“Change is a continuous process. You cannot assess it with the static yardstick of a limited time frame. When a seed is sown into the ground, you cannot immediately see the plant. You have to be patient. With time, it grows into a large tree. And then the flowers bloom, and only then can the fruits be plucked”.
A major change can occur in any organization at any time. Change is something of a constant in most fast-paced environments and is likely to have a tremendous impact on the organizations, the employees, the team structures and the ways of working. The challenge with change is that it can either bring positive, innovative and new outcomes or it can provoke confusion, loss, resistance and instability. Not everyone is on board with a change. The way that individuals react to change depends not only on the change itself, but also on the impact that the change will have on them and their personal stance to change in general. In addition, the way that people experience change is different as some people might enjoy it, while others might find it uncomfortable and obscure. When a major change takes place there will always be a variation of emotional reactions, such as shock, denial, anger, fear and building the proper engagement to change will need time.
How can you work through times of change and support your team?
1. Focus on effective communication.
Effective communication can be a powerful force to prepare a team for a major change. It can reduce misunderstandings, glue the team together, uncover deeper issues and concerns, and move things ahead. Communication is vital. Your number one priority is to provide a clear, consistent and positive message. Be honest about what is happening and what is going to happen. Inform and update your team regularly. You do not need to overload people with information, you have to give them the time to digest the information and space to work through their emotions and thoughts. You have to be realistic and not over- expecting from everyone a positive reaction or to move immediately from denial to commitment. It is important to be well prepared for any reaction, to maintain a positive rapport and recognize that debates might be beneficial as well.
2. Allow people to express their views.
During a major change is imperative to give the chance to people to talk and express their worries or complaints. This can happen either in one-to-one meetings or at team meetings. You need to find the time to gain a sense of how they are feeling and which are their thoughts. Listen and take the time to answer questions in a positive manner. Make clear that you will be available to support them throughout the process. It is very easy for people to get pulled down into the difficulties associated with change. Therefore, as a leader, you need to build a positive mindset on how to overcome all the difficulties that might arise and identify some actions that will be taken in advance for everyone to be better prepared. This way individuals will develop confidence and will be ready to adjust to their new environment.
3. Build engagement.
Helping the team to get engaged in the change is crucial and powerful. Engaged team members are not only committed and aligned to the goals of the company, but they are willing to invest effort to help those who are struggling with the change in order the organization to succeed. Think about projects or new roles that they can be involved in. Set some short goals and understand what enthuses them. Ensure that the individuals remain motivated and are able to contribute to the new change. Involve people in creating solutions to obstacles and make them feel part of the process. Pair people up so the more positive can coach the reluctant ones. Build in the time to explore issues related to change together.
There are a lot of signs in the team that indicate negativity, reluctance, discourage and low energy for new things. As a leader, you need to look for these signs and find alternative signs that bring new energy, enthusiasm and encouragement. Look for the potential saboteurs and offer regular praise and feedback. Praising positive behaviors and ideas will minimize the willingness to opt out of the change. Find ways to reward the individuals that are putting some extra effort to adapt to the new objectives of the organization. People will happily take more responsibilities if their efforts are recognized. Never forget that you are their actual role model and if you act negative and you are not open to the new challenges, you cannot expect for your team to be positive.
5. Equip employees with new skills to manage change.
Providing adequate training, guidance, mentoring and coaching to employees is essential in order to perform their new responsibilities as they progress through the change process. You need to inspire and motivate employees by providing the resources that are associated with new skills. As an effective leader, you need to develop training opportunities in different formats. People are learning differently, so you need to try to find a learning format that works for each individual. Give your employees opportunities to use their new skills right away and allow them to have some extra time to focus on their new skills. Finally, give frequent formal and informal assessment of progress and feedback. A feedback that is clear, specific and timely motivates individuals to continue while regular assessment gives you valuable information on the progress they make and how confident they feel about change.
"Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up."