Many organizations are looking to bring people back to the workplace in the coming months. Initially, it may be just a few days a week. Amazon signaled back in March that they will be returning to an office-centric environment. These changes will be cause for celebration for many and cause for concern for others. Leading people effectively through change requires several skills. An understanding of human behavior is vital.
The changes people had to implement in their work and their lives in 2020 were unprecedented, disruptive, and unexpected. Most changes were often viewed unfavorably even before COVID. Human beings like to stay in their comfort zone, especially after such a chaotic year. They often resist change because they see it as negative. In recent DDI research, only 35% of the leaders surveyed said they effectively managed change. One of the most significant factors differentiating high-performing from low-performing companies was leading change in that same research.
My friend and business associate, Keith Bushey, says, “When leadership goes up, drama goes down.” Change certainly brings out drama. As organizations prepare to welcome people back to in-person workplaces, here are three things leaders can do to more effectively lead people through change.
3 Keys to Leading People Effectively Through Change
Communicate– Have a well-thought-out and clear plan and communicate it to people. Communication was critical during the reactive changes imposed by COVID. As we move into recovery and bring people back, communication will again be essential. Leaders need to let people know the steps taken to address safety and how and when the change will occur. Leaders have the chance to be proactive in their recovery plan and demonstrate that in advance in their communication.
Reassurance– When people feel heard, it boosts their performance. Many will have questions about the changes, and they need to feel that someone hears their concerns. Empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Effective leaders will communicate with empathy. I lead an essential organization through the early months of COVID. Several staff members expressed concerns about fluctuations in the thermometers used to screen them every day. Thermometers were on back order, and we could not replace the ones we were using. I listened to their concerns and explained what we could do to address them, what we could not do, and why. The conversation took some time, but it was time well spent. The staff members felt heard, were reassured that I cared about their concerns and that their safety was my number one priority.
Encouragement– Encouraging leaders demonstrate confidence within themselves and those being encouraged. It is also part of believing in people and helping them reach their full potential. Fear of COVID has dropped in the US, yet, people are still wary of reengaging in the workplace. Organizations need confident leaders who can encourage and enable people to move forward and step into the positive changes occurring as part of the COVID recovery.
The good news is that people are highly capable of adapting. It may not be easy for some at first. Once people start to get into a routine, it becomes their new normal, just as working remotely became the new normal. Leaders who implement these keys of supporting people through change with communication, reassurance, and encouragement will see their change efforts thrive. It will also help to build resilience.
Sue Kenfield, M.A. is CEO of See It Thrive™, LLC. She is a certified resiliency specialist working with individuals and organizations as a catalyst to maximize their successful COVID recovery. Sue leads transformative initiatives with her clients to build agile and resilient organizations by enhancing human capital, strengthening leadership, increasing talent retention, and aligning organizational strategy and culture. Sue led an essential non-profit organization during COVID. She holds a master’s degree in Counseling, also specializing in emotional and behavioral intelligence. She has over twenty years of experience in healthcare and has helped organizations in multiple industries navigate change and optimize employee and leadership performance.Contact us to learn more.