As another year begins, you are probably planning for what you would like to accomplish in Q1.
Undoubtedly, some of the items on your to-do list for 2017 involve some element of change. The idea of implementing changes among your team can seem daunting because, as the saying goes, nobody likes change. As humans, we are creatures of habit, finding comfort in the familiar — like how we always take our coffee, or the route we take to work. It should come as no surprise, then, that over 70 percent of change initiatives fail.
However, as a leader you know managing change is essential for staying competitive. OnPoint’s own research shows 85 percent of senior-level and middle managers believe their companies need to change in order to grow and win in their industry, and the same percentage believe a person can overcome their fears and get excited about change.
How can you get your team on board with change without throwing up your hands in frustration in the process? Here are four tips.
1. Focus on Middle Management
While buy-in from top management is essential for change management, it is the middle managers who drive the day-to-day execution of the initiative. Middle managers are on the front lines, interacting with vendors, customers, and employees day-to-day. Because of this, they have access to vast amounts of information about where potential glitches in the change process can happen as well as any technical or logistical issues that need to be addressed. They are also the ones who build coalitions of support among the next level down without whom the change would never get off the ground. To accomplish these objectives, middle managers need to be prepared and empowered to own the initiative so they can drive the change without the need for constant supervision and monitoring.
2. Minimize Uncertainty
What are employees’ most common concerns or uncertainties? They could be concerned their jobs may be at stake. Or, they may be concerned they won’t have the time or resources to accomplish the change objectives. You can overcome your employees’ uncertainties by answering these critical questions:
1. Why is this change necessary? Clearly make the case for change. Communicate what the organization aims to accomplish and why it is necessary.
2. What will be expected of each person? It’s not enough to communicate the objectives of the change. It’s also important to let people know which behaviors they should continue doing, stop doing, and start doing. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities will also help ease your team’s concerns. Keep the conversation going as things evolve or new challenges are revealed.
3. How will we manage the transition? Make the implementation plan transparent. Make sure people can see that time has been invested to outline key activities, anticipate potential problems and identify actions to address them. Ensure everyone has a shared understanding of where the important milestones and checkpoints are along the transition process.
3. Balance the Facts & Benefits of Change with Emotions
It’s common for leaders to focus on making the case for change that focuses on the benefits it will provide for the business. Using powerful symbols can also help reach people emotionally and increase their commitment to the initiative.
Consider the state of Hewlitt Packard. When CEO Meg Whitman took the helm, she found the company was divided into silos, negatively affecting the culture of the company. To begin a culture change, Whitman removed a large fence that walled off the executive parking lot from where the rest of the employees parked and moved executives into cubicles.
“This was symbolic of the kind of culture that we wanted to build. And in organizations as large as ours, symbolism actually matters. What you communicate by your actions – the things that are visible to 320,000 people – makes a real difference,” she explained.
4. Engage in Change Talk with Your Team
Change talk is a series of questions that encourages employees to assess the change more objectively. The more employees engage in change talk, the more they seriously think about the benefits and impact of changing.
Instead of telling employees why a change is necessary, ask them why they think it’s important to make the change. Ask how confident they are in their ability to accomplish the change. Move the conversation beyond broad generalizations by asking them for specific examples. The information you collect during these conversations can help you determine how to intervene and support the members of your team to increase their confidence and readiness to change.
Consider trying these change-talk questions:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how important do you think it is that we make this change? Why isn’t that rating lower?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you can make this change? Why isn’t that rating higher?”
“What are the positive aspects of not making the change? What are the negative aspects of not making the change?”
“What are the positive aspects of making the change? What are the negative aspects of making the change?”
The Bottom Line
Getting your team on board with change requires clear communication and the willingness to listen. Involving middle management and giving employees the resources and tools they need can transform the idea of change from something that is feared into a goal that can be accomplished.
OnPoint has created a brief checklist of five questions you should consider when managing change. These questions can help build your team’s confidence as you guide them through change as well as eliminate any concerns. To get your next new initiative off to a great start, download your checklist now.
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