Once you’ve decided a change needs to be made, it’s time for the hard work to begin. Whether the change is a shift in leadership structure or a new policy or something else, sustainably inspiring employees doesn’t happen overnight. Work itself represents stability: knowing what actions and behaviors will produce the expected results. Upset that delicate balance and employees can become, understandably, distrustful and resentful.
The first step, then, is convincing your team that there is a need for change. If you’ve identified a problem, enacting change by decree is not only likely to upset your employees, but is also certainly missing an opportunity to solicit good ideas, garner support and enthusiasm for a new initiative, and establish trust as a strong leader.
Involving your team as soon as possible in times of flux might seem a bit risky or overly ambitious. What if there’s a backlash to the changing environment? Will team members panic if clear plans aren’t established right away? But in reality, transparency is a touchstone of healthy, confident leadership. Use these first meetings or presentations as an opportunity to explain the factors motivating the change, even if it’s not possible to see what the long term change will be. Help employees to see the urgency of the situation, and solicit solutions from all levels. Involving your team as much as possible helps empower them as important contributors to your company and cultivates a culture of mutual respect rather than closed-door meetings and potentially harmful gossip.
While transparency is key, it’s also important to present a united front from leadership: one that identifies what values and goals are important for the company as change occurs. After getting people on board, you’ll want to establish a clear vision for the future. Identify key leaders who can work together to synthesize ideas and target goals for the change. Make sure leadership is well educated on FAQs that might come from team members, and create a working system to address the concerns and anxieties that will likely arise.
And once you’ve identified a series of steps and a timeline for their deployment, communicate this information far and wide throughout the organization. Every team member should be informed of the vision and its goals; communicating these will drum up enthusiasm for the change while investing in members at all levels, allowing you to contribute toward inspiring employees sustainably.
Let’s look at how this approach might work in practice. Consider a nonprofit organization kicking off a capital campaign for expansion into a larger space. Informing their employees of the plan to move while it’s still in very early stages, as well as presenting them with the same PowerPoint made available to potential donors, makes them feel valued. While the campaign is going on, team members at every level have been briefed. They are available to answer questions from the public and the organization’s donors, and they appear knowledgeable and excited about the prospect of moving into a new building. When the next step arrives, no one will be surprised. Instead, most will be ready to celebrate the organization’s success.
When employees are part of the mission, their investment in the process has the potential to reach more clients and result in greater success for that organization — whether or not the business is in the midst of change.
Employee Development Systems delivers results-oriented training programs that increase productivity, effectiveness, & performance.
Photo by Matt Ryall via Flickr
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