Change, and our ability to make it work for us rather than against us, has become a defining characteristic of successful individuals, teams, departments and organisations.
Our ability to cope with change has been forced to strengthen, as change has become the very essence of a thriving organisation. Despite knowing all this, change is still often greeted with fear and avoidance. Why? We fear change at work for a variety of valid reasons. Many of these fears are associated with a fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, but more often than not, fear of the unknown.
The existence of change is inevitable and necessary, and isn’t going to go away by simply ignoring the issues as they arise. Instead, by being prepared to take on the many changes that can present themselves along the way, everyone in the organisation can learn to overcome the fear and embrace the changes ahead with positivity and intention.
For the forward-thinking leader or manager who seeks to make the most of the future, change is the vital ingredient that must be present, welcomed and nurtured. Below are a few suggestions on how to help your team tackle change better, and how you can lead them through change with skill and prowess.
Recognise that change does happen and it has a purpose
The first thing to address is the attitude toward the presence of change. Renewal and growth through change has meant employees and leaders at all levels of organisations have become accustomed to change in the form of restructuring, reinvention, decentralisation, centralisation, the creation of multi-disciplinary teams, and forms of flexible work practices.
Whether it be a staff reshuffle, a merger or a budget dilemma, there is nothing to be gained in denying that the change is happening. Instead, by recognising the presence of the change, fear of the unknown is addressed in the early stages. By coming to terms with the situation, encouraging optimism around it and discussing the next step, change can be approached more positively, and in turn more productively.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
In a situation of organisational change, communication cannot be an afterthought. It has to be a core component of the steps toward incorporating the presence of change into future actions. Periods of change require an effort by everyone involved to be on the same page. Any communication gaps can immediately be filled by rumours and speculation, which create even more fear around the idea of change. If employees are given the opportunity to effectively communicate their fears to co-workers, leaders and managers within their organisation, their concerns can be better addressed and alleviated. Empathy can be the greatest communication tool you have.
Acknowledge that incorporating change happens in stages
Often change in the workplace can simulate the same stages as grief – shock, denial, anger and finally, acceptance. In order to reach the point of acceptance (and the end goal of moving forward) the previous stages will need to be progressed through, both individually and as a group. The progression from one stage to the next may not be a smooth one, nor may it happen at the same rate for everyone involved. Have an understanding of the stages that you and your team will need to progress through in order to reach the final positive position of acceptance. It will help you to have more empathy for those around you, and to be able to provide support when required.
Be flexible, be realistic
In essence change is about being flexible. By being inflexible with how you approach a changing situation, you are diminishing your chances of being able to cope with the end result of the change. Instead, your ingrained thinking patterns will be out of step with what the new situation requires and you will be left behind.
Take a good look at the requirements of the new situation. You may need to learn new skills, integrate different processes or redirect resources. Be honest with what is required and see the change as an opportunity to streamline and learn. Come up with a plan to deal with the change for yourself and for your team and begin executing it as soon as possible.
Remember that a change in organisational structure can also present a perfect opportunity to shake things up individually and at a team member level too. Incorporate feedback on individual staff members to encourage performance through the transition time, but keep your expectations within the parameters of what is possible.
See the bigger picture
Change is something that is definitely here to stay. The necessary approaches to tough times require new ways of thinking and an understanding of the importance of fluid thinking. Change can be frightening, disruptive and overwhelming. However, with the right attitude and a predetermined set of actions that can guide you and your team through, you can find the opportunity in any situation and learn to embrace change for what it is: possibility.
LMA Take LMA’s Leadership Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D) Survey to have your say about what changes most affect the modern workplace.