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Painting the picture of change

April 24, 2012

This is the second in a three-part series on Change and Transition by Linkage Regional Vice President, Mitchell Nash.

You know change is coming, but change is often unsettling for many people. Now that you have Choosen Your Change Team, how do you prepare for, and best support, a change initiative? I discuss a few best practices below.

Change affects every person differently. Some people can take in change, process it quickly, and go about their day while others need more time to process and see what that change means to them. The important thing for leaders to know is that this behavior is absolutely normal and neither type of person or reaction is wrong.

Change evokes emotions in people, a process that William Bridges calls ‘Transition.’ In the transition process, individuals work through, in their own way,  the change that is happening around them. As leaders, it is our responsibility to accept and plan for this transition process and recognize that each person will adapt and adjust in her/his own way. Make sure that you are communicating with your people often—frequently. Leaders stay closed up in an office and do not reveal what is going on or what’s being considered. It’s a habit that makes people nervous and leads to distrust and chaos. You can never communicate often enough. You may not be able to tell people everything due to confidentiality or plans still being in development, but by telling people what you can; you open their minds to hearing more. Send emails, hold meetings, ask questions. Create a dialog with your people about change. Not only will you help to squash rumors before they start, but you will help people process the change on an emotional, as well as a rational  level as well.

Not sure what you can tell the organization? Leaders will often create a communication vacuum because they are not sure what they can, and should share. We believe that frequent, honest communication is critical. Think about the change that is going on and answer some of the following questions: Why is there a need to make that change? Where will the change bring the organization? What are some of the implications of the change efforts? What are the potential impacts on the organization as a whole, and on the people themselves? Be prepared to paint the picture of change to help people prepare for it.

One of the best pieces of advice our team stresses for leaders planning a change is: Communicate often. Tell the organization where things stand right now, why there is a need for this change, what things will look like after the change is complete, and what they, personally, can expect when everything is done. People are more likely to support something that they were a part of planning, so embrace any opportunity to ask for questions and feedback. Companies spend lots of money on focus groups for product development—think of this time as an opportunity to conduct a free focus group around the development of your change initiative product.

About the Author:

 Mitchell Nash is Regional Vice President and responsible for the leadership consulting and professional services business in the western region of the United States. He has over 20 years experience in the organizational development, training, executive coaching, and technology fields. His expertise is in assisting organizations to identify and organize their intellectual capital for outstanding results by using technological, organizational, and skill development solutions.



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