People are naturally resistant to change. When you leave a YMC strategic planning experience, there’s no doubt you will have identified some changes you need to make to get unstuck and take your credit union to the next level. As exciting as that may be, there’s one problem. Team members tend to view any change to their routine as something negative. Because we are creatures of habit, we often perceive change as a threat to our existence—or at least our comfort. Yes, change is uncomfortable. But the temporary discomfort we may experience is always less painful than the consequences of refusing to adapt to our ever-changing environment and the dynamic needs of our members.
Before you implement your new strategic plan (or any other significant initiative at your credit union), here are six things you can do to prepare your team for what’s coming:
- Plan well. Communicating with your team before, during, and after a major change is crucial, but it must be strategic for it to be helpful. This process requires careful discussion among your leadership team and plenty of advanced planning. Timing is key. When should you announce the planned changes? Should you communicate with affected teams ahead of time or let everyone know at the same time? How far in advance should you make big announcements? Unfortunately, there’s not always time to make these kinds of decisions. News leaks and rumors might force you to share the information early. Ideally, though, it’s best to not make too many earth-shattering announcements all at once. When possible, spread them out over time. When it’s time to share the news, it pays to consider the personality styles of your team members. If you use the DISC assessments with your team, you’ll know how each person will accept the news and what you can do ahead of time to get the buy-in from the various personalities on your team. Most importantly, make sure your communication emphasizes compassion, empathy, and understanding for employees who will be impacted by the changes. People are more likely to buy-in to the “what” if they understand the “why.”
- Don’t spring last-minute surprises. Some leaders incorrectly believe announcing the news at the last minute is the best way to avoid pushback and keep questions to a minimum. This strategy is always counterproductive. Instead of sharing valuable feedback with you, your team will likely talk among themselves and craft their own narrative, a version potentially filled with lies that will cause drama and unrest. Most people process change much better when given time to absorb the new information and determine how it will impact them. To set your team up for a successful transition, always do your best to communicate essential details well before any changes take place.
- Invite team members into the discussion (selectively). To limit the resistance toward change, allow key team members to participate in the planning process. Give passionate team members a voice in the matter. Since they work closely with the team members who will be impacted, their perspective on potential changes could be the difference between a successful transition and one that goes horribly off the rails. But keep in mind, not every team member is a good fit for this process. When inviting team members into the conversation, be sure to do a DISC assessment so you know their personality and communication style. This step will help you understand the best way to present information and how to ask for feedback in a manner that generates the most thoughtful responses.
- Be clear and transparent. After all, what good does it do to mislead your team members? Keeping your team well-informed throughout the process is the best way to squash the rumor mill before it starts and calm any anxiety about the upcoming changes. If possible, provide employees with concrete benchmarks like dates when the new changes are scheduled to begin and who the points of contact will be for each stage. When team members know who they can speak with throughout the implementation process, they are far more likely to ask questions and avoid confusion. Maintaining clear lines of communication will allow team members to feel like they are a valuable part of the change instead of helpless victims of it.
- Provide ample education. Unlike training, which is a one-time event, education is an ongoing process. If a change involves a new system, different procedures, modified routines, or new equipment, many will resist. Don’t sit back passively and wait for your team to ask for help or guidance. Instead, plan out the educational process to make sure team members are given all necessary information up front and understand what is expected of them. It’s also important to hold your team accountable for the updated expectations. Be clear about the consequences for anyone who resists. The entire team will be watching to see what behaviors are tolerated and whether enforcement is consistent.
- Go from private to public, not the other way around. One of the most common mistakes leaders make when implementing change is making announcements regarding employees’ responsibilities or processes in public before communicating them in private. This lack of respect damages trust among the team and can quickly crush morale. Give impacted team members the courtesy of hearing the information one-on-one before you inform the rest of the department or organization. As you speak with them, let them know when the news will be shared publicly and ask if they have any questions. Addressing their concerns in private is a powerful way to let them know you value their individual contributions to the team.
Change is difficult for everyone. But if you establish a purposeful, proactive communication plan and resolve to be as open and transparent with your team as possible, you can conduct the entire process in a manner that is respectful, positive, and empathetic. This thoughtful approach will generate less friction and lead to more success because everyone is bought in and understands the way forward.