Managing Change through COVID

Tips for better outcomes

Managing through change is hard at the best of times; throw in a global pandemic and see what falls out! As a leader, coping with everyday matters is now exacerbated by factors beyond our control – coping mechanisms are the key to whether we can manage through the COVID-19 crisis or fall into a complete heap.

How to not only cope but also manage through the change without losing sight of what you and your team are trying to achieve!

We typically have a four step process that we follow to help our team manage through change.  We have outlined these below to help you with taking the first steps in managing change.

01 Be clear about your WHY

One of the most important things you can do is be very clear about the WHY. So many people find it difficult to follow a direction or a decision if they do not understand the WHY. When introducing change whilst your team are working from home or from a site that feels like a ghost town, it is important that they can understand the why and what that means for both themselves and the business. If you can direct everything you do back to your WHY, it makes it so much easier for someone to follow.

02 Transparency & Communication

We all know that the grape vine is the most effective tool for getting the message out. However, the grape vine is wrought with danger as a method of communications as you are not able to manage the message. Chinese whispers and water cooler discussions can at times can create unnecessary noise.

Preparing a communication plan that outlines the following is critical for cascading information throughout the organisation, ensuring that the right message is delivered to the different stakeholder groups.

  • the why, reinforcing the message to ensure that you are all aligned
  • identify who you are going to engage and why you are engaging them
  • what is needed from these people, (if anything) – Do you want them to do something?
  • identify how you are going to engage and
  • when you are going to engage

Communication is about helping people to understand your WHY and become aware of what’s going on. The more the better. Even when there is no change for a group within your organisation, it is important that they are aware of the change that may be impacting others around them.  This helps people to be more mindful of what’s going on and how other may be feeling.

03 Preparing Your Leaders

One strategy that we have always employed is a program whereby we help prepare the leaders to manage through change. By preparing leaders they can manage themselves and others more effectively. We often deliver a leadership program that helps develop their skills, resilience and capabilities. Helping them with the tools they will need to lead others, where there is change there is uncertainty. Some of the areas of development may include:

  • The ability to have courageous conversations
  • How to build a safe environment for staff to feel comfortable to discuss matters
  • How to engage and empower your team
  • Diversity and inclusion should be considered in all design elements
  • Shifting own mindsets and behaviours, adopting a growth mindset for our leaders
  • Self-reflection, aware of their own belief systems and how they work through change
  • Leaders could map their teams to the change curve to understand how change is impacting their team(s) and identify ways to support team members in terms of different style/needs
  • Understand capability of individuals and how to help them grow through different development experiences

04 Understanding your team

You may think that you know your team. However after working from home for the last six months you may find that this has had an impact on them in many ways. It may have also given them time to reflect on what’s important for them, meaning what was in 2019 may not be for 2020. You can do this many ways but it will depend upon the size of your team/organisation.

Some ideas for you could be:

  • Undertaking a simple staff survey focused on understanding ‘What matters to me’ from them – this will help you formulate a strategy for how you engage with them;
  • Open doors – organise a regular ‘Open door’ where people can elect to book a time with you or drop in when it suits them. We have employed an ‘open door’ on a regular basis when we were in the office and now have an open MS Teams line at the end of the day when anyone can tap into our CEO;
  • Lunch dates – you can schedule either online or in person ‘round tables’ lunches where a group get together with a senior team member or executive and have open discussion. Usually these have no agenda and the discussion flow is driven by the employees; or
  • One-on-ones – if you are not already doing it, organise 1:1’s with your direct reports and have them organise the same with their direct reports and so on.  A 20min stand-up 1:1 can make the difference between someone feeling connected and another alienated.

Some takeaways for you:

  • Be clear with your WHY. Why is the change taking place, for what purpose?
  • Be transparent and communicate what the change is and what this means across the different groups;
  • If the change is outside of the comfort zone of your leaders, prepare them for the change first so that they can lead others; and
  • Most importantly, know your team. Understand what is important to them and how this change will impact them not only from a functional perspective, but also from a wellbeing perspective. Mental Health is so important, more so than now. How you manage this is going to be your success factor.

Once you have done this, you are well on your way to preparing both yourself, your team and your organisation for the change ahead.
If you have enjoyed this insight for how we manage change at Accuteque and how we may be able to help you, drop us a line.

We are happy to help, even if it is just to bounce something off us.

October 30, 2020

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  1. Madeline Oldfield

    Excellent tips, Caroline – love the depth captured here, while retaining an elegant simplicity. Can I be cheeky and propose a step 05 – Be Bold and Take Action! All too often I see folks get to the edge of the diving board and despite all the great prep, decide not to take the plunge… when they absolutely should. Change isn’t easy but I’ve come to appreciate it is achieved through action, even if it is imperfect!

    • Caroline Patton

      Madeline, what a great addition to this process. Continuous improvement is something that we have embraced and we really appreciate the value add that you have provided. We will update the model to include this!

  2. Colin Lightbody

    On “04 Understanding your team” I think this will be very important for staff retention and for maintaining and growing the effectiveness of a team going forward. I agree that more than six months of immense change in the ways people are living and working due to WFH, School From Home, restrictions, lockdowns, and reduced hours or unemployment, will have changed people’s approach to work and where it fits into their lives. It is an opportunity to listen, think and act to address issues and put what works well into new working models. Personally I would still want face to face interactions and to also be supported to WFH when it suits me and my colleagues and our clients. “Be bold and take action” is a good addition.


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