Here are practical ideas on leading your team through change

A wooden door with a sign on it that states "OPEN - Time for Change"

Having recently presented “Leading CPAs Firms Through Change at a state society of CPA’s leadership conference, and having received several follow up requests, here are some best practices that I wanted to share with you. These are provided so that you can use them to help manage change where you work. This is an overview. You have to realize that you have to address emotions. That is yours and your team’s.

 

What is change?

 

It is important to understand that

change in organizations centers around people, technology and information.

Regarding people consider where a person sits in the organization chart. Think of who reports to this person, peers, supervisor, vendors, customers and other stakeholders. Consider friendships and informal networks with history. Regarding technology consider historical, current and new technologies. These may be hardware, software, firmware or historical manual methods. Regarding information there has never been a time when information has been as slow as today. That is information is only going to increase into the future. How that information is obtained, shared and stored will be different than today.

 

Transitioning to change

 

Transitions are generally about gradual processes and revolve around gains and losses.

In general, transitions generally cannot be scheduled and they are hard to measure. When you are in a transition, you know it, but you not sure when it will end. You may not be sure where it will end up. During the transition the focus is on the people being impacted, various internal actions that are or are not being taken, and various unstructured activities.

 

Key is to recognize the three phases of change

 

The three phases of change are endings, neutral zone and beginnings

 

Endings

 

With endings there is a realization that the way things either were or are is about to end. It is important that individuals have time to let go. The old realities won’t be there in the future. Identities are about to shift. Old beliefs are going to have to change to the new reality. It is important to realize this is a loss to many participants in the process.

With loss comes grief.    What is that may be lost? Here is a list of example items that an individual may feel as losses.

  • Turf
  • Status
  • Power
  • Influence
  • Relationships
  • Future
  • Meaningful work
  • Control of destiny
  • Personal identity
  • Friendships

What do you do?

It is necessary to acknowledge loss and own it. Don’t ignore, but embrace it.

Ask yourself and others how your own and their feelings about what is ending. Have an open discussion with your team. Make it a point to

celebrate the legacy. Acknowledge the accomplishments that we made as a team and individual contributions.

Pay tribute to the past. Consider a farewell party for the existing group. To help the group over any hump, actively listen and let them voice their concerns. This can be a very emotional time for some. Paraphrase and summarize what It is they have said in neutral terms. Recognize not only what was said, but the emotions associated with the words. Be empathetic.

Be a change leader

As a change leader every process, service or product is on trial for its life.

Processes will have to be abandoned. Even if there is some life in existing processes,

they too need to be abandoned to bring on board the new processes. Some will see a value of holding on to some existing processes because there is life left in those processes. Help them to work through this disappointing transition as a change leader. As a change leader you have to be there to support the product, process or service.     

           

Neutral Zone

 

The neutral zone is a period of uncertainty.

It is a time of letting go of the past.

It is unclear exactly what will happen in the future.

Old rules, expectations and roles are in state of flux. On the one hand this is a period of chaos. On the other hand this is a period of creativity. Recognize this period for what it is and go with it.

Deal with you own neutral zone

As a change leader you have to deal with your own neutral zone. Own your emotions.

What are your emotions. How will you benefit? How will the organization benefit? How may you or they be negatively impacted. Acknowledge the concern. Again be empathetic. There is a lot ambiguity during this time. It is uncomfortable. Who knows what will happen? The key for you and your team is that you are in this thing together with changing personnel, roles, expectations etc. As a team we have to be there for everyone else.

 

New beginnings

 

You have to decide how you will act as a leader.

You have to manage your own losses.

These may be economical, social and/or political. You need to come to grips with your own feelings before you can help your team. Just like the flight attendant with the safety briefing on the plane, in case of an emergency, put on your own mask before assisting others.

Take care of yourself first.

There is no use trying to manage change with your team if you have not come to grips first. You have to stand up and help others through this time. Communicate the change by being as transparent and timely as you can. Have information meetings. Go over new understandings, values, attitudes, identities and productivity.

Model the change

Modeling the change is focusing not on me but on we. Involve your team with the change. Help others break out of the past. This is easy for some and difficult for others.

Create a supportive environment that allows everyone time to transition.

Organize the improvement to set up the change for success. As a leader is up to you to come to grips with this yourself and to model the change going forward.

You may be negatively impacted, but even so, you have to be positive.

That is not easy, especially if you are negatively impacted, but that is what leaders do. As a leader you have to step up to make this as positive as possible for yourself and for others.

 

Summary

 

There is a lot more that can be said about how to lead your team for change. There are models out there with 8 to 10 steps. However we tend to remember three things pretty well according to neuroscience so, so this simple model uses three. These are that change involves endings, a neutral zone and beginnings. If you can remember these three stages you are ahead of the game. Understand that it is possible to slip into any one of the stages at any point in time. Through it all as a change leader you have to be there for your team, so take care of number one first. You can read more about this in The Servant Manager, 203 tips from the best places to work in America.

 

About the author

 

Are you looking for a dynamic, educational, interactive and fun speaker to address this or similar issues? Contact Mike Gregory at Mike@collabeffect.com. Mike is an international speaker. He has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. For consulting Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]