Well, December is finally over and the New Year is already upon us and with it will be its trusty sidekick named ‘change’. To some, ushering in change is welcomed, especially with the onslaught of a new year as it can represent a fresh start, a clean slate. It can signify that the past is behind us and the predetermined “triumphant” future is ahead. It is an excuse to try new things, pursue challenging opportunities; or without guilt, forge false promises to ourselves. To some extent, we expect change in January. But that’s January.
The harsh reality is change is constant and it wears many faces. It affects our lives- our families, our businesses, our dreams and is the next “only guarantee” in life behind death and taxes. Change often creeps up on us like an unwanted cold. It intrudes upon our lives like an uninvited party guest and can viciously control our actions and emotions like an addiction. It is one thing to which no one can escape or fail to fall victim to. And yet, despite our history and experience with change, we expeditiously react with surprise every time change knocks on our door. By human nature, we are then so quick to dress ourselves in the clothes of change: skepticism, frustration, doubt, insecurity, fear- putting on layer after layer until we are bogged down with all this excess weight…
What if change could be the gift we didn’t ask for?
Change is certain, especially in business. We can’t will it away or fight against it and until we recognize this, we can’t learn to deal with change, manage it or even better, reap the potential benefits that change can offer.
So as business leaders, how can we improve how change is managed and help others cope?
The ‘Heart’ of the Matter
Change is emotional. Be cognizant that people process, react and adjust to change differently. At the end of the day, we are people who work with people and we work for people. We are not robots with on/off switches, so provide those around you with the time and resources they need. Keep in mind the quicker you yourself can work through the change, the better off you’ll be and the more capable you’ll be of helping others and bringing them along with you.
No Sugar on This Coat
Adapting to change can be easier when one feel’s they have all the details. Address the current reality, delete the wonder and tell it like it is. Don’t sugarcoat and fight the urge to beat around the bush. It’s crucial to be upfront and honest from the start. Through a change process, people need the ‘what’ and the ‘how, but it’s imperative to clarify the ‘why’. The ‘why’ garners understanding, assists with coping and can administer the needed motivation to move forward.
It’s often not what the situation actually is, it’s what we create or make the situation out to mean. We can’t control change, but we CAN control how we react to it.
A crystal clear vision is the nucleus of your change plan. The vision is where your company’s beliefs, passion, and purpose collide. Paint a bold, colorful, and exciting picture and articulate all the vision entails. The vision is what conjures hope; it births insight to the future and puts meaning back into one’s work. People have to not only understand the vision but they have to believe it; and the only way they’ll believe is by your own leadership, belief and conviction in the vision.
Devise a Playbook
The playbook is your strategy (or set of strategies) to execute the vision. Assemble teams, put leaders in place and articulate the step-by-step journey and intended results. Keep in mind that strategies may change. The only thing permanent in a change management plan is the change itself.
Reiteration Is the New Communication
We obviously know that communication is key in successful change management. The mistake generally made is a lack of reinforcement and reiteration of the vision & strategy. The initial message is delivered but can become diluted with time and activity. People wonder if what they’re working towards is having an impact. Rally everyone together regularly to reiterate the vision, brief them on updates or changes to the strategy and share results and progress made. Change is about creating and sustaining a movement!
There can be nothing more stressful for people dealing with change than an absent leader. Be present. Establish an open door policy and be available to listen, coach and provide answers to the unknown when possible. Help quiet fear and banish insecurities. A leader’s presence alone can help stifle potentially destructive conversation and lessen the need for possible future damage control.
To help build morale and strengthen culture, celebrate wins and accomplishments along the way. There is no doubt that recognition contributes to productivity and success!
Although sometimes revealed in hindsight, change often represents opportunity. We just have to open to seeing and receiving what that opportunity is.
Image: StockFresh Leadership