Panic and fear of change is contagious. In corporate America, what enables organizations to grow and thrive is change. Ironically, it is this very change that most employees fear. So it would follow that how an organization socializes change with employees is key to whether or not the changes are embraced and inevitably successful. The companies that do it best employ a comprehensive change acceptance process and include decision-making at all levels. Employees tend to accept change if they have been a part of the process from the very beginning.
Some time ago, US News and World Report featured a cover story on Cisco Systems and the company’s successful acquisitions. Acquisitions and mergers create a host of changes impacting an organization. In particular, employee retention is a huge problem during an immediately following an acquisition. In this regard, Cisco Systems has a stellar record. What sets Cisco apart? According to Dan Scheinman, the senior vice president for corporate development who reports directly to Chairman and CEO John Chambers, “People have to like each other and trust each other.”
In my book, Lead with Love, I emphasize the difference between liking associates and loving them: liking can hurt your mission as your bias for them or against them; loving them makes you care about them as human beings. With that in mind, I will take Scheinman’s saying a step further and say that “People have to love each other and trust each other.”
In order for employees to not fear change, they must be part of that change, they must not only see it coming, but they must be operative in the planning of it. Open communication and collaboration—regardless of how trite this sounds—really is instrumental to success. And just what defines a successful transition? Any change that minimally disrupts your business is successful. When planning an organizational change, that should be your primary goal. While it’s hard to keep employees focused on “business as usual” amidst upheaval and uncertainty, it can be done and with positive results.
Any management team can successfully implement change. It simply takes planning and communication. Openness with employees facilitates trust and credibility. In that respect, the management/employee relationship is not unlike any other. The bottom line? “People have to love each other and trust each other.”
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