All organisations face the need to change – continuously, change is needed to meet the challenges of a changing world. For executives, the challenge is to lead their people so that the fear and anxiety that naturally arises in them will not immobilise the change that is required. Whether you’re a manager, a leader or one of the team helping others deal with change, there are certain matters that simply have to ‘have covered’.
These are them:
Know where you are headed, how and why.
Before initiating change, leaders must ask and know the answers to the following questions:
- What do we want to achieve with this change – what are the outcomes we are looking for?
- Why and how will we know that the change has been achieved?
- Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it?
- How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the change do we need help with?
- Develop a check list and plan for the change programme, so that will be able to know where you are at any given time against the plan.
Understand how people respond to change.
There has been significant research done on how individuals respond to change – and despite the development of the rational mind in business, it is often the emotional impact that is consistently underestimated and avoided. The original models introduced that explain this area are based upon research initially carried out into bereavement counselling. Understanding that certain specific gut emotional reactions will occur on the announcement of changes, let alone ongoing resistance to continuous change is a significant step in managing those reaction more effectively.
Summon a strong mandate and build the case for change.
Leaders need to realise that an initial explanation for the reasons for change will not be enough to carry people through the challenging and difficult experiences that they, their colleagues, team and the organization will go through. Leaders need to continuously drive and focus upon the important reasons why changes must be made to actually make the case for the need for change to those who will be affected by it.
The ramifications of change are widespread and often key stakeholders may not be communicated to or engaged in the process. Leaders need to ask who might the stakeholders be and to create tools and processes to ensure that key stakeholder groups are engaged collaboratively. Key personnel should also be assigned to track and manage stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the change initiative project.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! The value of communication may appear to be self-evident, but it is still astounding to us when working with organizations how little staff feel they are communicated with. Staff also need to be listened to – communication should not be one way – leaders need to listen views, concerns, anxieties or constructive help. Key people must take on the views expressed, to ensure that adequate information is effectively disseminated to the relevant people in the organization, whilst others must take responsibility to gather the great ideas and help that can be provided by employees.
Creating engagement and involvement by all employees is the holy grail for change managers. Often difficult, confrontational and challenging, few leaders have the stomach to create processes for proactive involvement of other employees, managers and other interested parties in the change process. They expect fear and resistance and mostly they get it! By taking an attitude that they know best what needs to change, they cut out the very help that could come from employees who would, if they were genuinely involved give it. So put aside fear, and do the right things to engage staff in the changes being planned, seek ideas and help for how best to do it.
Effective leadership in a well managed change programme can have powerful impacts on the energy, confidence and engagement of the organization to effectively implement the necessary changes. The speed of trust can be engaged to deliver excellent results quickly. Poor leadership in this area will cause loss of confidence, resistance and complaints; to the extent that very little will change and the health of the organization and its outputs weaken.
Effective change often calls for increasing skills in people, not just technically, but behaviourally to cope with the new processes or systems and to be able to perform their job better. This is a good thing! Change can be a vital tool to engage the workforce in new learning and increased capability. If they can see that the change brings improvements to themselves personally, people will find it easier to commit new energy and loyalty to their role, their team and the company.