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I was about a month into the implementation of a major process-change initiative for a large global pharmaceutical company when I started encountering some real roadblocks.  We'd done a great job of creating a workable strategy, we'd stayed on-track with our initial implementation, and we'd had good responses to our internal communication efforts, but suddenly deadlines were getting missed, team leaders were showing up late (or not at all) to meetings, and the change team was hearing things like, "Look, I can't just abandon my everyday work to do this change stuff right now.  It's going to have to wait."

What was going on?

bad leadership

Finally I sat down with the VP who was championing the initiative and asked him point-blank what had changed:  "I thought this was a priority for you right now, but I feel like everyone's suddenly lost interest.  Is there something I should know?"

It turned out that two weeks earlier, his boss - the president of the US operations - had attended a global conference of all the company's senior executives.  While there, he'd heard about the other process-change initiatives going on in other countries - the German operation had this fantastic new CRM technology, the British operation had recently transformed their sales function and were outperforming the rest of the EU, etc. - and he came back full of doubt that our change initiative wasn't nearly as fantastic.

His real fear?  That the next time he met up with the global execs, his 'change story' wasn't going to sound as spectacular as theirs.

The result was that his attitude to the change project, hitherto enthusiastic, had become lukewarm.  This attitude was soon communicated to his senior leadership team, who then communicated it to their managers...it didn't take long before all the employees involved understood that what had previously been a high priority was headed for the back burner.

What the president didn't understand, of course, was that his sudden lack of enthusiasm was going to cause the very problem he feared:  When the people at the top start demonstrating their lack of interest in or passion for a change initiative, it's almost impossible for that initiative to truly succeed.

The solution:  With the VP's cooperation, I prepared a 30-minute 'Results Report', which I presented to the president and his senior team.  It reminded them how dramatic the results would be if we stayed on track, and I compared our post-change performance with that of the company's operations in other countries - demonstrating that our projected results would put the US operations in the top 3 worldwide.  The president was reassured that he'd still look good at the next global conference, and his enthusiasm returned.

Bottom line:  Change resistance that comes from the top can be the most damaging, because it has the most ability to derail a change effort.  The sooner you can get to the root of the problem, and address it head-on, the better you'll be able to keep a project on-track for the positive results you've worked for.

 

 

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Whether you're a senior leadership team member, a project manager or an HR leader who's been tasked with leading or driving change in the organization, you know the importance of effective change management.  It's not just about the 'touchy-feely' part of change - it's about making sure that the change delivers the ROI you need, without costing you productivity or key employees.

But how do you convince the rest of the organization that you need to invest in change management?

In this one-hour lunch'n'learn webinar, you'll learn effective tactics that will help you make the business case for change management - by quantifying the cost of going without.

MAKING THE BUSINESS CASE FOR CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Hosted by Beth Banks Cohn

Wednesday April 30, 2014
12-1pm, EST.

Just click the link below to register.  It only takes about 15 seconds, and we won't ask you for a whole lot of information.  After you register, you'll get an email containing information about how to join the webinar.

We hope you can join us!

REGISTER NOW.

 

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Managing employees' sense of loss around a change

change management loss

When people react negatively to change, it's not necessarily the change itself that is causing the problem, but the sense of 'loss' that accompanies it.  Moving to a brand-new house with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms may sound great, but it doesn't mean you aren't going to miss you 'first house' with its 2 small bedrooms and awkward kitchen - after all, you've had many happy memories there.

A similar sense of loss can happen within organizations which are undergoing change.  Even when the change will result in a net benefit for employees (a better work environment, a more stable sales funnel, etc.), a sense of loss can interfere with positive feelings about the results.  A sense of loss can become disruptive to individuals, and the business, if it's not handled adequately.  Understanding, acknowledging and addressing losses is essential to building a foundation for a smooth and productive transition.

 

Identify losses

It's important to identify who could experience loss during a change.  A good way to consider loss is to try to answer the question:  Who has to let go of something during, or as a result of, this change?  Will they have to let go of an established relationship with their manager, a process at which they've become expert, or even a coveted office space?  While some may experience these changes as opportunities, others may perceive them as 'losses'.

One way to help individuals identify their own losses is to have them answer the following questions for themselves:

  1. What is changing for me?  What will be different about the way that I work, the people I work with, and the people I work for?
  2. Based on the change, what will I have to let go?

Not every person will consider that every item on their list a loss, but the act of asking the questions will give individuals a chance to put words to the emotions they may be feeling.

 

Acknowledge losses

Once losses are identified, it's important to acknowledge them.  Some feel that addressing this kind of 'emotion' is inappropriate for a business setting; the truth is that pretending people aren't experiencing loss drives emotions underground where they can fester and cause greater problems later.

Reacting openly and empathetically to another's sense of loss gives them the freedom to move forward without getting stuck in resistance.  Start by expressing empathy, indicating understanding, and then move to a reframing of the situation without arguing or denying the loss:  "I hear that you're feeling distressed by losing a good relationship wtih your current manager, and I understand how you feel and that you're concerned it might impact your chances for promotion.  Let me show you how the criteria for your promotion and career advancement won't actually be negatively impacted by this change..."

 

Overreaction

Many times we think people are overreacting simply because they're reacting more strongly to something than we are.  And of course we're often uncomfortable with open displays of emotion, especially in the workplace.  So we label any open reaction as an 'overreaction'.  It's important to understand this before we label others.

