Managing change

ONE of the difficult challenges of being a people manager is that you are now responsible for a group of people who are dependent on you for direction. This is especially true when there are organizational changes that might derail their professional and personal plans, or when they have to make life decisions because of new work requirements. When things become uncertain because of these changes, your role as a people manager is to assure your team that while things are invariably evolving, you will consistently be with them.

You have heard it multiple times—nothing is permanent except change. You need to accept that change is inevitable, and your role entails for you to move with the changes in the organization. There will be cases when the change might be something you will not agree with, but you will have to implement them nonetheless.

When this happens, management expects that you implement the changes whether you like it or not. The first thing you need to do is to be convinced yourself of the need for change. You can talk to your manager and then ask all of your questions until you are convinced. But before meeting with your manager, list down all your questions, and even the questions that your team might ask, so you will not miss anything.

Just like any change in your team, you need to walk the talk. You cannot expect your team to adopt the changes that you yourself are not doing. Your team will expect this from you so you need to accept the change whole-heartedly. If you do not agree with the change, it will be extremely difficult to implement it because it will show in your body language and choice of words. So before implementing any change, you need to be fully committed to it.

Your attitude and your actions will show your team how willing you are to adopt the change. It does not bode well for your team if you panic, or you become extremely reactive to changes in the organization. These indicate that you have not thought through all the changes that might happen. As their leader, your team looks up to you as their lighthouse in turbulent times. You need to keep your composure and think of ways to navigate the rough waters of change.

You also need to understand that change does not happen overnight. People have learning curves and you need to learn when individual team members are ready for the next stage. Make sure that every team member is ready for that stage so nobody gets left behind. When someone is struggling, you need to stop and encourage the other team members to help the straggler. This will send a clear message that everyone is important to the whole team.

Develop a clear plan for implementing the change so that expectations are managed. Part of this is establishing a clear and open communication plan. Watch out for behavioral changes and what might be hindering your team from implementing the change, and identify scenarios where your team will have difficulty applying the change. This will help you prepare for when these issues come up and you will have ready answers for their concerns.

Mitigate adverse effects by developing clear action plans when issues come up. Remember that the primary concern of your team is how the changes will affect the way they do their work. By establishing a clear path to how the team will implement the change, they can focus on their work more and worry less on what could happen. This will help minimize business interruptions and channel your team’s energies on their deliverables. This will give you time to focus on clearing their path of any obstacles that might hinder them from fully accepting the change, and looking for tools and resources that will enable them to adopt the changes to their work processes permanently.

You can also hold an open forum where your team can vent out their anxieties so you can address them. If the issues are organization-wide, you can bring it to the attention of human resources or your direct manager so they can provide you clear guidance on how to address them. Take it a step further by allowing your team to approach you individually when they have questions on the changes taking place.

Whatever you do in terms of communication, do not stifle their dissent. Their comments provide invaluable insight into what they are thinking and feeling. Their feedback is a rich source of issues you need to address, so you can develop appropriate action plans before the concerns become significant impediments to the change. 

Get in touch with other managers and hold regular meetings for exchanging best practices for implementing the change. In big organizations, a change management team is created to address issues and concerns in its adoption.

This team is composed of different people from different departments, and they are tasked to develop information, education and communication campaigns to implement the change. This cross-functional team is an important element in the change management process to monitor if the implementation is successful, and to provide multiple perspectives on organization-wide issues.

Reinforce the change by rewarding people who have successfully implemented it. This can come in the form of bonuses or incentives which might not necessarily be monetary. If you can, use success stories to reinforce the change and convince stragglers to at least try. This will tell others that success is possible and it will also convince others of the possible benefits they can get from the change.

Your role as a people manager is to give direction to your team when organizational changes threaten to upend your team’s status quo. Most of their concerns will be personal, so it is important to understand how your team will react to sudden organizational changes. For this reason, it is important to know your team so that when they are confronted with something unfamiliar, you can allay their fears and point them in the right direction.

Image credits: Charlesdeluvio on Unsplash


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