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Change Management

"How do you manage change?" It is a frequently mentioned challenge I hear when conducting my workshops. And in a recent survey by workplace consultants BlessingWhite, nearly half of the 900 executives surveyed think that leading teams through organizational change is very, or even extremely, challenging. But I think the underlying question actually is, "How do you get employees to accept change?"

Most organizational change initiatives fail because senior management ignores the obvious: managers and employees view change differently. Top managers see change as normal and necessary -- as something that's required to meet competitive demands or improve productivity. Employees, on the other hand, consider change disruptive and unsettling. "The Board may pivot at any moment, and so can an agile CEO," says BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice. "But getting the next echelon to move proves to be a lot harder. There's always a call for resilience and flexibility, but not enough guidance how to go about it."

Here's how to go about it. Start by eliminating the obstacles in employees' minds that cause anxiety; then you can clear the path to change.

Employees first need to understand the mechanics -- that is, how the change will affect the way they do their jobs. Employees must understand how new things work before they can implement a change. Next, workers need to embrace the change psychologically. So how well you communicate the facts is critical to ensuring their emotional acceptance. Finally, employees wonder if the change reflects a shift in the organization's values. Therefore, take the time to explain what's really prompting the change. Of course, when you live by the values you profess every day, employees are less apt to attribute procedural changes to a wholesale discarding of company values.

When you properly teach your employees how to implement a change, remove any emotional concerns they have, and demonstrate that the organization's values are intact, you will be able to drive change effectively. When you prepare your employees for change this way, they will be less likely to resist new approaches -- and more likely to put changes into practice quickly. And nowadays, leadership is all about change.

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