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Leading and Managing Change

July 26, 2013 0 Comments

How leaders manage and lead through change is of vital importance. Failure to successfully manage the process means that organisations store up long-term problems for themselves and staff. Traditionally some companies have relied on a command and control style of leadership – great in times of crisis, not so great when you want a self-motivated, decisive workforce who are willing to take responsibility for their actions.

In my experience many professional service firms appear to lag behind when it comes to planning for change. Take the recent spate of redundancies affecting a significant number of legal firms. The redundancy issue has exposed once again some lawyer/managers’ apparent inability to deal with difficult situations in a compassionate and sympathetic manner. Those lacking in interpersonal skills have exposed their weakness (yet again) for all to see. Just as important as getting the procedure right is looking after the well being of the individuals affected by the change.

The big question is how to motivate staff  for the future. Motivating the “redundancy survivors”, those lucky enough to keep their jobs, is  not be easy. The often-dangled carrot of partnership is appearing a less attractive option. Firms that have cut themselves to the bone and jettisoned any “slack” may find that there is a serious risk to their business when holidays, illness and resignations strike.

Clients will also be sensitive to the change in personnel dealing with their work. Clients are increasingly looking for value for money and demanding a higher level of client care; they will not be impressed if that level of service drops whilst the new person gets up to speed on their file. (A word to the wise – neither will they be impressed if they are charged for the privilege!)

So what can be done? As we all know managing professional staff presents its own challenges at the best of times!

Photo Rob Unreall

Other sectors actively seek to manage the change process and ensure that any risks are reduced. They actively plan to avoid a drop in productivity. An interesting parallel is the university sector. The tensions encountered between academic staff and support staff is similar to that between professionals and support staff. I have been involved in the design and delivery of a variety of change programmes commissioned by universities. Leading and Managing Change (for managers) and Coping with Change (for staff) workshops allow a smooth implementation of change and also equip managers with sufficient knowledge and skills to navigate rough seas.

What plans have you got to equip yourself with those skills?

My tip is to understand how teams and individuals react to change. Managers should be prepared for a drop in productivity and plan to minimise it. They should know what makes both them and their staff tick. How to communicate their vision for the future effectively to help drive forward change in a positive manner.

Bruce Tuckman who studied team dynamics found that teams have distinct life cycles – they play an important part in understanding why teams react and behave in certain ways. Following Tuckman’s team model expect your teams to go through a storming and even mourning phase.

Photo Rob Unreall

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