Leading people through change is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face. People tend to be resistant to change because of the chaos generated from moving from the current state to the new state. There are two methods for introducing and executing change:
The hammer approach is a top-down management style, with changes dictated to employees from above. It is fast and efficient, and management always stays in control. A downside is that people who are “hammered” can become distrustful and demoralized. Leaders using the hammer approach need to practice constant communication, show empathy, and let people vent.
In the commitment approach, leaders involve employees in all aspects of the change, from planning and implementation to measuring and assessing progress. This is an effective way to build employee buy-in and is especially useful when an aspect of the change is altering employee values, attitudes, and behaviors. On the downside, it requires significant time, effort, and patience.
Managers and employees alike go through a four-step process in reacting to the chaos that accompanies change. The progression is universal, whether the change is negative or positive:
Denial: At first people are confused, anxious, and in shock about the change.
Emotion: People next develop emotions of anger, fear, frustration, and cynicism.
Transition: In the transition phase, people are skeptical, but their negativity is balanced by curiosity, acceptance, and hope.
Excitement: In the fourth phase, people feel relief, are excited about the change, and have a renewed sense of trust.
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