More than managing during change

Mar 06 2007 by Barbara Kay Print This Article

Change management is a hot topic. There are change management consultants, change management systems and coaches who help people handle change. With all of that expertise available, it can still feel like we are just barely getting by during times of change.

Recently, I conducted a workshop for a worldwide organization. The folks in this company had been put through an endless roller coaster of change in a brief period. The top leader had changed more than once, and vice presidents and director level leaders had changed multiple times. The direction of the organization had changed 180į and then completely reversed within two years. Even the target market and preferred customers had shifted several times.

These folks had experienced change overload, which occurs when employees spend 30 percent or more of their time on change related tasks. I imagine this company was way over that 30 percent mark!

Surprisingly, the group treasured their organization, and were amazingly committed. They desperately wanted to succeed. Unfortunately, until our workshop, they didn't realize they had already won several key battles.

The first battle of any change situation is harnessing a desire to succeed. These folks still were committed to success even after being spun around on a "tilt-o-whirl" of organizational change for several years. They had the drive to move forward, the first big win!

The second big win was their sincere appreciation for their staff and a keen interest in supporting staff needs. Most organizations spend time planning for system changes and little or no time planning for the impact of change on people. These mid-level managers did not have the authority to stop the roller coaster, but they had a sincere desire to minimize any unnecessary damage. They had a vital quality for leaders in change: they had a genuine concern for people.

The third victory was their realistic yet hopeful attitude. They had a no-nonsense understanding of their pain and the pain of their staff, yet at the same time, they had maintained a driving optimism. They were confident that perseverance would bring success.

An important attitude in change success is "realistic optimism". Having a realistic but hopeful view of during change is a potent yet practical motivator. These folks were already there.

Finally they had adopted a powerful change leadership attitude. They understood their influence, even though they did not sit in the CEO's chair. Instead of whining about what the leadership should have prevented, they pumped me for information on how they could lead their staff through the mess. They were true change leaders.

Change leaders do not just sit in an executive suite. Change leaders are all individuals who take the opportunity to be a positive influence for others and the organization.

This group had achieved key victories even before I reached them. It felt like they were just "managing" when in fact they were already a long way toward success. I tried my best to bring some first aid to these embattled change warriors. During our time together they learned additional skills for the final push forward. Equally important, we celebrated their success in "managing" the turmoil of the last years.


The Top Performers Guide to ChangeBarbara Kay is co-author, with Dr Tim Ursiny, of The Top Performer's Guide to Change, a guide to dealing with this always-difficult topic of change in the workplace.

This handy volume is designed for anyone who wants to know how to adapt to change quickly and seamlessly, how to recognize different types of change, analyze the situation and create champion solutions.

Change is not easy. Dramatic and repeated changes are especially challenging. When you think that you are barely managing, take stock, because you may be doing much better than you realize.

Are you committed to success and moving forward? Are you caring for you team and minimizing their disruption as much as possible? Are you being a positive leader regardless of your position in the company? Do you have realistic optimism about the future? If so, pat yourself on the back! You are doing much more than just managing. You are well on your way to succeeding.

Keep going and add more skills to assure the win. Finally, celebrate every success! It will help you and your team feel better and create energy to drive forward to change victory.


About The Author

Barbara Kay
Barbara Kay

Barbara Kay is an executive coach and trainer with Advantage Coaching & Training. She combines her business and professional psychology background to bring excellence, achievement, growth, and fulfillment to individuals and organizations.

Older Comments

Yours is a very important message, Barbara.

IMHO, your message is that any middle manager can create a highly motivated and committed work group in spite of actions to the contrary emanating from above. Very few managers understand this fact.

My experience proves that the sky is the limit and any manager at any level can have not only a highly committed group, but one that loves to come to work and is far more productive than is normally understood to be possible.

Of course, the manager cannot be a normal top-down, command and control type since this mode demeans, disrespects and demotivates employees. The manager must actually be just the opposite, one who asks employees what they need to do a better job and then gives it to them.

The key is to treat employees as if they are extremely valuable team members, treating them with tender love and care. This 'leads' them to treat their work, their customers and each other with tender love and care while allowing them to develop that strong sense of ownership that supports strong commitment.

You can read about my own escape from the top-down command and control model.

Thanks for the uplifting story, Barbara.

Best regards, Ben Simonton Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed'

Ben Simonton