Change and Emotion

Change is intensely personal. For change to occur in any organization, each individual must think, feel, or do something different. Most organizations today find themselves undertaking a number of projects as part of their change effort. An organization may simultaneously be working on TQM, process re-engineering, employee empowerment, and several other programs designed to improve performance. But the key to the change effort is not attending to each piece in isolation; it’s connecting and balancing all the pieces.

Successful balancing requires:

  1. Employee trust: which you build through predictability clarifying the company’s intentions and ground rules and “walking your talk” and capability articulating the role each person will play in the change effort.
  2. Employee empowerment: genuinely inviting everyone to co-create the company’s desired future.

The problem for most executives is that managing change is unlike any other managerial task they have ever confronted. One tool that companies can use to provide that critical balance is the Transition Management Team, a group of company leaders, reporting to the CEO, who commit all their time and energy to manage the change process.

The Transition Management Team (TMT) has these responsibilities:

  • Establish context for change
  • Stimulate conversation
  • Provide resources
  • Coordinate projects
  • Ensure congruence of messages and behaviors
  • Provide opportunities for joint creation
  • Anticipate and address people problems
  • Prepare the critical mass

In most companies, the real context for change is exactly the opposite. Top management should start by requiring a change of behavior, and when that yields improved performance, the excitement and belief will follow.

  • The first change in behavior should be that of the top executives
  • Empowerment does not mean abandonment. Giving people permission to do something differently is not helpful if they are unable to do it
  • When it comes to change, people don’t believe in a new direction because they suspend their disbelief
  • Companies cannot legislate their employees’ feelings, but companies do rent their behavior
  • Setting the context for change means understanding what employees do and don’t know

When an organization either denies the validity of emotions in the workplace or seeks to permit only certain kinds of emotions, two things happen.

  • The first is that managers cut themselves off from their own emotional lives
  • Even more important, they cut off the ideas, solutions, and new perspectives that other people can contribute

The real contribution of leadership in a time of change lies in managing the dynamics, not the pieces. The fundamental job of leadership is to deal with the dynamics of change, the confluence and congruence of the forces that change unleashes, so that the company is better prepared to compete.

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