The 5 Most Common Mistakes in Change Management

An infinite number of books have been written about change management, with numerous impressive wisdoms. However, effective change management has always been difficult.

How’s that possible?

The answer is behaviour. Changing, influencing or improving means that people have to adjust their behaviour. Literally everything depends on the actual change in people’s behaviour.

And the other truth about change?

It cannot be avoided. The solution is learning how to manage behaviour change. Let’s start with understanding the six common mistakes managers and leaders make during change management.

  1. Lack of clear communication before, during and after the change

Lack of communication is the most common problem while leading employees through change. Organisations that are successful in change management practice transparency and provide clear information before, during and after the change process. A detailed communication plan must be developed including the different types of communication taking place at different times.

  1. Not getting to the root cause of individual reluctance and resistance

Managers and leaders often assume that reluctance to change or resistance to buy into new ideas is due to disengaged or difficult employees. However, that is a story that leaders tell themselves. In most cases, employees show resistance to change because they believe the idea or initiative is unwise, ill-founded or unsustainable.

Don’t just assume you know why this person is so resistant. Ask yourself, “Why would a reasonable, rational person act the way they are acting?” Then, when you talk with them, ask questions that uncover the real reasons for their attitude and behaviour. Is it a motivation issue (they aren’t interested, they don’t like the change, they feel incentivised to do something else) or an ability issue (they lack skills, social support, or tools and resources)? It’s rare that someone is resistant for the “fun of it.” There’s likely some reason, they just haven’t told you.

  1. Not incorporating team feedback

This simple example of leading change with questions is a skill that is mastered over many years of leadership development and coaching experience. Other phrases that could be used in this scenario include: “What is working for you?” or “What do you need from me?” or “What’s not working?” The words and phrasing don’t matter as much as the intent of developing dialogue and soliciting feedback.

Part of the leadership team’s job is to continually ask for feedback from the team members. Every time the team implements a new process or new system, it should be looked at critically to determine if it is providing the desired results and then make adjustments as necessary. This may require meeting with team members individually to communicate the desired outcome and to discuss what they do and don’t like about the new process. It may also mean re-examining some of your own actions in order to make sure you’re not being perceived as sending conflicting messages about what you want. For example, if a manager institutes a new policy regarding how employees can spend their work hours, that manager also needs to communicate how he is going to stick to that policy. If he is in the habit of working overtime, or being on his phone or laptop during work hours, he needs to stop doing that until others see him consistently following the new rule.

  1. Assuming the team members know what to do

Sometimes leaders of change lay out what needs to happen and create a plan, yet employees don’t know how to move forward. They may feel threatened and fearful for their jobs, because of these assumptions. Training can provide the skills development necessary for success. Coaching can help employees identify their emotions and beliefs that might be holding them back.

  1. Inability to course correct

Experienced change managers know that there will be continuous change around you. The key is to not be overly rigid about plans. Make space for tweaks to keep up with shifting demands and market realities.

The Influencer model, taught in Influencer Training, was named the Change Management Approach of the Year by MIT Sloan Management Review for its multifaceted approach to securing long-standing organisational change. Influencer stresses the importance of leadership in helping others change.

The Influencer teaches how to master six sources of influence from psychology, social psychology, and organisational theory:

1-    Personal Motivation: Help Them Love What they Hate. Work to connect vital behaviours to intrinsic motives.

2-    Personal Ability: Help Them Do What They Can’t. Build personal ability to do behaviours through deliberate practice.

3-    Social Motivation: Provide Encouragement.

4-    Social Ability: Provide Assistance

5-    Structural Motivation: Change Their Economy. Attach appropriate incentives or sanctions to motivate people to pick up or stop vital behaviours.

6-    Structural Ability: Change Their Space. Things such as systems, process, reporting structures, visual cues, work layouts, tools, supplies, and machinery support vital behaviours.

Combining all six of these sources of influence help an Influencer overdetermine change. If people learn how to leverage these sources, they are ten times more likely to succeed than those who rely on a single solution.

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