Illustration by Rae Scarfó
Managers lead people but sometimes forget to lead their people through change. We as managers lead people to the change and set an expectation that they adopt the new ways. But this doesn’t always work as well as we’d like it to – because, as we discussed in our last article, change is very individual.
So, why do construction managers matter during a new technology implementation? And what do they need to make sure they are doing to properly support their team through the change?
Managers play a critical role. They help build support for the initiative on their teams; they work to meet the needs of their employees; they are closest to where the change happens; and they are a company’s front line to manage and mitigate resistance. A manager also works to build trust with their employees, and when a manager supports a change and their employees trust them, you’re more likely to have higher adoption rates.
How does a manager lead effectively in times of change? The following are a few items you can focus on:
Communicate: Managers are a preferred sender of communications. If your company has announced a new change, make sure to follow up with your team and possibly with individuals on the team. Let your team know what it is you’re excited about. Help them understand what they may gain by buying into the change, and what may be at risk if they don’t. Reinforce the business reason for the change, why they should participate, how the change will be happening and any other relevant details.
Advocate: Leaders need to lead by example – walk the talk. Employees notice quickly if their manager isn’t on board with a change. If you’re not willing to make the transition, why should they? Be proactive in obtaining details about the change. This way, when employees have questions, you’ll be ready to answer them.
This reinforces confidence in you as a manager, and it helps settle any nerves an employee may be experiencing. If you don’t have the answer, stay positive and let them know that you will work it out and get back to them.
Speaking of staying positive, make sure to keep a positive tone about the change – even if you still have your own reservations. Managers need to go through their own change transition. If you aren’t quite bought in yet and you communicate this to your employees, your team likely won’t buy in either. Work through your questions or reservations with your manager or peers, but keep it positive for your team.
Support: Each change your company introduces will inevitably (and temporarily) decrease productivity. As a manager, it is your job to help employees engage with the change. Think back to ADKAR; where might your employee be stuck? Is their personal barrier a desire? Or maybe they need different or better training (a knowledge barrier). Each person will transition in their own way and time. It’s the manager’s role to coach and assist them.
Connect: You are on the front lines and are able to get a true pulse on your employees and their feelings toward a new change. Are there items that the project team is missing? This is where you step in as an interface and report back to a project contact that something isn’t going quite right, whether that is messaging or training. Don’t assume that your employees will give the feedback; they likely won’t. They’re more likely to chat about it informally, creating more resistance to the change among coworkers.
Manage Resistance: Resistance to change is normal. But persistent resistance is a threat to the success of the change. And what we permit is ultimately what we promote. Allowing an employee to continually resist a change will only send the message that they can resist any change in the future as well.
There are three ways to work through managing resistance:
Preventive Management: Apply change management principles throughout the project design and implementation. Effective change management on the project team will help to mitigate resistance to change right out of the gate.
Proactive Management: Work to identify ahead of time where you expect to see resistance and from who. How can you get ahead of this and help the employee transition before it becomes a problem and hinders success for the project and the person?
Reactive Management: Respond and react when you see resistance occur. Remember: resistance is a normal reaction to change. The intent isn’t to punish someone for not wanting to change, but to understand where they may be stuck and help them make the transition.
People will respond to change in their own way; it is a manager’s job to assist them through the transition. As more changes are introduced, a manager will need to play a critical role to help them navigate all that is new.
A manager wears many hats in a company, but the most important one is leading their people. Don’t underestimate the criticality of leading people through change. By helping your employees through the transition to a successful adoption, whether it be technology, process or otherwise, you as a manager and leader will create a more positive environment and reinforce confidence in your workforce.