In-house Issues: Changing Up the Approach to Change

In the fall of 2011 I had the exciting opportunity to play a leadership role in transitioning a 45+ (now 70+) multidisciplinary in-house team to a managed services organization. This shift necessitated promotions, demotions, gains in benefits for some – loss for others, new processes, procedures, policies, position descriptions and business offerings.

The group’s collective psyche is still reeling from all the change and it has been and continues to be one of my primary responsibilities to minimize the impact of these and other changes on the well-being and productivity of each and every staff member.

Chances are, in this volatile economy where upper management is struggling to keep their companies relevant and productive, you’ve been impacted by some new initiative that your c-suite has pushed out. If you neglect to bake change management into your implementation plan to meet new corporate programs, you will fail to get your group to fully embrace and execute on assigned initiatives. Below are some tactics on how best to practice change management.

First, before change ever even bangs on your door, you should be establishing strong relations and bonds of trust with you reports, peers and managers – you’ll need to leverage friendships to gain buy-in and any necessary concessions.

Second, always give out as much information as early as possible and don’t sugarcoat the negatives of the change if there are any. People hate feeling like they’re being manipulated or condescended to and more importantly, in an information vacuum, people assume the worse.

Do not allow your team to fall into a culture of victimization. The minute they feel they’re being disrespected or exploited is when they begin to use that perception as an excuse to not work as hard, or as smart as they had been.

Be proactive and create a detailed communication plan using a variety of appropriate media. In person communications are best in stressful circumstances but always follow up conversations with written recaps. People don’t always hear what you intend them to when there are a lot of details and they’re nervous, anxious or frightened.

Empathize. Draw on your feelings of the current or past similar situations to establish a bond with your team, gain their trust and make them feel safe. Never express negative opinions about change activities. It undercuts your management team’s authority, gives employees an to become angry and oppositional.

Finally, be patient and understand that different people respond and adapt to change in different ways and in differing timeframes.