Preparing Your People for Change

Published: July 28, 2020

As business owners, we are constantly evaluating our current practices and ensuring that we are doing what is best for both our organization and our clients. During this evaluation process, we may find that our product line needs to be condensed, or that our client service experience needs to be refined, or maybe some internal organizational changes need to be made. 

Deep down we all know that change is inevitable. We also know that change can be hard, especially when it comes out of left field. That being said, whenever and whatever changes come about, it is important that we prepare ourselves and our teams to adjust accordingly.

When presenting any changes to your team, there are a couple of key things that I want to share with you that have helped me.

Share the news with your top people first. Sit down with your managers, team leaders, and top performers and outline the upcoming changes. Explain any pertinent details and ensure that they understand why the change is occurring, how it will affect them and anyone who reports to them, and, most importantly, make sure they are able to communicate the message or answer any questions that may come up. Getting buy-in from your top people can help to prevent any problems down the road, and they can help lead the rest of the organization through the changes. 

Present the message with a personal touch. When big changes are made within a company, it is important that the news is presented directly from the leader or the business owner. I highly advise against sending a mass email to the entire organization as this can seem impersonal and team members may feel underappreciated. Rather, schedule a time to sit down with the entire organization in person to explain all the details; if you cannot meet in person, schedule a Zoom meeting so you can at least see each individual and they can see you. Additionally, give yourself enough time to deliver the news as well as answer any questions. 

Outline ‘why’ the changes are occurring. In all my years of leading people, I have learned that if they understand the ‘why’ behind something, the ‘how’ becomes simpler, and the better they perform. This is especially important when helping your people adapt to change. Make sure to take the time to share with them ‘why’ the changes are happening, what problems will be resolved, and how the company will benefit in the long run. 

Show them you care. Unless there is a long term problem that you have been trying to solve for months, organizational or operational changes may come as a complete surprise to your people. Regardless, it is important that you empathize with your people. Let them know that you understand what they are feeling and that they may feel frustrated or annoyed; do your best to make them feel heard. Remind them that you are always available to help guide them and answer any questions they may have. After you share the news, check in with your people frequently and make sure they are adjusting OK. While some of your people may adapt quickly, it may take longer for others. 

While some changes may be out of our control, we can – and we must – control how we prepare our organizations and our people for the future.

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