No doubt you’ve experienced at least one of the following situations during your career:
- The announcement of a new Board member or a change in organizational structure
- A new IT system or software upgrade
- A company merger or the decision to outsource operations to a low-cost region
- An office move or a new player on the team…
How did it make you feel? Apprehensive? Excited? Angry? Sad?
No matter whether it is seen as good or bad news, any kind of change creates resistance because people fundamentally equate change with loss: be it loss of control or authority, job security, status, turf, and family or personal time. Or they simply doubt their ability to adapt to the change or learn new skills.
The need we feel to maintain the comfort of the status quo is extraordinarily powerful, and fear of moving into an unknown future state creates anxiety and stress, even if the current state is painful. Though change has the potential to have a negative effect on morale, productivity and quality, there is nothing so important to the survival of your organization.
Change is a natural and vital process – as healthy as a kiss – but resistance to change is also normal. People’s reactions can be unpredictable and irrational. As a leader, you should expect to encounter resistance and develop the skills to deal with it. The worst time to encounter resistance is during transition to the new solution. This is usually a busy, critical, high-risk period when the last thing you need is a lack of co-operation from your team. So how can you handle change and keep disruption to a minimum?
Most people have a personal journey to undertake to adapt to change, though the four phases of the change curve can be individual in length and intensity. There is, however, something a leader can do in every phase to accelerate the transition and to increase the likelihood of its success. To successfully master change, we must often push through a dip in motivation and performance before we can see the positive side.
|Reaction||Shock, denial||Anger, fear||Acceptance||Commitment|
|Overview||People react to the challenge, the reality of change hits.||People resist, as they fear negative consequences of the change and focus on what will be lost.||People start testing and experimenting what the change means.||People embrace new ways of working.|
|Leadership Action||People take time to adjust. Give them information to understand what is happening and why; and how to get help. Communicate! Inform people often and in digestible bites. Answer their questions.||People may resist the change actively or passively. Give them time and space to express their feelings and concerns and to vent their anger. This phase is “organizational danger zone”. Badly managed, the organization may descend into crisis or chaos. Acknowledge supporters and recognize people’s reactions. Listen, observe and respond to the unexpected.||People and organization are on the way to making a success of the changes. Develop and train people well and provide them early opportunities to experience what the change will bring.||Changes start to become second nature. The effects of chance become transparent through enhanced productivity and efficiency|
|Energy Level: Please also see article “Energy Leadership™ – Energize, Manage & Lead, Inspire, Develop” at www.inspired-executives.com for further information.||People will react with default energy levels. As change triggers might be perceived as stress, the reaction may mostly be in the catabolic energy levels.||There is likelihood for a prevalence of catabolic energy.||Moving into more constructive, anabolic energy made more probable.||No further change-related blocks, and anabolic energy can reign.|
Part of the art of leading people through change is to
- understand the journey you want individuals and groups to take,
- assess what their attitudes are likely to be, and
- use that knowledge to guide them in the right direction
Many people hide their negative feelings toward change, believing it is not wise to be openly critical of their boss and their new ideas. Others will not even be aware of their own resistance, although it surfaces sub-consciously in their behavior. Recognizing people’s position on the new situation therefore requires skills that go beyond just listening to what they have to say. So how do you identify a lack of cooperation that isn’t openly communicated?
Resistance comes in two varieties: 1 – overt and 2 – covert.
- Overt resistance is the most noticeable; it is what we experience as obvious opposition towards any change effort – disagreement, argument, debate, etc. The most virulent form is when people simply say “no” and flatly refuse to go along with or implement change.
- Covert resistance comes in two forms: conscious and unconscious. Conscious covert resistance appears when employees are worried about the consequences their reaction to the change might have. These people sometimes covertly resist by saying “yes” or apparently agreeing to a change and then hindering or delaying its implementation.
Unconscious covert resistance is the most difficult to see and understand. It is there when we are not even aware of our resistance. For example, when we have trouble understanding or “hearing” another person, “forget” things, fail to achieve expected results, become ineffective, get ill, avoid taking action for no apparent reason, we may be unconsciously resisting the process of change. Covert resistance provides no visible conflict or discord, yet it just as successfully undermines change efforts as when overt processes are at work.
When managing resistance to change, it is a leader’s job to acknowledge people’s fears and emotions and not just bulldoze their way through so they can move ahead and achieve their goals.
It is also important to recognize that leaders themselves are not unaffected by change. Coaching with Inspired Executives can help you identify your own internal blocks – limiting beliefs, assumptions, etc. – which might be hindering your ability to perform at your best and support change. Contact me to discover how we can help you.
Curious to find out more? Please contact me.