Nearly two-thirds of employers have indicated that a lack of in-house change management expertise was an issue during their most recent change programmes, according to a study by Xpert HR.
Although the skills that line managers need to manage change are similar to those needed by senior leaders, there is more of a focus on the day-to-day people management within their organisations. Here we provide eight key skills for effective change management for line managers.
1. Personal resilience
In cost-reduction initiatives, line managers lose valued colleagues and team members and have to learn quickly how to work with fewer people and resources. Providing support to colleagues, peers and senior managers, and routes for line managers to get things off their chest is an important part of keeping them effective through major change.
The speed of change is normally directly proportional to the level of trust people have in their line managers. People look to their line manager for information on how a change is going to affect them. They are less likely to trust a big leadership presentation about the need for change unless this is reflected consistently in line manager priorities.
Building networks of trust with other line managers is essential to enable line managers to support themselves and to implement the details of change effectively. These networks can help bring problems to the surface earlier.
Line managers needs coaching skills to deal with the individuals who are struggling with change and they need to understand that people react to change in different ways. Line managers also need to recognise their own reactions to change and to be coached to ensure they maintain personal resilience.
5. Forcing clarity
When the details of the change are worked out, leaders need line managers who will help to shape the change and work out the implications of different ideas. While the ability to deal with uncertainty is an important capability, it is better to force clarity as early as possible.
6. Managing others’ uncertainty
Most resistance to change is resistance to uncertainty, and managers that force clarity help staff cope with change. However, some uncertainties will inevitably remain. The best line managers act as strong leaders, explaining why the uncertainty is necessary, what action is being taken and when it will be resolved. They also coach people sensitively to help them handle the uncertainty well and know how to spot when an individual may be entering a crisis.
Creating a sensible plan, thinking through the details of how things will work and then delivering in line with the plan is a great driver of confidence.
The best line managers only start initiatives they can see through to the end, and they track change progress in the same robust way they track operational business performance. Poor line managers never say no to initiatives and just wait for leaders to run out of steam in following through.