By Terri Levine, President, Comprehensive Coaching U
Change is inevitable, and it becomes necessary when companies are struggling with low productivity, profitability, and poor morale. In such an environment, you might think employees would embrace an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ culture, but instead, when change is introduced into the workplace there is often a degree of resistance, anxiety, and sometimes even ridicule of the new methodologies.
People equate change with difficulty, hardship, and something to be feared, especially if they have experienced job losses, demotions or other circumstances that have caused upset in the past. They react with suspicion or derision and do not give their full support, especially if previous attempts have met with failure and resulted in bad experiences. They become accustomed to failure and lose faith. This is where open communication is so important and it starts right at the top.
If you don’t have the full support and understanding from those in key management positions, any organizational changes being made are going to be thwarted with difficulties and very possibly doomed to failure. Leaders must be seen to be in control and walk their talk. If all employees are expected to listen to and support their managers, they must see that those higher up, such as the CEO, likewise are in full support of the managers. It is up to the CEOs and Presidents to champion the cause and ensure their managerial teams are also in full support, so that it can filter down through the ranks smoothly and be more readily accepted at other levels in the organization.
- Don’t just hand a list of problems and preferred outcomes or objectives to a managerial team and expect them to understand and be able to go ahead and get to work on it. They too need guidelines and guidance, reassurance, and training. Let’s not forget that many managers get to where they are through natural progression up the corporate ladder, climbing their way on their years of experience. But this doesn’t mean they know everything they should know about being an effective manager. Take, for example, a Sales Manager who has worked his way up the ranks in an organization and knows everything there is to know about the company’s products and services. He knows the way they do business with their customers, and knows everything there is to know about sales and marketing. Unfortunately, he knows nothing about handling employees and as a result his department suffers high staff turnover, low morale and low productivity, and therefore, low profits. This brilliant Sales Manager knows everything he needs for his job in a sales environment, except how to be a ‘Manager’ of his people resources.
- All the brilliant change plans in the world will fail if those who are responsible for the action have no idea what they are doing and possibly, don’t believe in what they are doing. So the first step is ensuring that the managerial teams understand what changes are being made and why, and what outcomes are being sought and why. They then need training in the best methodologies for introducing new systems to their own departments. This requires a whole set of skills many managers lack, simply because it has not been something they have been taught before. This includes people skills, communication skills, and negotiating skills. Many senior-level managers may not be willing to admit they are lacking in these areas and may not even voluntarily come forward for free training to assist them. It may well be up to the company to require all senior-level managers to attend set training sessions to ensure everyone understands what is required of them and assist them to achieve their goals.
- Even if changes are not being introduced, managers who want to improve the bottom-line results of their departments need this same set of skills. It is a well-known fact that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. Happy workers who enjoy a high morale and feel good about their employer take more pride in their work and wish to see ‘their’ company succeed. They look after the customers better. They take fewer sick leaves. They find more efficient ways of doing things. They participate more. They work harder. They feel like the company is ‘their’ company and take care of it accordingly. They are more open to new ideas and readily accept changes because their faith and belief in their organization is healthy and strong. This is good news for any company’s bottom line.
- The manager in charge of this type of positive workforce is one who knows how to listen to his staff. He respects his staff and their abilities. He asks his staff for their input and promotes team spirit. He cares about the individuals in his department and realizes that their individual success in a team environment results in success for the company. He knows how to handle troublemakers and grizzlers and convert them into happy, productive employees. He understands the process of coaching and mentoring those in his care to produce the best results. He is clear with his instructions, and does not play the dictator role. He does not waste his time looking over shoulders and micro-managing his department. Instead, he is available for his staff to bring in challenges for discussion and resolution. Having matched the right people to the right job, this manager can let his employees get on with doing what they do best and everyone is happy. This manager builds his staff up and doesn’t knock them down. He focuses on what IS working and builds on existing strengths. Everyone feels respected and appreciated in this environment, resulting in a high level of productivity and profitability.
- Learning to listen, observe, trust, guide, and coach employees is not something that miraculously occurs when somebody is promoted to a managerial position (remember our Sales Manager example). It is up to the company to assist their new managers by providing training for them enabling them to be effective ‘Coach-Mentor-Managers’. Too often, when a department is in trouble, blame is laid at the departmental manager or supervisor’s door. Perhaps there are times when it is justified, however, there is no excuse for a company putting somebody in a position of authority when they are ill-equipped to handle it. The company must provide the tools necessary for every employee to do his job and this includes their managerial staff. If an individual is considered so worthy of promotion to oversee a particular department or project, the company should ensure this individual is equipped to manage all aspects of his new job confidently. This will be a recurring problem until organizations realize that managing people is not a natural ability inherited with a managerial title. Resources are available to train organizational management teams, and often, all it takes is a phone call to put it into action.
When all is said and done, a company’s bottom line relies heavily on the employees who make up the ‘company’. Miserable, unhappy, and poorly trained workers and managers produce miserable results. Happy, well-trained workers and managers are more productive and fruitful in their endeavors, creating successful and prosperous companies.
Terri Levine is President of Comprehensive Coaching U, a firm providing coaching and training to professionals. She is a Master Certified Personal and Business Coach as well as a sought-after public speaker. Terri is also the author of bestsellers, “Stop Managing, Start Coaching,” “Work Yourself Happy,” “Coaching for an Extraordinary Life” and “Create Your Ideal Body”. For article feedback, contact Terri at