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What To Do In The Midst of Change


I recently observed some machiavellian style maneuvers by an organization undergoing a change in leadership. The new leader, responsible for the success of a staff of 20 or so, faced the inevitable (yes, it is inevitable) fearful response to change from some employees. I say the response is inevitable because we humans don't generally like change that we didn't initiate. The new manager then had to justify the chosen course of actions repeatedly to both subordinates and upper management. The result was that the improvements the manager wanted to make got lost in a flurry of e-mails, meetings, tearful resignations and staff unrest.

Growing organizations change. Organizations not willing to embrace change don't grow. Here are four things to consider as your organization goes through a change:

1. Don't rush into a plan for change that has not been thoroughly vetted by the leader, the executive team and human resources. The leader is responsible for casting vision that is clear AND getting the input of those on his or her team. There is no fault in having a blind spot, however it is your fault if you don't know you have a blind spot. Your leadership team, comprised of people who can say "No" to you without fear of reprisal, is one of your best defenses against a change strategy that could create disaster.

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2. Don't undermine the leader you have put in place. An effective change strategy has to allow for the new leader to develop relationships with those reporting to him/her. If you are responsible for the leader's success (you are his/her leader), discreetly advise about potential minefields, and correct if you must privately.

3. Temporarily close the open door. All members of the team are responsible for learning to play their positions a new way. That means you trust them enough to allow them to work through the relational, organizational and process part of the change. They need to learn to work with the new coach. You must also learn to work in a new way.

4. Don't get in HR's way. These are the people you selected for their expertise in dealing with staffing issues, including those of managing change. As the leader of leaders, allowing the HR professionals to do their jobs demonstrates trust. If they are trustworthy, move out of their way and let them play their role in change. If they are not trustworthy, move them to another area or out of the organization.

Change is hard and you, as the leader, probably know that better than anyone. You may have to release some who are unwilling to move forward; that is unfortunate. If you embrace the need for change and leave room for the process to unfold, however, you will wind up with a team that can be trusted to weather transition resourcefully the next time change needs to happen. Keep going.

Michele Aikens is CEO and Lead Coach of Sepia Prime Communications and Coaching.


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