In business today, change is inevitable. Not only is it inescapable, but the speed of change seems to intensify as each day goes by. What this means to your business is that you really need the performance of every person in your company to constantly be on the upswing. So you can imagine how important it is that executives, managers, and supervisors alike take a constructive approach towards change management in order to consistently drive these improvements within your organization.
Now, change is growth, so it is generally a positive circumstance for your company, but nothing kills change like the resistance of the people within the business. How do you overcome employee resistance? Good question. Frankly, it’s pretty difficult to get people on board with change if they really don’t want to embrace it. There is no doubt that change is difficult for many people, and often you will hear employees lament company transformation with sad reminiscences about “the good old days” — and by that they mean the “good old ‘pre-change’ days.” Just listening to these stories brings visions of productivity trickling away like sand through your fingers. No one wants to see that. So leaders within a transforming company need to find ways to effectively manage change.
So how can your company create an effective change strategy that trickles down from top leadership into implementation by management and team leaders? Let’s take a look at a few techniques that have worked for us and our clients:
- Be upfront with your people. As soon as you know that change is afoot, you need to begin preparing the people in your company. It’s no big secret that one of the best ways to overcome resistance to change is to inform people about the change effort in advance. Let them know what is coming up, how it impacts them, what you want and/or expect from them in relation to the change, and the anticipated time frames. Being honest and clear in your communications is the key to setting the stage for successful change and helping your people to feel calm and collected about their situation.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Communicate often and regularly about the change within your company. In order to achieve a constructive change environment, it’s imperative that you know how to communicate the changes to your team. Continually explain what you want from the people within your business, and allow them to openly communicate their concerns, issues, fears, or perceived challenges related to the change. Honestly explore those thoughts with them. After you’ve made the decision for change, it’s a strategic move to ask for your team’s thoughts and participation in implementation. Encouraging your people to find innovative solutions for managing your company’s change has double benefits. Not only does it bring inventive solutions to the table that might never have been considered, but it also empowers your people to feel a sense of control and comfort during the acclimatization period. Win-win for everyone.
- Be clear about the need for embracing the change. If you observe your people showing resistance, speak openly and honestly to them about this. During a major company transformation is not the time to “pussyfoot around” and worry about further upsetting dissatisfied people. If you need them to embrace the change, it’s only right that you communicate the importance to them and make sure that they understand the consequences to both themselves and to the company as a whole if they continue to resist. There is no bite in the message unless defined consequences are communicated clearly.
- Allow accountability. We are all personally accountable for the manner in which we decide to handle change. It’s important that you don’t take responsibility when some of your people are not embracing the change within your company. You can not make people do what they don’t want to do. It’s important to be clear with everyone, to care about their feelings and the issues they are facing, but in the end, each person needs to be personally accountable for either stepping up or stepping out.
- Be Realistic. Lastly, know that if your people are putting up a lot of resistance to change, the likelihood is that this roadblock will always be there. Don’t expect a sudden “a-ha!” moment where they see the light and out of the blue embrace the change. Some people may “go along to get along,” but they won’t be happy and they won’t end up supporting the change. Productivity issues, absenteeism, and conflict are all signs that you’ll have to watch for — they mark resistant attitudes.
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