During springtime, the power of change takes center stage with snow melting, warmer weather, later nights, leaves budding, and much more. Most people anticipate spring with excitement and a sense of renewal. Unfortunately, when organizations undertake change – whether a large-scale transformation or iterative, ongoing change – many employees resist. The result is change initiatives often fail to meet their intended goals and organizations may find themselves in a cycle of lower employee engagement.

What can leaders do to help others embrace change?

When leaders, at all levels, keep the following five (5) tips in mind they can proactively help others deal with change. 

  1. Remember to check your own commitment to the initiative.  During times of change, it is natural for leaders to react and form their own opinions.  Start with understanding and managing your own reactions, take time to reflect and champion the “why” behind the change with others.  Staying attuned to your own reactions may help you pay closer attention and remain sensitive to what your direct reports may be experiencing.
  2. Focus on the impact of change.   When change takes place, organizations, their customers, and their employees may experience both intended and unintended consequences.  Taking the time to proactively outline the potential impact to processes, people, customers, and ways of working provides an opportunity to more effectively plan implementation and mitigate potential risks.
  3. Keep your team engaged.  As the first to receive information, it is up to the leader to communicate what you know, when you know it, and to build trust during times of uncertainty.  Leaders serve as a filter for their teams by identifying what’s relevant and mission critical, and separating these from what doesn’t impact employee roles and responsibilities. Additionally, seeking direct reports’ input on the path forward and how to modify team goals and priorities builds commitment, creates alignment, and fosters collaboration.
  4. Check-in with everyone.  Start with the premise that change is done to you, and transition is how you process the change.  As a leader, it’s your responsibility to regularly check-in on how each person is processing the changes.  Do they need help?  Are there skill gaps that must be addressed?  What are they giving up that may be hard to let go?  Listening and coaching to these answers will help each team member embrace the changes, while also helping maintain performance and engagement.
  5. Develop a clear plan and monitor results.  As a leader, take responsibility for developing and executing your overall implementation plan and identify clear metrics for success.  Keep your team engaged by regularly reviewing the plan and remaining agile to adjust as new situations arise, conditions change, or better ideas emerge. 

Instead of thinking of organizational change as hard, which it often is, it may be helpful to reposition change as ongoing.

The five (5) tips outlined above represent the importance of equipping leaders with the tools and mindset to deal with ongoing change.  As each of you enjoy the spring season, look for opportunities to engage your team in discussions on how better to deal with ongoing change. Building resilience and adaptability will better prepare you and your team to Change and Thrive!

Please feel free to contact us for more information on how to produce effective, lasting organizational change.

Wendy L. Heckelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Wendy Heckelman, president and founder of WLH Consulting, Inc. has over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 100 industry clients. These include pharmaceutical, biotech, health care, animal health medicines, and consumer products, as well as international non-profit organizations and growing entrepreneurial companies.

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