I am often asked by leaders to help their team to deal with a change that is being implemented. They want their team members to “get on board” and be “more resilient” with change. This drives me crazy.
When leaders aren’t personally impacted by the change (their jobs, scope of their work, etc.) and they’ve been involved in discussions and planning it for months, there seems to be an expectation that employees accept the change and get on board quickly. Why wouldn’t they? Logically, the change makes financial sense. It makes sense for what’s happening in your industry, and for moving forward in the best way possible.
But have you created a compelling story for the change?
Too often, the change isn’t connected clearly enough (or at all) to the WHY or vision of the company. There is no heart in the way the change is being communicated. Or it gets communicated once face to face, and worse, updates only get communicated by email.
And then leaders get frustrated that employees aren’t getting on board or getting on board fast enough.
It is a leadership competency to LEAD change. It is different than managing change – the process of getting from A to B. Leading change is leading your employees - your people - through the psychological and emotional transition of going from A to B.
It involves communicating over and over and over and over, and over again, linking it to the WHY (your company’s compelling story of why you do what you do) and then allowing people to share and express their hopes, as well as their concerns and fears.
Not once. Not twice. A lot.
It requires you as a leader to engage employees in the change as much as possible. Ask them: how is this change positive? How is it not? Engaging them where they have the ability for input or influence. Let them know how, and provide opportunities to actually become involved. Because we all know that when we feel like we have a stake in the game, we are more committed.
There are lots of tools and formulas for managing change, but leading it requires you as a leader to be IN IT with your team, your people, your employees. You need to sit with them in their discomfort, their dislikes, worries, and fears about the change. This might be difficult and uncomfortable for you. Sorry, but this is part of your job.
There is no other way if you want to do it well, do it right, do it with humanity. And the only way for you as a leader to get comfortable with discomfort is to actually do things that make you uncomfortable. There is no cross training for this. Same for resiliency.
The only thing that builds resiliency is by going through something difficult and coming out the other side.
You need to model this for your employees. They need to know the “why,” the purpose of the change, and clearly see how it connects to the “why” of the company. (If you can’t connect it, that’s a whole other problem.) They need to see your vulnerability and humanity through the process.
They need to see and experience that you are willing to listen, and be in it with them through the emotional, psychological part of the change. As a leader, you then have to work to address those concerns. According to McKinsey, two of the reasons change efforts fail is because of employee resistance and management’s behaviour not supporting the change. As a leader, you also have to count yourself in as someone who needs to change.
Ultimately, if you want people to act like adults, you have to treat them like adults. This doesn’t mean that they need to ‘suck it up.’ You wouldn’t respond that way if your best friend was going through a change that was impacting them. You would listen. You would empathize. You would let them talk about it. You’d help them to find their way through it.
This is all that your employees want from you, too.
Pam is a super cool facilitator and consultant who works with leaders and their teams. At Admin Slayer, we’ve been thrilled to have her facilitate each of our team retreats, and help our team create and engage with our vision, values and strategy. With Pam’s help, we’ve learned best practices in communications, we’ve connected more deeply with our team, and created a culture that we take pride in.