Managing the Truly Tough Changes

One of my best friends spent the majority of her career dealing with mergers and acquisitions. She was often called upon to keep the Information Technology (IT) organization operating while the acquired CIOs were being transitioned out. She traveled around the country and would set up her office in the soon-to-be-closed IT shop, delivering the messages from corporate about the changes and listening to the affected employees as they worried about whether they would still have roles in the new organizational structure.

My friend is exceptional in her ability to focus on the business goal, while also recognizing that change–especially mergers and acquisitions–affects people’s lives. She is able to empathize with the loss of the known while finding the positive in what the change will mean for the future.

If your business is going through turbulent times, Amy Gallo’s HBR blog post, “Managing People on a Sinking Ship,” recommends the following 6 principles:

  1. Look for opportunities to turn things around Are there any products or services that customers want but you don’t offer?
  2. Give your team a larger purpose People want to believe their work matters in any situation.
  3. Provide reasonable incentives Be able to answer “what’s in it for me?” A transferable skill, professional experience, chance to be retained by the acquiring company?
  4. Show people they matter as individuals Find out what matters to your employees and tailor incentives as much as possible.
  5. Be honest and authentic – always Talk about the reality of the situation transparently.
  6. Don’t ignore emotions Acknowledge feelings, even the negative ones. If possible seek outside, professional assistance to help people through the loss.

wHolistic Change℠’s guiding principle is your employees are your best chance for the future. When it is time to change how your organization does business, define the change, determine what your employees need to be successful, and then coach and guide them through the change while ensuring that they have clear lines of communication to tell you what is working—and what is not.

If during tough times your organization does a good job of helping displaced workers, it will indicate to the workforce that you treat your people well. Even though you may be reducing headcount right now, when you are hiring again, they’ll be interested in coming back.

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.

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