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3 Change Management Activities For Leaders

As a leader, it is always important to be present and accessible to the individuals who report to you, and it is more important than ever during a transition in the company. When not handled well, change can be distressing and potentially damaging to morale. On the other hand, if you implement a well thoughtout change management plan, with accompanying activities, you can successfully undergo a transition that leads to long-lasting, positive change.

Leaders are especially important in the success of any change initiative. Regardless of whether the change is small such as a physical modification of the office space, or as large as an organizational culture transformation, individuals will look to leadership for cues. If you exhibit poise and grace under pressure, your team is likely to follow suit. However, if you express concern about the transition, or even worse, seem oblivious to the worries of those around you, others in the company are more likely to feel anxious. Approach the transition with intention and incorporate these change management activities for leaders and you will be well on your way to success.


1. Build Effective Communication Throughout the Process

Effective communication is essential for successful change management. Start an open dialogue as early as possible in the process and continue to provide updates and ask for feedback. Do not assume that people will come to you if they have questions; make it clear that they are not only welcome to do so, but encouraged to actively participate in the process. By communicating the reasons for the change, the projected timeline, how it will impact each individual, and any other relevant details, you not only minimize the disruption, but you also get the buy-in you need for everybody in the company to embrace the new systems or change behavior.

For your change management plan, consider face-to-face communication sessions that start with executive leaders, move down to management teams, and then to individuals. You can:

  • Conduct one-on-one meetings with each of the senior leaders in your organization that foster an honest and straight-forward discussion of the changes.
  • Form small group meetings, led by these senior leaders, throughout the organization. These meetings should share the same information, brainstorm solutions, and implement the new processes.

Remember, individuals will be more likely to embrace change if it’s discussed on a personal level rather than by reading it.

Recommended Change Management Activity

If you’re finding that communication is breaking down, try starting your meetings with a communication-focused team-building activity, based on the improv comedy tenet, “Always say yes.” Take ten minutes to do an improv exercise that helps build communication skills.

  1. Have individuals break into pairs.
  2. One member of the pair starts with a statement and the second person responds with, “Yes and…” The first person continues with another statement and the “Yes and…” cycle continues for five minutes.
  3. After five minutes, the partners switch and do the same exercise starting with a different statement.

This kind of activity works in two ways: first, individuals benefit from practicing communication skills. Second, when leaders are involved, they get insight into the kinds of communication improvements that individuals respond the best to. You strengthen communication and leadership skills – all in one.


2. Create an Environment of Accessibility

Your team should always feel that they can come to you and any other leaders with questions, suggestions, or concerns, particularly when the company is undergoing a transition. Make it easy for them to communicate with you by eliminating the obstacles that make it logistically challenging or intimidating. For example, if you have a busy schedule that leaves limited time for one-on-one conversations with individuals on your team, try these strategies:

  • Set aside a couple hours a week when you have an open door policy so they know they can reach you without disrupting your schedule. Put it in the calendar as “non-touchable” time.
  • Schedule a regular meeting time with team members, giving them the opportunity to speak up when they otherwise might not. Also put it in the calendar as “non-touchable” time.
  • Allow team members to participate in decision making by scheduling a brainstorming meeting where each individual will have an opportunity to voice their ideas or feedback.

Recommended Change Management Activity

If you feel that team members aren’t comfortable coming to you and may be holding back questions about the process, try an activity that both opens you up as a leader and encourages questions from the team.

Use a physical activity to demonstrate the importance of open communication.

  1. Start with everybody in the group blindfolded and have them pass a ball around the room without speaking. The process is slow and the ball can only go to people who are adjacent to each other.
  2. Next, allow them to speak while passing the ball, but still with blindfolds on. Speed increases, but where the ball can be passed is still limited by proximity.
  3. Finally, remove the blindfolds and allow them to pass the ball around the room to anybody they want to.

This exercise demonstrates that when all of the obstacles to communication are removed, the flow of information is dramatically improved.


3. Practice Empathy

Remember: just because the reasons for the change and the process to get there might be crystal clear in your mind, they are not necessarily so obvious to others in the company. Take the time to put yourself in other’s shoes (which will mean stepping out of yours) by using active listening:

  • Prior to implementing the changes, conduct interviews with employees from various levels and functions.
  • Repeat back how you interpret their ideas or feedback by saying: “Please tell me if I’ve got this right. You feel that…”.
  • Avoid weighing in with your opinion during these meetings in order to truly see the changes from their perspective.

Once you have clarity on how the changes will affect others in the company, adjust the change management game plan accordingly. Clearly outline the process and make your communications– whether they are email memos or announcements at staff meetings–concise and and organized. This is especially true if the change involves multiple steps or different categories of activities.

Recommended Change Management Activity

Active listening not cutting it? If you’re not feeling like it’s easy to put yourself in your team members’ shoes, try one of the activities listed above–but you should be a participant, not the leader. Instead of leading through a communication breakdown, you’re experiencing it firsthand. Later, you can better lead through these breakdowns because you’ve recently been on the receiving end.

Even the smallest of changes will inevitably be disruptive to some degree, especially if the stage has not been set properly in advance. Therefore, by employing change management activities like effective communication, being accessible to your team, and looking at the transition from their perspective, you can successfully lead change.


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