When asked “What’s the most difficult aspect of your job as a manager”? Most managers will say emphatically PEOPLE. Doesn’t matter what context every dilemma/challenge a manager faces has to do with people….according to most. I say according to most because I for one don’t believe that, on the contrary I think people make the job of a manager easy when expectations and accountability are aligned. The most challenging responsibility the management of today faces is CHANGE unequivocally. As the New Year officially kicks off I’m sure many of you are in the midst of dealing with change and if you’re not I say wearily to you Good Luck. With the fierceness of today’s global business competition the terms change and evolve are suitable synonyms required in order to be successful. Yet, the reality is that change can be very unpopular and generally the person leading the charge is seen as the most hated. It’s clear when there’s very little transparent communication coupled with an abundance of ambiguity, change can be daunting to implement….let alone getting people onboard to support it. So it stands to reason that people aren’t really the stick pins in the side of management it’s change and management’s inability to successfully lead through it. With large corporate mergers, global competition, and ferocious customer expectations not changing or evolving is a sure death nail for any corporation, even ones presently at the top of the heap. The most successful companies have “Change” incorporated in their business plans and have set up a communication and an empowerment infrastructure that makes it acceptable to internal employees. That’s not to understate however the tremendous pressure on managers to lead their designated area of the organization through changes implemented by the organization. In order to be effective at leading change one can’t simply manage it; they must passionately champion change and influence others to buy in.
Champion Change/Influencing Others
Business leaders can no longer accept “it’s always been done that way” or for that matter accept that sentiment from their employees. Business Inertia in my humble opinion has its place and cannot always be seen as stalling creativity, however, repeating failed status-quo activities not only impacts creativity….it’s insanity. As a manager to crack the unwanted lock of inertia and influence your employees to support change, try these possible ideas:
- Encourage and challenge your employees to participate with the “Change Process” (e.g. gather feedback/opinions of improving business and work processes, engage them on the transition processes, empower and collaborate on decision measures). Use various venues (staff meetings, national meetings, conversations with key stakeholders, HR meetings etc), this will stimulate and inspire the need to make continuous improvements.
- Eliminate organizational barriers like “Ambiguity” that undermines change implementation. For example:
- Because there’s a tendency to overlook stakeholders outside your expertise who also may be affected by the change, collate people from various areas when developing transition plans or new ideas relevant to the upcoming change.
- Do not “Communication Assume” (assuming everyone is aligned because it’s company direction). It’s necessary to overcommunicate, oververify, overfollowup.
- Encourage and reward flexibility. “It’s always been done that way” is often a safe harbor for the inflexible and placing incentives that recognizes creativity and innovation around the change can help influence its acceptance.
- Remove communication/collaboration barriers whenever possible (e.g. silo’s, turf battles, misalignment). When there’s little transparency or a feeling of not being involved in the process, people will take refuge in counter thinking and behavior that will negatively impact the change transition.
- Identify those who may have hidden agendas or motives for maintaining the status-quo. Setting up communication where there’s an opportunity to listen to their dissent, looking for alternative ways or compromises that meet their needs. Ignoring or steamrolling over the dissent could impact change rollout.
- Support those who challenge assumptions and question the way things are done. Unfortunately, organizations sometimes champion those who are politically astute and do not rock the boat which festers the “Ambiguity”. Promote openness and feedback by actively encouraging questions and positive challenges.
- Be flexible to the possibility of changing your decisions after you have made them….and importantly communicate that possibility to your employees. “Change” can sometimes be fluid and being able to adjust within the complexities of change is a critical competency.
Empowerment is so critical when it comes to organizational change. A management structure that “Leads by Example” in demonstrating its mission of transparency and empowerment can enjoy not only seeing their changes embraced but interwoven quickly into company culture. When change is implemented properly you have the following results:
- Organizational Alignment
- Full Engagement- Cross Functional and Cross Business Teams alignment
- Competitive Advantage, Best in Class Benchmarking
- Continuous and Effective Communication (minimal ambiguity)
- Creativity and Innovation
- Best Practices for future change
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Loosely translated from the French this means “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. In the words of Machiavelli, “There’s nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things”. These quotations point out two basic and somewhat opposite concepts about change: No change is final….Change is difficult. As a leader leading change should expect resistance upfront, develop strategies to deal with it, and ALWAYS communicate, empower, communicate….and repeat rinse!
LEADING CHANGE….when everyone is running away!
Take a look at our whitepaper: Cross Functional Leadership….”Leading Across The Ambiguity Aisle”
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AH2 & Beyond Consulting