Change is hard, but it doesn't have to be if we better manage our expectations and our attitude toward change overall. After all, change is an inevitable constant, and part of developing a mindset for accepting change comes down to how one prepares for and communicates those changes.
In the workplace, the formal term for addressing change is through a process called organizational change management, where methods and strategies are deployed to help drive employees to accept and embrace change.
Before launching a change management effort, you should have an established vision and an implementation plan. If not, it will be difficult to ask people to change when they don't even understand what the plan or change is. A plan with a clear vision that explains where you are, where you are going, and most importantly, what it means for participants impacted by the change is critical to get right.
In providing the plan and vision, use data and tell a story to help crystallize the vision.
The success of an organizational change process is often predicated on who you start your message with. As leaders, you want to get buy-in as well as input from your key stakeholders on the plan and vision. By starting with the right audiences, you can attain strategic alignment from the onset and cascade it up and down the organization.
Early buy-in can help reduce unforced errors and other unintended consequences later on, such as decreased employee morale or a loss of leadership credibility.
One of the most important aspects of organizational change management is managing expectations. This is bedrock: Too often plans are rolled out and timetables are committed to but leaders don't give those impacted a clear understanding of what will happen next.
Depending on the complexity of the organizational change and the magnitude of what the change might feel like for those impacted, managing expectations is paramount. Managing expectations comes down to letting people know what is or isn't going to happen.
A pitfall some leaders make is sugarcoating the message and engaging in equivocating double talk. People deserve respect, and being straight up with people is a form of professional consideration and decency.
Another important aspect of managing organizational change is recognizing that different audiences may need different information. The right level of information is key. Too much information may overwhelm, while too little may cause unneeded tension. Figure out your audiences and who needs to know what and when.
When delivering messages, it is important to have the right messenger -- a person who is trusted, an authority, and who can help lead the change as an effective messenger. There can be times when the wrong messenger was selected and they couldn't effectively meet the moment, which undermined the organizational change efforts.
When the messenger isn't acceptable, the whole message can be discounted simply because there is an aversion to the presenter.
And at times, there can be multiple messengers for multiple audiences. As a leader, think about all the people on the team who have the necessary credibility and leverage their leadership to cascade the message. Often, people will welcome the opportunity to hear from other leaders.
Some messages bear repeating, so complex organizational changes usually require multiple channels through which to communicate and then reiterate the message. You can't expect all audiences to hear or see the message the first, second, or even third time.
Leaders need to consider all the channels they could use to convey the message -- video, email, Slack, town halls, FAQs, office hours, and newsletters -- to effectively meet staff where they typically like to receive information.
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