We all face change in our business and professional lives and much of the time it sneaks up on us, catching us unaware. No one likes to be caught off guard, unsure of the status quo so many of us have become wary of change. Suspicious even.
In the workplace, people are particularly scared of change. They worry that they’ll be made to look bad, that they may lose their job or that the elements of the work they enjoy will be removed. This means that before making any changes, you’re already facing an uphill struggle.
But change can be a wonderful thing, and it must happen in order for businesses to grow, people to innovate and relationships to blossom. The trick is getting everyone involved to see that.
We think you need some key tools and skills, which we are calling our change management checklist.
One of the biggest problems people have with change at their place of work is the lack of control over their working environment. People spend a lot of time at work, so concerns that their job or how they work will change must not be brushed aside.
It is essential to communicate effectively, both verbally and in written form, to explain why the change is happening and what impact it has. Businesses do not deliberately undertake to make processes or working conditions worse, so explain why these changes will improve things.
Knowing how to develop an effective communications plan, and identifying the unique concerns of different groups and individuals will help you communicate more effectively and assuage fears before they become unmanageable.
A big part of communicating is listening, so how are your listening skills? For effective change management, you’ll need to listen not just to the words being said, but also the meaning behind them. The reasons for this are two-fold:
In order to make effective change you must first understand what the problem is. If you’re listening but not really hearing you could be missing important elements which may direct you down the wrong path. Colleagues familiar with the process undergoing change will be able to tell you what the problem is, it’s up to you to understand that.
Secondly, effective listening makes you a better communicator. It means you’ll be able to detect the fears people have and put a strategy in place to overcome them. If people feel listened to, they’re more likely to cooperate.
In addition to the soft skills of change management, you need to be able to lead from the front. To be effective you must understand how to build a capable and dynamic improvement team, rather than just including those who are enthusiastic or at a loose end. A good team is much more than the sum of its parts, but only with effective leadership.
It’s also about having the tenacity to not take no for an answer when you are driving change. There will always come a point when you need to stand firm in your position in the face of opposition in order to deliver an effective outcome. Leaders must know the difference between persistence and plain obstinacy.
As you’ll be leading the team, you’ll also need to understand how to make key business improvement, and to be able to use your drive and enthusiasm to make things happen.
To deliver really great change management, you have to get people on side so they are as excited about the change as you are. A key element of change management is building rapport and influencing the stakeholders of the process. Would you know where to start producing a stakeholder analysis? Do you even know who your stakeholders are?
People at different levels within an organisation will need to be influenced and communicated with in different ways. It is important to develop influencing skills and take the time to learn some tools to help with this.
It is not possible for one person to change a whole organisation, so change management needs a broad team of supporters and advocates. Training is a key part of this, whether you are training them specifically, or just ensuring the correct training is delivered where it is needed. In order for change to be delivered, it is vital that staff have the understanding and tools they need to make improvements.
There are two elements to supporting a team during change management. The first is giving them them the support necessary during meetings and workshops to be able to work together effectively. This is called facilitation and is a vital skill if you’ll be leading change management. Good facilitators ensure meetings follow an agenda and keep participants engaged and involved, and more.
But it also means supporting them as a person. Providing that listening ear during a change to those who may be a little nervous, or coaching someone in improvement skills they’ve recently gained.
Conflict is inevitable when people are concerned about their future, and changes at work fit into that category. To be really successful when managing change, you need to be able to manage conflict. The challenging thing about managing conflict is that people are all different and will respond in different ways – another reason your communication and listening skills will be so important.
If you can defuse a potentially volatile situation and get everyone to work together, you’ve probably got a key skill for change management.
Promote the change
Once you’ve delivered the change and things have improved, your job as a change agent hasn’t finished. You need to get the message of your success out to the whole company. Perhaps you’re a dab hand at writing internal communications, or perhaps you’ve got those resources available, but building on the momentum of good will is essential for future success.
And, hey, you did a great job, why wouldn’t you shout about it?
Promoting your success is not blowing your own trumpet, it’s broadcasting the benefits of success so that next time the journey to change runs more smoothly, with fewer barriers along the way.
Think you’ve got some of the skills you need to successfully change but need to brush up on others? 100% Effective is one of the few Business Improvement providers to offer consultancy on your terms, allowing you to grow and develop in the areas you need. Get in touch on 0800 066 3749 or contact us here to find out what we could do for you.