The Leader’s Role in Change Management

Leader's Role in Change ManagementChange is difficult for most people as it is something that can bring about feelings of uncertainty and doubt, especially in a corporate environment where people’s livelihoods are affected. A good leader recognizes this and does her best to guide her people through this often troubling process. Whether it’s a merger, acquisition, change in management, product pivot, or other upheaval, the leader’s role is to manage in a way that puts people at ease.

While in certain scenarios there may be specific to-dos that are a part of change management (create documentation, organize all-hands meetings, etc), below we’ll explore a few overarching suggestions. These are things you can do that will help mitigate the feelings and uncertainty that go along with change.

Help See a Better Future

Part of a leader’s job is to help her employees see the future in a positive light. While most people at a company are in functional roles that relate specifically to one department or discipline, a leader is charged with looking forward and anticipating what is to come, and position the team in a way to best take advantage of the future. A leader must convey this vision of the future to her subordinates, especially the benefits that the current change will impart to the business. As an employee it can be hard to step back and see the ten-thousand foot view, so leaders must be that guiding force – keeping a positive frame on things and sharing how the organization will be better for the changes at hand.

Keep Communication Open

During times of transition and change, it’s essential to keep lines of communication open. It’s natural for employees to feel uneasy and skeptical about what is happening. Bottling up these emotions or trying to gloss over them is not the right answer. People need to be allowed the space to bring up concerns and questions. A good leader knows this and will encourage discussion and regularly check-in with employees in different departments to take the temperature of the company. Just being allowed to vent and talk through difficult situations can do wonders in mitigating feelings of unrest. It also builds camaraderie, and a leader willing to discuss the tough stuff will build trust and rapport with her team. Moreover, planning is another essential component of this communication. Anticipating and taking steps prior to a major change, while involving numerous employees, is important for information sharing.

Emphasize It’s a  Process

We all know logically that it takes time to adapt to change, but people can forget this. It can feel like things will never be right again. A savvy leader knows how to convey that it’s darkest just before the light, that there is always a process involved with change that will lead to something better – however uncomfortable it might be in the meantime. Acknowledge that there will be hiccups along the way and emphasize that you want to keep people involved and apprised of new developments. This will ensure that expectations are matched with reality, and the trust you’ve built with your team should allow you to weather any brief storms during this process as a united front.

Doug Ramsay

Doug handles the marketing and web presence for Adventure Associates. If he's not geeking-out with the latest, greatest web marketing tools, then you'll find him swirling and sipping his way through wine country.

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