Motivating People Through Change
Change is an essential part of any healthy business. If a business is to progress and evolve you have to be willing to embrace change. However, a period of transition inevitably brings with it numerous challenges, not least of these are the “people issues.”
As a leader, one of the most difficult aspects of working through change is managing the human side of the business. Let’s face it, most people are resistant to change. Change can bring about doubt, fear and indecision – any of which is enough paralyse your team.
One of the keys to successfully navigating any period of change is ensuring that the human side of the business is properly prepared and managed and there are several ways you can do this.
Make clear the reasons for the change
Not understanding the reasons for the change is one of the quickest ways to ruin motivation. If your business is going through a transformation, make sure that everyone understands why it’s happening and what to expect in terms of outcomes, benefits and challenges. If your people have to work through a period of disruption, they are less like to become frustrated or disillusioned if they have a clear understanding of the reasons behind the changes.
Make sure people know how they will be affected
When faced with changes at work, most people will immediately think “How will this affect me?” However, few people will actually come straight out and ask that question. Take the time to explain to the people how it will affect them, rather than focusing solely on how it will affect the business.
As with any aspect of people management, communication will be the make-or-break factor in keeping your team motivated. However, clearly explaining the reasons for the change and how your people will be affected is just the beginning. Provide regular updates on how the project is progressing and check in with your people to find out how they are coping. Remember that new questions and concerns will continually emerge as the project progresses. Make sure that these are regularly and promptly addressed.
Never try to sell a negative change as a positive one. Chances are your employees will immediately see through the spin, resent you for it and be less inclined to buy in to the change. If the change is negative, be honest about the reasons for it and the necessity of it. If the change will have short-term negative effects that will ultimately lead to a positive end result, be up front about that too. If the changes will negatively affect a particular department more than others, you should acknowledge this. Hearing the truth up front and from leadership is better than finding out that something has been concealed.
Make room for individuals
Remember that people are all different. If you’re making significant organisational changes there is no single timeline for getting people on board. Some will understand the reasons and start working towards those ends almost immediately, while others may take some time to come around to the merits of the project. Give people the time, the freedom and the resources they need to come to terms with the changes. Make note of the people who are struggling and help them where you can.
Be aware that it’s likely that you will not bring everyone around. There will always be those resistant to change and wedded to the old processes who will – consciously or unconsciously – work to undermine the changes. Make sure that these destructive attitudes are not allowed to take root. Discuss the issues with these people and don’t be afraid to be direct