Change is the only constant in life… and in business.
In the business world, change comes in various forms. It can be planned like an upgrade in current software solutions or unplanned, such as a hostile takeover or a forced buyout. Whatever form it comes in, every long-standing business has at one point or another come up against a situation that has forced it to change.
There are seven stages that people go through during times of change and these have been documented in the Kubler-Ross change curve.
Although this curve was originally used to describe the grieving process, it has found equal value in explaining how people adapt to change in the business world.
Employees will move through these stages any time there is a major change in the organisation.
Management’s true leadership abilities will be tested in times of change and the question that every manager should ask themselves is “How do I, as a leader, help manage and navigate my employees through these stormy waters of change so we make it to the other side unscathed?”.
The answer lies in trying to flatten the change curve as much as possible by focusing on the people that make up the organisation; the employees.
The process of change can be hard and daunting on employees when they are faced with an unexpected or unwelcome transition, but when managed correctly, it doesn’t have to be painful.
Here are 5 ways that leaders can prepare their teams for change:
1. Communicate and paint a clear picture
Communication is the most important part of preparing your team for change. Letting everyone know about the change that is coming will ensure that everyone understands what is happening and why it is happening. Communication will give you the opportunity to get buy-in from your employees.
If changes happen suddenly and nothing is communicated to your employees, a vacuum will be created that will be easily filled with speculation, gossip and rumours.
It’s important to realise that you may not have all the answers to all unforeseen situations during the transition but it will be helpful to your employees for you to have an “open door” policy that welcomes employee suggestions on how to make this period a bit easier for them.
By painting a clear picture, you will eliminate the guesswork and will make change management less about dealing with potential resistance to change and more about seeing and seizing the opportunities that the change will bring.
When employees understand where the organisation is heading and believe in the organisation’s future, they will more readily accept change.
Ensure that you communicate early and clearly. A lack of communication will undo all the good that the change is supposed to bring about.
2. Map out a plan
Once a clear picture has been painted, your employees will not only know where the organisation is and where it seeks to go but more importantly, they will understand why it needs to get there.
The next step in this process will be to map out the plan of how it will get there.
Mapping out a plan will help you set out a clear path that lets everyone know if you are on the right track towards change and will let you set out your own milestones on the path to change that will build momentum and keep everyone engaged towards change.
Every single organisation will be required to change if it is to survive. If a company doesn’t map out a clear plan of how to deal with changing market demands, it will become a relic of the past.
3. Lead from the front
Leadership requires more than just telling your employees about the future of the organisation.
The management of an organisation can’t expect to reduce the frustration and depression phase of the change curve if they only tell them how to act while failing to do so themselves.
Management must set the example by leading from the front. When management lead from the front, they also gain full insight of the roadblocks that employees may come across during the transition period.
4. Identify champions and let them run with certain tasks
Leading from the front is important but you cannot do the work all by yourself.
During times of change in the workplace, people will react differently. There are those who will embrace the change, those who will be neutral and those who will actively resist the change.
It will be imperative to recognise where everyone falls on this spectrum and strive to get the key players on your side from the beginning. Take these “embracers” of change through all the expected changes and explain clearly why these changes must take place.
The “embracers” will go a long way in influencing those who are sitting on the fence and may go as far as changing the hearts and minds of those who are against the change. They will help in implementing new procedures and will keep everyone's morale up.
Allow your “embracers” to run with certain tasks, give them deadlines for completion and make sure they have the resources and support they need to execute these tasks.
Let your “embracers” speed up the process of change by allowing them to be the catalysts of that change.
5. Set realistic objectives and manage expectations
Times of change bring about an extreme amount of uncertainty, this once again points out the importance of communication.
Depending on how long the period of uncertainty and change lasts for, the organisations may experience a few resignations as uncertainty brings about tension and often the only way for people to relieve that tension is by resigning. It is, therefore, reasonable to expect key team members to put in extra time and effort during the transition period, but it is important to assign them tasks with reasonable goals.
When goals and expectations are set too high, the quality of the work that is done during that time will drop, deadlines will be missed and morale might drop. The result would be a despondent and uncertain workforce.
As a leader during a period of change, your ability to manage expectation is a skill that will ensure that you, your team and your organisation make it to the other side successfully.
Clarifying what is expected of your employees is important but more than that, clarifying what your employees can expect from you will be even more crucial.
Change will always be uncomfortable for most employees but by applying the 5 ways discussed above you can flatten the Kubler-Ross curve, lowering their resistance to change and simultaneously increasing their acceptance and adoption of it.
Ultimately, organisations are made up of people and when people are not engaged, trained and empowered to embrace change we end up with organisations that are destined for failure.
Are you ready to build an engaged team that embraces change and believes in the organisation’s future? Get started on bountiXP today for FREE.