Leaders- Caution! Choose Change Chits Wisely

If you are a workplace leader or manager, change is part of the job.  How you manage change with your staff matters to the leadership success equation.

What do staff expect from their leaders?  Research claims primarily – order, direction and protection.  Staff wants leaders to maintain fair and consistent norms. Yet effective leadership often means changing norms and even mandating change to meet objectives.  This can be a paradox and clearly a challenge for leaders.

I regularly coach leaders with their day to day “people” challenges – helping them manage change is a part of my daily coaching conversations.

Tips from the Coach:

  • Too much change is bad.  People do not have an infinite capacity to absorb change.  Choose your change chits wisely, strategically and frugally.  We mere humans have a finite amount of energy chits each day.  What do you want staff to spend their precious time and energy on?  If you are going to create a policy or process change—make sure its relevant and worthy of the challenges creating it may cause.
  • Don’t hold onto the past or deny inevitable change.  If the company change train has left the station without you on it—you keeping staff stuck.  Staff watches the boss to see how the boss responds or “reacts” to change.
  • Deal with problems!  Complaints regarding the boss avoiding problems and not dealing with them effectively–is the #1 complaint I hear from staff.  Staff count on the boss to resolve conflict and take care of obstacles to success.
  • Don’t put your direct report in the uncomfortable position of having to fend for themselves when it comes to answering unreasonable demands from your peers or theirs.  It’s a boss’s role to deal with problematic obstacles and challenges that impede staff success.
  • Don’t add to the drama factor.  Regulate your emotional reactivity to bad news.  If the boss gets upset, so does staff.  No one can spread the negative emotional “flu” virus like a boss!

Help is available for the people challenges of leadership—invest in yourself this year with leadership development.  Contact me:  360 682 5807 or info@pathtochange.com

 

 

 

Why Workers Resist Change

Resistance to ChangeA client and I were recently discussing the natural resistance that accompanies most organizational change efforts when he quipped, “the only people who like change are wet babies!”  Well said.

Change is a part of our every day lives.  The pace of change is rapidly accelerating in workplaces.  Companies simply must keep up with the constant marketplace demands of change if they are to survive, much less thrive in this economy.

The ability to manage change effectively is a complex requirement of most managers and leaders in today’s workplaces.  Understanding how human’s process change is an important part of learning how to manage workplace change. The most challenging part of this equation is the “people” component.

Some of us are more receptive to change than others.  I’ve witnessed a worker revolt because of the need to move their desk by a foot! Others embrace almost any change as an exciting new opportunity or a deterrent to boredom.  Picture a typical bell curve when it comes to change.  About 20% of workers will be on the far end of the continuum of “Like change, bring it on!” while another 20% is on the other far end, “Not only no but —- no!”  The other 60% is in the middle and on the fence about the change; these are the folks you want to target your change management efforts towards.

Understanding the nature of change is important if you are going to succeed in your attempts at managing change in the workplace.  Humans seek control.  We tend to fear, dislike and avoid ambiguity.  We “react” negatively when our expectations for the way things should be aren’t met.  One rule of thumb–the more surprised we are by the change, the greater resistance you can expect.

It takes time for us to process and accept change.  Most initially respond to a change we didn’t create with disbelief and denial, “I can’t believe this is happening!”  This is usually the first stop on the change journey followed by resistance– picture arms crossed in defiance!  The next step is exploration, “OK, I guess we can try it anyway, do you have more information?” Exploration however is dependent on whether or not change is consistently well sponsored and communicated from leaders.  Once we have dipped our big toe into the change water and find it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated, most of us will finally move to commitment (“I can support the change in this way”).

A few coaching tips to increase the likelihood of your change effort sticking:

  • Most humans are tuned into their own personal radio station-WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)  Leaders trying to manage change should broadcast on this station to answers their typical questions like:  What will get better as a result of the change?  Worse? How much control do we have over what happens?  Can we assimilate this change at a reasonable pace?  Do we understand the micro/macro implications of the change?
  • People are more likely to support and commit to change they have helped create or design.  Involve your people (particularly the front line or “end users” of the change) early in the creation of the change.  Consult with them about their opinions.  What obstacles do they foresee?  How would they like to see the change rolled out?  What will work (or not) for them regarding the change?
  • Communicate often and consistently about the change.  Yes this will mean you have to repeat yourself—in my experience, most leaders greatly under communicate about change.  Use all available forums of communication available—intranet, email, phone, meetings and of course face-to-face conversations reinforcing the need and requirements for the change.  Wise sponsors of change know that what will dictate whether or not the change is adopted is their commitment and time spent shepherding it through the organization.
  • Allow people an opportunity to talk about and “vent” their frustrations about the change.  Yes, this may turn into a gripe session but better to get it out in the open and aired than for resistance to go underground.  Truly listening to understand what how your people feel about the change is important.    Once we feel “heard” we are more likely to move on.  Your people want to know that you care about them and how they will be impacted by the change. If you don’t respect them enough to at least hear them out about it—expect ongoing and potentially damaging resistance.

