As the famous quote from Benjamin Franklin goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This statement could not be more true when it comes to preparing for change at work.
Change can happen at a micro and macro level in organizations. It can be small and only impact a team, such as a change to a process, or it can be a sweeping change that affects everyone in an organization. Regardless of whether you’re the one leading the change initiative or mandated to implement change by your superior, you are the one who will manage your team through change, so you better be prepared.
In this article, we will offer seven tips to help you prepare for change, as well as a free change readiness assessment for you to use to determine if your team is ready for the change initiative about to take place.
How Do You Prepare for Change? 7 Things Leaders Can Do
- Prepare Yourself First
- Address Skill Gaps
- Be Ready to Answer Questions
- Evaluate Goals and Responsibilities
- Make Time for Feedback
- Provide Individualized Support
- Determine Timelines and Milestones
Prepare Yourself First
Your attitude and how you think about and discuss the change will influence how your team responds. You may not have developed the change strategy or why change is needed, but you will be responsible for implementing it. If you are opposing or questioning the change, you can bet your team will also be resistant.
Step back and evaluate why you’re having these feelings. Do you need more information from your leader to understand why the change is happening? Do you have underlining fears about your role, your ability to lead change or the resistance you may experience from your team? Being a leader requires that you’re ready to lead, and you do this by proactively addressing any concerns you have before announcing what is happening to your team.
Address Skill Gaps
Knowing what to say or do when it comes to change can be difficult for many team leaders. In preparing for change, consider enrolling in a change management program designed to equip you with best practices, tools, and techniques for leading change on your team. This type of program is where you learn from an experienced facilitator and have the support of fellow leaders is where you will find the confidence you need to prepare for and lead change effectively.
Be Ready To Answer Questions
Part of preparing for change is being ready to answer the one question on every employee's mind, “Why is this necessary?” In addition to addressing why make a list of the questions you think your team will have and craft your response. In doing so, you will feel more confident to address questions as they arise.
Communication is vital when it comes to change. When done well, it helps employees understand the advantages, how the transition will impact them, how they can contribute, and the benefits they will see from the change. Wendy Barnes, SVP & CHRO Palo Alto Networks, agrees, "It's critical to have a clear vision of the end-state so you can get everyone moving in the right direction. That helps you crystalize the rationale for the change so you can effectively communicate it to everyone who needs to know and get the right stakeholders involved from the start."
Evaluate Goals and Responsibilities
Part of preparing to answer questions is evaluating what will need to change for your team and each individual, as they will want to know, “how does this change impact me?” Doing so may involve redefining goals, expectations, responsibilities, and processes.
Have a blueprint in your mind of what will need to change to be ready to address questions, and following the announcement, work collaboratively as a team or one-on-one with individual employees to define what will be changing for them. By doing so, you are prepared and also building a sense of ownership and accountability to their part of the change initiative.
Make Time For Feedback
When preparing for change, block out time in your calendar to be available to your team as the initiative begins to roll out. As your team wrestles with the change, it’s critical you’re available, open to, and actively listening to their questions, concerns, and feedback on the strategy and execution of the change initiative. Given that they are the ones typically putting the change into action day-to-day, it is likely that what they have to say has value and could positively impact the initiative's likelihood of success, making it a critical time for you to be available.
Provide Individualized Support
In any change initiative, there are highs and lows. There will be times when your employees have the changes entirely in hand and others when they are struggling and feel tempted to revert to their old behaviors. For this reason, you must set up regular, recurring one-on-one meetings from the get-go. During this dedicated time together, you can provide coaching, reassurance, and support as needed to keep up the individual’s morale and momentum.
Determine Timelines and Milestones
As you prepare for change, work with your employees to set milestones that you intend to celebrate throughout the change initiative. In the midst of all the hard work and struggles, these milestone celebrations are what your team will need to keep pushing forward toward the end goal.
Change Readiness Assessment
Are you prepared for change? Does your team have the attitude, skills, resources, and capacity needed to succeed in the change initiative? Take this brief change readiness assessment to find out.
Conclusion: Learn to Prepare for, and Lead Change with Niagara Institute
Part of preparing for change is equipping yourself with the tools, techniques, and skills you need to be a great change leader from beginning to end. The tips listed above are a great starting point, but you will see and feel a real difference in your abilities by participating in change management training or a leadership development program.
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