You can’t change process without changing people…
Post 3: “I need to warn you, no one likes change; it’s frightening.” Juanita was being transparent with her mentee, Megan because she could see her growing excitement for the organizational change Megan was preparing to announce to her team later in the week.
“I’m so impressed with your explanation of why the company is launching this effort – especially because you have linked the reasons to what your team sees as individual consumers and to their daily interactions with customers. It will be easy for them to understand the importance of the transition. And you have found a way to acknowledge a few concerns you have while still painting a picture of the advantages your employees will hopefully experience as the initiative is completed.
Juanita continued, “It is obvious you believe in the plan your leadership has given you to share in your announcement, but I do have a strong caution in that area. Before I expand on it, I’d like you to describe the emotional path you have followed over the last five days since you were first told about this change.”
Megan took a couple of sips of coffee.
“I remember that first day I was terrified about telling my team, and I was in a panic when I called you! I also remember times of being pretty peeved because I know that stopping to focus on this will disrupt some of the progress I’ve been making with my team. Another reaction was a slight betrayal at not knowing about this earlier and being told at the last minute; it made me doubt my position as a leader. But as I’ve learned more about the need, the advantage and the plan of action, I feel more confident that everyone will benefit from this change in the long run. And now I think I can be really positive about it when I sell it to my team!”
“Yes, that is exactly where my warning comes in… consider your zeal for this change.” Juanita wanted to balance her next words, “Remembering the emotions you just described, I want you to put yourself in the chair of one of your new employees as they listen to the changes they will need to face…. How do you think they will feel? What about your tenured employees who helped create the processes these adjustments are about to retire? What about those ‘extroverted employees’ who are natural leaders of positive – and negative – messaging?”
“I am considering them, but won’t my display of confidence about the future help them skip what I went through?” Megan asked hopefully.
Juanita was glad Megan was pushing back to understand thoroughly. “Remember when I said that no one likes change, and it’s frightening? You cannot protect people from moving through their own emotional path of dealing with the changes…. But you can prepare them for it and help them through it; sometimes they move faster then.
“And here is the heart of my caution to you: if you come twirling with in with your Pollyanna message that looks like you don’t believe there will be any problems with making this transition happen, you will likely frighten them even more. You are their leader through this! They will question their trust in you because the challenges with this change are obvious to them, and they will wonder why you are being blind to those realities.
“Your mention of key challenges shows respect for their concerns; now temper your enthusiasm a bit so they know you are confident, but ready to face the coming trials with them.
Megan laughed out loud, “I can just picture that pirouette; it would frighten anyone! Your advice makes perfect sense, and I can easily dial down the excitement – because half of it was fake anyway. I promise to keep my Pollyanna hair ribbons at home!”
Reality: The implementation of change always results in reduced productivity. To help minimize the loss, ensure your announcement strategy diminishes resistance, prepares employees for the transformation and lessens the natural fear connected with change.
- When big changes are seen on the horizon, response strategies are often delayed until the change comes crashing down. Successful preparation strategies must include at least two employee communication avenues:
- Avenues that acknowledge reality in a way that builds confidence in leaders without creating fear for employees
- Employee-listening avenues that ensure leaders hear how employees feel and take initiative to validate employee perspectives