Every day, changes are announced.   Changes in the environment, changes in the industry, changes in the business.  In the agriculture industry, there are several trends, including mergers, acquisitions and passing the business onto the next generation.  Some changes you can control, but many you can’t.

As a leader, you see the ownership changes or merger activity coming, and you see the impact it will have on your team.  Your team may be excited about the change, but in many cases, teams are left feel devalued, unimportant, or forgotten because they don’t have the view of the upside you do.  As a leader this is a difficult spot.  You may not control what’s happening, but you need to ensure your team is successful.  So, what do you do? 

Your Response Becomes Theirs

Regardless of whether you made the decision to change, you are the most critical person to your team members.  According to a 2017 Gallup survey, 70% of the variance between a strong culture and a lousy culture is in the knowledge, skills, and talent of the leader.  That’s you.  And during a change like ownership or mergers, it is even more critical. 

  • Many leaders who aren’t involved in the decision sit back and wait for the decision makers to communicate and give direction. Your team is looking at YOU and your response.
  • The way you respond to the change becomes the acceptable way for how they choose to respond.

Going Through Change is Like Going Through the Grief Cycle

Changes create feelings of loss, especially with ownership changes and mergers.  A loss of the old way, a loss of feeling connected, a loss of feeling comfortable, a loss of the known.  Even if employees and team members are excited about a change, there is a loss.  And with any loss, there is a grief cycle. 

Leaders tend to lean into taking action, problem solving, moving forward.  But when going through a change where employees are feeling a sense of loss, jumping straight to problem solving results in employees and team members feeling even more devalued and unimportant. 

  • Give them the space and be there for your team as they feel the shock and denial, anger and depression.   
  • It doesn’t mean letting them complain and gripe to no end.  It does mean listening to their fears and concerns. 
  • Ensure employees feel heard using active listening. Summarize what they said about how they are feeling. 
  • There are days forward and days backward. This is normal, and is to be expected. Continue on the course of being there for your employees and the consistency will help your team move through the cycle.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

In this case, communication is the salve that will help them through the grief cycle to acceptance.   

Most communication during a change is focused on taking action, moving forward, the how-to’s in implementing the change.  This communication, though, is not going to help employees move through the grief cycle and accept the change – because it doesn’t address the WHY.

Phase 1: Start communication of a change by focusing on WHY the change is being made.  Provide answers to questions like:

  • Why are we making the change?
  • Why is the change happening now?
  • Who was involved in the decision to change?
  • What is the risk of not changing?
  • What are the expected benefits of the change?

You may not know the answers to these questions to share – if you don’t, ask.  Find out.  It’s important to share the answers to these questions to get buy in from your team. 

Phase 2: Next, employees want to understand more about the change and how the change will impact them directly.   At this point, employees will be asking questions like:

  • What IS changing?  What IS NOT changing?
  • What is the timeline?
  • Who is making decisions?
  • Who is impacted?  How will I be impacted?
  • How will my job change? 

Phase 3: Now, employees may be closer to the point of acceptance.  This is where you start communicating the steps to take action and move forward.  Answer questions like:

  • How do I prepare for the change?
  • What do I need to do differently?
  • What is expected of me?
  • What skills do I need to learn?
  • How can I help others? 

Are you leading your employees through change?

Schedule time with Erin and Kristen to discuss how to apply these concepts to your business. 

This is a complementary 45-minute call.

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