Leading Change

A common truth in today’s workplace is, “The only constant is change.” Change comes in many forms — from reorgs to new software and information systems, work flow processes and programs, etc. Many of these initiatives are presented as a method to “make our lives easier” or “make us more efficient.” The jury is still out for many workers on this.

Expectations around all of this change are dramatically different from even a few decades ago. When business owners in 1970 were asked in surveys how they viewed their future, 60 percent anticipated “no change.” Today, a mere 1 percent of businesses surveyed say they anticipate no change in their future.

The concept of “Kaizen” (a Japanese workplace quality strategy designed to constantly improve and eliminate waste) was introduced in the post-World War II era, and businesses today are still riding high on the continuous improvement wave.

What is so striking in today’s workplaces is the sheer volume of those continuous improvement changes and the rate of change to the changes.

While most senior leaders are constantly focused on making continuous improvement changes, far too few of them stop and consider the true systemic impact of these initiatives, why they succeed or fail, and what they can do to improve the success rate.

I counsel leaders to choose their change chits wisely (change fatigue is real), and to recognize that to sponsor change requires dedication, commitment and specific change-management skills and methods. Most managers today are tasked with leading change, but few have the necessary time, attention, commitment, tools or skills to do it effectively.

The truth is corporate America has a poor track record implementing change. According to the McKinsey Quarterly, approximately 70 percent of major change initiatives fail in today’s workplaces.

Another study (Booz Allen Hamilton) reflects similar statistics — with only 25 percent of all change projects being successful while 63 percent are canceled and 12 percent are identified as failing outright. Clearly, leading change isn’t easy.

The majority of my executive coaching clients reflect that managing change is their most pressing challenge.

Here are just a few of the hurdles they face:

  • It’s human nature to resist change. Change can be highly stressful. Most leaders underestimate a) the impact of this stress, b) the intensity of the resistance to change and c) the problems this resistance creates. While it’s true that some are energized (even exhilarated) by change, these individuals are the exception versus the rule. The truth is that most people dislike change — and often react with fear, anxiety, resistance or denial.
  • Nobody addressed “What’s in it for me.” Major change won’t happen without people on board. Too often employees have not been provided with sufficient information and understanding of the intention or expected benefits of the change. Complacency results when a) there is no buy-in by the expected participants, b) consequences for success and/or failure are not understood and c) the stakes aren’t high enough.
  • The “No one asked me” syndrome. Employees are more resistant to change they feel is “done to them” rather than formulated and designed with their input. The biggest mistakes leaders make are not involving the end user and undercommunicating the change. You can bet on this formula: The more surprised people are by change, the greater the resistance.
  • The “Here we go again” reaction. We have all become tired of the typical scenario of “management” making another “flavor of the month” change that in the end won’t stick. Employees learn (because of previous failed attempts at change in their workplaces) that if they wait it out, the change project will often run its course before anyone really holds them accountable to it.
  • Failure to understand change roles. Successful change happens when senior leaders understand how to effectively sponsor change, and those tasked with making the change happen learn how to be an effective agent of change.
  • Failure to look at the big picture. Few organizations take the time to map out their change efforts and realize how the change will affect the whole system.

A push on one side of the system will always cause a bulge somewhere else in the system — the challenge is to identify where and what impact it will have on the organization — short term, long term and systemically.

The good news is I can help! I have solid tools, change management models and insight that can help you beat the odds.  Call me at 360 682 5807 or email:  mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

I coach professionals via Skype all over the world.

 

Leaders can make change easier

Currently, there is an unprecedented need for companies to adapt and change. From the big automotive companies to Wall Street to small Main Street businesses, this is no such thing anymore as “business as usual.”

To succeed, companies big or small will need leaders who can support and manage the necessary change successfully. Resilient teams get through tough times because they have leaders who are effective in getting their teams off the dime with focus, creativity, commitment and alignment (everyone rowing in the same direction), and actively engaged in problem solving and “making it happen.”

Harvard change management guru John Kotter has just released a timely book, “A Sense of Urgency.” He equates leading successful change with the ability to establish a sense of urgency with employees. As a coach I know by experience that behavior change doesn’t happen easily. Most humans resist change unless they have a compelling reason to change, or put another way, until the pain of not changing exceeds the pain of changing. Leaders who establish urgency around workplace changes provide an incentive for people to act now versus acting when it’s convenient or “when I can get to it.” In this economy, embracing and acting on this urgency may well define the difference between success and failure.

Here are some coaching tips to help bosses manage change:

Let your team know what’s at stake. Being candid and straightforward about current challenges will help you to maintain loyalty, trust and commitment — people both deserve and appreciate honesty. Be forthcoming about where things stand and what will happen if the change doesn’t happen. Communicate the vision, focus and plan for how the business will move forward. Let employees know a) they are an important part of that plan, b) what their part is, and c) that success depends on everyone doing their part.

