Depending on your management style, the challenge of leading employees through change can make or break your business. A geopolitical crisis, a volatile economy, or even global climate fluctuations can impact your company, compelling you to radically adjust your business model. And whether the impact is negative or positive, processing big changes can cause big stress.
On a more mundane level, your crew may be facing new hardware, unfamiliar software, untested policies, and contentious new regulations; and even these seemingly banal issues can trigger panic.
Fear of the unknown: The truth is that many of us want to boldly go where no one in our industry has gone before, and yet we still cling to security, thrive on stability, and are reassured by the predictability of a daily routine.
When the big picture changes it can look pretty scary. Psychologists describe classic responses to the threat of change as “fight or flight”. Workers may fight to keep their turf. Or they may go into denial, pretending that the changes aren’t really going to affect them. Whether your employees’ reactions are overt or covert, their coping skills can have a negative impact on their performance and the company’s bottom line.
Friction and resistance: You may have your hand on the pulse of your business, but how well do you read the pulse of your staff? As a leader you need to make sure that you’ve got the big picture in sharp focus; and that starts with a clear understanding that without the people around you, that picture will fade into oblivion just like your business.
Resistance to change can cause friction, depression, and interpersonal conflict. Even the electricity of excitement about a positive change can generate static among staffers who are uncertain about how they’ll fit into the new plan.
Your sensitivity to your employees–what they’re saying and what they’re not saying; changes in mood and productivity–will serve you well if your response is a healthy one. Healthy? Yes! Leading employees through change doesn’t have to be stressful for you or your staff, if your approach is positive and supportive.
High visibility and low anxiety: If you embrace and yield to upcoming changes instead of bracing against them, you’ll help your staff adjust more readily. Your posture can assuage fears and eliminate territorial defensiveness.
Don’t hide out in your ivory tower, wringing your hands, or barking orders. Be present physically and emotionally. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know. Dispel myths and defuse speculation by sharing what you can share; and make sure they know that you care about each one of them individually–not just as a collective team.
Empower your workers. Help them identify skill sets that need to be upgraded and then underwrite seminars, classes, and other professional training opportunities that will prepare them for continued employment with the company. Leading employees through change means making sure they are alive and well when they reach the other side.