Lead charge for change with care


There’s an adage for public speakers: “Tell your audience what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.” A similar principle holds true for change managers. If you plan to steer your staffers into new territory, you should initially tell them about their new destination or goal, repeatedly describe it as they approach it, and then applaud them once they reach it.

Some ways to help you do so:

* Present a compelling case for your new goal — whether it is changing your office’s procedures, rearranging your office’s division of labor, adapting new technologies or adjusting your office’s overall objectives. Explain to your staffers how achieving the goal will benefit your office by, for example, solving a concrete problem or increasing efficiency. Cite examples of how similar changes have benefited other organizations. Explain to your staffers how reaching the goal will benefit them personally by, for example, updating or expanding their skills.

Advocate your goals early and often, including in staff meetings, in articles on your office’s intranet site and in one-on-one discussions with staffers.

Create an action plan. Get buy-in from supervisors by inviting them to help you map your new course. Your plan should include metrics, milestones or timelines that pave the way to success. You should also identify what part each staffer will play in achieving the goal. If your staffers need training or equipment to succeed, give it to them.

Monitor progress. Look for sources of potential resistance, help staffers eliminate them, and revise your metrics accordingly. Solicit feedback on progress and obstacles to change in one-on-one conversations with front-line staffers — not just with supervisors.

Stay positive. As your staffers venture into territory, they will probably run up some blind alleys, take wrong turns and perhaps make some lollapaloozas of mistakes. Don’t punish or humiliate hard-working, well-meaning staffers for such mishaps.

If you’re forcing your staffers to take risks, expect the odds to sometimes work against them. Some staffers may fail because your action plan — not their actions — is deficient by, for example, failing to anticipate potential obstacles or twists of fate. So when things go awry, help employees trouble-shoot, discuss how to avoid future problems, and keep encouraging them toward your goal.

Be willing to change your action plan. No matter how effective your plan, its implementation will probably take more time and effort than expected. Be prepared to adjust.

Also, provide ways to communicate with front-line staffers. Invite them to submit anonymous suggestions and tips about counterproductive rumors that may be circulating. Address reasonable concerns to the entire staff.

Celebrate success. Celebrate, or at least acknowledge, when your office reaches major milestones. Research your agency’s award options and reward high producers accordingly. Congratulate these high-producers in staff meetings, review how they conquered obstacles and identify next steps.

Get your hands dirty. One way to earn your staffers’ respect and encourage them to take your plan seriously is to work side-by-side with them, if only for short stints. By descending from your management pedestal and meeting staffers in their territory, you create a bonding experience, demonstrate your desire to understand your staffers’ jobs and prove that you’re personally engaged and invested in their success. Also, attend any major events or demonstrations related to your action plan.

Are we there yet? No. Change usually only begets more change. Every field is ever-changing and ever-evolving. So when your office does reach its new goal, it’s probably but a prelude to more change. Explain this principle to staffers, and then lead the charge for more change.


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