“Change is hard”
As leaders, it’s our job to manage change for the team. We often have the most information about why the change is necessary and how it will benefit the team. We just need to be transparent and share it. Proactive communication in the face of change helps a team journey through the change management process more quickly and smoothly.
With any life change, or professional change, as humans, we go through four distinct phases: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment as seen below. It’s a journey we all go through despite the magnitude of the change. Our first thought is usually – how will this impact me? That’s why any time there is a new organization chart, everyone first looks for their name. It’s how our brains work. Survival mode. That’s why change often is connected to fear. We fear the unknown. We do not know what the change will bring.
This reminds me of a story a leader shared at one my leadership workshops a few years back. Justin’s team was experiencing high production defects. He challenged his team to come up with some solutions to address the problem. The team brainstormed a few options, weighed them carefully, and presented a solution to Justin. Justin agreed, made some tweaks, and announced the process change in his next team meeting. He also explained the why behind the change – citing the increase in defects. The change in process was met with ferocious disagreement. People voiced serious concerns with the impact on productivity, and even complained that they did not have the resources to implement the change.
Justin remembered the change management process. He recognized that his team was experiencing denial, and even some active resistance already. He chose to look at this as a good thing. The team was already mentally preparing for the change. He asked his team to help him understand what resources would be necessary and quickly equipped the team for success. He then had a second meeting for the team to air their grievances, and involved the team that had brainstormed the solution to lead the discussion. He had one-on-one conversations before the team meeting to be prepared for what would be said, and even asked team members that usually remain quiet to share their perspectives, even if they disagreed. He created a safe place for people to express their feelings – good, bad, or indifferent. Everyone was heard. People need to weigh in to buy in. In the subsequent final discussion, he asked everyone to personally commit to the change and to hold the team accountable.
What I liked about what Justin did, was the he was not afraid to make the change. He did not let the resistance overtake the better good of the team. He listened to his team, involved them in the decision, and emphasized the why behind the change in all communications. He also successfully used peer pressure to hold the team accountable when he knew they were ready to adopt the change.
Leaders that manage change proactively have better business results.
How will you manage change?