Why do leaders and managers need organizational change management strategies? Simply put – the days of leadership as we knew it are over. The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown many challenges at us and one, in particular, is the way that we lead.
Leaders have been challenged with connecting to their team members remotely and maintaining productivity during unpredictable times where there’s little-to-no precedent for what’s next. All of this under the pressure of a global disaster. This reality requires more organizational change management skills than ever before.
Why Is Organizational Change Management Important?
As leaders and managers, we are responsible for implementing changes while simultaneously making sure they don’t affect our employees negatively. So many of us are feeling sad, stressed, and burned out right now, and striving to deal with our own personal issues, as well as helping those whom we work with.
I hear this over and over again in my coaching practice – people are exhausted and lonely, and yet still doing their best to show up every day and perform the necessary work.
One way we can improve our workplace and support our team through all these changes is to understand organizational change management and implement effective strategies to make sure our employees can cope with changes effectively.
What is Organizational Change Management?
Organizational change management theory is the study of how an organization’s culture and systems evolve. It seeks to identify what forces influence organizational development, why changes happen, and under what conditions they are likely to succeed or fail.
In a nutshell, it deals with the people side of change management.
The process can be broken down into four stages: preparation for a change in direction; initiating the shift in strategy; managing resistance from employees who don’t want this new approach implemented; and finally consolidating the new path forward.
While these phases may seem simple on paper, effectively implementing them is much more challenging. It takes skillful leadership traits such as emotional intelligence, resilience, and exceptional communication skills.
These leadership skills can be learned, and many successful leaders utilize coaching (both executive coaching and team coaching) to help guide them through organizational change management.
Organizational Change Management Strategies
Here are 7 strategies that successful leaders and managers are using to implement organizational change management so their employees remain engaged, productive, and healthy during these times of upheaval. Having an organizational change management plan is essential for leaders to create an environment where everyone thrives.
1. Create an environment of trust and respect
The first step is to create an environment of trust and respect. This can be done by listening to employees, providing them with regular feedback on their performance (for tips on how to give profound and actionable feedback, read more here), acknowledging mistakes as learning opportunities instead of punishing them for the mistakes they make, being open about organizational goals, and creating a culture where everyone feels like they are part of a team.
2. Be transparent about the change process
Change can happen quickly. As we all know, Covid-19 has brought in sweeping changes to how we do business, communicate, and live our lives. When changes occur in a work setting, it’s important to be transparent about the change process. Allow employees to voice their concerns and questions, provide them with information that will help them understand the new procedures, and reassure everyone what their role is in implementing these changes.
3. Communicate often with your team
Communication is your most important tool in helping yourself and your employees navigate organizational change. Communicate often with your team to keep them informed. Eliminate any misunderstandings and uncomfortable feelings by checking in with people regularly and asking how they are feeling about the changes that have been made so far.
4. Listen to feedback from your team members, but don’t be afraid to make decisions on behalf of them when necessary
When you listen to feedback from your employees, remember that they are voicing concerns and asking questions about things that are important to them. Take their opinions into account when deciding what needs to be done next for organizational change management. It may not always make sense to take everyone’s advice, but it is good practice to hear different perspectives.
5. Get buy-in from stakeholders or decision-makers for any changes you want to implement before taking action
Buy-in creates a feeling of togetherness and helps to reduce employee dissatisfaction. It’s not enough that you want a change: you need the people around you on board with it as well so they can help make it happen and feel good about the process.
6. Provide clear instructions and expect resistance
Make sure that everyone understands what they need to do for the change process to succeed. This includes giving clear instructions as well as providing training if needed. Clear instructions provide clear outputs and clear results.
Your instructions will likely lead to resistance, and you should expect resistance to organizational change. It’s natural for people to be attached to the status quo and resist change. And it’s important for managers to understand that resistance is not a sign of disloyalty or bad faith on behalf of their employees – instead, this might reflect some level of fear or concern about the future.
7. Give yourself time – it will take time for people (and you) to adjust
You don’t need to fix everything in a day, and indeed change takes time. Adjust the needs and priorities of the group as necessary. Take the time to listen and figure out what is really necessary immediately.
Although things may seem to be moving quickly, actual change moves at a slower pace. There’s no need to fix everything all at once – in fact, doing so can be counterproductive in the long term.
Organizational change management will help maintain the health and well-being of your employees, which is a good thing for you as their leader. It’s much harder to be stressed when you’re in an environment where everyone is focused and feels fulfilled by their work!
Leaders need specific skills to implement the organizational change management strategies I’ve described above. Effective and successful leadership skills improve efficiency, productivity, focus, and help manage stress levels in the workplace.
If you need support in learning these skills or implementing organizational change management into your workplace, I invite you to schedule a call with me and we can discuss how we can work together to help you on your leadership journey.
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