All organizational changes, of course, affect people within the organization. But have you, as leaders, adequately considered just how that change will be perceived by those affected? Or are you simply barking orders? Taking a moment to examine the human side of the organizational equation is almost always revealing and, in my experience, essential to the process.
To a large extent, habits dictate our lives. A change of routine for many employees can be a startling process on a very personal level. So start with those people who will be most affected by the change—and start early. Are they aware of impending changes? Ask your team what their concerns might be.
Not only that: listen!
Create opportunities to learn about the concerns that others might have about the change. At a minimum, you’ll find that others will appreciate the time that you took to listen to them. You might even be able to take steps to alleviate the concerns. The end result is usually greater support for the change itself. Additionally, you will have demonstrated that the work you do is truly a team effort.
Ask & Listen!
For example, suppose your organization will now require personnel to take an additional 4 hours of reality-based training each year. It seems simple; even simple changes affect different people in different ways that management might not have considered.
One way to understand your team members’ concerns is to ask them. You can do this in briefing rooms, hallways, at coffee breaks, or at just about any opportunity you have as a leader to foster communication with your team. Ask some simple questions: Have you heard about the policy change recommendation for 4 additional hours of reality-based training? What concerns do you have?
Show your colleagues that you are listening AND try to minimize distractions, such as texting on cellphones—or even having an audible ringer—during the time that you spend with them. If they know that you are actively listening, they will know that you care. Do not forget to thank people for their feedback!
Of course, your work is not done. Make the time to follow up with those people who will be affected by the change. Keep people advised of the changes and any modifications that are made toward implementing the change. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are not able to make everyone happy. You are simply trying to listen to the concerns of others and, when possible, use the feedback in the best way possible to effectively implement the change.
Effectively implementing change can lead to positive transformation. Remember to include your team at the earliest stage.
Leadership Zoom Challenge: Pick any team member, maybe even one whom you do not spend much time with, and have a one-on-one conversation with him. Ask him if he is familiar with a particular issue regarding a recent change, proposal, or policy. Then, ask: What concerns do you have about the issue? Remember to actively listen, remain open to different viewpoints, give thanks for the feedback, and follow up with the team member, when possible. This type of communication, if done sincerely, is a good way to be more effective at implementing change.