Living in a COVID world has created a lot of new changes. Some changes have been implemented and then changed again within hours or days. One employee who stated he had “change fatigue” told his manager, “I am willing to make this one change as long as you guarantee me that there will be no additional changes.” In this particular case, the manager made a huge mistake by telling this employee, “To the best of my knowledge, there will be no additional changes.” The manager lied! The manager should have told the employee, “The only thing I can promise you is there will be additional changes.” That’s what great leaders do. They make changes that improve their departments and organizations. Although not all changes are good changes, one thing is clear. There will be no improvements for your team, department or organization without the manager’s ability to effectively lead change. After all, organizations don’t change, people do.
In order to make it through this COVID environment, as leaders, we must learn to successfully change, but lead our team through the change as well. The following are ten proven actions that will help managers and supervisors guide employees through change.
- Involve employees: Employees are not so much against change as they are against being changed. Any time managers are going to implement organizational change, there is always a lag between the time the change has been discussed at the management level and the time the change is going to be implemented. Some managers like to hold the information about the change as long as they can from employees so that they don’t have to deal with the push-back. But what they don’t realize is that employees will gain the information from another source. When employees do receive it from another source, it results in a loss of trust that employees have in the manager. As well, the information they gained may or may not be accurate. The sooner you involve employees in the process, the better off you will be implementing the change.
- Communicate with employees regarding their feelings. It is critical that managers and supervisors understand what employees are feeling regarding the change. It is only when you accurately understand their feelings that you know what issues need to be addressed. Implementing change requires the ability to market and to sell. It is difficult to effectively sell without understanding your buyer’s needs, concerns, and fears. As well, employees are more likely to trust and follow a leader that they feel genuinely cares.
- Effectively delegate. Too often managers and supervisors feel they must use self-protective measures, especially during organizational change. They start by trying to control all activities. Don’t try to cover all the bases yourself. You should concentrate on effective delegation during the early stages of the change process. Effective delegation is particularly good for two reasons: first, it helps you manage and maintain your workload, and second, it gives your employees a sense of involvement. Involvement positions employees to share responsibility for change and helps the manager gain buy-in.
- Raise the bar. Now, more than ever, you should ask more from your employees. It is expected that more work needs to be done during the change process. While it may be most practical to expect less in terms of performance, raise your levels of expectations and theirs. During change, employees are more likely to alter their work habits, so reach for the opportunity and push them to try harder and work smarter. Require performance improvements and make the process challenging but remember to keep goals realistic in order to eliminate frustration and failure.
- Ask employees for their commitment. Once the change has been announced, it is important that you personally ask for each employee’s commitment to successfully implement the change. It is also important that you assure the employee that, if there are problems, you want to hear about them. If a negative employee does not tell you, they will tell other employees why the change will not work.
- Expand communication channels. The change process usually means that normal communication channels in the firm need to be enlarged. At this time, your employees will be hungrier than ever for information and answers. You can “beef up” communication. First, give employees an opportunity to give you input. Start by becoming more available and asking more questions. Get employees’ opinions and reactions to the changes. Maintain your visibility and make it clear that you are an accessible boss. More importantly, be a careful listener. Second, keep employees updated on a regular basis. Just letting your employees know that you have no new information is meaningful information to them. Strive to be specific; clear up rumors and misinformation that clutter the communication channels. Remember, it is almost impossible to overcommunicate in times of high change.
- Be firm, committed, and flexible. As you introduce change, it is important that you see the change through to completion. Abandoning it halfway through the change process accomplishes two negative impacts. First, it destroys your credibility. Second, it tells every employee that if they push hard enough, the change will pass by.
- Keep a positive attitude. Your attitude as a manager or supervisor will be a major factor in determining what type of climate is exhibited by your employees. Your attitude is the one thing that keeps you in control. Change can be stressful and confusing. Remain upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic. Foster motivation in others. During times of transition and change, try to compensate your employees for their extra effort. Write a brief note of encouragement on their paychecks; leave an affirming message on their voicemail; take them aside and tell them what a great job they are doing; listen to their comments and suggestions. Last, try to instill organizational change as a personal challenge that everyone can meet…with success!
- Measure results: When change is implemented, stay focused on achieving the vision and the specific results that will turn the vision into reality. If the goal of changing a process is to make the process more efficient and customer friendly, then measure the results and reward team members for achieving the goal.
- Celebrate success: Change is difficult. When changes have been successfully implemented, take time to acknowledge the contributions of team members and celebrate the success of the team.
Implementing organizational change, especially in uncertain times will also be a challenge. By implementing these 10 strategies, your ability as a leader to successfully implement the change increases significantly.