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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

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fearfulman

Before managers can successfully lead their organizational units through a transformational change, they must overcome existing general fears and negative attitudes. Most of these fears and attitudes have been formed over the past two decades by actions and decisions organizations have made that have detrimentally affected individual employees.

From the 1980s on, businesses have faced the greatest overall restructuring since the Industrial Revolution. The depth and scope of this restructuring has been painful. Many employees have experienced downsizing, layoffs and a host of management fads, including the chaos, uncertainty and heightened frustration of reengineering. The methods used often resulted in covering and masking a number of management actions and mistakes.

Pain was further increased by the visible unfairness and callousness of many employee layoffs. The result left for managers to deal with is an employee mindset that translates into a lack of willingness to contribute personal initiative and productive work. This reflects itself in less effective teaming efforts and a lower output of quality decisions and products, as well as decreasing the loyalty leaders require from their unit members to lead their organization through the ongoing transformational process.

This is important for managers to grasp because organizations competing in the twenty-first century need the willing help and assistance of intelligent, motivated, collaborative and enterprising employees. This presents leaders with a real challenge: they must first work with their employees to overcome the problems and sentiments of past organizational actions before moving forward into an active transformation. Organizational stakeholders and investors who want to see increased results and overall improvement further complicate the process.

The International Survey Research Corporation, which tracks employee satisfaction for Fortune 1000 companies, reported that since 1989 employees:

  • Feel that management fails to provide clear direction.
  • Do not believe what management says.
  • Are less sure about keeping their jobs.
  • Worry about their company’s future.
  • Fear being laid off.
  • Feel overall morale is lower.

These facts frame the starting point defining where many leaders find themselves in the face of transformational change in their organizations. While time heals all wounds, most managers do not have this luxury in the face of the chaotic events and issues.

The most practical answer to overcoming these fears and attitudes is increasing employee empowerment. However, this is not likely to work without the total commitment of everyone holding a leadership position. Leadership can come from the ranks of senior managers or from organizational unit and team leaders. Any major transition will not work without a commitment from each level.

In addition to employee empowerment, managers need to establish working teams to tackle ongoing problems and concerns. It is better to establish multiple teams than to create one involving every employee in the organizational unit; the best workable size is between five and six members. In many instances, teams can work on the same problems. This furnishes a method of developing multiple solutions and alternatives. A collaborative team can be established to select the best solution and then assign specific aspects of it to each team to address and implement.

Employing a team approach demands specific leadership skills, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Effective follow up procedures

If managers fail to develop one of these three skills or eliminate them from their leadership contributions, the team will break down.

Managers furthermore cannot assume that if they simply form a team, participants will decipher what needs to be done and how things need to be accomplished. They must train unit members in working together in teams, focusing on the important issues, dealing with other teammates, and getting results.

In order for this training to be successful, managers must make sure the following team elements are adhered to, including:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Good communications
  • Effective dissemination of business objectives so the team understands how it fits into the general business plan
  • An effective process to guide and direct the actions of the team

While empowerment and an effective team approach will not immediately resolve many of the nagging employee problems and attitudes a manager must actively deal with, it does establish a foundation for improved performance and participation. As leaders initially start the process, they will need to develop strategies to cope with and address the emotional baggage issues brought to the table by their employees. They must allow the venting of frustrations and criticisms, then eliminate each of these issues in turn until full participation is achieved.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Managers as Facilitators of Change

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Personal Techniques to Handle and Adapt to Change

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manonphone

The Greek word metamórphosis means, “changed or transformed.” When individuals accept that change is a natural part of their organizational environment, they cease resisting it and are thus transformed. They henceforth evolve with the ongoing changes that take place in the organization.

Most people fear change. In the workplace, leaders’ fears are fed by a feeling that if they attempt to initiate change, they will lose their job because their superiors will not support their efforts. Leaders also resist change due to the time constraints associated with their existing responsibilities. If time is taken from these, they fear their core business will fail, resulting in everyone being out of a job. Additionally, change is an unknown. Since leaders might fear what the unknown will bring to their organization, they attempt to ignore it, hoping it just goes away.

Leaders must comprehend that what they fear is the organization-threatening choices that companies are faced with after ignoring the earlier and obvious need for change. At such a point, the organization has no other option but to make a decision or perish.

Leaders must learn to accept that change is here to stay and something that they must deal with in small and incremental steps that allow the organization to evolve. Taking the proper far-sighted approach ensures that a company will not have to face the organization-threatening changes that everyone fears.

Before leaders can deal with organizational change they must first accept change personally and professionally. If they can hone personal techniques to handle and adapt to change, then they can adjust these techniques to the workplace and their leadership style. These methods are discussed below:

Acceptance

Individuals must learn to accept change. Whether they realize it or not, most people currently in the workplace grew up in a dynamic environment characterized by change. Since the 1960s, society has been subject to drastic change stemming from events such as the civil rights movement, Vietnam and Watergate. All of these pivotal events spurred waves of change that have impacted everyone’s lives to this day.

Since the 1980s, society has seen monumental advances in technology that have changed everyone’s lives as well. The introduction of the personal computer, fax machines, cell phones, email, VCRs, the Internet, mobile computing devices and a host of other technological devices have literally changed the face of business and personal lives.

Whether or not one would admit it, life has changed, and most changes have been quietly accepted and integrated into many people’s lives. And many would agree that it has made their lives easier and better. So if people fear change, then they would be well served to go back over their lives to see how they have handled and adapted to change. Most would probably agree that it has been a slow, incremental process that they have hardly noticed, except in hindsight.

