It’s often said that employees naturally resist all change. But as our change management simulation participants learn, it’s more accurate to say that employees resist change that they do not understand or, once understood, do not accept that the benefits outweigh the costs. Honesty and transparency works with change management.
Employees are apt to worry about the effort it will take, their ability to learn a new way of doing things, and even whether they will be able to keep their jobs. Successful change leaders not only make sure that their teams have a complete understanding of the purpose of the change but also that they are persuaded that the change is in their best interests.
It is not just a matter of communicating change; rather, leaders need to explain change. In other words, leaders must be sure that their followers understand the reason why the change is fundamentally necessary. Be honest about the business case for change and then transparent as you share your reasoning with your workforce.
Resist the Temptation to Wait
Too many leaders are afraid that people will panic if they receive partial, unclear, or difficult information. But employees are more resilient and more observant than you think. It is almost impossible for a company to be facing high stakes pressures and changes without employees picking up signals that changes are afoot.
During times of change and uncertainty, behavioral science tells us that employees want more honesty, transparency, and leadership guidance to make sense of what is going on. They want their leaders’ words and actions to be aligned and consistent in order to feel cared for, safe, and included.
That is why change management consultants advocate that it is a leader’s responsibility to put changes into context. The context gives people the opportunity to draw meaning and begin to adjust emotionally. The benefits of transparency and trust almost always outweigh the risks of people having access to information.
Honesty and Transparency Equals a Higher Level of Trust
Effectively explaining change requires both honesty and transparency. Be as clear and straightforward as you can with your employees. They deserve to know as much as you do about how the change will affect them and their teams. Fill them in on:
Be prepared to answer tough questions succinctly, acknowledge the current situation, empathize with their concerns, and reinforce the urgency for change, meaningful benefits to them, and the concrete next steps.
Why share all this? Because honest, transparent communication inspires trust in your leadership. Trust is required to motivate and engage others. And as the level of trust in leadership rises, so does the likelihood of successful organizational change.
The Bottom Line
At some point if your organization doesn’t embrace the need to do things differently, your chances of success are slim. People need information to process and commit to new ways of working and thinking. When you embark upon change, recognize that being honest and transparent early and often is your best bet. Honesty and transparency works with change management.
To learn more about how to overcome the biggest obstacles to organizational change, download The 5 Change Perspectives that Leaders Must Get Right
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