Handling leadership changes can be unsettling at best, and frustrating and emotionally draining at worst. If you’re a leader helping your team stay focused during these times, composure (the ability to handle stress) and empathy are critical for navigating changes – even in the best of situations.
Years ago, I worked with a manufacturing company that was shutting down U.S. plants, which meant many people were going to be let go or reassigned/relocated. I remember distinctly the pain in my contact’s voice as he told me it was his responsibility to make terminations and shut the plant down. Instead of being able to simply worry and be sad about his situation and the unknowns, he bore the burden of terminating people he’d worked with for years. The only counsel I could give him was, “You are the perfect person to be in charge of these terminations because you sincerely feel for these people and understand their situation. You have empathy, and these people trust and respect you.”
In another more recent conversation, I asked a client how she was handling the new leader above her. I really expected a glowing report, and while she was positive, there was a bit of uncertainty in her voice, and concerns for her team around what might happen next.
Is either of these scenarios easy? No…but they do happen.
From a behavioral standpoint, leaders with high scores in Composure and Nurturance (and, dare I say, Control) are a huge asset in these types of situations!
Here are five key areas that can greatly influence any change effort (via Cardinal at Work – Stanford University):
- Communicator – Communicate with your team about the change
Employees want to hear about organizational changes directly from their direct manager. They also want to understand the details, purpose and direct impact of the change.
- Advocate – Exhibit support for the change
In addition to wanting direct communication, employees look to you to gauge their level of support for the change initiative. If you passively support or resist a change, how can you expect your team to get on board? You’ve heard the saying, “Walk the walk, and talk the talk.” Make sure your actions clearly demonstrate your support.
- Coach – Support employees through the change process
The impact of changes on the day-to-day work of your staff can be tough. By working together, you can help employees work through roadblocks that can lead to a successful change effort.
- Liaison – Engage with and provide support to the project team
In many cases, you are the link between employees and a change initiative project team. This places you in the position to give the team input and share concerns or ideas expressed by your employees, relay relevant and timely information back to your groups, and identify and raise any concerns during project implementation.
- Resistance manager – Identify and manage resistance
Managers are positioned to best identify an employee who is struggling with the change, and actively address their concerns (given the tools and resources) accordingly.
Communication is critical — don’t leave your team out there wondering what’s going on. Continue to help your people adjust and strengthen their everyday tasks and behaviors, focusing on the job at hand and not the “what ifs” of the future.