Image: Lindsay Phillips on clker.com.
We’re undergoing significant change and I can’t be everywhere. What can I do to help my managers lead change?
Always Do This
Make sure your managers always know what’s going on. That significant change is just one item on their very full plates. As soon as a client hollers, the change will get placed on the back burner unless you help keep your managers focused. Information updates should be on every staff meeting agenda. Be sure to cover what’s new and different since the last staff meeting, what’s on the schedule for the coming month and how that will affect their staff, and what milestones are planned for the next six months.
Sometimes Do This
Sometimes, and for some managers, you’ll want to provide training on communication or change leadership skills. But let’s face it: many managers were promoted because they are strong technically. Many weren’t born with people skills and many haven’t had opportunities to develop those skills. If you’re facing a major change and have managers who lack strong people skills, you have a few options. First, you may wish to send them to a workshop. If you do, choose well. It should be behaviorally-based and practical. And here’s the most important thing: it has to include post-training coaching or application discussions. Only 20% of training value occurs during training classes. If you don’t help people apply that training on the job and learn from their experiences, you’re wasting your money.
Second, you may decide that you don’t want to invest in developing managers’ people skills. If you choose this path, take a page from the Hammer Reengineering playbook: assign coaches to the organization who can help people plan development and learn the new skills they need during the change. In other words, outsource your people guidance to people who have the time for it and free up your managers to do what they do best: the technical stuff.
Never Do This
Never forbid local innovation and creativity during change. Some leaders try to tamp down on variance and make implementation in every area exactly the same. That’s a mistake. It inhibits staff creativity and also underestimates the very real differences between areas. Instead of forbidding innovation, welcome it. To keep it from spiraling out of control, weave innovation updates into your staff meetings. Who knows? One area’s innovation might become your entire organization’s best practice.
A version of this article appeared in CIO magazine in October 2012.
How to Help Managers Lead Change