Times of change are no longer a phase, but our new way of living, and the environment in which we’re all working. It is the kind of environment, one might add, less than easy to navigate, particularly when you consider all the human emotions in response, or out of resistance, to most changes. How do leaders do it? How do they navigate not only the change, but what employees say about it, and do with the action or even the announcement? The best, most successful, and far less frustrated, leaders engage three specific policies in times of change. They engage, implement, and then disengage these policies when they are no longer needed. Not that any of us foresee change stopping in the near future.
Require More Communication
One of the most painful events in times of change, occurs when people start feeling left out or as if they’re missing vital information. If your existing change policies and procedures demand following a chain of command, only going to Human Resources in certain situations, or only talking with their union steward about needed action, this may be the time to open up the flood gates and insist people start talking with each other. Typically, only after the drama is at a heightened state and team members are making up their own version of the facts in organization, do all-hands meetings and department debriefs start getting scheduled. Lead the effort here and break down all possible barriers for everyone to be part of the message and the process.
Provide Venting Options
In some cases, what’s changing just stinks. Most people get it and they understand that in certain business situations, this or that change must happen. Of course, we can’t continue to pay for that department when revenue is down 40%. Part of their brain is practical, and the other part is going to miss their buddies in finance and distribution, for example. To keep the emotional discourse from turning practical reasoning into irrational behavior, give employees 15-30-minute vent sessions. This is where they talk with you behind closed doors and scream and yell or say whatever, without any repercussions. They are then expected to go back to being productive. These sessions give your extroverts, and sometimes even over stressed introverts, a chance to get things out of their head.
Schedule More Frequent Check Ins
In less frenetic times, you may have a standard policy that states the boss should have one on ones with team members once a quarter or twice yearly or when performance reviews are due. In times of change, do that and then some. Check in and meet with and ask questions of those you lead, far more frequently and purposefully. You’re not looking to create problems or conjure up negative feelings they’re not really feeling, you are merely seeking to keep the communication and rapport door open. Some will naturally diminish their trust of anyone in leadership during such times and you don’t want that to happen. Lead the conversation with questions like “what’s good?”, “what’s not so good?” and “what’s changed?” and keep that formula for each person, meeting with them weekly if you feel that frequency is needed.
One policy not mentioned might well be included for the leader, versus the team members. That is to stay focused. Leaders juggle far more than normal in times of change. The additional needs and responsibilities in a changing environment can create shorter fuses, less decision making abilities, doom and gloom thinking, and neediness or drama. All are normal and are best mitigated if you find a grounding point on which to focus. Perhaps remind yourself that no change is permanent. Find something in your world that is not changing, even if it is the way in which you position papers on the surface of your desk. Ground yourself and stay focused on what grounds you so you can locate some stability until things stop changing. Not that any of us foresee change stopping in the near future, but if it were to happen, these policies might be less effective, and far less needed in times where everything is smooth and copasetic. It is in the times of chaos and mayhem, in which systems are new, and procedures are ambiguous, in which these polices have the greatest impact. Use them wisely and implement them quickly so that the emotions will dissipate so that everyone can get back to work, or at least be less inclined to overreact to the next change that’s likely coming.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121. To learn more about the CORE Profile® or to complete the abbreviated, free, CORE Snapshot™, follow this link.