Many of the organizations that I have worked in this year are involved in dramatic change. They are doing more to meet the increasing demands of customers in order to compete with companies within their industry. They are implementing new productivity standards which is causing them to measure more effectively the behaviors of their employees and the return on investment for the implementation of newly defined competencies. Because we usually get what we measure, these organizations are measuring more of their companies’ efforts and outcomes. All of these changes place more and more demands on the people within these organizations which contributes to stress in the work place.
Naturally, many of these organization-wide changes are met with resistance in some form or another. Employees may become increasingly irritable or defensive when their performance doesn’t meet the expected standards. There is usually more negativity, blaming, or complaining because of all the emerging change in the present landscape. People spend their time lamenting about the good old days or how much easier work used to be. Because many changes require doing more while doing many of the original job assignments, stress mounts and people become short tempered or critical of one another. People also want to blame their leaders for the new demands placed upon them or they complain about how management is being unfair or unreasonable in all that is required.
In whatever situation you may find yourself, particularly if you are a leader or manager, you can have a positive impact on the people in your work group or team. Here are a number of tactics that you might decide to adopt to reverse the feelings of negativity and help the folks to refocus their efforts during these times of unrelenting chaos.
Change your perspective. If you don’t understand or support the changes that your organization is implementing, then you had better take the time to become a convert. If you are not on board, then your lack of commitment will be communicated to your people through your words and actions. Your lack of commitment will signal to them that they don’t need to be committed either. Assess your own commitment level, take steps to understand the changes, and do what is needed to implement the new developments.
Learn from your people. Discovering what is not working and why allows you to address challenges in a more timely fashion. The challenge is often to fail quicker so that you can discover what needs to be fixed or improved. Your people know what is not working and it frustrates them. Learn to recognize their frustrations, talk to them about why they are upset, and work together to resolve their concerns.
Identify the needs of the individual. I think it is safe to assume that most people come to work looking to perform adequately and not intentionally mess something up. When things don’t go as planned, or you don’t get the results that you expected, take that as an opportunity to identify what that person needs to do to be more effective. Doing so reinforces to the individual that you really are committed to their success and development in light of all the new tasks that may be required of them.
Be optimistic. Someone once said that there is no failure, only feedback. Every situation is an opportunity for learning. You need to see and help others to see the results that they are creating as a means for learning, growing, and contributing to your organization’s success. It is important to help people focus their efforts on what they will do differently going forward rather than dwelling on past failures.
Be enthusiastic. Your people will reflect the tone and demeanor that you display. If you are positive, energetic, and enthusiastic, then they will also adopt your demeanor. Don’t accept ongoing negativity. Help people to see the positive in the situation. Explain repeatedly why you are asking them to change some facet of their work, and then be patient.
Offer frequent encouragement. I have been told repeatedly over the years that, “No news is good news.” In other words, the only time that a person’s manager may speak to them is when they have messed up. Don’t let this be said of you. Try to catch people doing the right things, and then recognize and express appreciation for their efforts. When people don’t meet your expectations, take the time to encourage them and tell them that you know that they will do better next time. Help them with any deficiencies they may have and celebrate their efforts when they succeed.
Set aside your needs. We often become so busy or wrapped up as managers that we don’t recognize the needs of others. Others’ needs are really your needs. If those that work for you are not successful, then neither are you. If you will take the time to offer support and assistance, you will help others to meet your expectations. Also encourage others to offer assistance to those who may be struggling. When things change, people sometimes become so focused on their own work that they don’t see the needs of others nor do they take the time to offer assistance and support. Fostering a culture of teamwork and helping others will greatly improve the morale among the troops.
Help people to see their opportunity. Those who are consumed with negativity don’t often see their own opportunities. Take the time to identify opportunities that are available to the people who work for you and find or create occasions to share them. Helping people to understand that they have control over how they feel, how they see the situation, and their actions and reactions, can help them to be responsible for what they create for themselves.
Hold people accountable. If people are dragging their feet or are not embracing the required change, then you need to call them on their behavior. Hold the conversation to reinforce the importance of the needed change, be clear about your expectations, and then do all you can to help them succeed. Don’t let it be said of you that you didn’t provide them with what they needed to be successful. If they refuse to change, then that decision is theirs and not yours. Respectfully help them to see and take responsibility for their actions and attitude in the current situation.
Change is never easy, but as a manager, leader, or as an individual contributor, you can have a positive impact in the face of the uncertainty that often comes with change. You can take the initiative to be a positive influence in helping yourself and others to be successful.