As we turn the page of the calendar into January and a new year, we find ourselves at a continued crossroads. So much has been asked of us in 2020: Managing worries about a global pandemic, working from home for almost a whole year (who would have guessed that!?), schooling kids from home, not seeing friends and loved ones, no travel; the list goes on!
What about changes in your workplace? Are you starting a new project that replaces how you’ve done things in the past, expecting staff to adjust and perform under new conditions? Are you merging or growing your team or business such that you must now evolve and mature? How do you help your staff embrace these changes and stay productive?
Managing change in your organization goes hand-in-hand with understanding your employees and how you are leading them. Much like our previous Organizational Wellness post on Empathy and Living your Values mentioned, we need to take the time to understand the employee’s perspective and the alignment of proposed changes with organizational values. Once established, it is the important to articulate the rationale for the change, help staff overcome obstacles, and actively engage to achieve the desired stated. Most important, it is critical to set the example by being the leader who models the values and behaviors necessary to embrace the change.
As you kick off the new year, we challenge you to consider one thing that needs to change within the team or organization that you lead. Consider the disruption brought on by the events of 2020 and opportunities for improvement that it may have introduced. Whether your change is big or small, we encourage and challenge you to employ the following steps to promote and implement the necessary changes in your organization.
1. Articulate the Rationale
First and foremost, you must believe the change is valuable and set expectations that measure the results the change will bring. The change you are seeking is due to an important need, correct? What is your case or reason for change? Would the status quo suffice or is there no alternative? Lead by explicitly outlining why the current status quo can no longer be afforded and why this change is crucial for the organization. Unless teams understand the benefit, things will remain status quo and you may not see the outcome you hope to achieve for the organization. Defining the desired, future state and communicating what success looks like will help the team understand where to aim their efforts.
Communication, however, is not enough. Communication alone does not equal engagement. To engage your team, they need to understand why the change is needed, what is in it for them, and how the new change aligns to the company culture and values.
2. Address Obstacles and Resistance Despite the fact that we always hear that change is hard, I’d say instead that change requires persistence and effort. The key is to follow through on your commitment to the change. Understanding the ‘why’ helps with follow through because you know that the status quo is not where you want to, or can, stay. Any new endeavor presents a challenge, even to experienced teams.
According to McKinsey and Company, a large percentage of change transformation projects fail due to a weak culture that is not aligned with the mission. If the stated mission for the change and the end-result you are seeking are aligned to a stable and secure values-based culture, your project can withstand the storm, ensuring a long-term path to success. No project is without hiccups; expect hurdles. Some obstacles are easy to overcome and some may need a work-around to resolve. Help your teams by creating a positive environment and staying focused on the ‘why’. Help your teams with strategies that make sense by engaging with them in considering alternatives when faced with difficult obstacles. Prepare to handle adversity while maintaining the integrity of the project. Understand obstacles and sources of frustration for the team and guide them through these by mitigating risks and providing resources where needed so the team is set up for success.
3. Engage to Achieve the Desired State
In order to change the way things are done and make room for new processes and ideas, we must let go of what we know and how we’ve always done things. We need to create space for new experiences to take root and leave space for our employees to bring their own ideas. By being willing to do so, we create the trust needed to challenge the team to think beyond how they have always done things. Inspire and motivate the team and celebrate the small wins! Support the team and give credit where credit is due. An inspired, engaged, motivated, and supported workforce that understands why the change is needed is powerful!
4. Set the Example
At CEEK, we believe an intentional, values-based culture is the glue between an engaged workforce and a successful organization, particularly when it comes to leading a change effort. Inputs for proper change require leadership alignment, proper communications, a compelling purpose, a clear vision, mission and goals. For any change effort, your actions speak louder than your words. If you say you embrace the desired change but act in a manner that is contradictory, this is what we call hypocrisy. When faced with chronic hypocrisy, the team working on the change project will become ‘change battle fatigued’, disillusioned, and feel their work does not matter. Inspire, engage, motivate, and support your workforce by setting the example.
We challenge you this month to leverage what you have learned in 2020 and apply these steps above to more significantly impact change initiatives in your organization. When teams are able to see through actions and words that projects align to culture and values, we set ourselves up for success and the ability to truly Embrace Change.
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