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Memo to Managers
Taking the Fear Out of Change: A Manager’s Unique Role
Change isn’t easy. And yet, organizations must make changes all the time to stay ahead of business, cultural, regulatory and economic trends.
As a best practice, organizational changes are usually well researched, timed effectively and communicated well in advance. Despite all the preparation that goes into planning and processing policy changes, a successful launch cannot take place without one key element—management’s support.
As a manager, you are the critical piece in helping employees understand and adapt to new processes. Here are three guidelines to keep in mind as you help your employees through change:
1) Address Uncertainty. It can often feel as though decisions that impact employees are being made at a distance. To help your employees better understand process changes, and provide as much background information around the process change as you can. As you talk through the changes, highlight process gaps and the impact those gaps presented for the business. Additionally, provide feedback to organizational stakeholders on your team’s reactions, both positive and negative, to better help management refine the process and make your employees feel heard.
2) Choose the Best Possible Timing & Communication Channel for Sharing Information Related to Change. Do your best to know when changes will be communicated, especially ones you know will impact your team. As much as possible, try to seed in advance that a change in procedure or policy may be coming. If the change must be communicated via email, be sure to cover it in your next staff meeting. If it’s through a Town Hall or other meeting, gather your team after and take questions for follow-up. If you’re responsible for communicating the change, consider the channel. Is this something better addressed in a broader meeting? One-on-one? Is a written communication truly most appropriate, or would it be better as a follow-up to a verbal explanation?
3) Keep the Lines of Communication Open. The more people know—about how change will be coming, and when and how it will impact them—the better it will be accepted when it arrives. Leadership plays a key role in managing employees' resistance to change, but you can help make the process easier for the people you manage. Communicating early and often about coming shifts can help impact how employees react and lessen the overall impact of the only real constant—change.
Questions of the Month
Q: There are policy changes coming that I know my team will not like. How can I best handle that?
A: Prepare yourself first. Be sure you know why the changes are occurring, what the impact will be to people and processes and understand the timing. Essentailly, get all the answers you can get before the change is communicated. If you are prepared, you can better address any questions that come your way. Also, when the change is communicated, gather your team’s feedback and share it with the relevant department. Even if nothing can be done, knowing the impacts may help influence decision-making processes next time a shift is made in procedure or policy.
Q: As a manager, I think there are procedures we can improve and I am recommending changes. How can I best get the support of the people I manage?
A: The easiest way to elicit support is to include people in the process as early as you can, both one-on-one and as a group. Understand the impact of potential changes, why there might be resistance and talk it through with those involved. When you are aware of the reasons people might be resistant to the change, you will be better positioned to implement change with fewer hurdles.
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