Leaders need to feel comfortable with the unknown that naturally comes along with change and creates resistance to organizational change. Some of the leadership competencies required to be effective in this role include determination that they can rise to new challenges, confidence in their ability to deal with the unknown, and optimism that they can meet new challenges as an opportunity to grow.
But…employees often view change as a threat rather than as an opportunity to gain new skills and further their development. Leaders must acknowledge that resistance to organizational change can spawn genuine fear and threats:
- Will their skills still be needed?
- Will they have the skills to adapt to the change?
- Will the change cost them financially?
Yes, in some circumstances, change can cost people their jobs, responsibilities or prestige which can impact relationships, finances and mental health.
What is the difference in position between a leader and an employee?
Organizational change is often driven by the leader or, in some cases, thrust upon them. The key is that leaders have the power to decide how to respond to the situation. On the other hand, employees often feel that they have no power to decide how to respond to change. The issue is “control” and the lack of control impacts how people feel about change.
8 Influencing Skills a Leader Can Use
- Resistance to change is often about fear of the consequences of change. Leaders need to recognize what is really at the root of employee behavior and find effective ways to tackle it.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate…keep people informed about what is happening. Without information, not unsurprisingly, people will make up their own stories which don’t usually match the facts. Research indicates that people often need to hear a message 5 – 7 times before they “get it!” Of course, you want to use multiple communication channels and face to face communication is always the best.
- Be clear about why change is needed. Sharing the “why” of the change can help people buy into the change. It is very helpful to connect the “why” of the change with the organization’s strategic vision or business plan.
- Ensure that a detailed training plan is shared with people. People need to know that they will be trained to implement the change. Share the training plan early!
- Two-way communication…host open houses where employees have the opportunity to hear information about the change and to express concerns over the change. If possible, use demonstrations to increase awareness of what the change will look like.
- Be up front as early as possible if the change is going to mean job losses. Make the decisions quickly. Drawn out decisions only lead to greater uncertainty and anxiety.
- Emphasize that the transition between the current state and the future state is hard work. The routines that allow them to get things done easily and efficiently are being disrupted.
- Emphasize the WIIFM – What’s In It For Me! People need to know how the change will impact them and what personal benefits may be realized. This will increase engagement and reduce fear of the change.
In summary, the number one contributor to successful implementation of change is active and visible sponsorship from the highest level in the organization. Leaders, at every level of the organization, play a key role to be active and visible in leading the change to reduce or eliminate the feeling that people are not engaged in the implementation of the change. Lack of engagement can lead to rumours, uncertainty and FEAR!!
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