Leaders as Change Agents

By: Pattie Vargas 3 years ago

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” -Peter Senge

Recently I was working with an organization that had been forced to lay off a large number of team members. I called the leadership team together to prepare them for the range of emotions and behavioral changes they should expect to see in their remaining staff members. Being able to guide others through a difficult period of change is a key leadership trait, but one that many managers and leaders have never stopped to develop. When they find themselves in the middle of an organizational change – whether its reorganization, large system implementation, or reacting to market forces – they are as ill equipped as those they need to guide.

So what’s a compassionate, effective leader to do? Here’s a list of suggestions you might want to consider:

  • Don’t minimize the impact the change will have on your organization: The best way to lose the trust of your team is to act like it’s “business as usual” or “no big deal.” You don’t have a window into their hearts and minds so don’t assume everyone has the same capacity to manage change that you do.
  • Admit your own resistance to change: Even the biggest “change junkie” has resisted change at one time or another. If you over-emphasize your eagerness to embrace and adopt the new normal, you marginalize the fear and trepidation others may be feeling and build a wall between “you” and “them.” Remind them you are all going through this together.
  • Reframe and reforecast: Explain (over and over and over) the reason for change in honest and transparent communications while creating a new vision of success. There is no such thing as over-communication when acting as a change agent. Don’t overpromise or minimize bad news but lay the groundwork for what things will look like on the other side.
  • Data and facts are not enough – you must influence emotions and provide inspiration: Your team is made up of unique individuals who will process through the time of change in their own way. Some folks adjust quickly while others go through the entire 7 stages of grief in such a deliberate manner you can easily see where they are. Reinforce the value they bring and your confidence in the organization’s ability to emerge even stronger.
  • Be thoughtful, but resolute: Don’t be wishy-washy. If the change is necessary, move forward. Your team needs to see your commitment and confidence; find a good friend to listen to your concerns or fears and course correct where it’s needed, but keep your eye on the goal.

Always bear in mind that those we lead have the least amount of control over the decisions that are made. You might be thinking, “Well, thank you, Captain Obvious,” but I have seen leaders get frustrated and angry when they think their team members aren’t “getting it” as quickly as they think they should. Worse yet, they frame the entire situation in terms of how it is affecting them, the leader. This is one time to be painfully honest with yourself and admit that you don’t like to have change thrust upon you, either.

Pattie Vargas, Principal and Founder, The Vargas Group, is a frequent conference speaker on the topics of change management, organizational development, personal resilience and issues facing women in the workplace. As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker, she provides seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching to move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.         Proprietary Communication 2016

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