By now the kids are back in school. This has an impact in my family. We have new morning routines. As the kids are starting in their schools, they are meeting new classmates and teachers. Although it is familiar, it is different. It is a change, and for anyone that has or has had kids, they know that there is an adjustment period. Even if you don’t have kids, you will notice that there are new traffic patterns as parents with kids are adjusting their schedules and commutes around bus schedules and school drop offs. There is no avoiding it, change happens, and we have to adjust. Today’s post is all about dealing with change.
Dealing with Change
“No plan survives first contact with the enemy. What matters is how quickly the leader is able to adapt.”
– Tim Harford
Every business is constantly dealing with change. Change ranges from problems encountered in new product development, responding to the competition, or it could be a radical shift in your business model. When you think about it, your business has to be in a constant state of change (or evolution) otherwise you’ll soon find yourself obsolete. Competitive landscapes and consumer needs all change and your business needs to change to keep up with a changing landscape. Successful leaders, and businesses become quite effective in dealing with these changes and evolutions. Here are some common characteristics of change, and how to navigate them successfully.
When there is change, there is almost always conflict. Conflict can be constructive or destructive. What is the difference?
Destructive conflict is just that, destructive. If allowed destructive conflict will kill careers and if destructive conflict has become part of the culture, it will kill your company. Destructive conflict looks a lot like finger pointing, passing blame, and avoiding blame. It is not a pretty road, and nobody wins in the end, well maybe a consultant when you finally hire one to help save your company.
Constructive conflict is very helpful. I learned early in my management career to welcome constructive conflict. I had one engineer on my team that would “argue” with me about almost everything. It wasn’t a hostile argument, but he challenged almost every decision I would make. I would ask him to come to my office whenever I was trying to work out any challenging issue. And together, through his challenging questions, and my responses almost always came up with a stronger solution than either one of us would have on our own. Through this “conflict” we were able to improve the productivity of our team by up to 50% in some areas.
The key success when dealing with change in conflict is communication. I don’t know how many times a company was going through changes (restructure, mergers, buy out etc.) and there is absolutely no communication, or worse poor communication! No communication and poor communication just lead to rumors and assumptions on the part of your employees. I can tell you firsthand, that the rumors and assumptions are almost ALWAYS worse than reality. It causes fear and distrust among the employees and leads to destructive conflict, even when it isn’t necessary.
Trust and Respect
I had the unfortunate position of being in a job where we lost a significant amount of our workload. Suddenly I was faced with having not enough work for the number of people I had on my team. Uncertainty was everywhere, and there was the constant threat of layoffs. People came to work everyday not knowing if it would be there last day. Ironically, during this same time, my team’s morale actually improved. How? I was constantly communicating, openly and honestly with my team. And, prior to that I had a developed a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.
To ensure you have effective communication there has to be a level of mutual trust and respect. When you think about this, your best relationships with a spouse, best friend, children, whomever is based on mutual trust and respect. When that trust is broken what happens to the relationship? It deteriorates and eventually disintegrates. Why would companies treat their employees any different? Companies often demand or expect loyalty from their employees on one hand, and then hide information or poorly communicate company strategies on the other. The rationale for this is because “we don’t want people to panic.”
This Week’s Challenge
How is your company culture structured? Are there silos and finger pointing, or communication based on mutual trust and respect? Are all stakeholders brought in for decisions or are people just told to live with decisions being made? Creating the right culture, and integrated culture, will dramatically improve your bottom line!
Give us a call for an assessment and consultation and see how you can start improving your bottom line.
If you would like to discuss more ways to help your business grow or if you feel you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, please reach out to me.