If you are an entrepreneur, then you know that change is inevitable when you are running a successful business—something is always evolving, whether hiring new or coaching existing people, upgrading processes, policies or products, you will always have something on the go if you are a growing business. However, some business leaders are much more successful than others in managing and implementing change. They ones who do it right understand that you have to serve your people first before you serve the change.
What many business leaders don’t realize is that people, especially employees, experience change in stages and for any change to be successful in business or your personal life for that matter, these stages need to be acknowledged and addressed with a team-centered strategy.
The stages are as follows:
When any change is first introduced in an organization, the initial reaction is shock, accompanied for many people by denial and attempts to return to the status quo. So, people will let you know straight up, and others will hide their feeling. Address this first stage with acknowledgment and communication. Let your people know you understand and that you’re committed to communicating with them often and openly as a group or individually. Take the time to answer any questions that come up, and make sure they know where to go for more information if they need it. When people have information, they will understand what is happening and feel less threatened.
Once the reality sets in, many people react with negativity both openly and behind closed doors—a response that is grounded in fear. People’s first instinctive thought is, What will happen to me? It’s a normal reaction but one that can hinder acceptance and the change process. Some will wrongly fear negative consequences, and others will correctly identify real threats to their position.
You manage fear by letting people express their feelings and concerns and giving them opportunities to vent their concerns and or anger about what is happening. Reactions are personal and sometimes emotional; listen and watch carefully so you can respond to the most apprehensive people on your team.
Now that people’s fears have been expressed and understood, they will begin to calm down, understand and accept the situation. This is the turning point—the change initiative may be out of danger, but people will continue testing the boundaries and exploring what it means. So, you need to stay on top of this and keep your eyes and ears open to what is happening in the office. You need to support people and establish a good foundation for this stage by making sure people are well trained and have early opportunities to experience what the changes will bring.
As a business leader you need to understand that productivity may drop a bit at this point as people begin testing the waters, but you need to remain focused as you keep an eye on the goal.
You are not there, people in the office have expressed their fears and concerns, understood the reality, tested the boundaries of the change, and now they are ready for the transformation.
This is the point where people stop focusing on what they’ve lost and begin considering how they can add value and reap the benefits for the change. Once they understand the, “What’s in it for them” they will become more productive and efficient, and the positive effects of change will become apparent.
If you have a strategic plan for change and you can recognize, acknowledge and address the four stages of change with the team that you manage, your initiatives will have a great track record for success and help you take your business to the next level.
by Jamie Barrie