Managing your people through change

Communicating changes to your team well, without making it seem like the company is in danger all comes down to how well the information is delivered

Bhavna Dalal
Published: 06, Jun 2018

Bhavna Dalal ( www.bhavnadalal.com) is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners [www.talentpowerpartners.com] a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is a Team Leadership Coach with ICF PCC Certification, IIM Calcutta Executive MBA, and B.E.(Electronics). Also, the author of the book Team Decision Making [https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01MXF5QEM] endorsed by former CEO's of Target, Lowes, LimitedBrands,bank of Baroda, 3M , Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Manoj Pardasani (Associate Dean Fordham University) and many others. Bhavna has been serving on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh in India ) for the past 5 years.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Leaders have to sometimes drive intentional drastic change for the growth of their organisations or lead people in times of inevitable unavoidable change that stares them in their faces. How they take their people through it can range from inspiring and motivating them or on the other end, create fear and chaos.

Often, the bigger challenge is getting buy-in from your employees especially when the changes are large and drastic. Communicating these changes to your team well, without making it seem like the company is in danger all comes down to how well the information is delivered. Here are a few best practices to tell your team that the company is moving in a new direction:

Honesty about the what and the why
Any kind of spin or jargon will sound like you are trying to hide something. You will gain and maintain trust if you use simple language, and are completely honest about what is changing and why. If you don’t know the whole picture, admit it. It takes time for the changes coming from the top to trickle down. Some managers make the mistake of believing their employees cannot handle the truth, but people respond well when they are genuinely respected and you are honest with them. Try staying positive yourself through it, even if some hard decisions need to be made.

Sense the emotional effect of the change
Dealing with change is hard, even the good changes. We as human beings like operating in our comfort zone. Anything that looks like it will push us out of it does invoke an emotional response. As leaders responsible for leading your people in times of change, checking your own emotional response first is most important. This exercise will allow you to be more cognitive of the emotional response (often not explicit) of your team.

Communicate the timeline and process clearly
People feel reassured and are more easily able to buy-in when you paint a clear picture of the timeline and the events. Use whatever it takes to communicate that. Set accurate expectations by explaining the process so people can evidently see the path ahead, both the good and bad.

Provide a clear call to action
It is critical to outline what needs to be done and by when. This is what comforts people and gives them a sense of control. Highlight and be clear on the essential action.

What is in it for me?
You cannot deny that everybody is looking out for how this change will affect their day to day existence. Explain how the changes will benefit the employees. Recognise the things that will be different. Also acknowledge that some people may not like the new changes. However, there is always an upside, so highlight that. If there is no immediate upside, then admit it. Acknowledge that what is happening is difficult and talk about what you will do to make the change as smooth as possible. Always thank people for their patience, cooperation, contributions to the company and for understanding the decisions made.

Communication channels
Large scale change conversations are usually best delivered from the top. Make sure the messaging strategy starts at the top, and then allows directors and managers to discuss the changes in more detail with their teams. It is best to communicate changes in smaller groups. This enables people to be uninhibited in asking questions arising from vulnerability.

Are certain groups more affected than others?
The same organisation change may lead to affecting some people more than others. Be aware and mindful of how to manage that. For example, employees at an offsite location which is being downsized will be more affected than people whose managers are changing.

Open two-way communication channels
Employees need to feel heard. It can be disconcerting for people to hear about a shift in strategy. Solicit feedback from them. Instead of supporting an environment conducive to encourage speculation, get the questions out early so you can address them head-on. Create forums where they can ask questions, express their concerns and feel better. A dedicated concern/question bank is a great start, followed by town hall meetings. They are most helpful in such times. If executed right it creates a feeling of dealing with it together and improves bonding. Allow employees to ask questions and address all of them in the best way you can.  If an organisation decides to move in a new direction, they are doing so based on trends, market direction and hopefully quantifiable data. Be transparent and share this information and the team will understand and buy into the decision willingly.

Your intention of keeping your team’s well-being paramount especially during uncertain and unsettling times of change will be the one thing that will help everyone through it.

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