similar strides using similar strategies. Other less supportive comments can be reserved for a more private or appropriate meeting.
Emphasize progress. Change creates an opening to focus on what’s going wrong instead of what’s going right. Your team may feel that their previous efforts weren’t recognized and that management has no idea what the job and the expectations that go with it really should be.
Research shows that people need to hear five or more positive comments for every negative comment in order to grow and change. Notice what individuals are doing and send them a handwritten note, or leave a handwritten note on their desks about the positive efforts you’ve seen. Handwritten notes provide a personal touch that has more effect than an email that can get lost among the myriad others. More importantly, it feels good having someone notice how hard you are working and that it’s making a difference. As Stephen Covey once said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care." This sets up an atmosphere of disengagement.
Being persistent in maintaining the vision, keeping the successes in front of your team, learning from each other, and emphasizing personal progress helps to streamline workplace change. And, just like puppy training, don’t forget that a little “treat" now and then in the form of personal or team acknowledgement goes a long way toward inspiring engagement.
What are some of the ways you acknowledge individuals or your team for the progress they make during change?