Change cannot be avoided
Change is an inextricable reality of the human experience. Whether it is personally or professionally, every dimension of our lives goes through a continual process of development that transforms our existence from one status quo, to another, and another. As creatures of habit, human beings are not always receptive to the fact that things can never remain the same forever. In fact, all people have an instinctive tendency to view change as negative, and consequently, resist change depending on how much uncertainty it introduces to our lives.
Within the professional setting, managers have a particular responsibility to overcome the effects of change because if an organization is allowed to react to change without moderation, conflict ensues. Effective leadership requires emotional intelligence in order to recognize how and when employees need help to cope with change. Emotional intelligence, which is having the capacity to empathize by considering other people’s needs before one’s own, makes it possible to circumvent negative outcomes of change through responsible employee engagement.
Predictable vs. Unpredictable change
Circumstances in life can change in two fundamental ways, that is: predictably, and unpredictably. When change is predictable, individuals usually have an idea of how much adjustment is likely to happen to daily routine. As such, advance preparation for the unknown becomes possible in order to soften devastation over unexpected events. When change is unpredictable on the other hand, people do not have the luxury of adapting in advance to the unknown. Every adjustment that happens therefore has to be in reaction to new conditions that create an ultimatum between success and failure.
Whether or not change is predictable, leaders have a duty to build and maintain support amongst employees that makes their organization impervious to the undesirable outcomes of uncertainty. Strong leadership is the foundation for any group’s network of support. Absent of leadership, change can provoke misinformation and confusion that is debilitating to the normal functions of a company.
Support can only be sustained through communication
During times of change, the way a leader communicates is especially instrumental to stability within an organization. Effective communication helps reinforce support among employees, and reduces uncertainty by keeping people informed. Mastering certain principles of communication is vital for maintaining optimism at a level that keeps employees focused on surviving change rather than opposing it entirely. The nature of communication practiced by leaders should also coordinate with whether people are dealing with predictable or unpredictable change.
- When change is predictable: There can never be enough preparation. Preparation helps circumvent friction and uncertainty about the unknown. If a leader intends to introduce change to a group they should:
- Actively persuade people about the benefits of change.
- Readily answer people’s questions or doubts.
- Encourage optimism at every opportunity in order to reduce anxiety.
- Regularly provide feedback, especially after change has been introduced, to enhance people’s acceptance of change.
- When change is unpredictable: There can never be too much information. Providing people with information in the aftermath of unexpected events goes a long way towards keeping them focused on surviving, or even thriving under new conditions. When a leader has to maintain a group’s support systems in the face of sudden change, they should:
- Provide as much unsolicited relevant information as possible to prevent confusion.
- Generate a sense of community to produce a unified front against sudden challenges.
- Dedicate resources to provide social support to people significantly impacted by the change.
- Always be prepared to listen to people who have insights or questions.
- Project determination and hopefulness to withstand any setbacks brought about by change.
Every team, and by extension every organization, should have leadership that is willing and ready to engage its members in a sincere and interactive manner. Communication is the lifeblood every support system that exists in a group. Regardless of the situation, if a leader sets a precedent of transparent communication, it becomes easier to cope with and survive change. No challenge is unbeatable when a team is willing to relate to one another and cooperate.