Change Management during Covid-19

During times of such unprecedented change, what is the role of leaders in the business? Well, what is unprecedented change? Covid-19 and all the behaviour modification which it has demanded. Then followed by the creeping impact first on society. Then on the economy. And ultimately on psychology of the individual and their communities. Certainly it would also have positively charged Technology, lightened the load on the Environment, and driven the creation of Legislation never needed or predicted. PESTLE – the definitive framework of external factors that impact our organisations …. All of the factors have shifted or altered within the past 12 months – dramatically! So dramatically it is unprecedented – never before in recent history.

How have leaders responded?

There are examples of amazing responses from leaders and communities, and of course some examples that are embarrassingly poor. One silver lining from this pandemic is that the people-agenda in business has significantly enhanced. You see people as the single most important differentiator and enabler of value and of change-response. And as a consequence, the capacity to lead has increased in importance.

Reflecting on the lessons of Covid-19

During lockdown, I realised my own angst and sense of isolation was indicative of how others may be experiencing this phenomena. I received a call from a client who was simply just ‘checking-in’ with me. This call lifted my angst and sense of isolation, and enabled me to feel connected to the world again – a call that lasted all of 5 minutes.

A week later I started coaching leaders again. I recommended to each of them to call their team members (individually) and simply ask “how are you?” (and refuse to talk about work). Listen to the response. And close with “I am so pleased to have had a few minutes to connect with you, please take care and keep me posted on how you are doing”.

Leaders were astounded by the response they received. All from a simple 3-minute call. I also requested each leader make a point to call their people like this at least once every 2 weeks. Within a month, there was a need to call people back to work and despite concerns that there would be resistance due to fear of the pandemic. The leaders who reached out, found a overwhelmingly positive response to their requests to return to work. It proved the simple truth that power is the ability to command authentic loyalty and respect. And you earn it when you should genuine care for your people. It is not manipulative, it is sincere.

Change Management

It often suggested change management is important, however when it comes to people there seem to be misunderstanding. Change management is the methods a company uses to implement change. These methods include creating awareness and desire for the change.

Managing the change may be linear and simple. It can be placed on a Gantt chart. But one cannot ‘manage’ the people’s response and emotion to the change that is planned or desired. This is different. And it impacts the rate of adoption. Some ways people choose to manage change may be seen as an attempt to manipulate, dominate, or motivate people into adoption. But it rarely leads to full acceptance of the change efforts.

For acceptance to happen, people need to be afforded to opportunity to fully understand the change. Then process the effects of it. Thereafter, be allowed the space to experience and express the emotions that the change may be creating. This part is called managing the transition. It is the process which allows the individual to bring their ABC into alignment: A (Affect), B (Behavior), C (Cognition). If these are not aligned – dissonance is inevitable.

Change Management VS Transition

Change is what happens in the external world. For example, a factory closes, the business goes global, people get promoted, people get retrenched. Transition is the process which happens in your head. More often your gut, as you come to terms with the new situation.

You can plan change in a rational, objective way. You can decide on a start date, a schedule drawn up and an implementation or hand over date defined. Not so with transitions. A transition is a personal and emotional process. Each of us handles transitions in our own way and at our own pace.

In managing change you need to start with a vision of the future or a strategic objective.  The plan works back from the objective. This is so that you can achieve it in an appropriate time scale.

In managing transition, you have to start with where people are now – in whatever state of tension, anxiety or denial they may be in. Managing transition deals with feelings and frustrations – the real obstacles to change.

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