In our last post, we started talking about a pretty hefty topic: Change. Specifically, we talked about why it’s important, even though it has the potential to wreak havoc in our lives.
The quick, boiled-down recap of that is that change forces us to find creative solutions and prevents stagnation in both the workplace and our personal lives. Being able to notice, follow, and interpret the signals of change allows us to prepare for this inevitability and come out stronger and more creative in the end.
In the business world, helming a team that is mentally and strategically equipped to implement change smoothly and efficiently positions your organization as an industry leader. Having a competitive advantage will improve morale and quality of life for everyone on your team.
All those things, of course, are well and good, but…
How do you actually prepare for change?
The first step toward preparing your office or team for change is to understand how preparation will benefit your organization in the long run.
If you and your team can learn to understand and assess an impending change, you can mitigate risk by taking the appropriate time to plan accordingly. This can only be effective if the entire team is on the same page, which takes an active effort on your part to create an awareness of this planning process.
When change is implemented successfully, this can provide a sense of confidence in your employees. Knowing that you’re capable and equipped to handle unexpected change can be a very empowering thing and inherently boosts employee confidence and trust in a leader.
The Three Components of Change
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get down to business, shall we? As you prepare for change, it’s essential to be aware of the Three Components of Change:
- The Content of Change
- The People in Change
- The Process of Change
Each of these components is individually important and work together (or against each other) in your efforts to implement change.
The Content of Change
Clearly understanding and identifying the content of the change will provide greater direction as you lead others through the change process. This builds the awareness of the change as people are expected to move forward.
A structural change will impact individuals’ work lives through their position. This may mean a change in reporting structure, team, or both – all of which will come with a difference in expectations, leadership style, and team dynamics. A cultural change might focus on the reconstruction of the culture concept in a particular organization or segment of a company.
A strategy change that might include organizational restructure; shifts in policies; target markets; or mission, vision, and values might be handled very differently than a business process or product change. This is a direct focus on the way that the company does business or its production of goods and services.
As a leader, make sure you have a clear grasp on the change content so you can effectively explain and guide your team through the other components of change.
The People In Change
It might seem silly to hear this, but it’s important to remember: your team is made of people, and people are full of varying factors. Emotional reactions, different degrees of involvement, acceptance, commitment, and cultural dynamics all impact the smoothness of change.
This is what makes it imperative to help prepare your team for change. As a leader, you are in the unique position of creating an environment of “intentional change” rather than one of “imposed change.”
Employees experiencing imposed change often have an extremely negative experience. Without thoughtful preparation, change can seem abrupt, arbitrary, and can disrupt processes and routines resulting in resentment and, sometimes, rebellion.
When a leader takes the time to guide his or her team through the change, showing that decisions were made deliberately and with care, those team members have a higher chance of feeling valued and prepared for the change.
The Process of Change
So how, then, do you actually go about preparing your team for intentional change? It’s all in the process, and the process requires you to really think about the people involved. If you follow these guidelines, you can dramatically increase your chances for a successful implementation of change.
First, it’s important to let your team know exactly why the changes are happening. We’ve all had someone tell us “Because I said so!” in response to our questions, and it’s not a satisfying answer. Providing the global situation while also including specific data about what is not working is a helpful tactic. In addition to sharing the why behind the change, showing the logic behind the change also paints a more complete picture for your team. By sharing the pros, cons, and alternatives to the chosen change, everyone will be on the same page and have insight into leadership’s decision-making process.
As a leader, you should also explain the values that drive the change. Reminding the team of the values of your organization, and why the change aligns with that, can help with the transition. Also, for anyone whose work impacts customers, reminding employees about the values that drive the change also reminds the team that they are making positive changes to ultimately help and serve their customers. While there may be some growing pains during the change process, the customers should not know or hear about them.
Finally, when things are changing, people like to have solid milestones and dates to hold on to in order to feel a semblance of control over the situation. Once the overall situation has been explained, shifting the focus to the employees’ responsibilities can move the discussion from overarching theory to action-oriented specifics.
Stay Mindful, Stay Intentional
The bottom line is that change is hard for everyone. Throughout the process, it’s important to think of your team as having a hard time as opposed to giving you a hard time. A little empathy goes a long way — especially in the workplace.