Both as a consultant and in my prior career in business, I have faced numerous change efforts, including; the re-alignment and expansion of numerous sales teams, various product launches, alignments of territories, the introduction of new computer and software systems, the introduction of new leadership and values model, retooling of performance management systems, major mergers and acquisitions, realignment of departments, downsizing, and others I have likely forgotten.
Each time the changes were instigated by the company in order to gain competitive advantage or to improve the overall financial success of the organization. Each time the managers throughout the organization were faced with the common complaining and resistance that is natural from their team members as they tried to understand what this would mean to them individually and what advantage this gave them as individuals. It is natural that Sr. Leaders launching the program want the troops to get excited and behind the effort as soon as possible with a ‘winning attitude’. Unfortunately, it’s not realistic to expect that kind of response. As I have described above, in most cases, the average employee has faced so many different initiatives in a very short period of time, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they have become somewhat skeptical of any new changes requested by Sr. Management.
While each of the change efforts were implemented by senior leaders with the goal of making the company more competitive, in the end, it was the manager of the individual teams and not the corporate executives, training departments, or organizational effectiveness departments which had to; help the employees realize the advantage of the changes, help to improve the performance of their team members, answer the bulk of their questions and concerns, inspire the teams to accept the changes, teach how to implement them effectively, overcome any objections of their team members, etc. Managers who were successful in doing these things were more successful in getting their teams back on track. Managers that were not were faced with a prolonged drop in performance which not only hurt the manager and the team, but had an aggregated negative impact on the company as a whole.
While much of the change leadership research argues that much of the success and/or failure of change initiatives is due to the strategic approach of senior leaders, it is just as true, if not more so, that there is a huge amount of untapped potential, due to the inability of the first line manager to maximize the strength of his or her teams behind the new direction of the organization.
A model derived from the literature on change leadership and team effectiveness, could provide team leaders guidance on how to minimize the drop in the performance cycle and shorten the time it takes to realize the increase in performance aimed at by the change initiative.
Organizations, team leaders and team members could benefit if change leaders were provided more support and guidance on how to lead their individual teams through times of change. Furthermore, resistance would be reduced and buy in increased if the process was democratized by engaging a greater number of people in the organization in the change effort. The end result would decrease the depth of the drop in performance, and shorten the length of time needed to successfully reach the desired outcome and goal.
Providing team leaders with a simple model of the concepts of change leadership and team effectiveness, adapted to their cultural level of the organization would be of benefit for any manager trying to lead his/her team through change.