Guest post by Suzanne Weinstein (learn more about Suzanne at the end of this post)
Change is the one constant we know is going to occur and it is also one of the biggest challenges a leader will face. Leaders are acutely aware that change never ends. In fact, most organizations are interested in changing, not because they want to change, but because our fast-changing economic environment requires it in order to stay relevant. This is great for consumers but often difficult for organizations to manage.
Managing change is one of the toughest jobs a leader will have to face in his or her career. By in large, most senior leaders or managers are not trained appropriately for creating, sustaining or empowering change in their organization. MBA programs spend little time, if any, in this area. Employees who are promoted from within are typically not educated in change management, but are expected to embrace it as part of their role. Though they take on the change, it’s often ineffective, not because of a lack of willingness, but because of a full plate of work, and little experience in the area of change, motivation and empowerment of their staffs. During these times of change, managers are faced with emotional challenges, such as: employees are often fearful or unmotivated; morale is usually at its lowest levels; being proactive is usually a thought or a wish vice the reality of crisis management. With all these emotional challenges, managers get worn out and changing is the last thing they want to do. It is yet another emotional challenge given by “out of touch” senior leaders. Of course this may not be the case at all, just a general perception that senior leaders have never addressed.
How to manage change is not as difficult as most people believe. What leaders often do not realize is that change begins with them. “What?” Some may say. This is simple in concept but difficult in application because most leaders are high-achieving, high-impact, “type A” people who are used to “pushing” initiatives. Change begins first and foremost with communication. Leaders frequently think they are communicating, but rarely check to see if their message was received until it’s too late. Communicating means leaders share some of their “privileged information” with their teams. During great changes, employees will create information if it is not given. This happens via rumor and gossip that runs rampant through the ranks before the leader even knows what happened. It is not uncommon for leaders to come from an Executive Staff meeting where details of what has happened, and what the next steps are going to be, are shared with the Executive team. The executives then leave the meeting to go back to their respective departments and are now moving to a different rhythm based on the information they just learned. This information is rarely shared with their directors or employees and therefore, the leader and the group become “out of sync”. One can see how this easily becomes a roadblock. To avoid the roadblocks of communication, leaders need to get information to their people in masses.
Here are a few simple tips for communicating change within your organization:
Get out from behind your computer and get in front of your people.
- Hold all-inclusive meetings.
- Ask your employees to help. Most employees seek to be part of the solution but are often not told how or offered the opportunity do so.
- Communicate your goals clearly.
- Make your organizational goals meaningful by linking employee efforts to your goals.
Have management teams share information from their leadership meetings. Leaders need to be specific as to what information all managers should be sharing. This shows employees that the leadership team is “in sync” and moving in a collective direction. This information might include:
- Department progress as it relates to overall goals
- New programs/initiatives and how employees can be a part of the growth/change
Give frequent email updates regarding your changes and the progress or barriers that are noticed from a leadership perspective.
Sustaining change is easy if you are used to communicating to your organization frequently and regularly. If you have a plan, share it. If the plan changes, that’s okay. Share the new direction. Plans are meant to change. The idea of sustaining change means that we are flexible and willing to adjust and flow with the changing times of our environment. Take the mystery out of the changes and give it meaning and purpose by sharing why there is a need to change. Employees greatly appreciate information. It breeds loyalty and empowerment when they are brought into the fold of change instead of change “happening to them.” When employees feel “a part” of the organization they will do just about anything to make the organization, and the teams, thrive. They rarely settle for status quo and in my experience, become proactive in motivating others.
About the Author
By Suzanne Weinstein, international consultant and president of In Sync Consulting, an executive leadership and dynamic team leadership development firm. For more information about how to get your organization In Sync with sustaining change by creating flow and a rhythm that employees, managers and leaders embrace, contact Suzanne at (888) 441-9141 or [email protected]