You’re looking at your business and realizing that something needs to change – something big. Maybe your target market has swung in another direction; maybe your product or services need an upgrade; maybe your vision has expanded. Whatever the reason – you know, deep down, that you need to transform your company. Go on a big ‘level up’ journey to get the business where you know it should be.
And you need to mobilize the team to help you get there. But how?
Well, there’s actually a term for all this – it’s called Change Management; and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Oh, you may not have known exactly what it was – but I’m sure you’ve heard the term.
Strictly speaking, change management is all about people. It’s the process of helping people adapt to change -usually in an organization. Sure, there are other parts to change management too – strategies, transforming goals processes or technologies – all sorts of things come under the change management umbrella. But I think the most significant – and the hardest – is managing people through change.
That’s because change brings out fear. Listen, I’m not known for being a happy ‘change’ camper. I can definitely be resistant. But that’s because it’s the unknown. I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know what I will be called on to do next. I don’t know if I have the right skills or abilities. And what if I fail.
That’s just a few of the feelings your team members will experience when change is afoot in your company.
Oh, there will be plenty of ‘why do we have to do it this way, the old way worked perfectly well’ and ‘well, when we used to do it we just…’, or ‘this is so much more difficult, why did we change’ to go around Again, that’s because humans resist change. And we will fight hard – and I mean hard – to stop it, or at least slow it down.
But change is inevitable, and it’s necessary for growth. So how do you get the team on board? Well, I have a 6 step framework that may help you.
First, it all starts with the plan. There’s no getting around it, you have to have a plan. What are you doing, and how are you going to do it. Believe me, this is no time to shoot from the hip. You need to be ready for what may come next during the implementation phase, and understand how to measure your progress, and pivot if required. Yep, you’ll need a plan – and a darn good one.
And by the way, it can go a long (helpful) way if you can manage to include the team in the planning phase. Now, I know that’s not always possible – but give it some serious thought. And in any event, bring them in as early as you can. The more they feel they were able to have some impact on the proceedings, the quicker they will take to the change.
“…change can be a huge stressor, and sure – that stress will hit your team, but you have to remember that the Change Manager will also have huge stressors placed on her shoulders too.“
Now, at this point you may have identified one or two people to lead the change project – a general, or change manager. That’s good, you need someone to have accountability for the whole project to make sure it moves forward in an orderly and efficient way. But remember, change can be a huge stressor, and sure – that stress will hit your team, but you have to remember that the Change Manager will also have huge stressors placed on her shoulders too. After all, she is responsible to you for the success of the plan, she will be the one who is the face of the change, and to the extent there is a target for people to direct their frustration to – it will be her. So she will have stressors coming at her from all directions.
So, remember all that – and in addition supporting her, and walking with her – be nice to her. She has a hard job.
Next, you have to have a communication plan – what are you going to tell the troupes to get them on board with what’s happening. They need to know where you’re going and why. What needs to change, and what is staying the same. What help or support will be available for them.
In short, they need to know what the heck is going on, how it’s going to impact them, and what they need to do.
And remember, communicate early and often. They can’t hear from you too much when the is a change project happening. And don’t just communicate dry facts and figures, you have to motivate them too; keep them engaged – maybe even think about incentives or some sort of reward for hitting milestones.
And finally, and most importantly – show empathy.
This is a call out for you, and your change manager. Listen, you are going to face resistance, and it may even escalate into performance issues. But when you address it with the employee, remember it’s probably all from a fear response vs. your run of the mill bad work performance. So when you speak with them, show empathy.
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When I am giving a Change Manager tips on having these conversations, I tell them to try this:
I know there is a lot of change going on in the company, and that is impacting everyone. And I know it can be hard to know where you fit in and what, if any, new expectations are there for you. I’m in the same boat. I’ve been tasked with achieving certain new goals, and I need everyone’s commitment and support to get that done.
But, I know we’re asking a lot, I know it won’t be easy,, and I know it may feel like the demands are sometimes unreasonable – but know this:
The secret here is to sit on their side of the table. Meaning, don’t position yourself ‘against’ them, position yourself beside them, in the same boat, working together for the same goal. Letting them know you have some of the same feelings they might be having takes you from a ‘them’ position to being a human.
That can go a long way toward understanding, and more importantly – buy in.