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Leaders: How Do You Currently Manage Change?

Now more than ever before, your employees are dealing with varying levels of change. From being home since March, to having kids home, to now dealing with this new school year – many of their lives are nothing BUT change.

Change is an inevitable reality – pandemic or not. It’s a process, not an event, so it takes some time to go through it. And it’s an emotional experience that people adjust to at different rates. People will often resist change for a variety of reasons - to maintain status quo, to avoid pain of transition, to protect individual and organizational values, emotions and ways of operation, or because of a past history of failed attempts.

In business, change management is all about enabling employees to adopt a change so that business objectives are realized. It’s successful when it contains two key threads: people considerations (emotions associated with things like job/work elimination or survival) and process considerations (like restructuring of tasks and responsibilities.)

To be a strong leader here, there are a number of areas of focus. These will help you build a strong foundation to guide teams through change:

Building trust. A strong sense of trust inspires a deeper respect and emulation, and the team views you as a consistent role model. The stronger the trust, the more likely they are to follow you forward.

Acting with integrity. Being transparent in your actions helps to generate confidence in yours and the company’s vision. Being genuine goes a long way.

Encouraging innovative thinking. Help the team understand that it’s okay to question current ways and maybe generate simpler solutions. Celebrate the wins and taking risks. If they don’t succeed, it’s about learning in a safe space for the next time.

Coaching/mentoring team members. Actions like these say, “I care about your development as a person and as a professional.” It’s deeper than just the work.

Communicating constantly. Show your people you walk the talk and demonstrate the behavior you want from others. Ensure communication is regular and powerful so they will expect the same during change.

As a leader you will encounter resistance to change. What’s the old saying? “No one likes change except for a wet baby?” It makes sense – it means things may have to shift and what is normal today could go away tomorrow. If you encounter resistance, here are some ways to help team members:

Deal directly with losses and endings. Describe the change in detail, its ripple effect, and how work may change. Seek to understand the reactions of your people.

Give people information and do it again, and again. You may need to define the changes several times as people process the information. Define what’s over and what isn’t – avoid assumptions and overload for your team.

Figure out what you can do to provide structure and strength. Review current policies, roles, set short range goals – help your team move through the change.

Launch new beginnings with the WHY. Explain the basic purpose behind the change and paint a step by step plan for success. Give you people parts to play in the new normal.

Ensure quick successes. This reassures the believers, convinces the doubters, and confounds the critics.

Over the past six months we’ve experienced a ton of change, and the coming months seem to predict the same. Work to get ahead of the next wave of decisions with your teams. Check your own skills against the list above to be the best leader you can. Anticipate resistance and have a solution ready. Your resilience will be welcome as you guide your team through the times ahead.

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