4 Immediate Steps to Take When Change Seems Impossible

a young boy struggles to lift a heavy bar bell

Poor little guy! He was told by some grown-up that he couldn’t just play around as usual; he had to lift some heavy weights. He must feel the way many employees feel when they have been told there is major change afoot. They had no say in the decision…they must do as they are told. They see the organizational change as a near impossible feat. They don’t know what will happen if they can’t adjust to the challenge and succeed.

When organizational change seems impossible to accept and overcome, it is up to leadership to ease the path for employees. Management needs to understand how it feels as an individual employee to hear that organizational change is needed, that it is required and that they must be part of successful change or risk being left behind.

Our organizational alignment research found that factors relating to employees’ positive responsiveness to the changes needed to remain competitive accounted for an almost 5-to-1 difference in performance. In our twenty years of helping clients manage organizational change successfully, here is what we have learned about successfully navigating the rough seas.

1. Plan and prepare.
When you as leaders have determined that change is required to succeed, you need to develop a clear and compelling message for the troops. No longer can you just dictate what needs to happen. You must try to inspire your employees to understand your vision and fully commit to it. Tell a captivating story that explains the rationale for change and what success will look like at the company, team and individual levels. Make sure the story you tell is relevant, simple and straightforward so that it can be easily and accurately cascaded throughout the organization.

2. Provide forums for questions and discussion.
Few will jump aboard the bandwagon at the outset. Most will react with denial at first and then with resistance. It is as if employees don’t want to face that the change is real. Initially it is easier to hold on to the past. And then, when they realize that change is going to happen, they resist it. Why? Because it is often much easier to hold on to what was comfortable and known than to meet the challenge of the new and different.

The best way to guide employees from change denial and resistance to change acceptance is to be available to answer their concerns and questions about what the change will mean for them as a group, as a team and as an individual. They want to know specifically how the change will affect them personally. Tell them what you know, what you do not know yet and when you will be able to fill in any information gaps.

3. Provide support and resources.
Once employees accept that change will and must occur, be there to encourage them and to supply whatever training and resources will help them move forward. Understand that change can be hard work for some and that individuals will go through change at different paces. Some will be excited to explore what the change can do for them and others will still be uneasy and lack confidence as they try to learn new skills and a new process.

4. Encourage commitment.
Use your best performance management techniques to reward the behaviors that lead to change. It won’t be long before the change has become embedded in employee attitudes and has become familiar and natural.

Take our free change management health check to see if your change initiative is set up for success.

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