Change: (def.) 1. Money in small denominations, 2. Action(s) usually initiated by management which may create anger, resentment, hostility, complaining, threats of resignation, shattered morale, a mutiny and/or other expressions of discontent.
Most people don’t like change – even the slightest can be difficult because it requires effort. Change disrupts people’s routines, taking them out of their comfort zones. Yet, change is inevitable, and leaders who possess high E.Q. (empathy quotient) understand what it takes to massage change throughout an organization.
Take an extreme case where a company implements a brand-new project management system where everyone is affected – a system that radically changes how management, employees, customers and vendors interact with each other. In the long run, the company (hopefully) will become more efficient and productive. In the short run, perhaps over the course of 6-12 months, transitioning will be time consuming and painful, requiring people to work longer hours as they learn the new system AND go through training.
Such large-scale change will be a tough sell where success will be tied to the attitudes of everyone throughout the company. Simply stated, senior management will need buy-in from all departments to minimize resistance and conflict. And, the process of getting buy-in is precisely when and where Active Listening will prove to be extremely valuable. (These skills can be acquired through enrolling in a strong leadership training program.) The formula isn’t complex: before initiating change, present your plan, acknowledge people’s concerns, listen with empathy and be clear on why change is necessary.
The alternative is to ramrod your agenda through. After all, you’re the boss and you’re empowered to make decisions as you see fit. Your caboose is on the line where your job depends on maximizing productivity and profit. You don’t have time to go around and talk to everyone about doing what you know you need to do.
Unfortunately, many leaders still subscribe to this style of management, and the consequences are often dire. As soon as the “Memo” hits, “us vs. them” cultures spawn throughout. Some will just shut down completely and make life miserable for everyone, and some long-timers who feel betrayed that they weren’t in the know ahead of time will have sudden shifts in attitude toward their superiors. It’s a lose-lose situation, and rebuilding morale will be a very steep hill to climb.
The decision to change is never easy, but the process can be smooth if the people involved know they’ve been heard, and someone has truly listened.