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CHANGE: 10 Tips for Supervisors and Managers To Renew and Refuel the Heart of Your Change Initiative

“Running short of cash and unable to sell 1,100 digital imaging patents that could have rescued it,” as Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle writes, Eastman Kodak Co. today took the long-expected but still painful step of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

As The Associated Press says, this raises the specter that “the 132-year-old trailblazer could become the most storied casualty of a digital age that has whipped up a maelstrom of economic, social and technological change.”

My first camera was a Kodak. To me, Kodak was synonymous with technology and innovation – and the ability to apply it. What happened? How could a company that led in innovation end up in the business Intensive Care Unit 100 years later? Is that the future outlook for top innovators such as Apple, Google, and Facebook?

In the past, I’ve mentioned Kathy Dempsey’s book “Shed or You’re Dead” where the shedding philosophy is based on the biological need for lizards to shed their skin. If they don’t shed, they won’t grow and eventually, die. She contends that if humans and organizations don’t grow, they die too.

The philosophy is based on the real story of her friend’s lizard. Sadly, his lizard didn’t shed. If I just told you about the biological need for lizards to shed – how much would that impact you? Would you change your life in any way? My guess is “no.”

However, if it were your child’s lizard or yours, what would be the impact then? I bet it would have a stronger effect. I’m guessing that if you got a second lizard, you would do everything in your power to get that lizard to shed and grow.  Let’s imagine some lizards watched other lizards die. If they could, they might have thought, “Get this skin off me now!”

Here, the need to change affected their hearts, not just their minds. I ask myself:  How many times do I set goals that I know are good for me and yet, I don’t make any progress until something knocks me off my feet and then, and only then, do I change and achieve?

In his The Heart of Change Field Guide, John Kotter writes that “More than any other single finding, we discovered in this second project (Leading Change) that people changed less because of facts or data that shifted their thinking than because of compelling experiences that changed their feelings.”

So, perhaps individuals or organizations that refuse to change simply have not had a “heart” experience. Some may have discouraged emotional expression to the point where they have no visible heart at all.

So, if your department or organization is currently like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, here are a few ideas of what you can do as a supervisor or manager to give your change initiative a new heart:

Start delivering heartfelt messages. Focus on explaining the background stories to bring to life potential changes. Be transparent. Share honest feelings, as well as facts. As Kotter insists in step one of his 8-step process for leading successful change, leaders must build a case of urgency for change and affect employees on an emotional level, mobilizing them to action. The issues must be urgent, but not terminal. We want to motivate them, not scare them so much that they just give up.

Help people see. Dan Cohen describes it as presenting to employees “compelling, eye-catching, dramatic situations” that help them visualize problems, solutions or progress in solving key issues within the department or organization. The best scenario is when you can show them in others, what you want them to do or where to go. One caution: make sure you are visualizing somewhere employees want to be.

Heighten organizational energy and motivation. Focus on communication. Communicate these 5 elements: (1) what they need to know (2) how to get that knowledge, (3) how they are doing, (4) what they’ve achieved, and (5) why the change is important to departmental or organizational success.

Mobilize and develop focused, committed and enthusiastic leaders. More often, I’ve seen organizations strive for cultural changes, such as teaming, with only a few people, sometimes only one, who really has the commitment and vision needed to make that change stick. Once that person (or people) leaves or is moved out of a key position, the change either slows down or fails. Particular emphasis should be placed on attracting and developing leaders that have the same understanding, drive and excitement for the new future you are trying to create.

Reduce fear. Employees paralyzed at “safety and security” (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) won’t be able to contribute the ideas and solutions that are critical for your success.  Honest and regular communication reduces fear. Consider creating a cross-functional team to develop a formal communication plan which will encourage different avenues of communication across the organization. Reward and recognize those managers and supervisors who make regular and effective communication a priority.

Encourage emotional management of anger and resolution. When you open the door to emotional expression, you can also encourage disruptive emotions and dysfunctional behavior. Leaders need to be role models in the management of emotions and be able to coach others to do the same, or at least, provide good resources. Anger is often a signal that something needs to change; use it as a springboard for problem resolution.

Fight against complacency. Have you heard the saying that “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference?” Employee development suggests that at certain phases of an employee’s work life, there can come a time when unresolved issues and hurts render an employee “indifferent.” Surface any dashed expectations or old problems, and focus employees on new goals and renewed commitment to their jobs and the future.

Stimulate joy (anticipation of good times and future success) which affects happiness and energy. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Science Behind the Smile,” Daniel Gilbert writes, “We know that people are happiest when they’re appropriately challenged – when they are trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach.”  Encourage your staff to set realistic goals and commit to employee development plans. Measure progress on a regular basis and celebrate achievements as they occur. Announce positive events in advance to give your employees something to look forward to. Benchmark with other innovative organizations and look at how they celebrate and create positive anticipation of events. Happy employees produce results.

Encourage innovation. Hire and retain EMPs. Bill and Ron Bonnstetter describe EMPs or Entrepreneurial-Minded People: “They tend to work well in teams, have an organized workplace and enjoy consistency. These individuals are happier within organizations or within a group of people working together to achieve a goal.” Answer these questions: Who are the EMPs in your organization or department? How are you engaging and developing them to cultivate your future? Are you using their natural ability to solve problems? Are you giving them room to innovate with others? Do you need to hire more EMPs?

Encourage deeper emotional responses to solutions, ideas and innovation that reduce resistant emotions such as denial, fear, anger, depression and complacency. In our Facilitation Skills training, we encourage participants to ask the group, “How do you feel about so-and-so’s proposal?” to stimulate discussion. I encourage managers and supervisors, as well, to use this phrase and other similar ones when discussing new ideas and changes. If you tend to receive a response that suggests confusion, i.e. “I’m confused,” delve deeper. Rather than focusing on the confusion which can, sometimes, speak more to resistance, than confusion, ask questions such as: “How do you feel about the new product or performance expectation?” If you still get confusion, try suggesting feeling options for the person – “Do you feel more anxious or excited about the new change?”

Demonstrate and communicate where improvements in performance are occurring.  I do believe that people want to succeed. I also believe that it is easy to lose sight of progress that is being made, especially when it is incremental. The more you, as a manager or supervisor, can point out improvements, the more motivationed environment you’ll create.

All of these “heart” initiatives can be done simultaneously and repeatedly. It doesn’t need to be a step-by-step process. There are many ways to add “heart” to your change initiatives; I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.  For more information on change, change management, building change initiatives and what role people have within change, I encourage you to .

  • Great tips must read for all Managers. Thanks for sharing.

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