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Leading Well During Times of Change

3 weeks ago life was normal and I was looking forward to Spring Break and summer vacation. Now, the world is quarantined courtesy of Covid19. The sudden shutdown of our economy and society in general has not only caused major disruptions to personal lives but to our work lives as well. Many companies are forced into providing work from home opportunities and some have even had temporary layoffs. 

Although we should all be taking this virus seriously, it does not mean that our work life has to suffer. Your business can still thrive in uncertainty. Despite the current predicament of our world, not all change is bad. If done right, you can even turn a negative change into something positive.

Different Types of Organizational Change and Its Impact on Employees

"Change is inevitable in organizations, and when it happens, leadership often underestimates the impact those changes have on employees”- David. W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, former head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence

Negative Changes

  • Changes perceived as negative drain resources, making it difficult to cope with and implement change.

  • Takes away the energy of employees

  • Increase stress

Neutral Changes

  • Neutral changes may seem minimal but the frequency can add up leading to either positive or negative feelings

Positive Changes

  • Changes perceived as positive increase employee’s access to resources to do their job

  • Reduce Stress

  • Increase employee engagement and retention.

My favorite book on change management continues to be John Kotter's "Our Iceberg is Melting" which is an excellent short fable about a colony of penguins who find that their iceberg is melting and that they need to migrate. The fable outlines John Kotter's steps for leading change. Here are the steps along with helpful tips on making each step successful.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

  • Don’t exhibit panic, stress or loss of control

  • Help others see the need for change through effective and positive communication

  • Make smart decisions with confidence and act on them quickly

  • Identify causes of complacency and how to eradicate them

  • Encourage and offer help. Don’t nag, bully or threaten.

Build a Guiding Coalition It Takes a Village

  • Strong teams help drive positive change

  • Engage your staff

  • Diversity is Key

  • Focus on behavior not personality

  • Engage your team

Forming the Strategic Vision and Initiatives Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”-Jack Welch

  • A change vision is simply what the organization, department, product or service will look like after the specific changes have occurred

  • Clarify how the future will be different from the past

  • Ask how we can make that desired future a reality through initiatives linked directly to the vision.

  • An effective change vision is easy to understand, and easy to deliver through both written and verbal communication

Enable Action by Removing Barriers Bad Habits Die Hard”

  • Know exactly what your barriers are and its impact to change efforts

  • Evaluate alternatives to eliminate the barrier

  • Select the best option

  • Train how to remove the barrier

  • Monitor the progress

  • Don’t Turn Back

Generate Short Term Wins “Wins are the molecules of results”

  • Wins must be recognized, collected and communicated-early and often, to track progress and to energize employees to persevere.

  • Short term wins are organizational or departmental wins that can be implemented in 6-18 months.

  • Effective wins are not gimmicks but significant improvements

  • Short term wins are visible throughout the entire organization, team or department.

  • Short term wins are clearly related to the change effort.

Sustain Acceleration

  • Press harder after the first successes

  • Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality

  • Use increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the transformation vision.

  • Hire, promote, and develop talent that can implement the change vision

Institute Change

  • Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational successes.

  • Make sure those new behaviors and organizational successes continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits

  • Create better performance through customer and productivity oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management.

  • Anchor the new approaches in the culture

Other Tips for Leading Change

  • Be Self-Aware

  • Involve employees

  • Delegate effectively

  • Address feelings

  • Follow through, but be flexible

  • Stay positive

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