Strategies to Successfully Lead your Team through Change
Change can be very stressful and emotional for employees. When organisational change is handled poorly, it creates major employee disruption and resistance! One common, problematic factor employees cite is around communication. They often feel in the dark regarding why change is needed and what the change really means for them. As a result, they grow concerned and suspicious. Before long, these same employees may seek greener pastures where life feels more stable. Don’t let lack of communication or poor communication be your change management downfall. It's up to you as leader to create a culture that ensures success. Here are my top strategies to help you "create an environment of trust and cooperation" to ensure you, your team (and your company) successfully manage through change:
1. Start with the Why Most organisations communicate what is changing but very few communicate why things are changing. As a leader you must be the connector between the company's vision and purpose, how the changes will fit into this and how each member in your team contributes to the big picture. Change is difficult and uncomfortable. It impacts everyone throughout the organisation at every level. It’s important to understand this is normal and not to quit when it starts getting difficult. Stay consistent and have an idea before introducing something new of what the expected timeline of implementation will be. This is essential because if the implementation period is 12 months and in the 6th month you start questioning if it was a right idea, realise that you’re only halfway there.
2. Listen to your Team to get their Perspective Managing change is often talked about from an organisation perspective with systems and processes. What is rarely talked about and overlooked is change from an individual’s perspective. We all handle change differently. Some individuals are early change adopters, some are change resisters and there’s a lot in between. Connect with your team members on an individual basis....listen to them with empathy and compassion. They may be afraid, angry, impartial, hopeful, confident or optimistic about the change that is taking place. Connecting with your team members will help you understand if there’s any additional group or individual training that may be needed and could be used to develop teamwork by having your early change adopters work with those individuals who are struggling. 3. Be as Transparent as Possible As leader, you play a pivotal role in how change is received. You may not be able to offer full transparency regarding the changes that lie ahead. However, whenever possible, share as much as you reasonably can. Employees appreciate honesty and respond well to it, even when it’s difficult to hear. When people believe to the core of their being that the leader would sacrifice their own interests to take care of them and their growth, the natural biological response to that is trust and cooperation.
4. Articulate Specific Steps and What’s Required of the Team Nothing heightens anxiety as much as ambiguity. When changes are discussed in vague generalities, employees begin to expect the worst. They may become paralysed as they wonder what effects it will have on them. As much as possible, try to articulate the specific steps employees need to take in response to the change and what exactly is required of them. If you don’t know the answer to an employee question or how the change impacts them, let them know, and make a commitment to get the information they need as quickly as possible.
5. Recognise Emotional Responses Change is an emotional experience for most people especially in the beginning. It creates feelings of loss, uncertainty and even anger. Ignoring the emotional side of the situation will only make you appear detached. Employees will not see you as one of the team, but rather, as an outside force inflicting pain upon them. Take the time to address emotions—good, bad and indifferent. Don’t resent the employee who voices dissent or resistance. Recognise that they are sharing valuable information. The emotions themselves are symptoms, but you ultimately want to get to the root cause. Allow team members to vent, thank them for being honest, and then gently steer them toward acceptance. However, avoid outwardly agreeing with their feelings. Position yourself as a champion for the change and a supportive partner for the employee. Help them see the opportunity change presents for them and help them manage the disruption.
6. Explain Challenges Frequently According to a study conducted by Leadership IQ, nearly two-thirds of leaders fail to explain organisational challenges on an ongoing basis. This means that, when change suddenly appears, employees don’t have the background and context they need to understand why the change is required. Waiting to address these things at the point of change initiation will only delay the employees’ ability to adapt. Instead, keep them apprised of the challenges the organisation is facing as they’re happening. That way, employees can assimilate the information and prepare for the solutions that may be coming (i.e. the changes).