Almost everything about being a business leader is hard, from scrounging up that initial capital to navigating corporate-level mergers and managing hundreds of employees. However, perhaps the most difficult aspect of running a business is this: change.
All businesses experience change, yet change can be exceedingly disruptive and even devastating if not properly managed. Business executives absolutely should pursue a change management certificate to become better equipped at directing their teams through critical changes. In the meantime, it might be helpful to have a few simple tricks for making organizational change easier. Though the following advice is by no means a replacement for a leader experienced in change management, companies of any size can utilize the following tips for making any type of change a little easier.
Set Expectations Appropriately
Change is often the right option, but it is rarely the easiest one. Business leaders must recognize that making an organizational change can make their job and the jobs of their employees difficult. Any change, when properly executed, requires some degree of discipline and patience. There is nothing to be gained from leaders being toxically positive or dismissive of the hardships associated with change. The sooner business leaders recognize that change will be tough, the sooner they can set the right expectations for their teams.
Inspire a Vision of the Future
If change is so difficult, why should leaders and workers bother? The answer, of course, is that the change will improve circumstances in some important way. Leaders should work to explain the positive effects of any change, even going so far as to create for their teams a vision of the future in which the change has been implemented and has made their lives demonstrably better. The more detailed this vision is, the better employees will be able to picture it and the more likely they are to be on board.
Even if the change isn’t perfectly positive, it is a good idea to give employees an accurate future vision. Knowing about probable oncoming difficulties can reduce anxiety amongst the workforce, making them more productive and less stressed during the change.
It is tempting to delay telling others about an upcoming change until the last possible moment, in the hopes that others will not try to thwart the change if they have no time to do so. Unfortunately, depriving employees of the time to process the change, emotionally and intellectually, will only cause anguish in everyone. Instead, leaders should inform their teams about changes with as much time before the change as possible, which gives workers time and space to adjust, visualize and become excited about what is to come. When leaders are patient about this process, they tend to garner less pushback from their staff.
Let Emotions Run
While it is undeniably important to maintain professionalism in the workplace, it is also important to allow employees to air their emotions, especially if the oncoming change poses significant upheaval to their day-to-day lives. Ignoring emotions is dangerous for an organization; it can result in high employee turnover, low productivity, and negative workplace culture. During times of change, leaders should try to manage the emotional culture of their workplace by being open about how they feel and by encouraging others to do the same. Employees should not be disciplined in any way for feeling doubt or fear about the change; instead, leaders should work with employees to find and address the cause of negative emotions.
Make Space for Failure
People often make mistakes when they are amid a change. One might eat a candy bar after starting a no-sugar diet or sleep in when trying to make better use of mornings. Leaders should expect employees to slip up at some point during a change. These small failures are not a reflection of the progression of the change, and neither are they any indication that employees are not well-suited to their jobs after the change has been implemented. Leaders need to allow their teams to experiment and explore their roles and procedures.
Even a small change can cause chaos in an organization. The more leaders know about managing change, from creating a plan that implements the change to keeping their workforce informed and content during the change and determining the success of the change, the better.