How to Maximize Potential When Change Occurs

A butterfly metamorphoses from caterpillar to butterfly

Change happens. You name it…mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, restructuring…they happen every day. For those of us who specialize in change management consulting this is good news. There is no lack of opportunities to help companies and teams adjust, meet the new challenges and look forward to the exciting possibilities ahead.

We know that change for most employees comes in the form of an ugly caterpillar. Employees typically fear and avoid it. It is our challenge, and that of leadership, to highlight both the personal and professional benefits of successful change so that, slowly, the possibility of a butterfly emerges.

Here are three important change management phases to consider:

1. Share the facts as well as the future vision.
Employees need to be persuaded that the change is worthwhile and that it is in the company’s and the employees’ best interests. Management needs to communicate a clear and compelling picture of how the future will be better once the change is accomplished. But painting too rosy a picture is unfair and unwise. It is best to acknowledge that there will be some hurdles during the transition and to share the real facts of what will occur. Will there be fewer employees so that those left will have to do double duty?  Will there be less work for a period of time as final assignments are sorted out?

2. Consider the individuals on your team.
Not everyone will absorb the news in the same way or at the same speed. A very few will welcome the possibilities ahead. Most will take the news personally and fear a loss of jobs, resist shifts in the team, and worry about whether they can handle a new role. They will need to be reassured over and over again that you will do your best to lessen the “pain and disruption” of change. One option is to find a change management expert who can help facilitate sessions in which employees meet with leadership to ask any questions, voice any concerns and create viable action plans.

3. Listen with heart.
Recognize that there will be feelings of loss as well as worry for the days ahead. While the status quo is comfortable, the future is unknown. Listen to your employees with a sympathetic heart knowing that sadness, anger and anxiety are all natural reactions to shifting strategies, roles and teams.

Remember - open and frequent two-way communication is essential to successful organizational change.

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