I am typing this blog while inflight on Delta. My, how things change. And yet, they change all the time all around us. How you handle changes, as part of your own leadership development and in your personal life, will make a world of difference in how things turn out. In fact, just to be sure, are you making one of three fatal mistakes in change management? Let’s double check:
We all know what happens when we assume and without over utilizing a tired cliché, it still holds true. Not everyone will accept, deal with, process, or react to change in the same way or speed that you will. In fact, most often, managers will know about the change, say of a software program, well in advance of team members. Thus, you will have been able to see the pros and cons, address the urgent issues, and work through some of your own resistance to change before the team members will hear about it. Thus, be aware that there is a natural time needed for them to process as well and give them that. Organizer preferences will need a bit more time and will poke holes naturally in the upcoming process or system change, as that is how they are wired. Relaters will wonder how it affects all the people involved and Entertainers may well wonder if the process will suck the very fun out of the office for a while and be bummed about that. They will also seek out ways to learn it the fastest so that they can be recognized for being a quick study. Give them and the others what they need. Oh, and Commanders will need to own some part of the process, so telling them it’s going to change and they have to “like it or else” – hmmm… not a good plan. Everyone is going to handle it differently and it doesn’t make them difficult…. Just different. No idea what a Commander, Organizer, Relater, or Entertainer is? Click here to read more about the CORE® Profile tool.
Ignoring change is somewhat like ignoring the grapevine at the office. Even if you ignore it, it still exists and if you try to squash it, it seems to grow. Just know it’s there and often it’s predictable and reliable, much like the process of change. Some will like it, some won’t, and at the end of the day, if it is a “must have” all the team members are going to react how they react. Go with the flow a bit and try not to resist the reactions quite as much. This is where a bit of Tai Chi Bull Fighting might come in handy. HUH? Ken Donaldson, author of Marry Yourself First, wrote a brilliant concept called Tai Chi Bullfighting, in which he describes the martial arts approach to dealing with difficulty. Step aside and let the bull pass you by, he says. This is in contrast of course to attempting a head butt or head on collision with the bull. That is painful, some would say foolish, and won’t leave you in much shape to actually handle or address the issue. See the change, know it’s coming and that other bull may be coming along with it, and merely stay calm, stay prepared, and know that you can handle this, too.
William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions, does a splendid job of explaining the phases of change. Miss any one of those phases for you or a team member and you risk getting stuck in a phase that is not anywhere close to acceptance. Think of the 5 Stages of Death, only in the case of Bridge’s masterful work, there are only 3. Phase A is where you, or they, learn of the change and begin to process it. Phase B is where one experiences all the emotions and reactions. (i.e. anger, joy, frustration, fear, etc) Phase C is where we learn to accept the new way of doing things. Many managers make the additional mistake of telling employees to “check their emotions at the door”, thinking this will shorten Phase B. Au contraire mon frère! This is much like embodying with full flair fatal mistake #2. You must acknowledge the emotions and be aware that people have them and bring them with them wherever they go. Only a small percentage of our population has the ability to actually compartmentalize and leave emotions tucked away for later awareness and processing. For the rest, they CAN’T check them anywhere, so you might as well address them and stop forcing the process. Let it unfold each according to their pace or at most, give them time to vent first and then a timeline when acceptance will need to be the order of the day.
Change is part of the natural process of growth and development. As a manager it is something you will experience regularly with respect to processes, procedures, inventory, and supplies. As a leader, it is something you should expect from those you lead because when they stop changing, productivity will slow to a halt and that’s worse for your business than a few change management challenges.