One of the skills that often comes up in discussions of leadership capabilities is “managing change.” As I noted in my most recent article, though, the role of the leader is more about managing the transition required by employees as they adjust to the change. In his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges described that transition as a 3-phase process:
Ending – letting go of old ways and the old identity.
The Neutral Zone – that period where the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational.
New Beginnings – employees adapt to the new ways/identity and find the sense of purpose that makes the change work.
Here are some tips for guiding employees through this process effectively.
- Determine how behaviors and attitudes need to change to make teams work effectively as a result of the change. Who stands to lose something under the new system, and how will you handle that?
- “Sell” the reason for the change. What is the problem that the new process/organization will solve? Help employees see the problem from the customer or business perspective. People will be more adaptable if they understand the “why” versus having to accept change “because I said so.”
- Get to the root of resistance to the change. Talk to individuals to understand their concerns. Explain to employees the phases of transition, and that it’s a natural process. Hold skip level meetings. Listen.
- Hold employee meetings / forums to discuss how you will move forward together in the new organization / process. Include and empower employees to help with the transition.
- Celebrate the new beginning. If it’s the formation of a new team, for example, create a new team logo. If it’s a new process that solves a customer issue, share positive customer feedback. Have a “We Did It!” event. Acknowledge employees for successfully completing the transition.
To ensure that your transition goes as smoothly as possible, here are some things you should avoid.
- DO NOT turn everything over to individuals as a group and ask them to come up with a plan.
- DO NOT break the change into smaller, sequential changes. This would require employees to go through the transition phases multiple times. Introduce the change all at once with a well-thought-out plan.
- DO NOT pull key employees together as a model to show others how to do it.
- DO NOT keep changing plans if one doesn’t work.
- DO NOT threaten disciplinary action if employees won’t quickly adjust to the change.
If you would like some help developing a transition plan, please contact me.