For many years we’ve been talking about the increase in the pace of change and recently had worldwide change forced upon us due to the Covid19 pandemic. With significant and (sometimes) tragic consequences.

Whilst we can’t always plan for a global change event, we can, as managers, be mindful of how we manage change and the various challenges that organisational change can bring for those we lead.  

From a business perspective, change may be seen through rose-tinted spectacles. It can be positively associated with technological advancement, cultural change, cost savings, innovation or operational efficiencies. And, whilst employees wish to share in organisational success it’s inevitable that there will be some disruption and uncertainty along the way.  

PEOPLE AS THE CENTRE OF YOUR FUTURE CHANGE PLANS

With regard to the changing circumstances following Covid19 putting people at the heart of any organisational change has never been more important. Consequently, leaders of change will need to have a deeper level of emotional intelligence to be effective in helping the individuals in their team transition to a brave new world. Managers will need to reflect on their own personal reactions to change, gain insights from past experiences and apply this learning to support future change. This will help the team adapt and move smoothly through the challenges that may arise. 

Whilst we are in the current state of flux, the need for local managers to develop and demonstrate emotional intelligence competencies will be invaluable. Todays’ multi-generational workforce wants meaningful work and managers who can inspire through great coaching and effective communication. There’s also a greater emphasis on the role of local team managers as the workplace shifts to flexible, hybrid or polyworking (The Culture Builders) as the new norm. 

Leadership in the 21st century is much more about human connection than it’s ever been. Organisations are more dispersed and less hierarchical; careers are much less about ladders and more about “Career Squiggles”, and people are seeking much more from their jobs than ever before. Consequently, anyone leading or managing change has to adapt, comply and commit to change with agility and authenticity.

LEADING THROUGH CHANGE – TRUST & ENGAGEMENT

During any change process, the role of a manager is to help lead a team through change, be that everyday occurrences or a significant change programme. It’s a manager’s role to inspire and influence their team through change by building trust and engagement, demonstrating genuine care for team members and dealing with questions and concerns compassionately.  It’s equally important that managers behave consistently and professionally by maintaining their commitments, following up on promises and avoiding gossip which could undermine the implementation of the change. 

Whilst leaders and managers can of course initiate their own change within their immediate team they are also responsible for supporting any enforced organisational change and helping their team move to a new psychological space. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. At times, managers are required to implement change that they don’t believe in, however “unless… managers are accountable for making sure that change happens systematically and rigorously” they won’t develop the core competence of effective change management (Change Management Needs to Change, HBR – Ron Ashkenas).

There are a number of actions that a manager facing this dilemma can take.

  1. Make sure that you understand fully the vision for the change by asking questions to gather the information you need. Remember you will need to answer questions posed by your team members so what do you think they will want to know?
  2. When delivering news about the change situation that you don’t believe in, avoid openly sharing your fears or frustrations with your team. This could reduce your ability to influence and lead them through the change.
  3. Find a peer, senior manager, mentor or coach to help you make sense of this change. This “safe space” is where you can share your views and opinions and seek advice. Perhaps reframing the change will help you to better understand your own personal reaction and see things from a different perspective.
  4. Finally make a personal choice to either comply or commit to the change so that you can then lead your team through each stage of implementation.

TWO TYPES OF CHANGE

Most people don’t appreciate that there are effectively two types of change – external and internal – with the external physical change resulting in an internal emotional and psychological change.    

The over-arching objective of change management is to address the internal emotional and physical transition process and to help each individual deal with change on a personal level.

It’s important to remember that the way each person will process change is unique.  Creating and maintaining engagement during times of change will support the transition process and generate trust. The most effective way to do this is to ask questions and listen intently to the responses and concerns that are raised. As we know one of “the most basic and powerful ways to connect to another person is to listen.” (Rachel Naomi Remen).

CHANGE AS A PROCESS

Change is a process of learning and adjusting. It can take time for each team member to transition to new ways of being, doing and behaving.

In his book “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes”, William Bridges acknowledges how important it is to allow for a period of adjustment and acceptance which will support a successful change outcome. Whilst adjustment won’t happen overnight, by keeping an open mind, through “one new perception, one fresh thought, one act of surrender…” “Shift Happens!” (Shift Happens, Robert Holden)

Whilst we each respond to change in our own way, as resilient human beings we do gradually shift towards a “new normal” by creating new habits and routines which builds a platform of stability, however this will take time.  Managers’ however, need to be aware of, and recognise, the range of emotional responses that they may witness during change activities. This will help them become better at helping their team members during the change process and also increase their own capability to manage change.

Additionally, a manager’s emotional state can infect and affect the team and how they respond to any given change. It’s therefore essential for managers to increase their self-awareness and monitor their own emotional state as they help the team to move through the change. Leaders of change need to be mindful about what they do and say – they have followers who will be inspired by actions that create trust, hope, compassion and stability (Strengths Based Leadership, Tom Rath, Barry Conchie 2008).

Call Co-Creation on +44 7876 024555 to speak with a member of our specialist team or email us for further guidance on how to manage change using a strengths-based approach on  info@co-creation.group