Change can be hard for most people. Try these tips to set the stage for your people to shine during disruption.
Disruption helps companies thrive. It forces companies to remain relevant, to continue thinking in new ways, and to improve day-to-day processes, and it fuels generative transformation. Leaders who have been in discussions over time about disruptions they see and transformations they are planning are can be excited by the prospect of stepping towards it and shaking things up a bit. However, for the larger employee base, disruption and change can feel sudden, scary, and distracting, especially if they haven’t been involved along the way.
You can give your employees the chance to embrace disruption by being intentional about how you bring them along in the conversations.
When people know that disruption is coming and that it will result in significant transformation and change, they often have two questions. Help them answer these questions as you guide your company through the disruption.
- Will I still belong here at the company?
- How will the change affect me?
Know Your People
You know your people best. What do they appreciate about the company and the work they do? What would they change if given the chance? A great way to lay the groundwork for change is by asking your employees about their past and present experience and what they'd like to see for the future. What’s gotten in the way of success for them? What has accelerated success for them? Listen closely to their answers for what is most important to them and what ideas they have about the micro-processes of the company. What are they holding on to and what are they ready to let go of? Those are the areas to focus on as you step into disruption.
Communicate in Small Groups and Individually
Big town hall meetings might seem efficient and consistent, but people often experience them as sterile and uninformative. Information is either too vague to be useful or they are overwhelmed with rapid-fire details they can’t contextualize. As you discuss transformation and change, engage people in discussions that help them to both contextualize and contribute to the path forward. Conduct these conversations in small groups or even meet individually. This can provide a conversational tone, give employees the opportunity to ask questions, create a sense of connection to the need for the change and it will provide you with valuable insight.
Give People Time
Especially after any public announcement, give your people time to process the coming changes. Remember, as a leader you've likely had a long time to process the changes and to see the expected positive outcomes. Give your people the same courtesy. Allow for a few days to a week before the next team meeting to discuss significant next steps in the transformation. People who initially react negatively can come around when given a few days to catch a breath and process effectively, so don’t judge people based on where they start – evaluate where they end up. At the same time, be clear about when you will be engaging them, so they aren’t left wondering when they will hear more.
Help People to Process
At each stage of the company's transformation, continue to give your employees time to process. Any step of change will have large and small ramifications. For each significant step, ask your people open-ended questions for feedback (both positive and constructive). Answering the questions will help your people process and streamline the implementation. While you lead well and have considered much of the ripple effect change can bring, your people might be experiencing other impacts because of implementing these changes – for example, they may be losing relationships with external partners who they’ve worked with for years, or they may be struggling to learn new skills. Listen well as you decide how to help your people process.
Transformation can be a large and complex undertaking. It can be hard to feel like progress is being made along the way. Intentionally find opportunities to bring individual teams and the entire company together to focus on the positive and the great work accomplished. Invite people to share what they've observed to celebrate. They can either share publicly or submit accomplishments to celebrate a designated employee or team. Even small recognitions of individual and team efforts go a long way to keeping people energetically heading in the right direction.
Your people are looking to you to set the tone of the transformation. As you communicate, remind them of the few reasons and expected outcomes of the change. For example, one aspect of a restructure could be to move to a new distribution model that requires different partnerships and new metrics. Remind people of the specific outcome and share any successes as that goal is reached.
Being optimistic doesn’t mean wearing rose-colored glasses. You can still listen well to your people who are struggling with aspects of the transformation. Being compassionate and understanding while also maintaining a steady focus on the new future is your highest order work during times of disruption. People will look to you to keep the overall picture in mind as you communicate how you expect your team to engage with the difficult work of changing the organization and themselves.
Need help guiding your organization through disruption and transformation for accelerated growth? Let the professionals at Karrikins Group help put change in motion!