This is Challenge #20, showing up in Stage 3 and it can easily be misdiagnosed.
People fear the unknown, and as a result are generally resistant to change. It is in the best interest of every CEO to make sure there is a strong communication plan in place, to help ease some of the uncertainty that crops up in growing companies. A communication plan is simply a way of intentionally determining what needs to be communicated, to whom, when, how often and in what format.
Resistance to change can unhinge a company, but it’s also one of the easiest challenges to overcome. Easy that is, if a CEO is willing to communicate to the entire company what he/she are doing, thinking and yes, feeling. Err on the side of too much information, instead of trying to guess what the business owner thinks people want to know.
CEOs typically view change much differently than the people who work for them, because they have the benefit of a 360-degree view. So, make sure that your CEOs are telling their staff what they see, and how the staff will be impacted. Lay out the short and long term implications of the changes they are experiencing and share how the issues will be resolved. Help your CEOs get ahead of the story by being completely upfront and transparent.
You are well aware of the “hidden agent” known as the Builder/ Protector Ratio. Builders love risk, aren’t afraid of change, seek out opportunities and are always looking for the next challenge (sounds like the owner, right?). Protectors are risk averse, suspicious of growth and uncomfortable with change. Companies need both to be successful.
If a CEO adopts a Protector mindset when change occurs, he/she will send a wave of fear throughout the organization, which causes people to shut down. Instead, the CEO must embrace the Builder mindset and be an agent for change, because change is essential for growth. When your CEO is confident in the face of change, their employees will be less resistant. By effectively managing employees’ expectations of growth, a CEO is able to make change easier for them to swallow and less terrifying. Developing a culture that embraces change requires a CEO who is intentional in communicating all aspects of what the company is going through.
The world is changing. This means expectations have to change. Perceptions of growth need to adapt to the new challenges changes in our economy bring. Certain activities (downsizing, working remotely, reengineering, outsourcing and re-strategizing) that companies struggled to deal with as a result of economic changes in the past will likely become the new norm.
Companies must create cultures that embraces change, not as a reaction, but as a business objective – a strategy similar to planning for revenue growth. A plan for change should be included in every manager’s performance planning process. Employees should be trained to expect things to change and be a part of the process. By creating a change mindset, CEOs can improve staff buy-in and reduce dissent. This helps minimize the uncertainty that fear creates, which can impact a company’s ability to stay ahead of competitors.
In John P. Kotter’s popular book, Leading Change, he identifies eight mistakes that hinder change efforts. His also provides eight strategies to manifest sustainable change within an organization. The first step starts with establishing a sense of urgency around the event. This supports my premise that you have to communicate the why behind the change and create that urgency that Kotter refers to.
8 COMMON MISTAKES THAT SABOTAGE CHANGE
- Allowing too much complacency
- Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
- Underestimating the power of vision
- Under-communicating the vision by a factor of 10 (or 100 or even 1,000)
- Permitting obstacles to block the new vision
- Failing to create short-term wins
- Declaring victory too soon
- Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the culture
Culture can be defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. Ask your CEOs what behaviors do they accept? What behaviors won’t they accept? How do they plan to educate their employees on what he/she cares about as an organization? Never doubt that employees want to know how they should behave, how they should act, and what is acceptable or not acceptable behaviors and attitudes. Encourage your CEOs to drill down into how group behaviors impact the company. Have them explain what they care about and what got the company to where it is today. Let your CEO know that their stories are important. Their values are critical.
Don’t let your CEOs use culture as a flag they wave i.e. “Our culture is driven by our values”. Push them to use culture as a defining principle in how the company expects people to behave and have them start to create a culture that embraces change.
Starting on page 176 in my Stage 3 book, The Art of Delegation: How to Effectively Let Go to Grow with 20 – 34 Employees, I outline the 8 Steps of Creating Major Change and talk about how to handle the resistance that is inevitable with any change initiative. You can get your Stage 3 book at http://gcspecialists.com/products.
Your Success. My Passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!