Leading Change – bad advice and frightening people!

October 4: Optical Boundaries: An Evening of 1...

I wanted to take my earlier post on creating urgency further today and discuss how you can avoid creating panic.  So I started to do some research.

On what is a very “well respected” website that probably should be nameless,  I came across the following headline

“Let it rip: announcing change all at once may hurt in the short term, but it gets the pain over with quickly and then employees can move on!”

Further on in the same article I came across the following,  from a communications’ consultancy in response to the question of why change announcements are often badly received.

“They don’t take change well because when it comes to communicating changes to employees, every company does it badly.”

You could say they would say that wouldn’t they.  But I regard it as a dangerous statement and the degree of naivety around both these pieces of advice is sad to behold!

Yes, people do need the truth about change and as much information as you can give them about how it is going to affect them. You need to tell them what you know and what you don’t know and how you are going to bridge the gap.

But you don’t let rip!  That way lies panic!

Information needs to be given in a measured and honest way.

However well you do it, if it is a significant change, I am afraid there is likely to be pain.  And, no, it won’t be over quickly because you “let rip”!  But being honest and conveying the message (and your vision) well, can lessen the pain and avoid panic.

All kinds of feelings may emerge when people are faced with change.  How the message is conveyed is only part of the picture.

Nor is it true that every company does it badly but unfortunately many don’t do it well.

So on Friday, I’ll be writing here about how to give your own people bad news and how to control your own feelings in the process.   I want you to be able to do your best to help them!

In the meantime, I’d welcome your thoughts and observations.

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Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)786768143

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Leading Change – knowing what a sense of urgency really means!

Dont Panic

I’ve written quite a bit here about the Kotter approach to change.

After 30 years of research Dr John Kotter believes that most major change initiatives fail mainly because organizations don’t commit to seeing the change through and don’t take a holistic approach throughout.   He has demonstrated that his 8 step process provides a way of delivering and embedding large scale organizational change.

His method elaborates and enlarges upon the simple Freeze Phase, three stage approach – square, blob, star.  But the underlying principles are the same.

In a world requiring ultimate flexibility an organization’s ability to deal successfully with change is a key ingredient in its overall success.

The first stage in the Kotter approach is to create a sense of urgency but this is often the hardest part of a change to accomplish.

To move a change forward you need to develop and maintain a sense of urgency across the organization. This helps you to kick start the initial motivation to get things moving but also to sustain the energy throughout the change.  Urgency needs to be created and recreated throughout the whole change process.

Moving to this state, while maintaining performance, isn’t easy. And leaders need to differentiate between complacency, panic (what Kotter calls “false urgency”) and the sustainable and more positive state of true urgency

  • Complacency can be the halo effect that follows earlier success.  This leads to a glow of self satisfaction that means potential risks and changes in the world outside the organization are not seen. It can lead to sluggishness or arrogance.  The organization is inward facing and doesn’t study emerging markets, technology and competitors; this is part of the reason why horizon scanning by the leadership team can be so important.  Yes, you may be good, but are you good enough for the changing world and the changing marketplace.
  • Panic (False Urgency) often results when the message about the required change is not well handled.  Instead of inspiring confidence in the team that they can meet the challenge of change, the boss simply frightens them.   Instead of a positive and well managed response, what results is a lot of frenetic activity.  People rush from meeting to meeting without achieving anything significant but the activity in itself can convince the leader that change is happening.  The result can be that people become angry, upset and/or stressed out.  The energy required to complete and embed the change is simply drained away.
  • True urgency according to dictionary means “of pressing importance”! It means taking action now on critical issues and achieving real outcomes.  It is not about processing for processing’s sake.  True urgency engenders a balanced response – seeing the need for change without a sense of panic and impending doom.

If change is to be accomplished successfully then people need to be focused and have a sense that they are in control.  They need to see that there are real opportunities alongside the threat. This will allow them to be alert and proactive – able to act on their own initiative in taking the change forward. With a team that is confident in its leader and has a true sense of urgency, change can be sustained.  It is far less stressful.

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Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

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