Toolkit for leading your team through restructure and change

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The following is a  companion guide to Duncan Brodie’s webinar on Leading your team through restructure and change.

The pandemic has brought about significant change across firms and businesses. Many AAT members will face dealing with redundancies or restructuring within their organisation.

Change is difficult, there’s no doubt about it. It can bring up a myriad of different emotions and reactions in people and within teams. Some embrace it, while others may shy away.

Based on the Kubler-Ross Change Curve Model, there are seven key stages that individuals encounter when navigating change, which you need to be aware of as a manager.

Webinar: Leading teams through change

Change isn’t optional. And it’s not easy either. But as a manager you can have a big impact – learn more in this member’s webinar.on success.

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Seven stages you need to be aware of

1. Shock

An individual may experience shock at the sudden change or announcement. Often, they will be so focused on the uncertainty, performance and productivity will suffer.

2. Denial

Many individuals experience a real sense of denial in the early stages. They may convince themselves the problem will go away or it’s not as bad as they first feared. Others may simply bury their head in the sand and act as if nothing has happened.

3. Frustration

Some individuals may display a lot of anger and frustration. An otherwise calm and measured employee may become short tempered or snappy. It’s important to remember that this behaviour change is an entirely normal: the anger isn’t personally motivated – it’s driven by their frustration at being unable to control events.

4. Depression

An individual may become depressed once they begin to understand the situation and their productivity and motivation may suffer. They may feel worthless and have a bleak or defeatist outlook. Although this is the low point in the change curve, things begin to improve once an individual has moved on from this stage.

5. Experiment

At this stage, individuals are willing to try and adapt to the new situation and find different ways of living or coping with the change, albeit slowly. They may feel more receptive to change and what it may bring.

6. Decision

This stage can be the catalyst which helps individuals move forward. They may want to make positive decisions about themselves and their situation. If they’re facing redundancy, they may decide their next steps or work out some personal goals to focus on.

7. Integration

Change has been assimilated and individuals and teams have accepted the new normal, integrating the new way of working into their everyday lives.

In summary….

“The Kubler-Ross Change Curve Model which these seven key stages are based on, has gained a lot of traction in the change world,” says Duncan Brodie FCMA CPCC who reinterpreted the model for the AAT webinar Leading People and Teams Through Change. “But it’s important to remember that these stages are not linear. You may go back and forward between the different stages in this process.”

Recongising where your team are will help you respond effectively.

So how can managers help support individuals and teams who are presented with change and upheaval?

10 ways managers can support their teams

Managers have a responsibility to support their teams, especially when going through a restructure or a period of significant change.

Here are ten ways managers can successfully support their workforce:

1. Remember the purpose

As a team, get back to basics and remind yourselves of your team’s purpose. Why does your team exist? What are you there to do? What contributions do you make to the organisation? This can be key in helping to give meaning and value to an individual’s role and that of the team.  

2. Set goals

Common goals give teams purpose and something to work towards. Set a small number of clear goals together as a team as you transition through change.

3. Create stepping stones

Often, individuals can struggle to see the endgame and feel lost, but putting a few stepping stones in place – or milestones to aim for – can help build momentum and will give individuals the confidence to move forward together.

4. Communicate well

Leaders and managers need to be really conscious about how they communicate with their teams. Some may simply ‘broadcast’ at team meetings and do all the talking while others give individuals an opportunity to air their views. The latter is really important: two-way communication is good communication, so give time and space for questions, thoughts and ideas wherever possible.

5. Be a good listener

Listening is an essential key skill, but it’s not always valued as such. A manager who is a good listener is more likely to see higher levels of engagement and gain the trust and respect of their team.

6. Get people involved

Involve your team as much as possible, particularly when making key decisions. Give them the opportunity to put their ideas forward and give their point of view.
As Brodie explains: “if people feel they’ve been part of the decision-making process, they will be more willing to accept final decision. Involving people also helps them feel more in control and will bring a higher degree of commitment.”

7. Show empathy

Showing empathy can really help teams through the change process. Unlike sympathy where you might feel pity or sadness for someone’s situation, empathy is the ability to see things through others’ eyes and understand how they might be feeling. A good leader will demonstrate empathy by listening and acknowledging, rather than making assumptions. Phrases like, ‘I understand why that’s a worry for you’ or ‘I understand what you’re saying’ can really help.

8. People before process

Whichever changes you make within your team or organisation and whatever systems you have in place, if you don’t take your people with you, you won’t deliver change successfully. You need to win people over based on how you deal with challenging situations and your behaviour as a manager or leader. “You won’t get everyone on board straight away,” says Brodie, “but you need to be working towards getting the critical mass on board which is around 70 per cent.”

9. Accept the continuum

It’s important to accept that people either embrace or resist change on a continuum. Some may jump on board immediately while others may put up barriers right until the last minute. There will be degrees of resistance and compliance at different stages – that’s just how it is. Accepting this will reduce the pressure on those leading teams through change.

10. Be patient

There is a tendency to be overly optimistic around how quickly change can be delivered, but anything that involves people will always be a slow process. So be patient – things can’t always be changed in an instant.

Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.

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