Organizations are quickly releasing policy statements as part of their contingency response to the coronavirus outbreak around the world. In addition to having well thought out strategies, it’s important for senior leaders to be prepared for questions that will inevitably arise as soon as these policy statements are released.
When leaders are not prepared to adequately address concerns about necessary change, they may inadvertently increase people’s fear, stress, anxiety, and time spent off task. This leads to confusion, frustration, mistakes, and distrust and can result in decreased creativity, engagement, productivity, and ownership.
Fortunately, these questions typically fall into a pattern that senior executives can plan for. Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies has found that people go through five predictable and sequential stages of concerns.
Information Concerns. This is the first response people have when confronted with something new. People want to know what the change is, why it is important, and what success looks like. People with Information Concerns do not want to be sold on the proposed change; they want to be told about it. They need to understand what is being proposed before they can decide whether the change is good or bad.
Personal Concerns. The next response is personal—how will the change impact me personally, how will I learn to work in new ways, will I have the time and who can help me. People with personal concerns want to know how the change will play out for them and they want to be reassured they can successfully make the change. This is the most often ignored stage of concern and the stage where people get stalled most often.
Implementation Concerns. At this stage, concerns will focus on how the change will be accomplished. People want to know that challenges, obstacles, and barriers will be surfaced and addressed, and that they will have the time, support, and resources they need to successfully implement the change.
Impact Concerns. At this stage, the change has “gone live” and people want to know if the change is working for me, my team, the organization, and our customers. Is it worth my effort? People are focused on results and getting others on board with the change. At this stage, people sell themselves and others on the value of the change.
Refinement Concerns. At this stage, people want to know that a tipping point has been reached and that most people are on board and succeeding with the change. They also want to be assured that continuous refinement of the change is valued and they are trusted to lead the change going forward.
When change leaders effectively frame the change, discuss what is and what could be, collaboratively plan the change, strengthen the change by fixing implementation issues and sharing impact, and then entrust day-to-day change leadership to others, they:
- Surface challenges sooner
- Achieve better results, faster
- Build change leadership capability that can be used again in the future
These are important goals right now, as we manage the immediate impact of the coronavirus in our personal and professional lives. It’s also a great roadmap for future change after we get through this health crisis together.
About the Author
Judd Hoekstra is an expert in the field of change management, leadership, and human performance with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Judd is a coauthor of the bestselling books Leading at a Higher Level and Who Killed Change? Judd is also the co-creator of Blanchard’s Leading People Through Change solution.