How to Support your Team through Change
How do you react when you hear the word change?
Optimism? Fear? Anger? Excitement? Nervousness? Overwhelm? Relief? Dread? Concern?
Whether our responses are seen as positive or negative depends on the actions that an organisation and its leaders take and the very personal way that we as individuals view a change. (E.g. a threat that will take something away or as an opportunity that will bring something better)
Now you may be thinking “Why should we as leaders be concerned with how people respond to change? It’s part of their job. We don’t have time to molly coddle people!”
Well, purely in business terms you should care about shortening the inevitable drop in productivity that comes with major changes and you do this by learning about the human response to change and how leaders can help people move through it and become fully productive more quickly. The other reason is that although people have a free choice in responding negatively or positively to change, if they stay in the negative frame of mind it is likely to have consequences for health, well-being and morale, all of which impacts business performance.
So what is the first, and in my view the most important, step in supporting a healthy and effective response to change?
Creating a felt need
This is what John Kotter refers to as creating a “burning platform for change.” Leaders tend not to spend enough time making the case for why a change is needed. If people affected by the coming change don’t know the reasons behind it they will be less likely to move out of their comfort zone and will respond either by turning a blind eye, telling themselves “this too will pass” or may blame management for bringing in yet another “unnecessary” change and actively resist it.
When leaders are clear about the internal and external drivers for the change, and the consequences of not changing and amplify these drivers, it helps to create the felt need for change.
Whilst communicating the drivers for change, over and over in different formats, it’s also vital to involve people. Hear their responses, ask for their ideas and suggestions, listen to their perceived losses and explore how these can be addressed.
Much of our individual response to change is a function of how much control or influence we feel we have. Imagine sitting next to the driver of a car, holding the map, making collaborative decisions about the journey, compared with being locked in the boot, gagged and bound. Our level of control or influence over the change plays an important part in how we view it.
I would love to hear your experiences of organisational change.
- What worked well for you?
- What did you learn?