Observe Change

Every time individuals buy a new car, a new electronic device such as a computer or DVD player, or a new consumer product such as self-rising pizza crust, they are accepting change. Since these changes are small, they are not the life-threatening events everyone fears; yet, they are still changes. Obviously, individuals can resist or deny change by choosing not to purchase these products, but most feel they have no other option, and subsequently think nothing of it.

As leaders learn to handle change in the workplace, they should begin by observing the countless changes made in their personal lives. They should note the impact these have made and how they felt about the results. These reflections should help leaders learn how to adapt in a constantly changing workplace environment.

Learn Personal Flexibility

Inflexible individuals have the most difficulty adapting to change. These are often older people who grew up in a more stable pre-1960s environment. They liked the way things were and resisted even the smallest changes. However, this description does not characterize everyone who grew up during this period. Many, in fact, have found the changes in society and technology liberating, making their lives easier and more productive.

It is not age so much as mindset that is important. Leaders must learn to become personally flexible. Anyone can become more flexible by learning to change some of the minor details in their lives, such as eating at a new restaurant, rearranging the furniture in their homes and offices, changing a hair style or taking a vacation somewhere new or unknown.

When individuals learn to be personally flexible and adaptable, they can easily do the same in the workplace. It starts with taking small, incremental steps and then observing the effects and consequences.

Look for Small Opportunities

Life outside the workplace provides individuals with many opportunities to change and improve their lives. Individuals should become more aware of the countless opportunities for change. Most people can make these changes without a second thought. As a personal lesson in accepting change, leaders should look for small opportunities they can seize to change their lives. They should learn to evaluate their personal decisions and analyze the impact these small changes have on their lives.

Experiment

Individuals should experiment with various methods of change. When they experiment, observe and learn from the results in their personal lives, it should be easy to translate these lessons to the workplace.

It is notable that most people are more conservative about changes in their personal lives than at work because they have to pay for the changes out of their own pocket. At work, on the other hand, they are spending the company’s money. This is not to say they have lost their thrift altogether, but it makes a difference that the monetary costs associated with change are not their direct burden.

Excerpt: The Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

You Keep Innovating if You Want to Keep Leading

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communications in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

with 7 comments

Before managers can successfully lead their organizational units through a transformational change, they must overcome existing general fears and negative attitudes. Most of these fears and attitudes have been formed over the past two decades by actions and decisions organizations have made that have detrimentally affected individual employees.

From the 1980s on, businesses have faced the greatest overall restructuring since the Industrial Revolution. The depth and scope of this restructuring has been painful. Many employees have experienced downsizing, layoffs and a host of management fads, including the chaos, uncertainty and heightened frustration of reengineering. The methods used often resulted in covering and masking a number of management actions and mistakes.

Pain was further increased by the visible unfairness and callousness of many employee layoffs. The result left for managers to deal with is an employee mindset that translates into a lack of willingness to contribute personal initiative and productive work. This reflects itself in less effective teaming efforts and a lower output of quality decisions and products, as well as decreasing the loyalty leaders require from their unit members to lead their organization through the ongoing transformational process.

This is important for managers to grasp because organizations competing in the twenty-first century need the willing help and assistance of intelligent, motivated, collaborative and enterprising employees. This presents leaders with a real challenge: they must first work with their employees to overcome the problems and sentiments of past organizational actions before moving forward into an active transformation. Organizational stakeholders and investors who want to see increased results and overall improvement further complicate the process.

The International Survey Research Corporation, which tracks employee satisfaction for Fortune 1000 companies, reported that since 1989 employees:

  • Feel that management fails to provide clear direction.
  • Do not believe what management says.
  • Are less sure about keeping their jobs.
  • Worry about their company’s future.
  • Fear being laid off.
  •  Feel overall morale is lower.

These facts frame the starting point defining where many leaders find themselves in the face of transformational change in their organizations. While time heals all wounds, most managers do not have this luxury in the face of the chaotic events and issues.

The most practical answer to overcoming these fears and attitudes is increasing employee empowerment. However, this is not likely to work without the total commitment of everyone holding a leadership position. Leadership can come from the ranks of senior managers or from organizational unit and team leaders. Any major transition will not work without a commitment from each level.

In addition to employee empowerment, managers need to establish working teams to tackle ongoing problems and concerns. It is better to establish multiple teams than to create one involving every employee in the organizational unit; the best workable size is between five and six members. In many instances, teams can work on the same problems. This furnishes a method of developing multiple solutions and alternatives. A collaborative team can be established to select the best solution and then assign specific aspects of it to each team to address and implement.

Employing a team approach demands specific leadership skills, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Effective follow up procedures

If managers fail to develop one of these three skills or eliminate them from their leadership contributions, the team will break down.

Managers furthermore cannot assume that if they simply form a team, participants will decipher what needs to be done and how things need to be accomplished. They must train unit members in working together in teams, focusing on the important issues, dealing with other teammates, and getting results.

In order for this training to be successful, managers must make sure the following team elements are adhered to, including:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Good communications
  • Effective dissemination of business objectives so the team understands how it fits into the general business plan
  • An effective process to guide and direct the actions of the team

While empowerment and an effective team approach will not immediately resolve many of the nagging employee problems and attitudes a manager must actively deal with, it does establish a foundation for improved performance and participation. As leaders initially start the process, they will need to develop strategies to cope with and address the emotional baggage issues brought to the table by their employees. They must allow the venting of frustrations and criticisms, then eliminate each of these issues in turn until full participation is achieved.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about how to effective manage change in the workplace, refer to Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.
________________________________________________________________________________________
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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