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Leading Your Team Through Change.

Change is a normal part of business. Every day, companies make decisions to reorganize, add new products or services, acquire other firms, downsize, make other shifts in their strategy. As a manager, you're responsible for leading your team through periods of transition. The way you do so can make all the difference in keeping them motivated.

Regardless of the circumstances, employees will react to change in very different ways. Some people adapt quickly, while others are more apprehensive about accepting new situations. By adjusting your management style accordingly, you can help ensure the move is a smooth one for everyone.

Plan, Follow Through, Communicate

Even when confronted with fairly minor changes in the status quo, make sure you've anticipated how employees may react. Say, for example, you're planning a financial systems conversion. Before the conversion takes place, you will need to let your staff know when and why the new system is being installed and how it will impact their jobs. You must also plan to provide adequate training on the new system and have someone available to troubleshoot once it's up and running. If change occurs without warning or explanation, your staff will resent being left out of the loop and may be cynical about future endeavors.

Communication should always be the first priority when introducing a new initiative. When employees are given insufficient information, they will create their own scenarios about what's happening. For instance, perhaps your company has plans to merge its eastern and central regional offices under the same reporting structure at the end of the month. You may recognize that the new relationship between the teams will help your company operate more efficiently. But if your employees aren't kept informed, they mar assume the worst--that their jobs are at risk.

To avoid this type of miscommunication, encourage discussion among your team members. Consider holding a department meeting to answer any questions. If the issue involves the entire company, you may want to have an executive attend to address specific concerns. Ask a few questions of your own to help get the discussion started.

When appropriate, solicit the feedback of employees before planning a major change. They may be able to offer a fresh perspective and creative solutions to current business challenges.

Accentuate the Positive

Be sure to emphasize both positive and negative consequences of situations. The more candid you are at the outset, the more your employees will trust you. For example, if your company is going through a merger and job losses are a reality, be open. But also stress the positive aspects the transition will bring, such as improved training opportunities or access to a more up-to-date financial software system. Also make sure your employees understand the business justification for the decision so they can see the larger picture.

Remain Focused

As a manager, your job during a time of transition is to not only keep employee morale high but also to make sure everyday responsibilities are being met. Even when there's a significant change under way, financial reports need to be analyzed, invoices have to be processed, and month-end closes need to be completed. Be sensitive to the current situation, but remind your team about the importance of meeting existing deadlines.

If recent developments have increased workloads in your department or left you understaffed, consider bringing in temporary professionals to help. By providing additional support, you help your staff stay focused while avoiding burnout.

Take a Break

Change can be stressful for both you and your employees --which makes it critical to find ways to make the work environment more enjoyable. Simple activities, such as taking your department out to a movie, arranging a potluck, or taking a minute to publicly thank an employee for a job well done, are just few ideas. Also encourage your team members to take lunch breaks--and set the example by doing so yourself. Taking time to relax and recharge can mitigate stress and actually increase productivity throughout the day.

Leading your team through change can seem like a daunting task at times. But by keeping your employees informed, welcoming their feedback, and finding ways to alleviate stress, you can ensure that any transition proceeds smoothly. In the end, you'll have expanded your management abilities and helped your team to embrace new opportunities for success.

Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International Inc. (RHI), parent company of Robert Half [R], Accountemps [R], and RHI Management Resources [R]. RHI is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a full-time, temporary, and project basis. Messmer's most recent books are Managing Your Career For Dummies [R] (Hungry Minds, Inc.), Job Hunting For Dummies [R], 2nd Edition (Hungry Minds, Inc.), Human Resources Kit For Dummies [R] (Hungry Minds, Inc.), and The Fast Forward MBA in Hiring (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).
COPYRIGHT 2001 Institute of Management Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:management tips
Author:Messmer, Max
Publication:Strategic Finance
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:809
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