Managing Change and Fostering a Culture of Agility

By
Marion Gamel

December 20, 2019

Managing Change and Fostering a Culture of Agility
with Marion Gamel

We can't deny that change is happening more and more often and faster – primarily due to globalization and digital transformation.

This means the key ingredient for today's workforce is agility.

It's the ability to take change and make it work for you. So let's dive into change and understand what it actually is and how it works.

Highlights (see below for the full transcript):

STEP 1 - UNDERSTANDING CHANGE

Change is a brain thing!

  • The basics of Neuroscience and change
  • Why change is hard
  • Change is not our default setting, routine is actually our default setting.
  • When we do something on repeat our brain creates "neuro-wiring" – the more we do an activity, the more intense this connection gets
  • On the other end of the spectrum, when we do something brand new, our brain has no neuro-wiring in place to do that.

The 3 Ingredients to Drive Change

  • TIME - The way people react to change is to assimilate it, and that takes time. Allocate some time for people to integrate the change, understand it, and be ready for it. (Don't announce a change on Monday and expect everyone to be onboard and active and doing it on Tuesday.)
  • REPETITION - You need to give time for people to repeat the activity again and again and discover that it's not that hard. Consider repeating it so much that you think you're being patronizing. (I promise you that there's always going to be someone in the room who's not quite paying attention due to emotions.)
  • ATTENTION - It's a very basic equation: attention is not an infinite resource. So make room for some mistakes, because while you're asking your team to pay attention to something that is changing, they're not paying as much attention to other things as they usually would.

STEP 2 - HOW TO DRIVE CHANGE

The 4 Pillars of Driving Change

A sense of safety and belonging is essential during times of change. We aren't designed to function very well on our own – we're designed to function as a pack.

So how do you drive that? Based on four pillars, which are: Emotions, Information, Rewards, and Storytelling. These will help you drive change and create a very agile team.

EMOTIONS

  • While moments can be positive, negative, or neutral, negative moments weigh a lot more than positive moments. There's actually a 5:1 ratio, meaning that you're going to need up to five positive experiences or moments to mitigate a negative one.
  • Emotional pain is actually the same as physical pain. Pain is pain, and it's being dealt by our brain in the same way, whether it's a broken leg or a broken heart.
  • While transitioning from the old to the new, some people may experience variations on The 5 Stages of Grief. So you've got denial, then people get angry, then you sort of try to bargain. Then they can be a bit of depression until eventually you reach acceptance.

    Positive steps:
  • First of all, it's very important to acknowledge emotions. There is nothing more powerful than a leader who says to his team, "I know you're worried. I know you're concerned. I've heard you and I understand where this is coming from. Let me work with you on trying to dissolve that problem."
  • The second thing that leaders can do in a time of change is to offer a little bit of a break. Remember, attention is not an infinite resource. So what leaders can do is to offer a bit of a break so that instead of just thinking about the change all the time, people will have something else to look at that will make them feel good.

INFORMATION

  • A recent study showed that even the most negative piece of news is less stressful than not knowing! Knowledge puts you in a position of action. If you know what's going on, you can start strategizing. For leaders, when you're driving change, share as much information as early as possible during the process of the change.
  • The Four Rules of Information
  • 1) Announce - Announce the change. Grab the opportunity and own the narrative. Don't let leaks and gossip undermine your objectives.
  • 2) Explain - Explaining the rationale for the change is very important. You probably will need to explain it to different audiences at different times, using different terms so that your message is relevant to the specific audience that you're addressing.
  • 3) Update - My thumb rule for leaders is that if you are asked by a member of your team for an update, you're behind. Continued communication reinforces psychological safety.
  • 4) Commit - Commit to an update schedule and respect your commitments. It is very important that you give people dates at which they're going to get an update and that you respect those dates.

REWARDS

  • In times of change, your team still needs to be reassured that it is a good team, that they're doing good work, that they're being noticed and appreciated, that they're not just a number on a chart.
  • 1) Rewards that are tangible, whether they are company awards that you create, or little kudos, as well as bonuses or pay increases, are very important.
  • 2) Recognition is also very important in shape of promotions or even a public display.
  • 3) Appreciation is one thing that a lot of leaders forget. It's about appreciating the person, not just their work.

STORYTELLING

  • Stories have been used for centuries to explain very complex concepts – storytelling is really ingrained in our culture and in the way that we understand things. So for a leader to grab storytelling and use it as a tool to drive a message and to drive change is really powerful.
  • The Intentional Change Model
  • 1) You talk about the ideal, the goal.
  • 2) Where we stand today.
  • 3) This is our agenda, our plan, our journey that is going to take us from where we are to where we want to be.
  • 4) Express that testing going to have to be done. During this stage there will be failures and successes, and that's perfectly all right – You want to reinforce  psychological safety to get as much buy-in as possible.
  • 5) Remind people of the resources that they can tap into. Set them up for success!

STEP 3 - HOW TO BECOME AGILE

The William Bridges 3 Phase Transition Model

Let's put it all together using the William Bridges transition model. This model uses 3 phases, the Endings, a neutral zone, then the new Beginnings. Here's an example of everything that leaders and managers can do in each of those stages.

PHASE 1 - Start with the Endings!

  • Listen to and acknowledge the emotions coming from your team, and reinforce again and again the rationale behind the change.
  • Remember that people are not going to pay attention to you every time you speak, or they may not fully understand.
  • Share information and to explain to your team how often they're going to be updated, and stick to your commitment.
  • Show respect for the past, but define what's over and what's not, because change doesn't mean that everything is changing.

PHASE 2 - Transition

  • Acknowledge that you're in a transition phase. It may not be comfortable, but it's not going to last forever.
  • It's time to use Storytelling so that you focus very much on where you're going and not the fact that you're in a limbo zone.
  • Use Recognition, Rewards and Appreciation so that your team keeps feeling good and reassured that they are great people who deliver very well.
  • Create psychological safety by encouraging testing and experimentation.
  • Work in some break time to focus on something else. Maybe something exciting that allows them to come back refreshed and tackle the change again.

PHASE 3 - New Beginnings

  • This is where you change your vision again,and start planning the future together.
  • While change may have been driven by the management team, you now want to make sure that people have an opportunity to contribute to that change and shape it in some form.
  • Celebrate early successes! They're proof that the change was worth it and that it's working.
  • Recap the change process that just happened, because there'll be more.
  • The message you want to convey at that time is, "See, that was not very comfortable, but we did really well, we did it efficiently. We'll use this same process and I can count on you."

With practice, change becomes easier, and the more changes you successfully drive with your workforce, the more agile they will become. Here's a quick review:

  • Change happens in the brain - remember that people need Time, they need Repetition, and leaders need to remember that Attention is not an infinite resource.
  • Understanding the effects of Emotions, Information, Rewards and Storytelling will help you successfully drive change.
  • Consider that in a period of change, you can use a three phase transition model: from what's Ending, to an In-between situation, and then to the new Beginning.

Resources

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

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About Marion Gamel

Marion Gamel is an executive coach with over 20 years experience as a leader and marketeer. She worked in digital at Google, Eventbrite and Betson, and was a Chief Marketing Officer before becoming a coach.

Episode Transcript

Posted on

December 20, 2019