As the boss, behave like you mean it. In other words, walk your urgency talk and be the model for what you are asking others to do. Your people will be watching you closely to see if your actions are aligned with your words. How you spend your day-to-day activities must be congruent with what you have asked of your team. If you are asking your team to work extra hours, expect skepticism and resistance if you aren’t in there with them.

Bring your team together for a problem-solving session. People are naturally more supportive of change they were involved in developing. Harness their collective wisdom, skills and experience. Re-emphasize the fundamentals or core values of what your team (or company) does best. When identifying who will be doing what, capitalize on and leverage the strengths of your team members. Identify and prioritize projects that will generate the most value and benefit to the company. Have the team also identify any broken, costly or inept procedures and processes so these can be eliminated.

Rally your key influencers (those who can bring people together to get it done) and don’t put up with those who put up roadblocks to the necessary change. Successful change requires all hands on deck to win; deal with naysayers directly.

Engage their hearts and minds. Sadly, according to a Gallup poll, a mere 29 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged (i.e., loyal, enthusiastic and productive), while 55 percent are passively disengaged. Don’t rely on the numbers or the business case to move people. Humans have emotional needs. While people need to see and understand the need for change to be inspired and moved, they also need to feel the need for the change. As the leader, how you show up emotionally matters.

Help your team see how to make lemonade from all those lemons! It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity, doom and gloom. Help your team reframe the current scenario by identifying strengths to capitalize on and market opportunities that can be taken advantage of (vs. business as usual or continuing to ignore market opportunities due to bureaucracy). Encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Putting everyone’s head in the game often can lead to creative and winning solutions.

Recognize achievement and short-term wins to build momentum. Find a way to measure and acknowledge even the small successes. Don’t overlook the importance of verbal recognition. Tell your people that you recognize how hard they are working and that you appreciate what they do.

Get help with change.  I can help you with the “people” side of change and coach individuals anywhere in the world via Skype.  Call: 360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

 

Tips for managing office change

There is no “magic bullet” when it comes to effectively leading change. Managing change is a tough and serious challenge — even for the most experienced and highly capable leaders.

Research reflects that well-managed change initiatives frequently have common and fundamental program elements. Here are a few to increase your odds of success:

  • Model the behavior you want. The best leaders lead by example. If you are leading a change effort, know that people are watching you for cues about how they should respond to the change. Senior leaders need to set the pace and tone for others in a positive and realistic way. If you are anxious and dreading the change, you can bet your people will pick up on this and respond accordingly. Anxiety is contagious: The good news is so is energy and enthusiasm.
  • Be adaptive and open to influence. Wise change leaders demonstrate flexibility. They demonstrate a willingness to listen, learn and adapt the plan as necessary.

They understand there is no “one size fits all” and know it’s better to rework the plan than to continue to lead in the wrong direction. They communicate the expectation for feedback (including bad news) and acknowledge the importance of receiving real information (not just what the boss “wants” to hear).

  • Include those whom the change will affect. Savvy leaders of change know that the key to success is seeking the input of the “end users” of the change. They include all those affected by the change, from the time the potential change is being considered, to the design phase and through implementation.
  • Communicate early, consistently and often. Caution: The more surprised people are by the change, the greater the resistance. Keep information about the change constant and flowing from all directions. You can’t overcommunicate when it comes to change.
  • Paint a picture of the desired future. Communicate the vision clearly and concisely while appealing to hearts and minds. Selling a vision that is blurry or confusing won’t work. Keep it simple — no jargon or techno-speak.
  • Be direct and consistent. Be straightforward about the changes and consequences of an expected change. Avoid misunderstandings or sending inconsistent messages and be honest regarding anticipated sacrifices and expected workload that will accompany the change.
  • Create a system that supports real communication. Make it safe for people to tell you how they feel about the change and what is really going on. Allow people a platform to voice their concerns, questions, suggestions or ideas. The last thing a leader of change wants to foster is a “kill the messenger” approach: It’s frequently a deflection or distraction from real issues that need to be resolved.
  • Recognize and celebrate victories and progress along the way. Success begets success; the key is to identify and communicate it. Communicate progress, milestones and successes to reinforce the change and to foster teamwork and camaraderie.
  • Tune into your employee station “WIIFM” or “What’s in it for me?” Tell employees how they will benefit from the change. Acknowledge their sacrifices and provide employees with evidence that the sacrifices they are making are worth it. If it’s so the business stays open and they keep their jobs, say that is so. Be honest about the reasons for the change; your employees will appreciate it and will frequently respond in amazing ways.
  • Be undeniably aligned behind the effort. The larger the organization and scale of change, the more important the consistency of the support from all levels of “bosses” is in the organization. Having all management speaking the same talk and walking the same walk is vital to success. How all managers address expectations, rewards and consequences around the change and with their employees needs to be clear and consistent. Bottom line: What’s shown to be important to the boss is what will become important to the employee.

I can help you with the people end of managing change more effectively.  I coach via Skype anywhere in the world!  Call 360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com