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Leading the change 2

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

The essential steps during change management.

Two months ago, we discussed the most important elements to consider when leading the change. One of those steps was to get your team on board. So how can you get your people to accepting and working towards change?

Change is never an easy process. Change can often bring a great deal of good, but also a great deal of harm, depending on how you execute change. One of the most difficult aspects of change is on how you will get your team on board with the new change. That is because people have a natural tendency to resist change. To overcome this resistance, we need to understand in which stage your team is prior to implementing change. In general, there are three stages which people have to go through before they are ready to change. They need to understand the change, want the change, and finally dare to change. This is easier said than done because people have a natural tendency to resist change. Why? Well, because people are creatures of habit. They know what they have right now, but they do not know if change will bring an improvement or not. Resilience is therefore not only based on fear, but also a lack of information and understanding. So, let’s address the first step in change preparation process; understanding the change.

Understanding the change

The first step into becoming ready for change is understanding the change itself. Although this sounds quite self-evident, most of the problems that show up during the change process actually have their roots in miscommunication and the lack of knowledge on why change is necessary. To facilitate a smooth change, creating understanding is a crucial step. Understanding here means two things, understanding from the team on what the change might bring, but also understanding the concerns that the team might have regarding the change.

Creating understanding starts off with information. There is a wide variety of tools to spread information, from simple pamphlets, emails, and handbooks to sophisticated infographics, meetings and entire multiple-day workshops. It is important to figure out what is appropriate for the change you are planning, as one size does not fit all. Much of this depends on the size and magnitude of your change. Tailor your ways of information to that which your team appreciates. Some teams might appreciate an informative meeting that does not take too much of their time, whereas others would rather have a couple of workshops to fully understand the concept. Here it is advisable to strive to send rather send too much than too little information.

So how do you know if people have understood the change? The key here is to ask for feedback. Make sure that every team member is being individually contacted by his or her manager to see if they fully understand the change. It is important to do this individually and not to single out people out during meetings. Singling people out, putting them on the spot, and asking them if they have understood everything might motivate them into lying to save face.

When approaching your team members individually, you should also focus on the other side of understanding: understanding the concerns of your team. While collecting feedback, it is important to give your team members the opportunity to vent their concerns about the upcoming change. This is important because of two reasons. Firstly, it is an opportunity to learn something on how the change will impact your company and if you can improve your change. Do not forget that your team members are subject matter experts on the inner workings of your company, so if anybody knows what kind if impact a certain change will have – it is them. Secondly, it is also an opportunity to take away any concerns that they might have. Taking away concerns does not only decrease resistance towards change, but also simultaneously increase the support for change. This is an important step which is often overlooked but can be crucial to the preparation for change and the well-being of your team.

When you have made everybody understand the change, taken away any concerns and perhaps even stumbled upon a way to improve your change, it is time to motivate your team to want the change.

Wanting the change

The second stage in the preparation for change is for your team to want the change. Motivation to want the change is already creating in the stage of understanding the change. In that stage you need to address the benefits of change and the concerns of your team to motivate people to want change. What is important in this stage is to keep repeating the same messages as you have when trying to make people understand the change. There are different tools to do this and almost all of them are in some way or form related to reflection upon the company, the team, and how the change will interact with these elements. There are again different tools to do this, this might be a reflective questionnaire, individual meeting, or an informative workshop.

In the prior stage, there is a lot of emphasis on informing your team of the importance and value of the upcoming change. However, in this stage, the important element is to get your team to understand the importance and benefits of the upcoming change themselves. This is a technique often used by motivators which is called ‘coaching’. Coaching is not so much handing solutions on a silver platter, but it is making your team understand themselves why something is important through their own reflections. Therefore, the length of this phase is dependent on the reflective and analytical skills of your team.

As with understanding, the motivation of your team can also be measured by reaching out to your team members individually and to see if they are motivated for the upcoming change. Just remember that motivation can go up and down, so as soon as your team is motivated enough to want the change, you need to make sure take the momentum and implement change as soon as possible. Wanting the change itself is not enough to be ready to change though. Even though people are motivated, fear for the unknown might still be holding them back. That is why we need to address their audaciousness; it is time to dare to change.

Daring to change

People that go sky diving and bungee jumping fully understand the risks and rewards of their undertaking. They have made their decision and they are motivated to make the leap. However, at the last moment, before the long end down, they overlook the edge and for a moment fear gets a hold of them. Despite their understanding and motivation, they are still scared of taking the leap. This is a perfectly normal human reaction and can also happen to your team before changing. So, like the flying and bungee jump instructors, you need to nudge your team in the right direction to make them dare to take the leap for change.

In this stage there are a couple of tools on how to deal with this, but the main method is to collect feedback from individual employees and to discuss their concerns in a wider setting. You can collect feedback via individual meetings, surveys, or team meetings. Subsequently, you can ventilate these concerns in larger meetings or workshops to a wider audience. This way you can show your team that you are aware of their concerns, but also that you have good arguments to overcome their concerns.

Although this is like motivate people to want the change, it differs in how they are set up. When it comes to wanting the change, the emphasis on the individual is important as it is hard to create intrinsic motivation. When it comes to daring to change, getting the team together and motivating them is more important to give them the last nudge into stepping up and overcoming their fear. This hyping up your team is the last step into preparing your team for the change.

If your team understands the change, wants the change, and responds positively to your nudge to dare the change, then your window of opportunity opens. Once that opens, you and your team are ready to change.

In conclusion

Throughout this blog you see a lot of similarities in motivating people to understand, want, and dare to change. That is in part because they are all part of the same process: motivating people to change their behaviour. It is therefore important in all stages to be in close communication with your team. Listen to their concerns and show them the benefits of change. This is a continuous process as every step towards the full implementation of change might give an opening for a decrease in understanding, wanting, or daring to change. Only great leaders can fully motivate their teams to change.

One key reading to become a great leader is ‘The Dream Employer’ by Svante Randlert. He describes the ten commandments for what it is to be a great leader. Every leader should live and work by his commandments as they are a key into driving successful change. You can find more information about his book here.

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