Change management and relationships

Feb 19, 2023

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Communication and relationships are the greatest driving forces in success or failure during a change journey.

I love change. Not everyone shares this view, but, in my experience, change has proven to be an engine of growth – particularly if approached with intentionality and strategic planning.

There’s no consensus on the best way to navigate change, but here are some things I’ve learned over my 30-year career in human resources:

  • First, you have to identify the problem that needs fixing. Be specific.
  • Put your change group through change management training. This is a sales game, after all. These people need to learn skills on how to drive and support change.
  • Before announcing the change, it’s important to address the why – why change is needed, what’s not working, and what’s in it for the organization and its people. Engaging purposefully at the outset with those who will be impacted is essential.
  • Have an elevator speech for all focused on the change. It’s critical that you be on the same page, be consistent, and share the same story.
  • During the change, ask for constant improvement feedback. I can’t express enough how important it is to spend the time asking for feedback. Encourage people to tell you what’s not working. You have to recognize the value of candid feedback and encourage it.
  • Make sure your team is on board. If someone isn’t, you need to express that they find a way: Ask them what they need to educate themselves on the issue or what they need to know to get on board with the change. If they can’t get on board, they shouldn’t be on the team.
  • Focus on winning over people who are on the fence about your change; they are easier to influence. Leave major resistors off your radar at first because they will learn from others and then buy-in.
  • Constantly find ways to measure and show progress to all stakeholders. Know what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Keep a sales-focused mindset – listen, listen, listen. You can’t solve an issue if you don’t understand the problem.
  • Make sure you have a strong business case for the change. Be prepared to back it up.
  • Relationships during change are the key to success. Gain trust by showing people you are there to help make things more effective and efficient.
  • Read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a classic for a reason. People like to talk about themselves; just keep asking questions, and you’ll win them over.
  • Tell on yourself. When something goes wrong, make sure you let everyone know it. That will continue to engender trust and help build relationships. You aren’t going to be able to effectively change anything if you don’t have the relationships.
  • Never stop trying to improve, even if your official change is 100 percent successful. In the past, I’ve had company leaders ask, “Why aren’t you asking me what’s going well?” My response was, “I want to know what we need to improve on to continue to move in the right direction.”
  • Give a shout out! Celebrate wins with the change team; allow individual employees to recognize other team members or outstanding work.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Communication and relationships are the greatest driving forces in success or failure during a change journey. It’s our responsibility to explain clearly and concisely the why and what around change. If we fail to articulate the better path forward, even the most dynamic strategy will fall short. 

John Shaw is chief human resources officer at Garver. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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