Change Management: a critical skill for leaders of growth-oriented organizations

Change is everywhere.  In our quest to continually improve, change is a constant variable.  Our fast-paced society is chock-full of new ways and new ideas.  That’s why it is critical to hire leaders who are experts in change management.  Furthermore, that is why you need to develop your own skills in this area.

What Does Effective Change Management Look Like?

Being tolerant of change is one thing, but knowing how to manage it is another. Can you smoothly navigate the stormy waters of change? Can you lead a team – or an entire organization – through the rough waters as well?  This article will share some key traits of a competent change manager.

To be a competent change manager, leaders should possess at least 2 significant traits:

  1. Superb communication skills
  2. High level of compassion

Superb Communication Skills

change managmentThe advent of change is a delicate topic that cannot be handled poorly.  Despite the criticism that is sure to come with the announcement of change, a leader must communicate clearly, often, and with confidence. Can these things be said of you or the leaders you have in place?

Clearly – Plainly state the upcoming change and the goal for the change.  Help employees understand the big picture and why this shift is good.  Be certain that what you think you are saying is what is being heard. To ensure this is happening, you may want to ask a few trusted employees to share what they heard.  What may be clear in your mind may not come across as you intended.  Keep the message simple but clear.

Often – What you’ve been thinking about and planning for, for months, or years, may come as a complete shock to your employees.  Therefore, you will want to communicate this change regularly to allow it to settle in. If you feel you are over-communicating, you’re probably doing a good job. Additionally, you’ll want the message to come from you, rather than the rumor mill.  Addressing the change often can help it feel normal and less ominous.

With Confidence – Your employees will develop a lot of their impression about the change from your confidence in delivering the news.  If you are apologetic and unenthusiastic about the change, they are going to feel very negatively about the shift.  Consequently, your employees may question leadership’s competence in making good decisions.

Conversely, if you deliver the news with a sure confidence, they will be more likely to accept that the changes have been properly considered and deemed worthwhile – regardless of their initial, personal feelings.

High Level of Compassion

When changes are unveiled you know it will affect your employee’s work life, but it could very well disrupt their home life as well.  Depending on the nature of the change, your announcement may touch many parts of their lives – such as moving office locations or merging divisions. This news must be handled with a high level of compassion.  A true change manager will know how to be understanding, allow for feedback, and provide closure to his or her employees.

Be understanding – Change will be met with many levels of anxiety.  This anxiety may present itself as anger, grief, and worry.  Recognize this as normal and don’t shut down people for feeling anxious.

Allow for feedback – You don’t want to be seen as a dictator.  Being open to feedback will not only allow the employees more involvement, it could be extremely valuable.

It’s not uncommon to have tenured employees who have walked through a similar experience earlier in their careers.  Those veterans may have some priceless lessons that they can share from the first time a similar change was implemented.

Gaining feedback from employees will help shoot holes in any plan that needs to be shot down.  It could also help prepare for repercussions that you hadn’t considered.  This can allow proactive adjustments to improve the overall plan.

Provide closure – What was normal and comfortable is going away.  It’s very possible that many employees have spent years and years doing the very thing that you are changing.  They have worked hard to succeed, and now, for reasons they may not understand, their job is changing significantly.

People need closure.  In my own experience, I worked for a company that had a funeral for a product we were discontinuing.  It was a necessary mind shift for all of us who had a vested interest in a product that we were proud of.  The “funeral” offered a clear ending which then allowed for a new beginning.  Despite any disapproval we felt about the change, the funeral was a healthy way to close the chapter of ‘what was’ to move on to ‘what will be’.

Look for Leaders Who Excel in Change Management

Change management is an extremely valuable skill for leaders.  It requires a unique set of skills that may not be obvious on a resume or bio.  As a business leader you want to be alert for the right skill set as you hire people into your leadership team.

Last, examine your own competencies.  Would people say you are a good change manager? When businesses want to grow, that growth comes with change.  Be sure you are prepared with superb communication skills and a high level of compassion so that growing companies look to you for change management talent.

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