Leadership Really Matters During Change

Leadership Matters During Change

Gwen, Inc. specializes in developing strategies to help employees thrive through change. This is important work at any time. The coronavirus pandemic makes the concept of thriving through change of even greater importance. The challenge facing leaders is helping employees remain productive during a change causing unprecedented challenges in their lives. This change feels imposed and transformational simultaneously. This dynamic impacts employees head, heart and spirit. As with other major changes we must be strategic in how we support employees during this pandemic. It is our experience that a number of specific leadership actions can help employees continue to be productive in the midst of change. Start by focusing on the idea that leadership is inextricable from change. Leadership really matters during change. If this is true, what is a leader to do? Here are a few tips from the Gwen, Inc. team:

Let Employees Know You Care

The first reactions to change are emotional. In our company we use the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Bill Bridges and John Kotter to demonstrate this reality. They may feel anything from grief to fear. This is a time of high stress and anxiety as the uncertainty of jobs become real. Engage employees in the process of transitioning into work at home models. Consider the types of emotional support the company can offer employees. Host virtual check-in meetings for the sole purpose of discussing how employees are feeling. Invite sharing of strategies being used to navigate the emotions of the situation. Do whatever you can to demonstrate concern for employees during this time.

Deliver a Consistent Flow of Information

Employees benefit from a consistent flow of information during times of change. It is important for leaders to makes specific decisions about the type of information to be shared. It is important to determine the schedule and frequency for sharing information. It is important to decide the best methods for communication. When employees are working through emotions and under stress information must be presented strategically. Of greatest importance is to be open and honest. Employees have what I call “high BS detectors” and are skilled at discerning the difference between fact and fiction. It is no accident we see political leaders sharing information at the same time each day. It is no accident this information is presented in a similar format each day. It is no accident there is a balance in the information between hard facts, words of encouragement and details of how support is being offered to people. This is all designed to provide information that inspires people to keep moving forward.

Offer Words of Encouragement

The old cliché,’ a little encouragement goes a long way, is so true when helping employees thrive through change. The interesting thing about leading change is employees have thrived through many changes before. However, with each new change it is imperative to remind them that they have. Emotions kick in and it is easy to forget. Offering words of encouragement is a way of reminding employees they have made it through tough changes before. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic hits differently because it is a national health crisis. Yet, the philosophies, skills and behaviors that help people move through change still apply in this situation. It is important to “speak” these things to employees in verbal, written and virtual communications. Encourage them to pause and reflect on things they or a team did to help them thrive through previous changes. Document these things and send them out with an encouraging correspondence. We need to remind employees we made it through tough times before. Encourage them to lean on each other and believe together you will get through this change too.

Provide Specific Support to Employees

A reality of change is employees come to work and are required to be productive as they move through the emotions of change. Given this it is important to provide specifically defined types of support to employees. This support not only includes emotional support through EAP programs. In this case, support might also include:

The coronavirus pandemic is challenging leaders in ways we’ve never been challenged before. I hope this information helps you lead through this historic period of change. I offer this final thought. Leadership is not a job to do alone. We are in this together. We need each other to thrive through this change. If we work together with confidence, competence, courage and calm in all due time everything will be alright. Press on! Press Through!

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Gwen's Suggested Reading List

Gwen, Inc. provides consulting services to leaders charged with designing and implementing change strategies. The company’s services are informed by the work of change experts whose books appear on this month’s suggested reading list.

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