A change leader has two very clear spheres of responsibility. The first, and most visible, is the onus to get organisational change up-and-running and then see its expected outcomes met through employing project management skills. The second is as a people manager.
Many a change leader has neglected this second responsibility, placing most efforts on the first. This is a natural consequence of the tangible nature of organisational change – if a project fails everyone knows, but few will see inadequacies in people management skills. Yet failing to recognise the importance of people management in the change management context is a major reason for failure to meet the goals of change.
When it comes to change management, people management and project management are inextricably linked.
Don’t fail your organisation: a change leader must manage their people
Communication is the greatest tool we have as human beings, and the most potent of management tools, too. A change leader who neglects to speak to their people is planning for the failure of organisational change.
People are naturally inquisitive, and when they are left with indecisiveness and uncertainty they will soon draw their own conclusions. This leads to the rumour mill turning, scaremongering coming to the fore, and a resistant workforce.
People also want to know that they matter in the process of change, and that they are viewed as important to the organisation. They want to know their concerns are understood and listened to, and that they have a future.
A change leader needs to communicate with their people, answering all these ‘wants’. When you communicate effectively, your people will help drive organisational change to success. Here are five things you must talk about if you want to be an effective change leader:
1 Tell people what you and the organisation expects from change
Just because you know expected outcomes and the change path, don’t expect your people to. Be explicit when talking about the organisational change: discuss timings, individual and group involvement, and the targets set. People work better when they understand the project: it is the job of the change leader to ensure this understanding exists.
2 Ask people how they are progressing through the organisational change
People need to be checked on to make sure they are doing what they are meant to be doing. More important than this is the need to ensure they have the opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns, and receive guidance. Schedule regular team meetings and one-to-ones that will ensure this happens.
3 Be interested in your people’s outside lives
Ask people about their weekends, their families, and what they do to enjoy themselves outside of the working day. Be interested in them and they cease to believe the organisation sees them as no more than a number. Whatever business you are in, remember that first and foremost it is a people business.
4 Find out about people’s aspirations on the road to effective change
As a change leader, you’ll understand that organisational change will create opportunity for employees. But does this opportunity match their aspirations? Ask about people’s hopes for progress and promotion, and begin to discover their true potential. Fail to do this and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a workplace full of lethargic employees.
5 Say “thank you”
Give praise where praise is due. Tell people when they have done well, and help them feel valued. Recognise contributions and when people have gone the extra yard. People who feel appreciated for the effort they put in become champions for change.
Yahoo’s CEO gets it right
When Marissa Mayer took the helm at Yahoo, the company had stagnated. Its shares had fallen from over $40 in 2005 to less than $15 at the end of 2008 and languished around this level until Mayer became CEO in July 2012. Customers were drifting away, employees were disgruntled, and investors were selling.
Mayer has produced an all-round improvement at Yahoo. Earnings have moved forward, and shares are now trading at over $45. Employees are engaged and once more believe in the organisation and their place in it.
Mayer has proved an incredible talent manager. She made people excited at Yahoo again. In 2013 she instigated a program of employee focussed initiatives: more than 550 in all, with the aim of boosting morale. She has introduced programs that get people engaged and empower them with a real say in product design. Her real gift to Yahoo is not a trebled share price and rising earnings: it is a roll-call of employees who feel valued and happy that the organisation is a place where they can grow in their professional lives.
Search no further than Yahoo for the secret to effective organisational change
If you want to make effective organisational change, you need search no further than Yahoo. Take a leaf out of Marissa Mayer’s book and communicate with your people at every opportunity. Believe in them, and they will believe in you.