In the business world, there is a constant flow of change. In fact, some industries are all about change. We have new technologies, restructures, new team members, new board members, changes in governments, new laws etc. Managing people through change is often difficult, especially if they know a change is coming but they’re not sure what it is yet.
The biggest issue with change management being conducted poorly is lack of communication. People really just want to be kept informed for a start. The grapevine (the unofficial communication line) carries a majority of truth but is often unreliable. Companies that provide transparency are more likely to maintain a sense of loyalty in their staff.
Many people are resistant to change. In fact you may have resisted some change yourself. If change is resisted, it’s normally something that has to be accepted at some point so you may be putting off the inevitable. As a leader, if change is coming, you need to get on board quickly so you can assist your team with getting on board.
A great book on change is “Who moved my cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. The book is simply a story about two mice and two people who are used to having cheese in the same place available. One day the cheese diminishes and eventually is gone altogether. The story follows the characters and their attitudes to this change. I highly recommend you read the book.
There are several messages in the book including the following:
- Change Happens. Accept the fact that change is part of life and things will change. We can’t expect all things to remain constant or there will be no progress.
- Anticipate the change. Keep your eyes open. Things don’t stay the same for very long. Be aware of what’s going on around you and be prepared to move again. Don’t allow yourself to be blindsided and catch you unaware.
- Monitor the change. It is hard to always be on the lookout for constant change – especially after change has just happened. However, monitoring the change to make sure it isn’t going to change again without you knowing is important – it’s like an extension of anticipating the change. Just keep looking and seeing how it’s panning out.
- Adapt to change quickly. The quicker you adapt, the quicker you can embrace and enjoy the new change. Old habits and attitudes need to go when the new change comes in. If you cling onto these old habits and attitudes, you just make things difficult for those around you and yourself. You don’t want to be the one who is always complaining about it not being like it used to be. When you consciously accept change, you find you just then get on with it and you can move on. It’s only when we refuse to accept or just ignore the change that we find ourselves constantly ‘swimming’ against the tide – and it’s really hard work!
- Move with the change. This requires effort and means that you run with the new change. You actually move in the direction of the change. Be a mover, not a passive spectator of change.
- Enjoy the change. Once it’s happened, take time to enjoy it. If it’s a new person moving in to a role – enjoy the fresh experience. If you have a new process to perform, take time to enjoy the new opportunity etc. If you keep being obstinate about the change you will never be able to enjoy it and the rest of your life. If you don’t embrace the change and get the blessings of it, you will look at change as the enemy and something that will steal whatever enjoyment you could have had that the change could bring.
- Be ready to change again. Positivity feeds on itself. If you have the right attitude no matter the circumstances you will enjoy life so much more. So if change is running away from you, catch up to it and change your attitude towards it and enjoy life!
In order to help yourself and other people move with the change you can focus on the following:
- Seek to understand the change
- Make a conscious decision to embrace the change
- Identify the benefits of the change
- Link the change to your own personal values
- Accept that others may resist or struggle
- Explore the perception of others about the change.
Let me explain a bit more about each of these points and they can assist you in accepting and embracing the change and how you can then help others to do the same.
Seek to understand the change. For us to accept change, it helps to fully understand what it is and what it means for us. So many times, people assume what a change is and find it is something very different when it happens.
Consciously accept the change. When you make the decision to accept the change, it allows you to move on and move forward. Until you decide to accept the change, you will be using up a certain amount of energy in resistance to it.
Look for benefits in the change. Sometimes it’s hard. If the change is a reduction in salary due to cut backs, you may find it difficult to find benefits. One may be that at least you still have a job. Finding benefits helps to focus on what to look forward to as a result of the change. It gives you focus and a positive link.
Link the change to your personal drivers or values. If you can find a link in the change that matches your own personal drivers, again you will find a very good focus to put your energies into.
Accept that others may struggle with the change. If you can change or move with the change because you have identified certain benefits or established some good links, it doesn’t mean that everyone else has. Be patient with others and accept that it may take a while longer for them to get on board.
Ask others what they are thinking about the change. Explore options with them. Ask them how it will affect them, have they identified any benefits themselves.
Help others accept change
Once you have managed all this for yourself, it’s time for you to help your team do the same. You may like to run a short workshop to help them go through these processes themselves and help them manage this change process. Help them identify benefits, link to personal drivers and understand the change.
Sell the benefits of the change to others and if you feel like it become a champion of the change. Be someone who is an example of the change benefits and what they mean.
Part of the leader’s role is to manage change and help others through it and the best way to do that is to become converted to the change yourself. You may need to take some time out and follow the six steps above so you can internalise the correct attitude and be ready to help others experience the same for themselves. Remember the longer you resist the change, the less happiness you will find.
Find out more in the book: ‘Leading a Team’ available on Amazon here >>>
You may liketo watch this 1 minute video on Managing Change: