Change. It’s terrifying. It’s disrupting. And, unfortunately, it’s inevitable.
Managing change is rarely a smooth process. However, to effectively lead a business – or a team – to success, managing change in the workplace must be in your toolkit.
Businesses are constantly growing, evolving and innovating. In today’s market, change is a constant work-in-progress. To stay afloat, we need to do more than adapt to it, but also manage it and lead it. It’s no wonder that leaders who understand and can manage change are so highly sought after.
While managing organisational change is never quite as simple as it sounds, there are some strategies you can implement to make the transition smoother. It’s not as easy as being given a formula to use time and time again, but with the right processes, skills and tools at your disposal, change doesn’t have to be so world-shaking.
Start driving change and growth
The best strategy is almost never reactionary. By actively embracing change and seeking new opportunities for innovation, change and growth, you can be prepared when it comes to rolling out change initiatives in your organisation.
When trying to effectively lead change, you’ll need to clearly answer three common questions employees have about new change initiatives:
- What is the change?
- Why is the change happening?
- How will the change affect me?
It sounds simple, but too many managers focus on the ‘what’, rather than answering their team’s legitimate concerns and questions around how and why the change is being made. When talking about why the change is happening – and how it will affect your people – try to be transparent. If it has downsides, offer a clear timeframe for these changes taking place and reiterate the long-term positives.
Establish meaningful communication with your teams
The best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page (or help everyone get there) is to facilitate clear, open communication. Meaningful communication is essential to the success of any transition period, and will help you in a few ways. For starters, it helps you understand your team and gain insight into what motivates them personally. These insights can help you predict any barriers your team might have towards accepting change and help you overcome them.
You need to know how change affects your employees personally and be aware of the politics and psychology that informs their reactions to change. By openly explaining the transition process to your team (through the why, what and how mentioned previously) and understanding their reactions, you can respond to your team appropriately.
Some teams are more resistant to change than others. Understanding why is the first step towards being able to effectively lead them down the path towards a smoother, easier transition.
Motivate your people effectively
People often come into change with the attitude ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Your role is to make them understand – in their own terms – why this isn’t the case. The benefits of change need to outweigh the pain it will cause. By opening communication with your team, you should have a good idea of what their concerns are. Addressing these early, and demonstrating how the change is of mutual benefit can help everyone get on the same page.
Never attack your team or tell them that they’re wrong. Your team comprises smart, intelligent people. Just because they’re not with you yet, doesn’t mean they won’t be. By providing your team with personal and professional wins (i.e. outlining how the change will make their lives easier both at work and in day-to-day life), they’ll feel as though the change is in their favour. Benefits can help bring them onside to work with you and make the most out of the transition.
Showing how the change will eliminate a known pain-point can have a similar impact. It’s about finding and articulating mutual goals, not persuading them that they’re wrong for being cautious.
Ultimately, change is unpredictable. There will always be some resistance to change (and always has been), and your role is to make the process as stress-free for your team as possible. Gaining a detailed understanding of the psychology of change in business – how your team ticks and what motivates them – is just the beginning.