As a leader you will see a variety of responses to change in your workforce. Fortunately, there are several specific actions and straightforward approaches managers and supervisors can take to help guide their employees successfully through organizational change. These guidelines can make times of change some of the most rewarding and productive times in your leadership career.

    1. Involve employees in the change process. We are firm believers that employees are not so much against change as they are against being changed. The sooner you involve employees in the process, the better off you will be implementing the change. A formal communication channel will be more effective at implementing change than a negative informal one consisting of rumors and gossip. Involving employees helps employees move from a “Not me!” response to a greater understanding of why the change is needed.
    2. Interview employees. It is critical that managers and supervisors understand what employees are feeling regarding the change. It is only when you accurately understand their feelings that you know what issues need to be addressed. Implementing change requires the ability to sell. It is difficult to sell effectively without understanding your buyer’s needs, concerns, and fears.
    3. Ask questions, don’t tell. We are fond of the statement, “You can tell tough employees, but you can’t tell them much.” People who do not deal well with change generally are the same employees who cannot be “told” anything. For this reason, we recommend asking them questions rather than telling them why the changes are taking place. Asking rather than telling helps reduce feelings of anxiety or anger that the employee may be experiencing related to the change.
    4. Get both negative and positive informal leaders involved. Most managers and supervisors get the positive informal leaders involved in helping implement changes. They have a reputation for supporting management, regardless of the change. The mistake many managers make is not getting the negative informal leaders involved in the beginning stages of the change process. By involving them, you know what their objections and concerns are regarding the change. Knowing their concerns will help you design your change strategy.
    5. Don’t cover all the bases yourself. Too often managers and supervisors feel they must use self-protective measures, especially during organizational change. They start by trying to police all activities. You should concentrate on effective delegation during the early stages of the change process. Effective delegation is particularly good for two reasons. First, it helps you manage and maintain your workload. Second, it gives your employees a sense of involvement. That positions them to share in the responsibility for change.
    6. Raise expectations. Now, more than ever, you should ask more from your employees. It is expected that more work needs to be done during the change process. While it may be more practical to expect less in terms of performance, this is the time to raise your levels of performance for both yourself and your employees. Require performance improvements and make the process challenging, but remember to keep goals realistic so you eliminate frustration and failure.
    7. Ask employees for their commitment. Once the change has been announced, it is important that you personally ask for each employee’s commitment to implement the change successfully. It is equally important that you tell the employee that if there are problems, you want to hear about them. Remember, if a negative employee does not tell you about problems, you can be sure he will be telling other employees about why the change will not work.
    8. Overcommunicate. The change process usually means that normal communication channels in the organization won’t be working as well as they usually do. During this time, your employees will be hungrier than ever for information and answers. You can “beef up” communication in two ways. First, give employees an opportunity to give you input. Start by becoming more available and asking more questions. Get employee opinions and reactions to the changes. Second, strive to be specific. Clear up rumors and misinformation that clutter the communication changes. Remember, it is almost impossible to overcommunicate.
    9. Be firm, but flexible. As you introduce a change, it is important that you see the change through to completion. Abandoning it halfway through the change destroys your credibility. Remain committed to the success of the change effort, but flexible because you may have to adapt to a myriad of situations to successfully implement your change.
    10. Stay positive. Your attitude as a manager or supervisor will be a major factor in determining what type of climate is exhibited by your employees. Your attitude is the one thing that keeps you in control. Change can be stressful and confusing. Try to remain upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic. Foster motivation in others. During times of transition and change, make a commitment to acknowledge your employees for their extra effort.
10 Great Action Steps for Leading Change
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