The world seems like it’s moving faster than ever, and history is littered with the bones of companies that refused to change to fit the times. Businesses that continue to thrive must stay on their toes, remaining agile and adaptable to their customers’ needs.
But while change is necessary for any growing business, we must keep in mind the impact of change on our teams. Some people thrive in a change-filled environment, but not everyone operates that way. When introducing sudden or future changes to employees at any level of an organization, there are certain actions that can help to smooth the transition and put your team’s minds at ease.
Affirm what will not change.
When informing employees about an upcoming change, it’s easy to jump right in and start talking about what will be different. But for many people, leading with the changes can lead to imaginations running wild and lead to them drawing incorrect conclusions far out of scope from your intention. Having a sudden change thrown in their face could rock their sense of security and upset their equilibrium, leading them to think, “If this one thing is changing, everything will!” whether or not that may be true.
To help your team process the change in a healthy way, lead with assurances about what isn’t changing. This can help set their minds at ease, prevent them from unnecessarily worrying about potential issues lying outside the actual scope of change, and prepare them to truly hear and embrace the upcoming change.
Show your work.
Good leaders don’t make large decisions lightly, as well they shouldn’t. It’s likely been a long journey toward making the decision to enact change, with a great deal of time, thought, and energy invested. You and your team have pored over data, examined options and otherwise immersed yourselves in the issue.
With that level of immersion, it’s easy to forget that most of your employees haven’t been as deeply involved in the decision-making process as you. While I don’t recommend dumping all of your granular research into their laps, it’s often helpful to provide them with some high-level context. Help them see the thought process that led to your decision that this change is necessary.
While this likely won’t make everyone embrace the change, providing additional understanding can help bring them along. More importantly, it’s a sign of trust and respect for your team that can go a long way in getting them on-board.
Listen to their feedback.
Often, we initiate change based on ideas and assumptions that are ultimately disconnected from the front lines. The higher we are in the organization, the farther we are from the execution of the change, and the more important it is for us to seek out and consider others’ input.
In particular, remain open to feedback from your employees on the front lines. They may present factors we haven’t considered, puzzle pieces we aren’t aware of, or debunk solutions that sound good on paper but make no sense in the trenches.
While their feedback may or may not result in an adjustment to your plans, often tweaks based on real-world input can improve your plan.
“What’s in it for me?”
When introducing change, we are seeking buy-in from our team. We are selling them on it. When you’re trying to sell something, everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” It’s important to address why this benefits the company or your customers. How does it improve your product or make you more effective?
While you need to address these questions, you can’t stop there. Connect the dots for the people on your team. How exactly does this change impact them? Don’t leave it for them to connect the dots or assume they get it. Address it specifically. Are you making a policy change? How does it benefit them? How will it make their lives better? What happens for them if you don’t make this change?
Change how you approach change.
Change is a reality for all of us. Learning how to cope with it—and helping those around us cope with it—is a skill that many spend their entire lives developing. By equipping our teams with the right information in the right way, we can lead more successful transitions in a way that leaves our teams feeling more informed and less overwhelmed.
The more effective we are at helping our teams embrace organizational changes, the more successful we will be in executing them. The more adaptable an organization we can become, the better we can keep up with the ever-evolving world around us.