Secret Tips for Making Organizational Change Easier!
Part 1 of 2
Is your organization going through a change? Whose isn't? Organizations that aren't growing and changing aren't staying competitive. And leaders who can't effectively lead change aren't lasting either.
So how do you help staff avoid drama, resistance or even trying to block change?
Leaders who most effectively move their organizations through change confidently and bravely hold space for their staff to make their own choices. Especially in times of change. When I hear, “We are in the midst of an important change process (or new implementation or restructure) and my staff is fighting me every step of the way”, I start exploring the leaders belief about “choice” versus “I know what’s best for you” within their leadership style.
What do I mean by holding space for choice? Here’s a hypothetical (or not). Your company is embarking on a new initiative in which some employees’ job descriptions will change. Learn new systems. Some people will actually have to move to new departments. And to make it more dramatic, not only in reporting but PHYSICALLY move (see my upcoming post on territory and drama!). We all know that these changes, while in the best long-term interest of the organization (which as leader is your priority), will likely result in some push back from staff. But buy-in is critical for a successful implementation.
You could simply mandate the change and deal with the fall out. But honestly, how many times you’ve seen that work? A consultant friend of mine says, “Invest now or pay later” when referring to leaders who don’t take the time to hold space for dialogue and choice in the change process.
How to hold space for choice First understand that underneath resistance to change is fear. The fear that with change comes struggle and hardship. I don’t know about you, but when I feel forced to participate in struggle and hardship, I resist. However, when the possibility of struggle and hardship (even when it is only my projection) is my own choice, I embrace it as an opportunity to stretch, challenge myself, learn and grow. Consider this. When you were in Physical Education class you were forced to run as part of the curriculum. As an adult you run for pleasure and challenge yourself to go further and increase your speed.
I can hear you thinking, “But wait a minute. These people don’t have a choice to participate in the change! It has already been decided by the leadership!”
Reality check! Enlightened leaders who seek to empower their staff understand and accept that in every situation each of us has choice. Even making no choice at all ultimately is a choice.
Your job is to lay the groundwork for choice
Informing staff of impeding change and the reasons why it is important to the future of the organization is key. As you do this, use these simple steps:
Ask for their support and acknowledge, in a valuing way, that you are aware of and fully respect their ability to choose to participate or not participate. Validate their feelings with statements like, “On hearing this, some of you may be experiencing feelings of resistance. That is normal. And most likely those are based in fear of what hardship or struggles the changes may cause you day-to-day while we stretch. Others of you may be feeling excitement and anticipation. And some are in between these two. But my hope is that, because you are all part our success so far, you will choose to continue being part of the success as the organization enters a new and exciting, albeit different, phase of its growth and success. As we move forward, we will be providing support and expect that each of you will be proactive in helping us identifying areas where support is needed”.
That sounds a lot different and more comforting than what I heard one leader recently say to his team, “And if you aren’t on board, there’s the door”.
Reflect for just a moment if you feel any change in your body when you read that comment? Doesn’t really make you want to stretch, does it?
Stay tuned for part two in my next post where I’ll delve into where the bravery comes in! And share specifics on how YOU can get the pay off of creating space for choice.