May The (Work)Force Be With You

5 min read

While managing employees may be a complex matter, leading them through periods of fundamental change is even more challenging. Successfully driving groups of individuals to alter their mindsets and behaviors is not an easy task. However, in a transformation scenario, it is key to leveraging the desired benefits.

In the context of the Trexcelerator Transformation Board, the “people” building block refers to internal employees and freelancers or external partner resources. This relates to all aspects that influence these individuals’ competence and motivation to contribute to the best of their ability, including their ability to perform required work, and their capacity to do so effectively. Moreover, this specific building block considers their mindset and corresponding behavior in a professional context.

Leading the “People" Side of Change Is a Complex Matter

Transformations demand entrepreneurs and senior executives, as well as business and project managers, to lead their staff through periods of fundamental, yet often unpleasant, change. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward “people manual” that informs them how to properly and effectively address this topic. However, our experience tells us that there are a couple of levers that, if applied sincerely, prove effective in facilitating the required shifts in mindset and behavior.

Work on Purpose – While employees know that they are paid to create positive effects for the business owner—and, namely, financial benefits—this is rarely is a truly motivating goal. Thus, when focusing on the people side of change, transformation leaders should develop a vision and define transformation goals with which individuals can identify on a more personal level. This contrasts more financial “ensure sustainable profits” targets. The higher the understanding and consent to the purpose of a transformation, the higher the acceptance and support this transformation will yield. Suitable goals could be to lead industry development, become a winning team again, or to make a difference by delivering future-proof solutions that serve customers and society.

Educate, Energize, and Enable – When transformation initiatives are first announced to company staff, such plans leave audience in a muddle. Not all detailed questions will be answered right away, and individual concerns likely limit employees' capacity to fully process the proposed information. Thus, new structures and rules will take time to be implemented and understood. During this phase, it is essential to provide the necessary leeway to adopt to the new and future way of working. This does not mean that management should provide excessive amounts of time for staff “to get used to it.” Rather, the focus should be on developing an appreciation of urgency, reducing insecurities, and enabling managers and employees to rapidly learn what needs to be learned. These steps can be supported by creating a safe environment where employees don’t have to fear immediate negative consequences during the transition phase, by offering comprehensive information and education, and providing the capacity to develop the necessary competences.

Lead the Change – The single most important factor for a successful transformation within the building block “People” is the most-senior executive’s sincere display of commitment to the proposed change. We call this gravity. Irrespective of the rules defined within the organizational setup, employees will—to a large extent—follow the lead of their superior managers. What corporate leaders mandate, and even more the way they represent and execute change themselves, is the most powerful driver of change. This trickles down from the top to the very bottom. When a company CEO wields his power leveraging his hierarchical position, a transformation that promotes flat organization with increased levels of self-organization will not fly. If the transformation goals are not in line with management’s beliefs and behaviors, then inertia, friction, and centrifugal forces will be the result, counteracting the achievement of the overall transformation vision.

Purpose, Sincerity, and Commitment Will Help Reduce Resistance

A transformation that is not properly led incurs a high risk of failure. Furthermore, a lack of transparent communication reduces employees’ buy-ins and amplifies opposition to the change. The goals of the transformation may not be sufficiently achieved, not because the change could not be implemented effectively, but because the aforementioned gravitational forces will eat up large portions of the targeted benefits.

At Trexcelerator, we believe deeply that when employees—whether internal staff or external freelancers—ultimately sign up to work for a company, they have more in mind than the Euros or Dollars that flow into their pockets. Instead, they have an innate interest to contribute to the best of their abilities towards the success of the organization for which they work, and the team with which they collaborate.

Unfortunately, in many cases, this interest is discouraged through questionable management practices, counter-productive processes and structures, and an inadequate balance of capacities and competences. The result is—and this is sad to say, but true—that managers who are responsible for the root causes of demoralization will point to the symptoms and declare the surface of reflection to be the disease. However, considering employees to be fundamentally lazy and demotivated is certainly toxic to the entire organization and will endanger any attempt to gain support for the transformation.

In Designing Your Transformation, Apply Empathy and Gravity to Succeed

Instead, successful transformation executives develop empathy for those affected by the change. They lead the change visibly and transmit the purpose of the transformation, serving as the living example of the change within the organization and organizational culture. They are bold and demanding, but, at the same time, humble, personal, and understanding. Simply put: they are the change!

Our Transformation Board provides entrepreneurs and senior executives, as well as business and project managers, with a comprehensive structure to develop, elaborate, assess, and improve their transformation strategies. When using it to evaluate the Area of Action People, consider asking the following questions:

  • Mindset — What is the general mindset and the average behavior of employees within your organization? Is it conservative, trying to avoid change? Or, is it rather growth-oriented, embracing the “new and potentially unknown” as an opportunity to develop? What can be done to improve the mean?
  • Competence — Do individuals in the organization have the know-how and skills to deliver the work that is needed to produce the solutions?
  • Capacity — Does the organization have a sufficient amount of competence (in terms of quality and quantity) to deliver the solutions?
  • Capability — Do you optimally leverage the abilities of your staff, or can you improve through reorganization and education?
  • Discouragement — Last, but not least, which factors are potentially limiting the willingness or ability of the employees to perform their work to the best of their abilities?

To learn more about the other building blocks of the Transformation Board, check out the blog on our website, or participate in one of our training seminars.

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