By Bashar Jarkasy*
A Businessman asked for my consultancy wondering “My company is deteriorating and the worst reason behind this status is that my company’s team is of low performance and behavior and I don’t know how to improve them or whom to fire or to keep?!”.
My answer was: “I will not exaggerate if I consider every move, we do in our life, IS A CHANGE, whether this change is positive or negative, yet it is still a Change. The question here is how can we make it a positive Change?
To answer this question, let’s start with a story about strategy change:
There was a blind man sitting on the front stairs of a building with a hat by his feet and a sign that read: “I am Blind! Please Help!”
A creative publicist was walking by, noticing he only had a few coins in his hat, she dropped a few more coins in his hat, and without asking for his permission, took the sign, turned it around and wrote another announcement.
She placed back the sign by the blind man feet and left. That afternoon the creative publicist returned by the blind man and noticed that his hat was full of bills and coins. The blind man recognized her footsteps and asked if it was the person who had re-written his sign and he wanted to know what she wrote on it.
The publicist responded:” Nothing that was not true, I just rewrote your sign differently”. She smiled and went on her way. The blind man did not know but his new sign read: “It is Springtime, but I cannot see its beauty”
The point from this story is, you have to change your strategy when something is not going right OR even when something can be developed to be better. Change is a continuous process to promote positive change.
Changes at work come about for a number of reasons: economic necessity, legislation (e.g. health & safety requirements), competition, changing markets and keeping up to date. Change can be experienced because companies are relocating to expand or reduce costs and to meet the needs of new technology. Change can also come simply because of a new senior management style. Change may be necessary because the existing equipment is impractical, no longer viable or too costly to repair.
That said, what is your perception of the changes you experience? Is it a negative or positive view? Is the way you perceive change constructive or destructive to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. It all depends on the choices you take and efforts you make.
My fundamental rules when dealing with change include the commitment to always be fair with all stake holders and be enough lenient or strict when and where necessary. Furthermore, beware of ego, it is a killer. Last rule, you have to start the change with yourself, so you can practically live the change process.
Once we understand that people begin their emotional journey through a change in response to the actions that leaders and others take in introducing a change, then we can be able to lead change. Furthermore, the actions leaders themselves take when initiating change must also respond to the needs, questions, issues, and emotional reactions that people experience as they move along their journeys through change. Changing from backward thinking to forward thinking and converting chaos to stability will require us to adopt an Integrated Model for Leading Change, which comes in four main steps:
1) You must create a felt need for Change by comfort and control: Acknowledge your people’s past successful accomplishments to get them involved with change. You have to capture their attention to the need for change, you need to help them believe in the project; you can’t force enthusiasm, you need to create it. You have to sell the need of change to your people and demonstrate the pain and consequences of Not changing. Your key challenge is to move people out of their comfortable complacency, and when you do, immerse them in specific information, like customer complaints, budget data, competitive pressures that lead directly to change. Let people know that change will happen, one way or another. Give people time to let ideas sink in. Instead of giving them solutions, SELL them the problem and let them decide what change is necessary for a solution.
2) While introducing the Change you might face fear, anger and resistance: When met with frustration, co-create the vision with your people and involve them in defining the future of the company. When you perceive that the change has made someone angry, there’s only one solution: Listen, Listen and Listen. You also need to acknowledge people’s pain, perceived losses and try to understand the reasons behind their anger. Sometimes change causes people to feel betrayed and upset; your responsibility will be to strive to address their perceived losses by adjusting the change vision and strategy. Some people will mostly feel confused and challenged, tell them what you know and what you don’t know. Even if they seem lost, try to encourage discussion, dissent, disagreement and debate; keep people talking. When dealing with hostility, don’t try to talk people out of their feelings, especially when addressing anxiety and self-doubt. Rather, try discussing ways to solve the conflict.
3) You must revise and finalize the Change plan to create the desire for discovery and experimentation: It’s normal if your people feel anxiety and confusion during the change transitional process. Give people as much freedom and direction as you can. Give people permission to find their own solutions, encourage them to take risks while affirming and refining the common vision. It’s important to always leave a room for others’ ideas. In situations where people are quite challenged, it’s best to encourage teamwork and collaboration, and in case of disappointment, tell them as much as you know. Be sure to encourage personal reflection and learning and to provide people with training and support. You also need to keep searching, in all directions simultaneously, for solutions promoting innovation and creativity, as well as setting short-term goals that will serve as benchmarks and motivation.
4) You must stabilize and sustain the Change through enhancing the team’s learning, acceptance and commitment: Acknowledge the hard work of your team; energize them by celebrating the successes and accomplishments and always re-affirm and bring people together toward the vision of the company. Besides to create a feeling of relief, acknowledge what people have left behind, where they can compare past VS successful present. The key factor in sustaining commitment is developing long-term goals and plans. Create systems and structures, provide tools and trainings to reinforce and reward new behaviors. The most important thing is Sustaining ongoing commitment to the change. What’s next? Prepare people for more change and for on-going change process.
Remember that change is a lifelong process, MAKE it positive and constructive. Start with yourself and lead by example. Life is about change. Change within oneself, one’s family, work and so on. The more positive changes, the better our lives become.”
*Mr. Bashar Jarkasy is the Managing Director of Azar Global. Azar Global is a Service Provider Company specialized in Management Consulting, Management Training and Technology services.