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How managers can lead frontline change during Covid-19

April 7, 2020

    Covid-19 is changing everything, every day—forcing us to all to learn as we go. But there's one constituency who needs as much support as possible to deal with all this disruption: managers on the front line.

    Your top resources for Covid-19 readiness

    Their ability to 'manage' 'change management' will be critical to the success of our responses to Covid-19. I recently wrote about how to protect your team's resilience during the pandemic, and all of those tips are relevant ways executive teams can support managers' emotional and physical well-being.

    But I also want to offer some specific thoughts to help the managers themselves, who are trying daily to rally teams around change and drive forward momentum.

    4 common missteps—and tools to overcome them

    Our research has identified four common missteps that all too often undermine a manager's ability to effectively lead change. Now more than ever, it's important to overcome these barriers so managers can drive change on the frontline.

    1. Staff don't understand how the change is going to help them do their work better

      The solution: Managers should use a clear, consistent, and short pitch to outline the WIIFM, or 'What's In It For Me?', for frontline staff. I don't mean WIIFM in the mercenary sense; rather, each staff member should come away understanding how the change will help him or her do what needs to be done better.

      Next step: Use the template below to quickly craft your own change pitch.

    2. Feedback from team members is poorly managed

      The solution: Change is difficult, and managers will inevitably hear complaints along the way. How they respond to those complaints can make or break their ability to effectively lead change. That doesn't mean managers need to agree or comply with every complaint—but they should acknowledge and explain.

      Next step: For quick in-the-moment complaint redirection, use the 'Label, Listen, Learn' approach on page 22 of this guide (or email me for access).

    3. Key stakeholders aren't engaged from the start

      The solution: Virtually all change management models agree that proactive stakeholder engagement is a prerequisite to any successful change initiative. But it's often overlooked, which can leave a manager high and dry. Managers should take a minute to identify who they need to engage beforehand to ensure they have advocacy in the room. This can come from stakeholders from the team they're communicating with or the executives they're communicating for.

      Next step: Brainstorm a list of three to ten individuals whose support will be critical success of this change. Consider stakeholders who will be most affected, potential sceptics, and people with expertise specific to this change.

    4. The change feels like latest flavour of the day.

      The solution: Given the evolving data and information on Covid-19 coming out every day, managers need to make an extra effort to regularly emphasise the things that staff need to stick with—consistently—even as everything else continues to change.

      Next step: Use the picklist below to select at least two tactics to keep the change front and centre amongst other competing priorities.

    As executive leaders, we also need to apply these rules to the way WE communicate with frontline managers, as their managers! Some thoughts on that below that I hope will be helpful as you look to run short, sharp meetings that can be a safe space for your managers to share their own concerns, frustrations, fears and needs. We need them now, more than ever, so we need to be there for them.

    Resource: How to communicate change to frontline staff

    Download this step-by-step guide to learn how you can craft clear and consistent communications about change.

    Download Now

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