Most leaders are familiar with and understand the concept of change management and the stages people go through when adapting to change, but find it difficult to manage their teams when faced with the realities of incomplete information and prolonged uncertainty. These are a few of the tips that have helped us survive along the way:
- Cascaded formal communications early and consistently.
- Repeat the same messages, using as many different media as possible, far more often and for much longer than will seem necessary.
- Assume that the audience will all interpret the message differently. Ask them to tell you what they heard and what they think it means.
- Don’t wait until you have new information to communicate. Schedule regular updates and if there is no new information, repeat what you know, clarify what is still unclear and give milestones by when information will be available.
- Use team meetings to discuss the changes and implications – this gives you a chance to hear and act on what is being discussed informally around the office.
- Discuss what is changing for the team and their hopes and concerns.
- Ask questions to encourage people to express opinions and emotions.
- Help the team identify what they can influence and where they can take back some control.
- Schedule regular short meetings with each team member to discuss the changes (10 minutes of individual attention is better than none).
- Do not reassure anyone that things will be OK. Focus on listening to what the person has to say and helping them articulate any concerns.
- Notice how each individual reacts (language, body language etc) and recognise that it might not be the most “obvious” person who is most affected by the change.
- If you are concerned about any individual in your team, follow up with HR to get additional support sooner rather than later.
Put your own oxygen mask on first
- While it is tempting to focus on managing and supporting the team, remember that teams take a lead from their manager’s action, behaviour and even body language, so leaders need to secure the information and support they need in order to support their teams. So, as the airlines will tell you, this is a time to be little bit selfish and look after yourself first.