Most people don’t like it. That’s why we make a big deal about New Year’s Resolutions– as if we literally have to gear up all year long to face the monumental task of trying to be, think or do something different.
Why are people so resistant to change? It often has to do with real or perceived threats and our expectations. We’re more comfortable with the proverbial “devil you know.” Whatever our current challenges, we’ve developed ways to cope with them. If things change, we might face the unknown.
And what if we can’t manage it?
I’m the weirdo in the bunch. I actually like change. I’ve lived a lot of different places, and I’ve had a lot of careers in a relatively short time. I get bored easily and I welcome new challenges that help me grow as a person. If I were a project management style, I’d be Agile all the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune to the scariness of change. But it’s more of a waiting-in-line-for-a-roller-coaster scared rather than a chainsaw-wielding-psychopath-chasing-me-through-the-woods scared.
In an organizational setting, change must happen in order for companies to compete, scale and improve. However, through effective change management, leaders can mitigate the fear related to change and help make change a positive experience for their employees. You don’t want to chase them through the woods with a chainsaw. You just want to introduce them to Space Mountain. Right?
So how do you put a positive spin on change?
- Don’t make change just for the sake of making change. Sometimes when new leadership steps in, they feel they must “make their mark” or shake things up a bit to exert their authority. This is a terrible way to introduce yourself to the people you are responsible for. Don’t do it! If people hate change, they absolutely loathe unnecessary change. Forcing unnecessary change usually results in a huge plummet in morale as well as your bottom line.
- Check in on how it’s going. If you do make an organizational change, don’t just assume that everything is going to go tickety boo. Have a system in place where people can report problems associated with the change. Check in with your staff on how it’s going and listen to what they have to say. Even a small change can have a negative ripple effect. Taking away Friday team lunches, for example, can affect morale and remove an opportunity for team members to bond. Checking in helps ensure the change you made is a good one.
- Approach change with mindfulness. Take out your expectations, your fears, your emotions and anything else you have tied up in the change. Pretend you are a completely objective observer. What do you see? Is it going well or not? Could something be done better? We often see what we want to see, especially if the change was our idea or is our personal project or “baby.” Stepping outside ourselves and taking a more mindful approach can help us manage the change in a more effective, authentic way.
- Get buy in. Remember that new kid in school who just moved to your area from out of state, and all he or she could talk about was how things were “back home?” Didn’t it make you feel like your school, city or state could never measure up? If you feel change is warranted, it can’t just be about you. You’ll need buy in from other people who are involved. Ask questions. See if they see the problem or if it’s just you. Have they tried solutions in the past? Why didn’t they work? Communication is key for effective change management. If nobody likes the idea but you, it’s guaranteed to go poorly.
- Roll it out slowly. I don’t mean you need to drag things out for months and months, but change is better received when people have time to prepare for it. Announce the change and develop a timeline. Is the office taking on a new dress code? Some people might need time to hit the mall. Is there going to be a reorganization of teams? Maybe the old teams would like to have a farewell lunch. Remember, expectations are a key reason people resist change. If you can set everyone’s expectations for how the change will roll out and tie specific dates or milestones to it, people will be able to adjust their expectations accordingly.
- Did I say communication is key? Be open to it, both positive and negative. If you are making the right change for the right reason, you’ll be able to mitigate any negative effects, but only if the dialogue is open.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes you might be making the wrong change for the right reason. You may have to fail once or twice to discover the best solution. Keep an open mind. Talk to your staff. Remember Thomas Edison’s famous quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Want to learn more about effective change management? We’re currently enrolling in our January organizational change management class. See more Solarity offerings HERE or give us to call to find out how we can help your organization thrive.
About the Author
Brandy Whisman is an administrative professional at Solarity. She enjoys bringing clarity to chaos and helping people find a healthy balance in work, life, and relationships. Brandy received her B.A. from Berea College and her JD from the University of the District of Columbia.
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