Change – even good change – in an organisation is always stressful, and the more change there is the more stress there is. So when multiple changes occur, stress levels among your staff are unusually high.
This peak in stress occurs because employees are forced to step out of their comfort zone and embrace, or at least accept, something new. Adapting to change takes time and energy, especially when your employees are expected to remain productive.
In times of change, management is often called upon to answer employee concerns. But in my experience, everyone in the organisation has the potential to be a leader. It’s not so much about job title as it is about having the ability to shift people’s mindsets.
These tips will help you guide your employees during times of multiple change:
Beware the politics
Competing agendas create politics during change – and there are always competing agendas. Those guiding employees are tasked with managing their own egos, reducing uncertainty, figuring out how to satisfy the agendas that are a priority and making sure people feel heard, while understanding that we can’t solve everyone’s problems and make their lives better. Talk about the politics if appropriate. Ignoring them will make your employees think you live in the clouds!
Encourage a mindset shift
Guiding employees through multiple changes involves more than a shift in behaviour or learning a new skill. Effective sustainment of change requires a mindset change. Encourage such a shift whether it’s meeting customer needs, how work gets done, how employees work with each other or the organisation’s overall business model. Gather evidence, stories, data and lessons to help everyone understand the shift that’s needed.
Avoid false positivity
Know the difference between putting on a positive spin and taking a positive approach. Putting a positive spin on a bad situation is not taking a positive approach. Rather, it’s denying that negativity exists and can close down communication. During multiple changes, sometimes you have to stay in the negative for a while. In a meeting, you have a timed discussion of the negative aspects to get them on the table, before moving into positive action, knowing the negative won’t go away at this point. That’s the difference between adopting a positive approach and creating false positivity.
Ground employees in facts while balancing emotions
If the negatives of change are overwhelming you or your team, ask ‘what evidence is there to support this?’ Chances are the facts don’t support the degree of negative experience. Big data can help ground employees in facts so they can make better decisions.
Be prepared to be unprepared
No job descriptions I have seen say ‘we need someone to be comfortable with stability’. They say ‘we want someone who is comfortable in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment’. The more changes, the more of a requirement there is to be comfortable with ambiguity. The longer and more complex the changes, the less you will know what the future holds. Sometimes no answers exist and we just need to prepare for the unknown. Manage employees’ expectations by saying: ‘I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I know. I’m in this with you.’ Sounds simple, but it’s true.
Be clear with your language
Don’t talk about finding efficiencies. This phrase frequently gets translated to job losses. We tend to use cushy words that try to soften the blow of what’s really going on. Instead, try talking about the inefficiencies you’re trying to solve. Be clear about what this means, identifying which inefficiencies the change will solve, as well as which efficiencies won’t be affected. People will appreciate your candour.
Gregg Brown is the bestselling author of Ready... Set... Change AGAIN! and a professional speaker