This is a time like no other. Change is all around us. We see it in the news every day...economic turmoil, political transitions, financial uncertainty. And all of those global changes trickle down to create a lot of change for average Joes like us.
In this newsletter, we have a few articles that we think are useful in this extreme environment whether you are trying to keep your organization above water while facing the possibility of letting people go, or learning individually how to be more resilient.
We hope you enjoy the articles. Let us know what you think or if you have questions.
Lastly, we've got another Change Agent Roundtable coming up on February 20th. The roundtable discussions are great opportunities to meet people driving change in other organizations and share stories. It is time well spent if you can make it! E-mail Feedback
All the best,
Kate and Stacy
|Letting People Go Is Hard To Do|
Many organizations are facing economic challenges now that they have never experienced. And in response, some are pulling back or contracting in ways they have never done. Layoffs, closing down locations, divesting business units, or scrapping plans for growth and focusing on holding onto what they have now seem to be the order of the day.
Letting people go from an organization is really difficult. Even if it is just one person or a small group of folks, it still means people are losing their jobs. And there are always ripple effects that result from their departure.
During organizational transition, everyone is affected. There are two groups of people within an organization when people lose their jobs: the people who are leaving the organization, and the people who are left behind and watch the process unfold. People who lose their jobs are obviously impacted; and employees who don't lose jobs may experience guilt that they "survived" and fear that they may be next. The things we do to help both groups transition during the headcount reduction are completely inter-related.
There are some basic change management strategies and tactics that help ease the transition for both groups. First and foremost, there should be an underlying desire during the entire process to treat people with respect. It sounds easy, but is rarely done.
Even if the person or people losing jobs are leaving due to poor performance, acting unethically or acting illegally, they need to be treated such that they can maintain their dignity. The organization and its leaders need to be seen as "taking the high road" by the people left behind.
For people leaving an organization through no fault of their own, leaders need to ask themselves, "Are we doing what I would want to be done if it were me losing my job?" How would you want to find out your job was being eliminated? Most likely, you'd like to hear it directly from your manager in a one on one conversation rather than in a meeting of 50 people. And you probably would want to hear it before anyone else in your group heard it. While it is logistically difficult, the effort pays off.
Remember that the people who lose jobs are also likely friends of people who remain a part of the organization after they are gone. If the people leaving the organization are treated poorly, not only do leaders engender ill-will from organizational alumni who are out there bad-mouthing the organization, but they also plant the seed with employees who stick around that they might not treat them so well either in the future.
The people left behind see what happens and are impacted long term. Much of the effort people expend at work is discretionary. People actually decide how hard they are going to work - maybe not consciously, but certainly subconsciously. The boss can't make someone care about their job, communicate with their co-workers, or be creative in what they do. All of those things are at the employee's discretion. If the employee believes in the leaders of the organization, they give more. If they are mad or sad about what just happened, they give less. It is as simple as that.
Just because letting people go is hard, it doesn't mean that it should be avoided. When the business benefits are undeniable, the challenge of letting people go is one that needs to be faced. It just needs to be handled thoughtfully. Treating people well is not just about "being nice". It's about getting the business results you are seeking by keeping people engaged and productive.
Let's face it. Change takes an emotional toll, especially when that change makes you question your job security or future role at work. Studies show that some people are better dealing with change than others. These people are characterized as resilient.
Resiliency is like an individual's internal rubber band that stretches when it is under stress. Some people have rubber bands that are old, dried out and break with just a small tug; others have industrial strength rubber bands that can be pulled and pulled before showing signs of weakness.
Resiliency is responding, surviving and even thriving in the face of ambiguity, uncertainty and change. Resiliency is important because some things are beyond your control. However, you can control how you react to the ambiguity and uncertainty. You can influence what you think, feel and how you respond to the situation.
So, what do resilient people do? Resilient people don't expect others to guide their careers for them. They take responsibility for their career with an entrepreneurial spirit.
To that end, they build and nurture strong support networks, both personally and professionally; and they are always looking for new ways to learn and improve.
Resilient people draw satisfaction from many aspects of their lives. They may be avid runners, coach their kids' soccer games or volunteer at the local church. If work isn't going well, they have other avenues that remind them of their value and contribution.
Resilient people get involved in the change by asking questions, volunteering to participate and talking to others about it. They try to have a positive attitude and outlook.
Resilient people are self-aware and regularly take the time to reflect. I know it's hard, but if you want to be good at weathering change, you need to monitor how you are doing, what you are good at, what your flaws are, and how you impact other people.
If you don't think of yourself as resilient, there's good news! You can improve your personal resiliency so that you are more comfortable with change. The first step is to reflect on how you've reacted to change in the past. Note what you could have done differently based on this article. Next time, you can reference your notes and take appropriate actions. You might even find that the change isn't so bad after all.
Q&A: In Your Shoes
Michael P. Gendron
What advice do you have for others trying to drive change?
I have found that to drive change effectively, it is important to properly define the goal so that those affected by the change understand the ultimate destination. For example, as a CFO it is easy to define goals using jargon such as ROI, the cost of capital, or meet the bank covenants. It is much more effective to say, "Achieve sales of $5 million per month at 50% Gross Margin," or "Annual capital spending of no more than $5 million." This specific language allows everyone to understand the goals, and modify their behavior to achieve them.
What one thing has helped you the most in driving change in your organization?
During several very difficult turnarounds' that I have directed as the CFO, I define very specific goals and challenge the Company teams to meet them. I personally promise to support their creative problem solving to deliver the required change. The key to success is the personal promise, and not just corporate rhetoric. That is, I am available to work through the challenges on their schedule - not just within an 8-5 workday. When the teams understand my personal accountability to the change process - through long workdays and weekends, and real-time decision making as required - their personal accountability naturally increases. It is not just another corporate program; it is now a personal commitment between two people.
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Change Agent Roundtable
February 20, 2009
During Change Agent Roundtables, participants share their successes and challenges driving change. Participants work together to make suggestions to address change challenges and learn from each other's success stories. Breakfast is included.
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