The Harassed Manager’s Guide to Change

This is an extract from a small book I wrote for participants when running change workshops for managers. I hope you find it useful. It’s a short, light hearted and practical look at managing staff through change, with practical, down to earth exercises that work – and no jargon!

The book is dedicated to all of those front line managers and small business owners faced with an organisational or business change to implement. Whether it’s of your making or not you will have to take the flak, even when you’re feeling as fed up as everyone else. Read this when you are expected to know all the answers, when you must look in control, even when you’re screaming inside; this is your book!


‘Cometh the hour cometh the man’…or woman… or anyone, please?

OK, so the powers that be have just told you about their latest initiative and how wonderful the world will be once their new plan/reorganisation/merger/ acquisition is put into place. You front line managers, they tell you, have nothing to worry about because a team of consultants are coming in to manage the change and you will get all the information you need as and when. Just go back and let your team know that change is afoot, oh and by the way, don’t let productivity fall off and keep everyone happy, absence levels down and all the staff on board with the new plan!

Or maybe you are the owner of a small business and have just announced some significant changes to your business like relocation, or a new customer care system. At this stage you may know where you want to get to but not be entirely sure of the route. And your employees are looking at you for answers…

Of course, this being the real world your team or employees probably already knows that something is afoot and will have been discussing it amongst themselves for ages. Already the rumour mill will have been grinding on.

It is really important that you set the right tone right from the beginning even if you may think there is nothing you can usefully say at the moment. But can you just say you don’t know yet?

No Creative Speechifying

Well, yes you can actually. If you start with the ‘creative speechifying’ now you will only tie yourself up in knots later on when it becomes obvious that you don’t know. It is really important at this early stage to establish your credibility so I suggest the following:

1) Get everyone together as soon as you can. Whenever it is at all possible do difficult communication face to face, or rather your face to their faces. E mail is cowardly and open to misinterpretation, doctoring, and can be sent across the world in the blink of an eye. Don’t do it.

2) It is important now to establish the tone for all future discussions so be as honest as you are can. Tell them that you will meet with them regularly to update them and take questions (because you will, won’t you) and as far as you are able you will tell them everything you can. Tell them that you will invite questions both now and after they have had time to absorb the information.

3) If they are very quiet at this stage don’t be misled. They are probably in shock and have not yet fully absorbed what they have been told. When you leave the room you will probably hear a lot of discussion immediately strike up behind you but don’t take it personally. Never take it personally. You are the immediate face of management and their representative on earth so you will get some flak, but don’t take it personally. This will require some practice….

4) While you still have some energy set up your own support network. You will need it, preferably with some managers or business owners in the same position. Make spaces in your diary now and commit to getting together regularly to share information, coping strategies and handkerchiefs. Go to that next business/management networking event and find someone with experience of this. Or use formal support like a coach.

5) Look up the details of any staff counselling/welfare service or anything offered locally. Even if you don’t need it someone will soon. You might even give them a call to check that someone has remembered to warn them of the likely increase in calls to their service. Maybe even arrange a date to get them in to tell your team what they can offer? If you run a small business try your local support group or Business Link to see if they can offer anything.

6). Go home. You’ve had a tiring day.


Posted on September 3rd, 2010 by

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