It’s often said that there is nothing new under the sun and yet, so often change catches us off guard and throws many of us into a tailspin. As a leader, how can you offer support to employees who avoid or strongly resist change and put them on a path toward being change-embracers? First, you and they can relax knowing that tackling change in its many forms is tough for most all of us. Sometimes simply relaxing into a situation can provide enough space to help you think more clearly. When a few more tools are needed to help you ride the wave of upheaval then consider these pointers from consultants who make it their job to see us through transitions.
Advice from several thought leaders on the subject recommends being open with any change that’s on the horizon. Share information with the group so that the new policy, move or procedure is understood and seen as a deliberate, thoughtful decision.
Hear all about it
Instead of bulldozing ahead, consider the opinions of the team and use their feedback to ease the transition. Brent Gleeson, a former Navy SEAL, now a speaker and author, shares the importance of hearing the needs of others and how that helps them to buy in to the new situation. He recommends checking in at the beginning, middle and end of a process and acknowledging the feedback. Let people know you value their opinions and that it’s not simply a placating move.
Call for back up
Vicky and Martin Webster offer up advice in How to Get Your Team to Embrace Change and recommend finding a stakeholder to champion the cause. This means working with a member of the team who is affected by the new developments and who is willing to cheerlead. This win-win provides a leadership role to someone who is likely to have a positive impact on her coworkers and helps to further the cause at the same time.
Piggybacking on his advice to listen is the recommendation to leaders to polish up their Emotional Intelligence, says Gleeson. When a Navy SEAL tells you to show compassion and connect on an emotional level, you listen. This may mean sharing how you feel and being an example for the group. Or it may help to bring team members together for a constructive support session. Demonstrating patience and concern may go a long way to helping others shift into a new mindset. Remember, change doesn’t happen in a day and riding the waves of emotion and challenge is part of the process.
Explain the why
Change is inevitable, but some things seem to keep coming back like our human desire to know why. Just like the five-year-old who wants to understand why the sky is blue and why bedtime comes so early, employees want to know the why of a new situation. Dispelling the mystery by explaining that the new project-management system will likely save the company millions of dollars may help to get folks over the hump of learning new procedures. Pro-tip: We are all self-motivated at heart. If the why can be tied back to something that positively impacts your people in a direct way, such as a work activity or process, all the better.
Clear and present
Along with explanations, consider sharing new guidelines and any new or changing job descriptions. Does the team know what to do now? Training may be one of the most critical parts of the plan, explains Gleeson, so make room for it now. As he explains, doing things right the first time saves time and resources in the long run and sidesteps the possibility of heaping additional frustration on team members.
Everyone operates at a different speed and the rates of accepting change are no different. Add to the positive vibe by publicly recognizing the change-embracers. This keeps their enthusiasm high and may help to encourage others who are slower to hop on the train.
The experts reinforce what we know on a gut level and that is that change is uncomfortable at best, but with some guide posts to follow and a team that feels valued and heard, it’s possible to get through even the toughest transitions and emerge stronger than ever.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw
Did You Know: Psychologist Alicia Clark offers up a few suggestions for tackling the fear of change. She recommends finding the novelty in a situation. Often, we are most ready for change when we are stretched thin, she explains. Something new—whether a job or life change—may be unsettling, but it’s also energizing. That energy can kick us into gear and propel us forward. So, the thing that scares us may be just the boost we need.