Will a change really do you good?

October 2, 2018

Sheryl Crow’s song, “A Change Will Do You Good,” is about making a change when things aren’t working, especially after having some measure of success. 

In the business world, change is constant, as business cycles and you can’t rely on your past successes. There are positive changes such as a promotion or new job, negative changes such as a layoff or losing a customer, and hybrid changes such as an acquisition or new leadership.

“Can we just stop this roller coaster for a few months so I can catch my breath”? 

As a young HR professional, my company was experiencing the ups and downs of the technology market, and we were going through cycles of layoffs/hiring. One day I asked my manager the “roller coaster question,” and his response was, “Nope – that’s not the world we live in.” I decided right then that I’d better learn fast how to adapt to change and not be so overwhelmed by it.

As a leader or business owner, how do you help people navigate through change quickly and with as little disruption as possible? Rah-rah speeches aren’t going to cut it. People don’t change overnight or because you tell them to – it’s a process. 

Change happens to you. It’s the transition part that can get really tricky. 

I’m a huge fan of William Bridges’ book, “Managing Transitions,” in which he explains the 3 stages of managing the transition process. You may also want to check out prosci.com, a trusted organization that has been studying change management for over 20 years.

The best leaders are highly adept at helping people embrace change, their employees feel like the valuable asset you tell everyone they are, and any negative impact the the customer or other stakeholders is minimized or eliminated. Hint: If you’re not a leader, you can use these ideas in other areas of your life.

If you want to be a great leader, or think you already are, check out several examples of how I’ve seen top leaders rock change management:

  1. Start with you! People follow leaders who are doing the work themselves  … learning new ways, investing in self-care, increasing self-awareness. This one tip is a powerful game changer! People will follow you anywhere if they see you humble yourself to go through the process first and guide them from experience, not theory.
  2. Being transparent gets people engaged and focused. There are some things leaders may not be able to share, or shouldn’t share, but asking for input and communicating on a regular basis is essential. I cannot tell you how many recruiting conversations I’ve had with top-performing – yet nervous – people who have been left in the dark by a manager who has gone “radio silent.” These people easily move from passive/not-looking candidates to active candidates. In today’s tight job market, are you willing to risk losing your best people?
  3. People need to see how their role contributes to the success of the business and team; you can’t assume people know. One of my favorite leaders was in a situation where her company was going through massive changes in management and strategy. I consistently heard about how great she was at providing direction and working with her team to set expectations together. The employees knew where they were going, what they need to do to get there, and why – no confusion.
  4. Celebrate wins! These leaders aren’t micromanaging the process, they watch for the small shifts and capture the momentum. These small shifts show up as greater creativity, productivity, collaboration, etc. and then gets rewarded/recognized. No one is going to get jazzed during the transition when they’re doing all the work and no one notices or cares.
  5. Identify people who are resistant and have a private conversation. Don’t assume they’re jerks or not a team player. They may need a little more time, they may have had a bad experience, or they may just not like change. If you try to understand their perspective, even if you don’t agree or can’t accommodate their wishes, they’re more likely to listen to you if they know you’re listening to them.

Approaching change with a leader’s mindset, humble spirit, heart for people, and vision for success is bound to do you good. What do you say?