Recently, after giving a presentation on readiness, I was asked a question that both alarmed and surprised me. One senior leader asked, “What if you don’t have time to prepare people.”
The analogy to this question is to imagine you need to get your family to an event. You are busy and unable to drive them yourself. Time is of the essence so you ask your 17 year old daughter to drive. However, she doesn’t have a full driver’s license. When he or she raises the issue you state, “I don’t have time to teach you. We need to get there.”
Are you scared?
You should be.
Would you be surprised if no one else wanted to get in the car?
This scenario reflects the situation when you don’t make time to prepare your managers and frontline supervisors before expecting them to lead or support your change efforts.
Managers are the translators of your strategic change efforts.
Your managers are critical to gaining your employees’ buy-in. Employees buy-in and later commit to take action when they believe in the need for change and it makes sense. Middle managers continually engage in sense-making to interpret and create order in times of uncertainty. Sense-making means scanning, interpreting, and defining what the changes will mean in practice.
Think about the managers’ role in sense-making like a United Nations translator. I have always admired the knowledge and skill needed to move between two languages. To do it well the translator must first have expert command of both languages. They also need active listening and observational skills.
A translator doesn’t just repeat the words. She picks up on the nuances of the speaker. She observes his or her body language, and is alert to the context of the conversation. She must do this if she is to ensure she uses the appropriate word or phrase to keep the context of the conversation. This is important, especially when there isn’t a direct word for word translation.
It’s similar with your leaders. When you announce a change event your leaders receive the information. They pass that information through a sort of practice filter. This filter assesses and translates your change Event (strategy) into operational language. Your managers must understand the need for the change and its desired outcome to translate your change Event as you intended. They also need active involvement, the time and your support to explore and understand how the change will affect current practice.
Only when your leaders understand the change operationally can they help employees begin the transition. Managers who are faced with implementing a change they are not prepared for or they don’t genuinely believe in leads to feeling inconsistent and untrustworthy.
When your managers and supervisors lack sufficient context, information, skills, and the time to process the change Event either the translation doesn’t happen or it’s weighted toward the current operation. Regardless of which one occurs the net result is the same — a failed change initiative.
For More Information, contact ALTHEA WALTERS at BLAZING BEYOND to find out about TRAINING PROGRAMMES on Preparing Managers to lead Change.
Email: email@example.com OR 1-876-579-5384/876-310-0644.