Change is inevitable. You know that. You also know that change is the catalyst for innovation and growth. You know that change is necessary, and as a leader, it’s your job to guide your employees through change and ensure the best possible outcome.
Still, what if change feels never-ending? The last 12 months have been wrought with change, and with an eventual return to the office and lifted pandemic restrictions and lockdowns, more change is coming. Just as you adjusted to the last normal, a new normal is around the corner.
However, even outside of global pandemics and industry upheaval, organizations are always changing—maybe not to the same degree we’ve experienced of late—but change is always happening. It must if an organization wants to remain viable and relevant. You can’t stop change, but you can learn how to better manage it personally and lead your employees through it more effectively, with this advice.
Check in on yourself first
The best leaders immediately think about how a change is going to impact their teams. However, any change affects you too. Before you start thinking about how you are going to communicate the change to your team or implement it, ask yourself “How do I genuinely feel about the change? And why do I feel that way?”
If you are struggling to accept it, you will have a hard time convincing your team to support it. Acknowledge how you feel about it, so you can actively work to prevent pushing your own biases on to staff.
Understand the change
It’s critical that you know why the change is necessary, so figure out what, if anything, you need to know before you communicate the change to your team. Employees and other stakeholders will have questions, and the best way to keep their morale, confidence and cooperation up, is to have the answers.
Ask your boss plenty of questions, gather as much detail as you can, and create a pros and cons list. You will feel better prepared to discuss it with your team, and you will be able to quell some of the uncertainty around the change.
It’s worth noting that you often must act without much information. For a variety of reasons, you may not be privy to the details. In that case, find out as much as you can—and confirm what you have the authority to share with your team. In some cases, the best you can do is be transparent about the lack of information you have in front of you at the moment.
Prepare to stave off concerns
Before talking to your team, take some time to think about what you can do to avoid backlash. How are employees likely to feel about the change? How can you ease any concerns? How can you prevent worst-case scenarios? What steps can you take to minimize negative outcomes? What are some potential obstacles and how can you overcome them?
One of the worst things you can do is sugarcoat a bad situation, so be candid about why the change is happening and how it could impact the team. To build and maintain your employees’ trust, be as transparent as possible. As important, prove to them that you have already considered the consequences of the change and have started planning to ensure the best possible outcome.
Conduct a feedback session—not a gripe session
After you have come to terms with the change, communicate changes face-to-face (even if face-to-face is over video chat). Email is not the proper format to announce a change, especially an unpopular one, because employees must have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
While it’s smart to offer employees space to air their concerns, limit complaining. After all, the change is imperative, and whining or arguing about it won’t change that. Instead, keep the meeting focused on solutions. Ask employees to weigh in on issues they expect, and then brainstorm ideas for resolving that issue. Your employees are often closer to the work than you, and they will undoubtedly pinpoint potential problems you didn’t.
Remember, even positive changes can have a short-term negative impact. Involving employees in problem solving reduces pain points and helps to ensure the change is implemented successfully. You’ll be more likely to reduce their resistance and gain their buy in.
Move forward together
Don’t make employees feel like the change is happening to them, but rather, with them. Together create an action plan for implementing the change, focusing on the most critical actions first. Assign team members specific roles in executing the change, and establish tasks and goals—with specific deadlines—for everyone involved. That holds everyone accountable for contributing to a smooth process.
Most important: Keep the lines of communication open. Monitor progress, but also check in with employees to see how they are managing the change and to troubleshoot issues.
At JS Consulting, we empower leaders to navigate their biggest challenges. If you or your organization would benefit from change management coaching, contact us today.