“What will social distancing look like for us?” “Who have you consulted with?” “How will our performance goals be adjusted?” “What if I don’t have access to childcare?” “What precautions have been put in place to make sure it’s safe to return to work?”
These are just some of the questions leaders like you need to be prepared for as they consider how they are going to re-open their businesses.
The biggest mistake leaders can make is to assume that everyone in the organization is as far along the change process as they are. It’s easy to forget that while the senior leadership team has been reviewing the data and having planning meetings, the same isn’t true for the rest of the employees.
When talking about change, we say that people have five predictable stages of concern—and corresponding questions—when evaluating a change and going through transition: information concerns, personal concerns, and implementation concerns followed by impact concerns and refinement concerns.
When the senior leadership team begins asking people to come back to work, it’s important to allow time to address people’s first three stages of concern. These are the stages that leaders often bypass or don’t spend much time on, mainly because they personally have already worked through them over many weeks of discussions. Because they’ve done it, they mistakenly underestimate the time that others will need to process the same concerns. During change, leaders need to meet folks where they are. So people’s information, personal, and implementation concerns about change are critical for leaders to address right away.
One of the worst things a leader can do is initiate a change without first addressing people’s concerns. Pushing ahead for the sake of expediency causes people to think ‘My manager hasn’t thought about me at all in this. They haven’t thought about how this is going to impact me.’ On the other hand, when leaders talk about those concerns, people think ‘My manager cares about my concerns—and about me.’
Leaders have a tendency to want to move fast during change, often by using a top-down approach. While they can make decisions quickly using that approach, it’s likely to slow down or possibly derail implementation of the change because they won’t have the commitment level from people in the company. At best, they’ll have compliance, which won’t be enough in the long term. But if leaders slow down a little bit on the front end by involving more people, giving them a voice in the process, and getting dialogue going, the change implementation will move faster and results will come sooner.
Even though everyone needs to be involved in the process, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have a vote. There is a difference between having a voice and having a vote. While few organizations would allow employees a vote in the change process, all organizations have an opportunity to give people a voice. And that voice goes a long way in lowering people’s resistance to the change. Just knowing that the leaders initiating the change are taking input from a lot of different sources and different people goes a long way. People see it as more of a smart process and are better able to understand the rationale for the decisions being made.”
We need to emphasize that change is a process done best with people, not to people. Many researchers show how the most change-adaptive organizations rely on their workforce—not just their executives—to lead change.
It is about leading the transition (internal emotions) first and not the change (external to the individual) .
Change works fast when you’ve won over people’s hearts and minds.
Change leadership teams that encourage open and honest communication have far better results than those that don’t. It’s the free-flowing sharing of information and being in a dialogue, not a monologue, that is key.
“Gartner’s research shows that a high involvement strategy improves engagement, retention, and ultimately implementation speed by up to 33%. So people are more highly engaged, there’s a greater likelihood they will stay with the organization, and the implementation will happen faster.
For organizations looking to improve their readiness for a short-term change initiative and a long-term change-ready organization, it is highly important to improving leaders’ change readiness skills—through training, consulting, or coaching.
In every case, leaders must be educated on people’s predictable stages of concern and on communication skills for addressing each stage effectively.
Get the paper and questions for each stage of the transition HERE
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