Take the pain out of Organisational change
Nobody really likes change unless they can feel the need for it, so it often meets resistance. But with energy, foresight, realism and emotional intelligence a change leader can take the pain out of the process. Here are our top tips;
- Onboard the team - A change led by the team is a change accepted by the team. The more they are struggling with the problem and are involved in the brainstorming or design of the solution, the more they will own the change process. The job is half done.
- Choose your pace - Is a revolution both necessary and possible? If not, choose an evolution and break the goal down into manageable pieces. While goals often feel urgent, people are not switches, and they work best with more time to adjust to each step.
- Plan - Once you know the end goal and deadline, break the process down into the most efficient order, with realistic time frames. Order is critical. List the who, what, when, where and how for each step. Line the plan up with quieter times in the organisation if possible.
- Be flexible - If you don’t bend, you break. Your plan is not concrete, it is merely an arrangement of ideas that make sense. As new information comes to light the rationale will change, so the plan must evolve to remain useful. Allow periods throughout the process for beta testing, feedback and redirection.
- Know your people - Each personality type will handle change differently. Some want to lead the change with you and have their ideas and input recognised. Some are timid because it reminds them of bad experiences. Some whinge about every step because they need a way to release their emotions. Every change leader must know their people well and cater for their differences respectfully.
- Be clear - The concept of change involves letting go of things that were familiar and stable, and trying unknown ideas and unstable processes. Your team needs to know what stable things they can hold onto while playing trial and error with the unknown. Provide black and white clarity about what is staying and what is changing. This is important for mental health, particularly during intense or major changes, or where job security is weak.
- Communicate - Each phase of the change is likely to require the preparation and expertise of different people. Your communication tools are vital. You cannot depend on only top-down communication. Even a central model of communication may not be enough. A web is effective, where you can talk to the team in a transparent way so others can stay in the loop. It’s common to be derailed by someone on the sidelines suddenly saying “I just heard about this… it affects what I’m doing and it’s not going to work”. Err on the side of too much communication rather than too little, and sooner rather than later. A tool like a group chat allows everyone to participate but also allows people to ignore what doesn’t apply to them. If using email, just cc the rest of the team in.
- Be present - Your staff don’t need you to be perfect, they just need you to be present. You might not see the need to communicate anything to them, but the more accessible you are to your team, the more comfortable they will be to raise questions and concerns as soon as they arise. You then have the chance to resolve issues before they mushroom. It’s common for leaders to disappear when the change process hits an obstacle and everyone is left in limbo or confusion. This is the time to remain visibly resilient, and advise the team on what to revert to, what to put on hold and what to continue with. If you must take some time out, let them know that you’ll be back after dealing the obstacle.
- Celebrate - Acknowledge the wins. If you can’t see wins, acknowledge the efforts. If you can’t see efforts, acknowledge the feelings. Positivity is a super power for leaders of change.
The last couple of months have forced many businesses into a state of change. It has been hard to find clarity due to intermittent and sometimes conflicting information, so we have had to develop an adaptable mindset. We can't choose environmental changes like these, but how we choose to respond can make or break our business. I must say a big "congratulations" to everyone who has stepped up, faced the threats and grasped the opportunities during this pandemic.
We've had a variety of experiences with change at The Money Edge, so if you or your team are struggling with it please let us know. We'll be happy to support you.
Amanda Wolff | The Money Edge | Bundaberg