Change - AGAIN?
Most people don’t love change of any kind in any area of life. Some will grudgingly accept it, while others downright hate and fight it every step of the way. As much as we know our lives cannot remain the same forever, truthfully, the prospect of change does not usually have us jumping up and down, hand in the air, begging, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Businesses also go through transformative events. Mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, turnarounds, re-engineering, downsizing – all of these are difficult circumstances. And all difficult circumstances create the opportunity for everyone involved (management team, employees, vendors, and customers, alike) to develop a negative attitude and blame it on the situation. It doesn’t matter whether the particulars behind the attitudes are real or perceived. Because perception is reality – what people think, how they act, and what they say is always based on what they believe to be true.
Communication may never be as important as when dealing with change. Leaders at every level must be unified in explanations to others about how the “new” will look, the strategy for moving forward, and the core messages of the transition.
Early-stage thoughtfulness put into developing and communicating an organization’s change strategy is key to aligning the thoughts of the staff, customers, and vendors.
A few thoughts that may help ease transition:
Unify the Leadership Team. Employees look to the leadership team for direction, information, and guidance. The best way to muddy your communication is for the leadership team to be unable to speak in one voice, with one message. Clearly articulate the change including the “why” behind the decision.
Be Forthright and Forthcoming. Employees can handle more than we think, but they want the truth. Give them the benefit of the doubt when deciding what to share or not share and communicate this information as soon as possible. Sharing information as soon as reasonably possible – do you really have to know every detail from A to Z before you can share anything to others impacted by the change? – or even communicating that you don’t have an answer is far superior to simply not addressing questions.
Focus on the Future. More than anything else, employees tend to worry about the personal impact of an upcoming change. Leaders who consider upfront the impact of organizational changes, geographic shifts, etc., on employees, customers, and vendors have an opportunity to communicate the future vision and head off the “what’s in it for me” syndrome. Empathetically addressing those questions first encourages buy-in at all levels of the organization.
Schedule Regular Discussions. Communicating regularly and consistently is imperative to successful change. Even when there is little to update, regular communication reduces the power of rumors, opinions, and inaccurate perceptions before they have a chance to take on a life of their own.
Oversimplifying in the face of change does enormous damage. Do you really need to use the sledgehammer of disrespect when the scalpel of open, honest communication would do a much better job?
Encourage Feedback. Providing an open forum for employees to ask questions and talk about what’s on their minds is imperative to successful change management. Include opportunities to listen to emotions, skepticism, and ideas that arise from the upcoming change.
Empower – and Equip – Employees. Ensure your employees really understand the reason behind the change and provide them with the tools to convey key messages to customers, vendors, and influencers. Unifying the leadership team is just the first step (see #1 above); the same message must be delivered throughout the ranks in the organization. Giving your employees the tools, resources, and materials to help them understand and communicate the change enables them to embrace and support it as well.
Be Quick and Decisive. With change comes challenges and opportunities. Take the time to incorporate your communication strategy into the overall change strategy to make the transition as easy as possible and to help alleviate the rumors that are sure to surface when news of a change is spread throughout the grapevine.
Change doesn’t have to be scary or secretive.
It can be embraced and supported. Successful change starts with a great communication strategy plan, including some of the ideas listed above. When you engage and trust your employees to help make the change happen efficiently and effectively, the results can be astounding.
Bottom line: Begin with a clear, concise, and unified message. Continue with openness, honesty, and forthrightness. Solidify with focus. And the change will be realized because of company-wide ownership.
Need help with your Change Transformation? Take the initiative and touch base with me. I’ll help you find your path to reach your full potential. And we’ll have fun on the journey of discovery.
Let’s move forward. Together.
P.S. Book a Complimentary Strategy Session so we can get you moving in the right direction; click on my Complimentary Strategy Session calendar link here and let’s book a time together so you can get started today!
P.P.S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with proven ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.