What can be done to soften the blow of change in a small business? Here, the co-founder of consultancy Harley Young, Philip Cox-Hynd, tells readers how implementing change can be done more successfully.
We humans are amazingly adaptable. Although we may enjoy routines and feel completely at a loss if we don’t have things the way we are accustomed to, it is undeniable that it is within our capacity to make considerable changes so that we are more efficient or more contented in our environment.
Just look at the people all over the world, who exist on diverse diets, in adverse natural conditions, and learn to do all sorts of impressive things with their bodies and minds, like scale trees barefoot or speak in five different languages by the age of six.
It is obvious that as humans, we can accommodate nearly anything that is required of us. But the factor that often decides the success of a change is how it comes about.
Although we can live our lives in incredible ways to work around the resource we have, we are naturally opposed to making changes that we haven’t chosen for ourselves. This is why implementing change as a leader among a group of people can often be a recipe for disaster, particularly if the need for change is not recognised by the group you are managing.
Such efforts often result in despondence, lack of trust and harmony between the team, and ultimately time and money wasted. So what can be done to soften the blow of change in a business setting, and produce more successful results?
Many organisations get carried away with the idea of “transformation”, which in business terms is just too strong a word. Transformation implies a complete shift in essence from one state to another, like apples to oranges. This level of change just isn’t practical in business, and is likely to be met with a cold response, stopping the effort dead in its tracks.
So, a good first step is letting go of the idea of transformation and thinking more along the lines of “change”, which doesn’t have such strong, binary implications and can be a much steadier journey. Best of all, it doesn’t get people’s backs up from the start.
Change management is becoming more prevalent in business, mostly because people are coming to see the benefits it brings to their companies and to individuals, and it is a gentler process throughout.
It means adopting a leadership style that encourages a new direction, and leading by example with confidence, unity and dedication. It also enables managers to implement change in a communal way, inviting contribution and ideas from others. By involving individuals in the company’s attitude makeover, it takes on a far less imposed form, and becomes more of a group project that everybody works on together.
The phrase “change or die” comes up in business sometimes, and it can certainly get things off on the wrong foot. As most anybody will recall from their rebellious teenage years, being told you must do something often makes you want to do the exact opposite, so putting the problem in such stark terms can make others instantly defensive.
Instead of presenting change as an all-or-nothing necessity, identify the current problems the company is experiencing and communicate them in ways that other staff can grasp, to the point where they are happy to identify problems in their own working day that the company can improve upon. Personalising the situation to them will help stop the change feeling quite so enforced.
It is inevitable in business that at some point or other, you are going to need to reanalyse things and make the conscious decision to do things slightly differently. It benefits everybody from the bosses to the office cleaners to be a mindful – or calmly considerate – leader when change is being implemented, and to have everybody’s interests at heart when making decisions.
Actively seeking the participation of your team is a very constructive step, and will make everybody far more open to the idea of change, as they are taking part in making it happen rather than having it dictated to them. Besides, the wisdom of the crowd resides within your four walls as much as it does in the wider world.
For that extra bit of support, it is wise to find some way of quantifying the success of the changes you implement. Not only will your team feel empowered and positive about volunteering their ideas and playing an active part in taking the company to the next level, but their efforts will be proven by your success figures, allowing everyone to take pride in the positive change they have helped to bring about and to feel confident about business changes that may occur in the future.
Thinking about the way you make change happen in your company, and adopting a more mindful style of management, which I define as a cool-headed and sharply-observed handling of what’s so, does wonders for every member of your organisation, and makes the future brighter than ever.
Philip Cox-Hynd is the co-founder of consultancy business Harley Young. Through his company, has designed and implemented growth-led change programs for large and small corporations such as Barclays, Pfizer, Microsoft, Arup and Ella’s Kitchen.
A small business guide to managing change.
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