What is the best way of leading change? This was the latest clickbait forum question to flash up on my LinkedIn feed this week. The opening question discussed the emotive aspect of organisational change, how it impacts on employees and that, as a result ‘every manager & HR professional must understand its operational & emotional impact on staff’.
Therefore my first answer to the LinkedIn conversation question would be yes, it is important to understand the emotional impact of change, but this must be done all levels of an organisation by:
- Testing the right competencies and behaviours during recruitment, annual appraisal and supervision.
- Proactively supporting staff to develop their own leadership qualities
- Acknowledging staff that lead and inspire their colleagues and recognising those staff who are clearly your champions for change
Running a session on leadership for staff is also a sure-fire way of acknowledging that leadership isn’t the sole preserve of senior management.
My second answer would be to ensure that, in the midst of change you give managers, particularly those at ‘middle management’ level, the chance to take time out and revisit their role in leading staff and effecting change.
Middle managers are often the best placed to understand how change really affects an organisation. They are the front line, witnessing the pressures, reactions and emotions of their staff and unless you acknowledge this, listen to their concerns and encourage them to develop as leaders; they may in fact undermine any changes you try to implement. It’s also important to support middle managers in developing coping mechanisms, giving them the skills to channel their own disengagement into something constructive while enabling them to represent a consistent and united management approach.
It is important that management and HR understand the emotional and operational impact of change. But more than this, staff and middle managers are equally if not more important. They are ideally placed to be conduits, relaying crucial information up, down and across the organisation, dispelling rumour, demystifying and translating messages to staff and passing on constructive and creative ideas up to enable the senior leaders to effect change that reflects what is needed at all levels in the organisation.