Change … the unfamiliar IS scary!

Change Management ModelWhen change occurs it sets a cycle in motion. The rules are new. Everyone feels some confusion and concern. Everyone makes mistakes. The road to success is bumpy.

Trust is the most important ingredient in any corporate change process. Without it, the organization may find itself constantly fighting rear guard actions with associates instead of leading everyone forward with confidence toward the future. Trust is developed through an openness of information, free flow of knowledge, clear direction, consistently communicated progress and a thorough knowledge about the process of change and results.

Trust is earned by being credible and treating all associates with respect and fairness. Trust must be earned over time, but it can be destroyed overnight. It requires constant attention. Management showing good faith, by being open, respectful of the individual and being consistent earns trust.

Two issues that need to be anticipated and answered for associates involved in a change effort are

  • Why we need to change, and
  • The value proposition for everyone involved in the change process.

Your organization must be able to clearly articulate the need for change to each stakeholder group, including associates, share-owners, neighbors, customers and regulatory agencies as applicable.

The more deeply rooted your organizational culture is, the more likely change will be perceived as the enemy. It is important to help associates understand that during the change process, the organization will hold the successful elements of the present culture and add new elements that are important to keeping the organization viable in new competitive markets.

Managers and team leaders must listen carefully to associate concerns. Listening helps to establish and maintain the necessary level of trust and a confidence for the associates to subscribe to the vision of the organization. Managers must also have and demonstrate patience with the staff allowing them to share the passion for change that you express.

Stephen R. Covey suggests that managers and supervisors should learn how to listen empathetically. He uses this analogy: “When you have air, you don’t think about it at all. But if you were to take the air out of the room that you’re in right now, you’d be running to get air. The unmet need motivates. So, when you listen to people empathetically from that frame of reference, emotionally it is affirming and validating to them and they cease being defensive and negative energy is dissipated.”

Covey therefore suggests that if team leaders learn to listen empathetically and not take employee resistance to change issues personally. He recommends that you “do not agree or disagree, just understand.” You will find that negative energies disappear and are converted into positive energies. Your staff then starts to become more a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Just the Facts
Without change, routine soon turns into a rut and success becomes harder to achieve. Change drives improvement and growth. Change is a constant. Today change is happening faster than ever, and there’s no sign it will ever stop. Change is necessary for people and organizations to succeed and thrive. Change requires people to think and act differently. Don’t be surprised if your team takes a long time to commit to major disruptive changes.

When you understand how change affects people, you can help them accept the change and make it work. Team leaders, managers and supervisors should not ignore the positive potential of change. Typically, those who do not adjust to change become stuck in place while other people are moving forward. In terms of peer relationships, you should react to change in a manner that inspires your colleagues. The last thing you want to happen is for your colleagues to view you as a whiner or not being very adaptable or flexible.

When change is happening in any organization, there is one key expectation of leaders. You must do your best to accept and assume responsibility for change by becoming a positive role model. The perception that you want to avoid is to appear as a victim that is incapable of resolving issues and developing solutions. As a matter of fact, your team will expect you to help them make adjustments and to make things work.

As you become a role model, that expectation is tempered with the understanding that you will also be affected by change. However, you should do everything possible to prevent your staff from mistakenly concluding that change will not affect them. Sometimes, change is phased into organizations. If your department is not immediately affected, the likelihood that it will be affected in the future is high. It would be a faulty assumption to believe that change will never reach your department. When change occurs anywhere in your organization, it will eventually affect you. Pretending that change will not reach you is equivalent to acting like an ostrich and hoping that the change will go away.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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