Change leadership is more than managing changes in company processes or tools; it is leading employees through the waters of change. Because it affects everyone, leading change requires the buy-in and support of all employees impacted by the change. They need to know what to expect, their role in the change, the benefits of changing, and how to react when they encounter change. Unfortunately, as pointed out in an article published by the Association for Talent Development, many organizations struggle to achieve employee buy-in and support for change, for reasons such as employee resistance, inadequate resources, and leadership behavior that doesn’t support change. To effectively lead change, here are a handful of actions you can take to prepare your team.
Share the Vision
Employees need to understand not just that change is coming, but why the change is necessary. Taking the time to craft and communicate a vision for change helps the team to see that the change is a reality and not just words or wishful thinking. Sharing your vision also helps individuals to distinguish between which processes or accountabilities in the organization are changing imminently and which changes are more long-term. A vision can also be a source of inspiration to the team because it helps them visualize how things will look after the change has taken place.
Telling employees that change is coming is informative, but it doesn’t effectively prepare the team for change. People often benefit from hearing messages of change frequently and in different forums so they have ample time to develop a deeper understanding of the change that is coming. Frequent communication in the form of one-on-one conversations, team meetings, and email communications not only helps the team understand upcoming changes, but also improves transparency, gives individuals opportunities to ask questions, and helps to open the door for employees to provide feedback.
Create Opportunities for Two-way Feedback
Communication about upcoming change shouldn’t be one-sided. Two-way feedback that provides individuals with a forum for expressing their concerns gives you the opportunity to add clarity and resolve confusion. It can also help to reduce individuals’ anxiety or fears about change as they learn how their role in the change management efforts will look.
Often, when individuals have a chance to discuss upcoming changes with other members of the team, they begin to see they’re not alone and that their fellow teammates can be a source of support for them. Two-way feedback opportunities, such as in-person or virtual brainstorming sessions, team off-sites, and other group sessions, allow individuals to discuss and resolve shared concerns or areas of confusion. The more people participate in dialogue about the changes that affect them, the more they become personally invested and likely to embrace the changes.
Determine Training Needs
Sometimes, changes are complex and sizeable enough that it’s clear the team doesn’t have the knowledge or skill set to deal with them. In this case, a valuable way to prepare your team for organizational change is to determine what kind of training will help them better cope with change and approach it successfully. Whether it’s leadership development that helps individuals more effectively manage themselves or others or skills development training in the areas of communication skills, teamwork, or time management, you can pinpoint training opportunities that will help individuals more effectively approach change before it happens.
Designate Change Champions
Like many things in the organization, preparing for change is a team effort. Instead of assuming that executive or team leaders are the only ones who can help prepare the team for organizational change, it can be helpful to identify others on the team who can help to drive and champion change. Instead of going it alone, look for those who are excited about the change and embrace the ideal behaviors and actions you want to see in everyone else. These people can then be peer leaders who lead by example and set the tone for embracing change.
In many ways, preparing for organizational change can be just as challenging as dealing with the change itself. With some thoughtful actions that introduce a vision for change and support individuals along the way, it is possible to reduce resistance or confusion about upcoming change. Sometimes people aren’t resistant to change at all; they just need a path and some patience to prepare for it.