Sometimes people 'overreact' to a situation because it reminds them of a change that happened to them in the past that wasn't handled well, or because it symbolizes something more to them than what has been announced ("They're moving my department to the other side of the office - this means they're phasing us out and I'll be unemployed within a year!  How will I feed my children?").  Understanding the true cause of the reaction will help you decide how best to help this person through the change.

 

A 'Good Goodbye'

One way to help people deal positively with their sense of loss is to encourage them to say goodbye.  This is particularly important when people are part of the loss:  The chance to say goodbye provides closure and a clear delineation to move to the next phase.

 

Looking ahead

Once people are productively dealing with their losses, they'll be ready to move forward through the change.  Encourage people to focus on what skills they possess which will lead them to continued success, and remind them of what they are not losing.  Having them imagine and discuss potential professional gains that may come about because of the change may be a good way to transition from 'loss' to 'opportunity'.

 

 

Published in News

Communication can be the single biggest driver in your career. Are you doing it right?

semaphore communication for your career

 

Last month we talked about how having great communication skills can be a huge career asset, no matter what stage you're at in your career.  

But 'good communication skills' doesn't mean that you're good at spelling or that you don't faint when you're asked to give a presentation in front of a roomful of people.  (Though I will say that it's rare to see a senior executive who has atrocious spelling and grammar skills or who can't do at least a pretty good job of presenting material to an audience.  You don't have to be Ernest Hemingway or Russell Peters - but you do have to be confident and competent.)

In a workplace environment, good communication skills are really about being able to convey and receive the information/ideas/tone you want or need to in order to excel at your job.  Some of that involves good writing and presenting skills, but a lot of it involves being able to interact with co-workers and stakeholders on a one-to-one basis; participating productively in meetings with people from different departments or levels; and building up a reputation for positive interactions.

So how, exactly, do you do this?  Here are 6 crucial tactics to ensure you're not only a great communicator - but that you're also perceived as one.

1.  Know yourself (your strengths and opportunities for growth).  Chances are, like most people, you're better at some forms of communication than others.  Some people are great in meetings but terrible at email.  Use your strengths to your advantage (don't forgo important meetings, since they're a chance to shine), and manage your weaknesses (make an extra effort with email, or try alternate channels).

2.  Know how communication works in your corporate culture.  I've encountered companies where interoffice email is frowned upon ("If you need to speak to a colleague, try to do so in real time"); some companies see meetings as a waste of time; others want every step of every decision documented in triplicate.  Every workplace has its own communication culture, and you need to understand the one you're in if you hope to succeed.

3.  Learn from good and bad examples.  This is easy:  Pay attention to the good communicators around you, and don't hesitate to try to emulate them.  If you encounter a poor communicator, don't let them pull you down to their standard - use it as an opportunity to improve.

4.  Continuous improvement.  Communication skills aren't something you're born with or a 'gift' that only some people have - they're a skill, like any other, and can be improved over time.  In my 20s, I didn't understand why no one was bothering to really pay attention to my PowerPoint presentations, because I spent so much time on them.  Finally, a senior mentor took me aside and told me that I needed to stop writing novel-length documents and start using more concise bullet points.  It took a while, but eventually I was able to write in bullet points rather than paragraphs, and my presentations got a lot more popular - and much more effective.

5.  Keep the next level in mind.  Remember that old saying, "Dress for what you want to be, not for what you are"?  The idea was that even if you were a junior employee, dressing in suits would help people picture you in a more senior role.  The same is true for communication.  If you see that the people who are on the next levels up from you have mastered certain communication skills or media, make sure you're investing time in improving your skills in those areas.  It will make a huge difference the next time promotions are being considered and you're on the list with someone else.

6.  Be prepared.  All communication is more effective when you know your subject, know your audience, know what you want to say, and how you want to say it.  For day-to-day communication, this may mean simply making an extra effort to ensure you have pertinent facts at your disposal or that your files are in order.  For big opportunities like presentations, it means rehearsing the night (or even the week) before. Taking 10 minutes before an important meeting to make sure your laptop is well-organized with the correct documents or list the 5 agenda items you need to accomplish will not only make you look like a rockstar, you'll stand a better chance of emerging from the meeting with the outcomes you need.

The more you know yourself, your organization, and your communication advantages, the more you'll be able to use this super-skill to your advantage.  It may offer the single biggest boost to your career.

 

Published in News

One of the biggest concerns that businesses - whether they're small, mid-sized or large organizations - have about change management is the cost.  These days, everyone's trying to innovate faster and more cost-effectively than ever. 

At the same time, we know that the right change management strategies can help businesses get to the ROI of their change much faster, and put more money on their bottom line.

How do you bridge the gap?

With ChangeStart(TM).

We meet with clients at the outset of their change initiative planning, assess their situation and needs and provide them with a high-level action plan which will help them get to the ROI of change more effectively.   At $2500, it gives businesses access to senior-level change expertise without committing a large portion of their budget to change management.

For more information, contact me or see the infosheet below.

ChangeStart infosheet

 

Published in News

I know, just what you needed - another infographic about change management failure!

But this one caught my eye because it's both HR-specific and the result of interviews with actual senior HR leaders.  And while I don't always agree with the HR department, I do agree with the experts in this case about 'result-oriented psychological facilitation'.  As I've said before, you can be focused on the ROI of change and still have room to address the psychological effects of change on employees.  In fact, when you don't address the psychological effects, you'll quickly find that your change-related ROI goes straight out the window.

So I think this infographic is worth at least a skim.

change management in HR

 

Published in News
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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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