Leaders can help employees get through process of change
by DAVE BENAK
Adapting to change is one issue, implementing it
is another. As a leader, you are no longer responsible just for
yourself, but for all of your people and for their cumulative
reaction to a change. It's important to develop strategies that
respect and understand them while simultaneously guiding your
organization to where it needs to be.
One way is by putting yourself in your
employees' shoes and looking at the dynamics of how they'll react
People will feel awkward, ill at ease and
It's normal for people to feel this way. It is a
loss. A loss where they may not know exactly what or how much
they're losing. So tell them to expect to feel uncomfortable, that
it's OK to feel that way and that you welcome the sharing of
feelings. Be sure to stay positive and offer no advice.
People will think about what they will have to
Initially, don't try to oversell the benefits of
the change. A loss is a painful thing to work through so allow them
to legitimatize their losses and to mourn.
People feel alone even when everyone else is
going through the same change.
When someone experiences loss, they can be so
consumed with the loss and its impact that they may not think (or
care) about anyone or anything else. It helps to structure
activities that create involvement with others, encouraging them to
share ideas and work together to help each other through the
People can only handle so much change.
There is a limit. Your employees need
encouragement, reinforcement and recognition. But also keep in mind
that the human organism is very resilient and humans can handle more
than they think they can. You're the person to remind them of this
and show them how.
People are at different readiness levels for
Some people are risk takers. Others take longer
to feel secure. Don't label people or pick on them if they don't
immediately jump onto the bandwagon. Those who most resist change -
when courted respectfully and given time to accept it - will become
its biggest champions.
People will be concerned with the lack of
resources. We rarely have all the resources we need. Encourage
creative problem solving and set firm priorities that might even
eliminate the need for some resources.
People will revert to old behavior if you take
the pressure off. Keep your focus on maintaining the change and
managing the "journey". After all, it's only a journey and not a
Here's another way to look at change
implementation. Wilson Learning has a technique called LSCPA that
helps take the tension out of emotionally charged
- Listen: Encourage the employee to express how
they feel and why they feel that way. Ask for specifics.
- Share: Offer feedback that you understand how
they feel and why they feel that way. You do not have to agree with
them. Share your concern and/or feelings about how the situation may
affect the employee.
- Clarify: Restate the employee's words to
clarify the real issues. This prepares the person to receive and/or
accept new ideas, another viewpoint or an example.
- Present: If you can, provide answers. If you
can't, say "I don't know". Be confident, positive and optimistic as
you offer your ideas, opinions and possible solutions. Don't get
discouraged if the employee doesn't buy your viewpoint. You're
simply offering food for thought, understanding and
- Ask: Ask the employee for a renewed commitment
toward doing their job to the best of their ability. Ask them to get
involved to the extent that they can, accepting the change as growth
and opportunity rather than danger or crisis.
The ability to adapt is the key to survival for
every business. Smart companies focus on leading change and becoming
a positive agent of it. It's true: you cannot force anyone to
change. That's why persuading employees to embrace change is one of
the most important duties of any leader or manager.
Dave Benak recently retired after 33 years as
the training director for Consolidated Freightways in Menlo Park,
Calif. He lives in Fisher's Landing teaching leadership, management
and supervision at Clark College. He also owns and operates
"TrainingPays", a local training and development company with
clientele on the West Coast. Offer your comments, suggestions and
ideas at (360) 944-7571 or TrainingPays@aol.com.